CANCEL
 

Lions, leopards and collared pratincoles

 
 

Mike updates us on his latest sightings that he has seen throughout May.

 

28th May 2020

Xigera Safari Lodge

Lions swimming the channel

Timing is everything in the bush and every now and then it is perfect. Last Sunday morning, I found Maditedu’s group just off Malapo road on our morning drive. Our female lion Maditedu has a mane, I have only seen this in Botswana at Mombo. Our guide TJ, named her Maditedu, which means the female lion with a beard. 

Me and Marian went for a drive one evening and looked for them where we had seen them in the morning, but they were gone. There is a beautiful channel Marian and I often spend time at when we go out for a drive, which is classic Okavango and not too far away. I told Marian I could not resist taking a look down the channel, so off we went and as we came around the last corner, we saw the lions in perfect evening light. 

From their behavior, I could see they were preparing to cross the channel. I knew I would not be ready in time to video it, so Marian got her iPhone ready and I got my cameras ready to shoot the action as stills. It didn’t take long, the group interacted on the bank of the channel trying to build up courage. All our delta lions have to be able to swim to survive, but they know that crossing deep water is dangerous because of the crocodiles.

The oldest female set off for the crossing and tested the water with her paw, slowly making her way into deeper water. She hissed once or twice looking left and right and then the other two followed, swimming closely. They crossed as quickly as they could and soon they were safely on the other side.

Marian’s video is wonderful and shows the whole event perfectly. Here are a few still images of this wonderful moment:

Lions crossing the channel

Lions crossing channel

Lions crossing the channel

Motlalepula and her two young cubs

Motlalepula is our beloved lodge leopard and we see her often. Between Christmas and New Year, our staff were making their morning rounds and heard noises inside Suite 2. As they opened the door to the room they got the fright of their lives as they confronted a leopard in the room. The leopard panicked as she saw them and made her escape from the room. When they went back inside, they were amazed to see a new born cub on the floor. Genius, our guide took a photograph with his phone before he closed the door. The next day, they found a second cub in the suite and their mother was coming into the suite at night to feed them.

I was in Johannesburg at the time, but Genius continually updated me on what was happening. I had never had to deal with anything like this before, so I called Caron Botes, the VET in Maun, to ask for help. We hoped she would take them out of the suite herself, but as the days went by this seemed less likely. I knew the construction workers would soon have to be back on site, Caron called me to say we needed to find lion scat, or any vegetation the male lions had marked and put it around the room. We hoped this would be an incentive for her to move them. 

It was raining at the time and finding what we needed was difficult. Just as Caron was due to fly into the lodge, I received the news that Motlalepula had moved the cubs herself and I breathed a sigh of relief. The guides hadn’t seen the mother but I was convinced it had to be Motlalepula, as she was the only leopard I knew in the area who was familiar with the lodge area and would attempt this.

Four and half months passed, and we saw her on a few occasions but never with the cubs. One day, when I was out on a morning drive with Tapelo, we found her in a sausage tree right next to the road. We were so engrossed in the sighting that it was only when Lesh joined us later that he noticed a young cub of four and half months old in the baobab tree next to her.

Leopard

Baby Leopard

Motlalepula left to go hunting soon after we got there and we had a great view of the cub. The cub was so relaxed and playful, and we had a day and a half of viewing. Later she came back while we were not there and moved the cub. 

A few days later, the circle was complete when the guides found Motlalepula on the afternoon patrol and both cubs were with her. This was a really special moment for us all as the cubs are exactly the right age to have been born at the end of last year. We look forward to seeing these cubs grow up and any sighting of them over the next year will be spectacular.

Collared Pratincoles on Xigera Lagoon

Collared Pratincoles are spectacular birds. They are migrants in our area, normally seen from August to March but occasionally outside of this time frame. We were surprised on a recent boat trip to Xigera Lagoon to find the main sandbank literally covered in Pratincoles. It was such a spectacular sight.

Collared Pratincoles

Pratincoles are crepuscular feeders, meaning they feed mainly on the wing at dawn and twilight. In the evening, on the lagoon, the sky is filled with them feeding and it is wonderful to see. On the banks, they assemble in numbers and we estimate there are well over 5000 of them.


We are enjoying seeing them while they are here, and I have never seen so many in one place in the Okavango before!

Male lion wars at Xigera

With all the new lion activity around Xigera, it was only a matter of time before the fights started. We have an old male lion at Xigera who we have been seeing regularly since last year. You can see from his face that he has fought many battles, nevertheless, he is in good health and we call him Splitnose, for obvious reasons. To our surprise, he has a good relationship with the two groups of young males in the area and the females are very relaxed around him.

Splitnose

About a week ago, we found two new nomadic males in the area to the east of the lodge and they were skittish. Their behaviour means that they have not seen vehicles regularly and it will take us some time for them to settle and become relaxed around us. Also, there has been a lot of roaring in and around the lodge which is wonderful for us to hear during the night, conveying how each group wants to dominate the Xigera area.

Lions fighting

Last night, there must have been a fight as from the look of him, Splitnose looked worse for wear. By the morning, the groups were separated by the river, each group still roaring. We are following their behaviour closely and we will keep you updated on the outcome.

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