Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Karula's family tree - Her son Induna- part one

Hi everyone,

We have nearly met all of Karula's family now and I have up dated the earlier Blogs so I think it is time to show the spot light on Induna! 

Induna, meaning chief, is the son of Karula, born in mid Nov 2008 with litter mate Mixo. The pair were Karula's second litter and she would have been just 4 and half years old. She had been seen mating with Yambilu-Jordaan and through his numerous appearances with the family it is widely accepted he is their father. This will make him and Mixo full brothers to Xivindzi and Xivambalana.

What is remarkable is the fact he is still here, nearly 3 years old and still utilising his mother's territory while she has cubs.  He has even met his younger sister Xivindzi nose to nose and shared a couple of meals with his father! Mean while his independent brother, Mixo, seems to have left us behind and continued his journey into adulthood somewhere else in the sands. The latest report was he has made it to the Southern part of the Sands!

I must admit I a very happy at least Induna has stayed around a bit longer, as I am sure many of you are! It is great to see how he is progressing and the fact we have seen family interactions like this is incredible!

To identify this charismatic boy I usually use the following marks which are very distinctive. Firstly the pattern between his eyes is very distinctive, most people say they see a face, others see something else but it is distinctive what ever you see it as!

Looking on his right side, there is a very neat semi-circle of spots over his eye. This I have noticed, he shares with his dad Yambilu-Jordaan, who also has this spot pattern above his right eye! Induna also has a triangle that points towards the corner of his right eye and lies just at the end of the semi-circle of spots.

On his left side the arrow points to his beauty spot, another triangle but much larger than the one on his right side. Some call it bat wings! You can also see a line from this to the corner of his eye which is almost vertical. His brother Mixo has a "Y" at the corner of his eyes as does his younger brother Xivambalana.

Sadly Induna lost the tip to his tail. We believe it was due to a hyena, possibly even floppy ear when he was younger. Last year the tip became exposed and but thankfully it healed and he seems no worse for wear. In fact if you see his tail now, you would have to look closely to see it is slightly smaller than other leopard tails!

Thank you everyone for sending in pictures of this beautiful boy, I will be going into a bit more of his character in the next Blog!

Also just in case you missed drive, we briefly saw Karula sleeping on the Southern side of quarantine last night as we closed down for drive. She was last seen making her way over Gowrie Dam wall and up towards the rooms at Vuyatela a couple of hours after we left her!

Written by Tara

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Meet Xivindzi and Xivambalana!

10 Sept 2011 Kaula and the cubs
Hi everyone!

Now Karula's boy has a name I thought I would write about these two bundles of joy!

For those who missed the drive yesterday, Karula was enjoying the views from the comfort of the deck at one of the rooms at Vuyatela knowing the occupants were away on drive I am sure! The nearby nyala had caught her eye, but sadly she was too eager and as she made her move, a shape eyed youngster gave the alarm and everyone scattered!

A beautiful painting of Xivindzi
It was only later as the sun had set she re-appeared in front of us at quarantine. As soon as Seb realised she was stalking something he switched off the light. We sat in darkness as she edged closer to her prey, but suddenly what must have been the steenbok, who has taken up residence there, shot off, leaving her empty pawed once more. Her size puzzled me and I wonder if it wasn't one of the cubs, possibly Xivindzi, who was actually hunting! As the spotted feline returned to the road we noticed the rest of the family, they must have been sitting and watching from the shadows!
Karula's daughter Xivindzi Sept 2011
Karula's daughter came to the Ganda and sat with us while she waited for mum and brother to follow. It was incredible to say the least as she walked less than a meter from Sebastien down the side of the vehicle, mean while, Karula was strolling down the other side at the same time! What a royal encounter!

Karula's son Xivambalana, Sept 2011
We followed them for a short way until they reached Zoe's road and evidently she decided to leave the cubs there as they were around Galago shortcut  again this morning! As Marc joined the sighting, a hyena appeared. Surprisingly instead of climbing a tree to be out of reach, both cubs started to move towards it! Luckily there was no food around and being a fair size now, the two 10 month old leopards could fight their corner well. Maybe this is what deterred their nemesis from an unnecessary confrontation with them!

Xivindzi, which means bold, is Karula's daughter and she does seem ready for action. You would pronounce it as Shi-vind-zze.

Xivindzi and how to identify her

The arrow on her forehead highlights how close the WOW is to being complete like her mum! The lines under this are a different angles, if you look below on her brother his are much more uniform underneath each other.

The red arrow points to her eye, if you look closely a single line is there, but on her brother he shares the "Y" with his brother Mixo.

The easiest way I tell them apart at the moment is the marks above the whisker line. Above Xivindzi's she has two dots above each other and a ^ on both sides, her brother Xivambalana has two large spots side by side above his whisker line. 

If you are new to leopard identification it is good to have a couple of things to look for on each animal. We use the face for id the most as that is the part we look at the most! 

Xivambalana and how to identify him
Xivambalana means emerald spotted wood dove, on account of his shy nature. I don't see this as a bad thing, he ers on the side of caution, especially when it comes to confrontation and this might just save his life one day! For me the bird is not bold or flashy, but if you look closely there are hidden gems and I think this sums up this little boy perfectly! You would pronounce his name as Shi-vam-ba-lan-a.

Written by Tara  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Karula's family tree - Her daughter Saseka

Hi everyone!
Lets have a closer look at her daughter, Saseka, which means beautiful. Her official name being Thandi. You will hear us refer to her as this on the radio, as it is the name used by the rest of the guides. The guide who sees the cubs first generally gets to name them, but only after a year. The reason being the mortality rate can be high during this critical time. That is one of the reasons why Karula is so special to us, as she has successfully reared 2 litters to adulthood. Can she do it a third time? WE truly hope so!
She was the first offspring to be born to Karula around mid December 2006, along with her sister Tingana, (official name Shadow). So far they are the only daughters of Karula. The father is thought to be Mafufunyane. At the time of mating, Karula would have been just under 3 years old.

The girls were first seen in February 2007 and looked to be around 8 weeks old. They eventually went their separate ways and it seems Saseka is being found nowadays towards the South East of us, around Cheetah plains. She visits her mother's territory from time to time around twin dams and tree house dam.

It was such a joy to hear this beautiful leopard had 2 cubs of her own, being seen for the first time by a guide on the 18 Jan 2011 at Cheetah Plains. She was seen mating with the stunning male Mvula last year. 

Sadly though she lost one cub for what reason we don't know. After a while on one cub was seen with her, he seems to be doing well. From a sighting the other day he has also met his father, although Mvula was calling possibly locating them and bumped into the Tsalala pride who chased Saseka into a tree and her son followed his father to another tree as the lions gave chase. Luckily he escaped with only moments to spare. According to one guide if he had put a foot wrong he would have been no more.

She seems to be darker in colour compared to her mother and sister. Over her left eye there is a "Y" mark, under the left eye are "eyelash" markings. From the corners of both eyes she looks like she is wearing eye makeup like the ancient Egyptians use to wear, a straight line. She also has a nick in her left ear.

Thank you so much to everyone sending in pictures, it was a difficult choice, but great to have so many wonderful shots of her to choose from and to share with all the WE family! Thanks to Karen and Colleen for the information they have compiled over the years about the leopards and to Lou Ann Wile with help on how to Id her! I hope some day those of us who have never met her will have the chance to do so!

Written by Tara

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Karula's family tree - Her daughter Tingana aka Shadow

Hi everyone!
It's been a while seen we have dipped into Karula's family tree, so I thought we would focus on  her other daughter from her first litter. She is known to us as Tingana, meaning "shy one". Her official name being Shadow, possibly came from her staying in the shadows, being shy!

She was the first offspring to be born to Karula around mid December 2006, along with her sister Saseka (official name Thandi). At the time of mating, Karula would have been just under 3 years old. The father is thought to be Mafufunyane, although not confirmed, due to his interaction with Karula and the cubs when they were young, it looks highly likely!

Tingana snarling at Saseka 
First seen in February 2007 the two girls looked to be around 8 weeks old. Tingana now spends more time in the South West, taking a territory close to her grand mother's, Safari, in Arathusa. If she wonders onto Karula's territory she is seen around Impala plains and Gowrie main area. 

She was seen mating with Yambilu-Jordaan by Arathusa guides and gave birth to her first litter around September last year. It is difficult to say if he is the father as she was also seen mating with Tyson. Sadly cub mortality can be high and both cubs have died. I do not know what the fate of either cub was. With them being so tiny, they are vulnerable to a number of predators from jackal and snakes to hyena and lion. They can also be killed by other male leopards who have not sired the cubs. Females move the cubs around so much to possibly to reduce the chance of a predator or other leopards detecting them.

To id her, the most distinctive feature is the "v"notch in the top of her right ear as seen in the picture above. 
On her chest, she has a "Y" collar, but I always find it difficult to see this on any leopard! 

The picture below showing her forehead, you can see it almost looks like she has a small heart, some say a butterfly, shape which also looks quite distinctive.

The whisker pattern on her left side is also interesting, with 2 spots and a blotch almost forming a triangle with the lower whisker line, as you can see in the picture below.

Thank you again to everyone sending in pictures of this shy beauty! Also thanks to Lou Ann for id information as well as Karen and Colleen for all the information gathered over the years about these stunning creatures, in particular Karula and her extending family! I hope WE get chance to see Tingana sometime when she comes to visit!

Written by Tara

Monday, September 5, 2011

Karula's family tree... in pictures.

Hi everyone!

The picture of Safari, Karula and Matimba was from Fay a little while ago and I was hoping to be able to use it at some stage! It shows Karula's mother and Karula's brother Matimba who was born in Dec 2005! 

We have had 3 people take up the Karula's family tree challenge and with a brilliant outcome too! I hope these help understand how Karula is related to the other leopards we see! Each one adds something interesting to the tree! Click on each one for a closer look!

By Anat
Anat's helps to show the uncertainty of the actual father regarding Tandi and Shadow. It could be either male. I understand there was a mating seen by guides of Mafufunyane with Karula when she was very young which could have resulted in the first litter but there is some uncertainty. The way he has interacted with them does lean towards him being the father. 

By Stacy
Stacy's helps to show who of the family are male and female.

And John's includes the order the litters were born in as well as all the family's birth years. 

Thank you once again to John, Stacy and Anat for putting these brilliant family trees together for everyone to enjoy!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Yambilu-Jordaan babysits his cubs!

Karula and male cub 4 Sept 2011
Hi everyone,

What an incredible few days we have had! I can not believe the sightings this week!

First thing this morning, Marc said he heard a leopard calling in the drainage line at the back of camp. I decided to head out early and drive around Galago short cut after confirming with Marc it sounded like the spotted feline was heading in that direction.

Family portrait!  4 Sept 2011
Just as we turned onto Galago Shortcut, Becky shouted, "leopard!"
"Where?" I'm asking her as my excitement was growing. I was looking where she was pointing, but I had no joy, I was too low to see over the grass! "Shall I go forward?" 
"Yeh, it's right there, behind the grass. No there's 2!"
Suddenly Karula strolled out onto the road, followed by one of her cubs, followed by, not the other cub, but a big male! I was frankticly rummaging for the binoculars, although I was fairly convinced it would be the father, as he bent to test Karula's urine! A little bit early for that I think, with the cubs only being 10 months old, Karula is still providing for them and they are still dependent on her but none the less he was checking.

Karula and cubs at rest and play captured by Stacy
Sure enough there was the heart! Marc excitedly exclaimed in my ear. "Oh I've just seen you've got them! Can I go live?"
"Yes, yes, yes, go live!!"
I was shaking with excitement as father was joined by his son, wrapping his tail in affection around his neck just as we went live! At one stage Karula was to our left, the cubs played to our right occasionally being joined by their mother while Yambilu-Jordaan watched and waited patiently!  

Leaving dad behind, the rest of the family enjoyed some boisterous play as they headed to Vuyatela access. A streak of spots leaped into a tree, followed by another, with Karula pouncing up and almost pulling one of her kids from the tree on more than one occassion! What an absolute delight to see our lady seem not to have a care in the world!

Karula jumping into the tree with both cubs in it!
She did look a bit on the lean side and maybe that spurred her to take the play back into the bush and search for food and headed back in the direction of her mate. Just as she met up with him again a duiker sprang from it's hidding place. It took a few moments to register, then Karula was off, bounding after it at speed! Meanwhile Xivindzi started to follow and then realised it probably wasn't the best idea so turned to see her brother following Yambilu-Jordaan and decided to do the same!

Having 3 vehicles in the sighting and knowing Yambilu-Jordaan, I didn't want to stress him out especially if the cubs were in his care, so we went to find out if Karula had been successful. Sadly for her she came back empty handed. Sniffing the ground, maybe to find a scent of a possible meal or her cubs, she wound her way this way and that. Eventually she started to call; low at first and then louder as there came no response.

Little male
She headed in the direction of where the cubs went possibly following their scent trail. Her path was blocked a couple of times as a hyena, who might have heard the calls from earlier, zigzagged its way through the bush in the hope of finding breakfast. Thankfully Karula was experienced enough to lie low and remained undiscovered.

Xivindzi 4 Sept 2011
Once the hyena had passed by, Xivindzi was the first to greet her mother then eventually the male appeared.  Both soon tired of the tree Karula had picked as a vantage point and play commenced on the ground again, stopping only when the hyena returned. Both watched as the loner looked on. Xivindzi must have taken it's hesitance to approach as a sign of uncertainty and began to approach it. To my amazement the adult hyena  ran off! 
Xivindzi watching the hyena!
We made space for another vehicle and was later informed Yambilu returned at some stage and left again as Karula went East towards the drainage line at the back of our camp.

Yambilu-Jordaan feeding 2 Sept 2011
I must admit I still can't believe what WE have witnessed with this family today and recently. Only 2 days ago, 2nd Sept, Yambilu was feeding on a nyala carcass in a tamboti tree, just a meter from his almost 3 year old son, Induna, who was sleeping! WE are still unsure who made the kill as Marc discovered it in the drainage line East of Gowrie Cutline in the Tamboti forest, the previous day with both males present! Aside from the fact we had father and son sharing a meal, WE were also treated to hearing the cackling laughter of hyena, who became very animated every time a piece of food was dropped. As they Chased each other in and out and around the vehicles, I was thinking one might forget we were there and run head long into us as they were so focused on making sure they secured a share in the spoils! Thankfully we were "part of the furniture" and no collisions occurred during the commotion!

Matimba males
After all that it seems a shame not to mention the Matimba male lions who were residing with us for a few days while they fed on a buffalo carcass at Buffleshoek dam. It was first found on the 1st Sept and had probably been killed that night by the 5 big males. While they slept off their huge expanded bellies on Friday, a parade of pachyderms interrupted them and there was no messing about from either side. The lions respectfully gave way to a 40 strong wall of elephants and kept a low profile, while the normally gentle giants skirted around where the kill and lions had been, neither wanting to get too close to the other!

I also enjoyed spending time with our favourite crash of 6 rhino, Marc had a brilliant sighting of elephants yesterday at Gowrie dam and Seb is bonding with the baby hyena at the den, especially the new arrival. A tiny little cub who hasn't even got it's spots yet! 

Thank you to everyone sending in pictures it is greatly appreciated and apologies for some slightly blurred pictures unfortunately it was a little too dark at those points for my camera to work well but thought you might like to see them anyway!  

Written by Tara

Karula's family tree - Her choice of mate - part one

Hi everyone,
I thought we would focus on the handsome, but elusive, male Yambilu-Jordaan. As I started to write this I have realised there is so much to this male to discuss so instead of trying to condense it. I thought he deserved to have a couple of Blogs written about him!

Yambilu-Jordaan was originally known as the Jordaan's male as he would be found around Jordaan's Dam. The Yambilu part is Shangaan for heart due to the distinctive heart shape on his forehead and was added by Pieter Pretorius who was a presenter for Wildarth for a number of years.

Not much is known about this elusive cat. It is thought he was born around 2002, but his parentage is unknown and there is only speculation to his siblings. Some say he is the brother of the Beacon female and he may have sired her cubs Rupert and the female, who we see occasionally in the North, Inkanyeni in 2005. What we do know is he is shy around the vehicles, although he seems to be getting better!

How does he fit into Karula's life? He seems to have been the mate of her choice for the last 2 litters. It is thought Mafufunyane could have sired the first litter though. The Lady of Djuma has the possibility of mating with 3 territory holders. Mafufunyane, also thought to be her father, patrols the South, Mvula who patrols in the East and Yambilu-Jordaan. WE have been fortunate to find him in a few different places mainly in the Northern half of our traversing area, from Galago short cut in the West and Gowrie Dam to Bateleur road and Buffelshoek Dam in the East. There can also be nomadic toms that pass through the territories of these males even though we haven't seen any, they could be keeping a low profile!


There are a couple of distinguishing features on this rarely seen male. The most prominent mark is his name sake, the heart shape on his forehead, as you can see in the picture above. You may also notice above both eyes it is very pale and the 2 vertical lines above the eyes, that are present in most Sabi sands leopards, are very pale too. Over the right eye he shares the semi circle of spots with his probable son, Induna.

On the picture below you can see the long vertical black mark next to his left eye and there is also a semi circle of spots above the left eye.


Thanks again to everyone sending in these great pictures of him and to Karen and Collen for collecting the information about this stunning leopard. 

Written by Tara
Written on the 18/03/2011

Here is the link to the second part of the Blog: