The Sound of a Dying Waterbuck

Trip Start Dec 25, 2009
Trip End Dec 14, 2010

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Flag of South Africa  , Limpopo,
Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lots of hyaena work this last week and a bit. We've been trying to find the den in Garonga, sady to no avail but we have seen where most of their activity is so we've got a starting point for relocating them at least. The Lufafa Clan is busy as usual, the black cubs are starting to get really curious and coming out towards the vehicle at the den. Luckily they aren't coming as close as the 'middle cubs' which we have to scare off for chewing the tyres all the time (or chewing metal machinery parts which is even worse!) It is very cute, and good for my ID kits that I'm doing up for them but we do need to try and keep them back a little being wid animals and all that.

We've had the elephants visiting Twines a few times but recently we've had some more exciting visitors - the Zimbabweans! (if you haven't read previous entries, this means lions!) But we'll get back to this one after I catch up with everything else first.

Last Saturday we had a volleyball competition at The Hub (where the Makalali Rangers live), oddly only the Manager, C, was there from their side and it was mainly just us and Bushwise (the ranger training camp from Garonga). It was an awesome game, we won the first set but unfortunately coudn't keep it up and we lost the trophy (which we actualy have to find!) for the first time in a long time. Shame. There were some great plays, and well, not so much great plays but memerable plays as well, haha! (R being the main brunt of these). Afterwards, some of the Bushwise guys, myself and St and E all went to Mahlahla. I have to admit, carrying a cake on a plate in the back of a game viewer is one of the oddest feelings I've had. (The cake was originally for E because he asked for one about 3 weeks before but I needed the recipe so I finally made it then I found out it was J's birthday so I had to bake him a cake but then I didn't think we were going so I ws going to do it this week... but then we did so E was a little distraught that I gave "his" cake away. It was, according to responses last night, well recieved though which was good.) 
So it was rediculously quiet at the pub but we stayed for a while and then headed off. Just as we headed off it began to rain. It hadn't rained properly this season yet so we weren't too worried... then it began. RAIN, like SERIOUS RAIN!
We got past the first gate no problems but then we got to the second gate (on the electric fence). E tried to open it and got shocked to the point he lost feeling in his arm. I tried I got shocked and I felt like someone kicked me in the shin. R tried and he got shocked... but he doesn't remember (alcohol can be a good thing, haha). Finally S tried and succeeded. 4 people to open 1 gate. Lesson learnt - don't open a gate on an electric fence in a rain storm.
By the time we got home we were saturated. I had a river flowing through my jeans (and, no, it wasn't from a little accident!). We all decided to stay up and watch it pass, even if took hours. It was so awesome. The lightning was amazing and we ended up getting 40mm of rain that night. We also discovered that throwing jelly tots at a drunk person trying to catch toads is quite funny too.

So that week was over and a new one began. We were out on a normal drive, me checking the telemetry for Renee our hyena and also for our collared cheetah. We got both of them which was good, and both in a similar (not the exact same but...) direction. We got a strong signal for the brothers (cheetah) and An went to go on foot to find them. We waited in the car and all the sudden and I'm explaining something about impala or something, this thundering herd of impala comes running out from the scrub over a clearing to our right! We were like, was that An or the cheetah!? We see An come from another direction and disappear again so we figure it's the cheetah but aren't 100% sure. An comes back to the car and is like, "The cheetah killed an impala next to me" SCORE! Off we go.
Only a few 100m away, the two brothers are sitting panting next to a dead male impala. We literally sat with them for the next 3 to 4 hours just watching them eat it all. I was hoping for hyena to come along but they were entirely left alone to eat. So much so that, one had a bulemic moment, regurgitated everything and then started eating again! And then after that again, one couldn't get up and had to roll over sitting to move! (We have seen them like this before when they "looked pregnant", but now I know it takes about half an impala each to get them like that. By the end when we left, all they hadn't eaten was the head, hooves and the stomach.

So that was going to be the story of the week but the next day, we had reports the lions were nearby. It was the 2 adult male lions (the only ones left after they killed Kalahari)... and the Zimbabweans were around too. We heard that they killed a baby giraffe (since to be confirmed that it was only born a few hours before) but which lions actually killed it is still up in the air. The 2 boys (Millions and Xinpoko) definately had rights to it though. We got them scoffing it down, having little tussles between themselves. It was such a good sighting, and only 2 minutes from home too!
Four of the sub-adults from the Zimbabweans were around too... one of the females, Kuda I think, was really switched on and was trying to get a snack too. She staked, backed off, then stalked again. Her siblings hooked on to this a joined but even the boys didn't have the nouse she did. She took a spot but didn't push her luck then the 2 adult males had a bit of another grumble at each other and one took off with most of the carcass. The other one sat there for a minute before grabbing the next biggest bit and moving into the scrub as well.
Kuda moved in, grabbed a nice big leg that was left and ran off into a bush. Her brother was next. Grabbed his bit and went under a tree. The other female left, wasn't bothered and just ssat nearby while Zambezi, the youngest male was entirely submissive to Kuda. Ears back and not looking at her in the eye at all - really interesting.
We left them there (well our car did) to eat in peace because we already had an amazing sighting.

Wow, could it get any better this week - maybe a good elephant sighting would be nice but it was already a lekker week.

And yes, it could get better. One of the volunteers was asking me something and then left, 2 seconds later she asks me in a nervous voice "what's that sound?" There was this grunting in the bushes. I move closer to hear it. "I think it's a leopard but I'm not sure" (It had a saw type sound which is very indicitive of a leopard) I move a little closer, being weary of what I'm moving towards. "It's getting louder, I don't know - go get C." I now don't think it's a leopard. It's too loud and getting louder still. It's like something dying. C comes out and isn't quite sure, An comes out with his radio already calling one of the Makalali Rangers. He says "it's the lions, let's go."
E comes out now too and we're all bundling into the game viewer. About 40m down the road (after some bush bashing next to our diesel pump) we find 3 of the sub-adults with a fully grown male waterbuck (ie. big)! This si their first known kill without their mums! And it's a waterbuck! And it's still alive! And biggest of all - it's only 40m from our house!
One of the females (the one from before that was leading the charge to get something to eat from the adult males) is holding it down, still trying to suffocate it. The other female is eating it from behind, the male is soaked in blood but we actually don't know how he got that bloody...? The female eating it from behind chews off the tail at one stage while it's still alive. But finally after about 10min of us watching this, the waterbuck gives its last fight and finally gets overcome by shock and dies.
About 2min after this, all the tourist vehicle roll in (only 3 cars at a sighting of course so the lions don't get annoyed) so we go back home, have dinner and plan to come back again. Initially our plans were to do a night drive and find Renee but we change this and hope Renee comes to us.
In total we spend a number of hours watching the lions eat, rest, eat, get scared by something, eat, rest, eat. But we move off after a while when no hyenas come. The lions stayed there 3 days in total.

Friday night we went to the pub, it was a good night, even the guys from Bushwsie came out again (it's starting to become a routine but I have to say I love it! They're awesome fun!) We get back thogh and I'm taking a volunteer to their room (because they don't actually stay at our camp but Bush Camp so don't have an allocated room and being dark, I had to show them where they were going) and on the way back I notice the car lights are fixed on, you guessed it LIONS. 15m away. I freeze because one of them has just spotted me and looks straight at me. I notice that people are runnign aorund the backyard. I yell at them to "STOP MOVING! LIONS!". (the only way I could get the attention of drunk people) It turns our having headspins all day must've been for a reason so I could stop drinking earlier because E and I, being the only sober people had to take proper control of everyone.
Another lesson learnt - if there's drunk people and lions around. Basically lock them in their rooms.
Nothing more needs to be said on that one because everyone was safe in the end, but lions 15m away, at night, on foot. Memerable. Cool but dangerous... memerable.

Because of the amount of photos, I've separated them into other entries -

The Collared Cheetah Brother's Impala Kill:

The Adult Male Lions and Zimbabweans at the Giraffe Carcass:

The Zimbabwean Sub-Adult's First Kill (and an adult male waterbuck at that!):

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