Sunday, May 6, 2012

Xivambalana tries his best!

Xivambalana giving a royal walk by!
Hi everyone!
Sorry it has been a while since my last blog! I have been so busy with moving into my new camp where at the moment there is no internet but I hope very soon that will be rectified! The camp itself is amazing! We are surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains, kudu and waterbuck wonder into camp on a regular basis, (they are our early warning system leopard are in the area and they are pretty reliable as well!) 

One of the new conservation assistant tents
There is a chorus of uninterrupted bird song first thing in the morning as the first rays of sunlight paint the already colouring vegetation in a golden glow.  I have a loo with a view and an outdoor shower which is divine in the afternoon sun!   There is also so much going on with the spotted felines at Thaba Tholo, I hope to solve some of the puzzles that are being laid before me over the next couple of months! The mystery cat I posted on facebook a short while ago is actually a female, although she looked large enough to be a male on the first picture we took! We caught her and her cub, which looks to be around 5 months or so, a couple of weeks after the first picture in exactly the same spot! 

Our mystery mother at Thaba Tholo
It is amazing what we have been catching on camera, side striped jackal, civet (one even left it’s mark on my camera; not a pleasant smell I might add!), brown hyena, genet and I am eagerly anticipating the striped weasel tracks I found to materialise into a picture of one as well! I am thoroughly enjoying my new roles and the challenges.  If anyone is interested in joining us or would like to adopt Diamond girl or even just donate to the Ingwe Leopard Research please do, check out our website for further details:

Xivambalana all grown up!
Many of you might have heard I am was visiting Djuma for a couple of days and I must admit I haven’t been disappointed! Our favourite lady and her son must have sensed how much I needed to see them! As I was driving over to Vuyatela, her image popped into my head and I wondered if I would be lucky enough to touch base with her over the next couple of days. I was extremely hopeful as it had only been 3 days since she was last seen and the day was overcast which could encourage the spotted felines out from hiding! It has been just over a week or so since Xivindzi has been seen; but it sounds like she is doing well as we expected. Highly independent at only 17 months old it is such a huge contrast to her brother!
 As soon as I announced on the radio I departed for game drive, the call came in Xivambalana was on the western side of Inga’s house on the quarantine open area. Thrilled to hear this news, I immediately became like a child again, a huge grin spread across my face as I bounced down to the sighting!
He couldn’t have been in a better position, lounging on the branch of the old marula tree we have watched ground hornbill foraging for food around and seen the Gowrie gang sitting on countless times in the middle of the quarantine eyeing the impala at least 90m away. Instantly I could see how much he has grown, he is about the same size Mixo was at his age and just as handsome as his elder sibling!

Xivambalana lounging about before his hunt!
He was not in the slightest bit concerned at the vehicles being there either, which was so heart-warming to witness, it is clear he is maturing and it was wonderful to see how he was more sure of himself and his surroundings. I sat with him for a while, but he became restless as he kept looking over at the mobile buffet tantalising him. 

Xivambalana focused on what lies ahead!
Eventually it got too much to handle and he made his descent back to suitable cover, it was at this moment to my amazement Karula suddenly appeared from underneath the fallen tree. She must have been taking a break while Xivambalana made use of the vantage point!Together mother and son crept in unison towards the antelope, focused on the shared goal. 

Xivambalana left, his mother Karula right, focused on the impala
Maybe Xivambalana was a little too eager or the wind turned but they were not even within striking distant before the alarm was raised. 

The royal lady herself - Karula
You could see on Karula’s face she was not impressed, but to her son, the call to tell them it was a waste of time fell on deaf ears as he tried in earnest to get closer. 

Impala ewes on alert
Eventually he realised the females were too alert so shifted his attention towards two males sparing who were not taking notice of the alarm calls. He literally leopard crawled into long grass, but the females became so instant about him approaching, the males took their dispute further away from the danger zone! 

Impala ewes making sure everyone knows Xivambalana is still a threat
This still didn’t dissuade him from approaching; he merely stood up with his white flag in full view and strolled across the open ground to settle next to a bush, still watching for a potential mistake from his quarry. 
Once again Karula appeared to check on her son’s progress and assessing the situation, which became clear she was not in favour of his choice. She gave us a royal walk by in her usual fashion as she moved to get a better look! 
Karula less than 2m from us!
He took a moment to regroup and noticed a lone ram south of where the rest of the herd were. He had lost interest in the commotion and was busy displaying; a perfect opportunity to take advantage of. Unfortunately there was a lot of ground to cover but Xivambalana was not fazed. He took to the cover and made his approach as Karula watched his attempt. The ram was not as clueless as he thought, yet again the alarm call sounded and the score became 3:0 to the impala.

Game well and truly over for Xivambalana ...or is it?!
Light was fading rapidly as he retreated to more comfortable spot while the ram continued to sound the alarm. Even after all this I have to hand it to him he didn’t give up. From his view point he spied another potential meal and headed for the nearest cover. I actually think he could have been in with a chance as another ram came close to where he hid, but his scent gave his presence away. Already on high alert, the ram started to call, but it became clear he didn’t know where Xivambalana was hiding. 

4th time lucky?

I held my breath as he came within a few meters of our young hunter, still looking towards where the last male had been calling from, almost confused at not seeing a cat there. He was within striking distance but Xivambalana hesitated and immediately the ram spun round to stare right at him. With only a few meters between them, Xivambalana still launched into half-hearted pounce and gave chase for all of 2 steps before finally conceding defeat! At 4:0 it looked like enough was enough for our young leopard, at least for the time being! Karula had headed further West, possibly waiting for night fall before she made any attempt at catching dinner, but it had been brilliant to see her and to witness such a change in Xivambalana. I always knew he had it in him!

If this wasn't enough we bumped into Induna the following afternoon as he took a stroll and scent marked close to Gowrie gate on the Eastern side. The following morning we were lucky enough to catch up with him on Buffleshoek cutline where he was voicing his concern for something. He gave a small contact call mixed in with his growling. As we drove around we could hear another leopard who turned out to be Yambilu-Jordaan voicing his opinion that his son was not allowed to share his kill this time! 

Induna took the hint and melted back into the bush with out so much as a goodbye. Could this be the turning point in their relationship? He is 3 and a half years old now, time to stand on his own 4 feet! But who knows, maybe his father was just in a bad mood!! All I know was it was great the royal family of Djuma graced us with a snap shot of how they are doing! 


  1. Thank you for the wonderful update on our leopard family! I have missed them. Glad you were able to see so many of them!

  2. Hi there. Thanks for the updates. Sounds like you had a great visit at Djuma. Got lucky on your drive too. :)
    Hope all is well.

  3. oh how I miss the live drives!

  4. Thanks so much for keeping us in touch with our Leopards!! I know how busy you are and I appreciate all your time and effort to put this blog together!! You are the best!!

  5. Many thanks Tara. It is nice to know that you love your new job, and to have news from our leopards as well. Sending you a big hug!

  6. Oh how I miss you and them all!!!! That just about sums it up!!!

  7. Thank you so much for the update and wonderfully written log we all so much enjoy. It was so good to see the leopards again.
    Best of luck , Tara.

  8. Thanks for the wonderful posting Tara..We are always happy to see how you are doing and also to hear about the Royal Family of Djuma.
    Sounds like you my dear are having the time of your life. I wish you well and hope someday to meet you. take care of one our favorite places on the planet "Wild Africa". Sure do miss you all.

  9. Love your pictures!
    And as alwys it is great to hear from you.
    We all miss your smile and laugh!
    And, kknowledge and love of the bush.
    Take care ans God Bless!
    thanks for keeping in touch!

  10. It is sooooooo good to see your photos and hear the details of what is going on with the learning & growth of each generation of our wonderful Leopards!!! We still miss you and miss keeping up with the wildlife on a closer basis!! Thank you for the great blog!! Love you!!

  11. Tara, reading this blog reminded me of old times together on drives & brought back the joy I always had at live leopard sightings. So happy you were able to see them, especially my boy, Induna! I think he and his Dad seem to have bonded since they are seen together fairly often. And although Yambilu Jordaan showed he is the parent by deciding to not share his kill, I have a feeling he does allow it more times than we all know. Thank you, Tara!!

  12. Enjoyed your comments and photos. Miss seeing you and Djuma on live drives

  13. So good to read about this beautiful cats. Wonder how Mixo is doing, anybody heard anything?
    Thanks for the amazing photos, miss you and the drives incredibly

  14. Hi Tara,

    Glad to hear from you again.

    I love your blog.

    I think you are just at the beginning of a great life.

    Luc from Canada

  15. Dear Tara,
    So nice to see your excellent photos and see it signed "Tara Pirie". Juat like old times and all is well. I still can't get over the fact that we have watched Karula's children grow from birth to these strong, able and independent creatures. She is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing and keeping us in mind when you revisit our Djuma.
    Take care and best wishes with the leopard research. Your friend, Diane