The Change of Residency

Sabi Sand · August 2018
By Ross Couper
Field Guide, Content Provider

This is a topic that has been mentioned on a few occasions, however it is so evident now that we are encountering the Hlab’Nkunzi female far less.

The Schotia female has unknowingly moved her mother from her residing territory and settled down in a perfect portion of wilderness. Watching her raise her two cubs has been emotional as we all are rooting for both the cubs to survive, as this is not always the norm. So far so good. As the Hlab’Nkunzi female’s last male cub has started to venture further away from his natal area we hope he too stays in the peripheral range so we can continue to watch his independence. The Hlab’Nkunzi female has unfortunately struggled with an injury that was inflicted by the Hukumuri female during a scuffle last year and she has never fully recovered. Her right ear also never healed and continues to pester her. The injury has worsened to a point that half her ear is missing. The resilience of these animals is incredible and she continues to survive despite her lack of success with keeping carcasses as she has been unable to hoist many of them. On most of the occasions, she has lost her meal to hyenas. With the alarm calls from the prey source filtering across the bush, the distinctive snorting call from impala unfortunately not only alarms all other species that there is a leopard in the nearby vicinity but also any other predator or scavenger is notified of the opportunity of a meal being available.

On a recent occasion, whilst watching a rhino, a young lioness appeared out of the tall grass, also curious about the rhino that was sleeping in an open area of sand. For a brief period of time, the lioness watched the rhino only to realise that the large mammal was still breathing and only in a deep sleep. We decided to leave the sleepy rhino and follow the lioness on her exploration.

The lioness began running, which resulted in an excited pursuit to watch her join up with two older lionesses and within a few minutes we watched a leopard quickly scale up a marula tree, whilst three hyena scattered as the apex predators honed in on the remains of an impala carcass on the ground. It all happened in a few split seconds. The Hlab’Nkunzi female fortunately hoisted a smallish piece of the carcass
only to find that the young lioness was adamant to climb up the tree to retrieve the remains of the impala from the leopard. Fortunately leopards are far more agile in trees than lions and this was a saving grace for the Hlab’Nkunzi female as she moved to the top of the tree with the morsel of carcass.

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