Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The latest dramas in Karula and her family's life!

Hi everyone! 
I have only been back just over a week and it feels like a lifetime! There has been a bit of drama with Karula and the cubs, starting just as I arrived back. In case anyone has not managed to join the drives or may have missed out on the events here is what has been happening!

Male cub 7th June
Marc joined the sighting of the cubs at tree house dam still hanging around there with the remains of their mother's kill on the 28th June. I am sure Karula had eaten her fill before embarking on another hunt fairly soon afterwards. This seems to be her usual behaviour and may be why she is so successful. Leaving the cubs to continue feeding until there is nothing left, while she looks for the next meal, as there is no grantee when she will succeed again.

Later on in the morning, their grandad, Mafufunyane made an appearance and chased the young female cub, although he didn't pursue her far. It also looked like he had an injured leg possibly from a fight with Karula's mate of choice Yambilu-Jordaan. He had found himself a comfortable spot to take it easy and attend to his wounds. 
Little female, I love her sweet innocent look! From this week
The cubs stayed hidden from the old male until the afternoon safari. Marc caught up with them as Karula approached the dam and called for her cubs. Only the male responded, it didn't look like she had seen her father who was tucked away in the long grass. She sunned herself on the dam wall for a while and only seemed to notice him once she stood up again. I am sure everyone was on edge as she slowly walked towards him. Giving a hiss in his direction, his only response was to lower his head again and continue snoozing. Satisfied she had made her point, she moved off, but we still had no visual of the female cub.

Karula and the male cub on Tree house dam wall 28th June
Knowing everyone would be worried, I went back to tree house dam on the 29th morning drive, to see if there would be any sign of the family. I found a couple of cub tracks which looked like they belonged to one cub, heading West with Karula's. It looked like she had decided to move them, maybe because of Mafufunyane's presence. It was only when we were on Phillimon's dip did we found more tracks. It was difficult to be 100% sure, but it looked like both cubs were there and as usual they were running backwards and forwards, no doubt chasing each other and exploring the area!

Little female 
We had a confirmed sighting right at the end of PM drive on the 29th. Both cubs and Karula were seen heading West on Vuyatela access road. We tried to get a visual but she had already headed into the bush at the junction with Albury's road.

The cubs on Marc's drive 3rd July
From here I had my dates wrong! I thought it was the following day the cubs were found but it was only Sunday 3rd, they were discovered at the same junction. Marc had a wonderful sighting of the cubs playing in the trees on morning drive! I have been told a diary will be made at some stage, keep a look out for it on You tube, I will also post it on Karula's face book page, it was incredible to see, but their mother was still not present!

Waiting patiently for mum to return! 3 July 
Karula still hadn't returned in the evening as Marc caught up with them once again and I must admit I wasn't holding my breath to find them in the same spot. I thought  she would have returned and moved them again during the night, but sure enough the next day, July 4th, the cubs were as Marc left them, hugging the termite mound! 
4th July
I was hoping mum would return as we watched them frolic about, pouncing on each other, batting the other's tail, climbing the trees until eventually they ran out of steam and settled down! Sadly Karula didn't show, even the female looked like she might have thought Karula was on the way back as something caught her attention. Eventually she returned to a sheltered spot to sleep.

4 July Little female still not looking impressed mum hasn't returned.
Even the afternoon drive brought no news of Karula, the cubs were still waiting patiently for her to return. By this stage many were becoming concerned for the cubs. I had originally thought it was only 2 days but it may have turned out to have been about 4 or 5 days. It is difficult to say at what point Karula left them and when they last drank, but it is normal for leopards to leave the cubs for longer and longer periods. Karula will also know how long she can leave them before they need to drink again and at this age the cubs will be able to hunt small prey like rodents, lizards, even birds and insects. It could even be part of the learning process which forces them to hunt.

The following morning, the 5th, we found Karula's tracks with those of the cubs, they had walked along Vuyatela access road, past the dam (and probably stopped to drink), then onto central road, where we followed the tracks until just before the junction with Drakensberg drive. A set from one of the cubs headed North from there. It was almost as if mum had walked in that direction and cub was on the other side of the road occupied by something and suddenly realising mum had gone, so sprang in the direction she had gone!

While looking for any more signs of her we found fresh adult and baby rhino spoor, so decided to track them. It turned out to be the blunt horned female rhino and her 3-4 month old female calf!

It was magic to spend a bit of time with them and then the elephant herd who we were also looking for in the area, but Karula remained elusive! At least she had re-joined the cubs, I think to everyone's relieve! It doesn't look like she was successful in making a kill and it could be why she moved the family to another area to try her luck!

The last sighting to date of Karula was last night, she was found in Torchwood, the neighbouring property just East of Cheetah cutline. It was only after we closed down did we hear she had made her way back to Western Gowrie and disappeared in the thick bush where we lost tracks that morning!

Karula and one of the cubs 8 May
I also wanted to share with you the amazing sighting that happened South of Gowrie Main in another property called Little Gowrie, which involves Karula's father and mother and the pride of lions we sometimes see here! This happened also on the morning of the 5th, details came from guides who witnessed it.
Mafufunyane was found killing a warthog, the calls must have been heard by the 2 hyena who came running in, forcing Mafufunyane to take the kill into a tree. The hyenas were then chased off by 3 of the Styx females and a Majingilane male. At some stage Safari, Karula's mother, showed up and was also chased into a tree, either by the lions or hyena. One of the Styx females decided to climb the tree Mafufunyane was in. He retaliated and was seen hitting her on the head as she climbed, but couldn't prevent her from making it to his stashed kill. He was a couple of meters from her, in the smallest of branches, while she sat in tree and ate his meal! At one stage she skillfully caught the carcass as it slipped from the tree! Having eaten her fill, she descended, sadly not very gracefully, bumping her head as she came down! In a word incredible!

Thank you so much for the quick response sending through pictures, sorry for the short notice, but great pictures once again, thank you for sharing them!

28th June
My camera lens has been sent to Dubi to be fixed, the people at Sony have never seen the problem before! So it will be a while before I am able to take pictures again!

Written by Tara

Links to Karula's family mentioned in this Blog:


  1. Wow Tara! Mafufunyane's heart must have been beating wildly as that nonchalant lioness coolly ate his kill so close to him! If he fell, would the other Styx have attacked him? I wonder if that lioness will repeat her climbing performance, now that she has learned to be successful at it? Mafufunyane was so brave to strike at her head! What a tale.

  2. Thanks Tara for the super blog, writing this from my IPhone seems I have logged in at last I hope.
    Doris C

  3. Thanks Ladies! I am sure if Mafufunyane fell, the lionesses would have at least given chase. The Styx have been know to kill leopard in the past. I am sure his heart was beating wildly too! I can only imagine his facial expressions!