This week started rather slowly as the big cats kept themselves hidden, leaving us chasing shadows and following tracks in endless circles…

It was almost as if they were taking joy out of watching us follow the signs indicating that there were lions and leopards moving all around Djuma. Patience was the lesson because after a slow start chasing our tails…boy did the predator gods smile on us!

Initially we had a brief sighting of one of the Avoca male lions at Gowrie Dam. We are not sure where he came from but he soon left in a northerly direction. The location and movements of the other males in the coalition as well as the Birmingham Boys remains a mystery and so the

saga continues to play itself out. Are the Birminghams going to return to re-proclaim their dominance in the territory or are the Avoca Males going to be the new bosses on the block for real?

The Nkuhumas have remained an enigma…moving through Djuma but leaving only tracks as proof! In and out being the order of the day as we simply report lion tracks as a matter of – ‘yup they were here!’

It does all sound a bit frustrating which it was until Xidulu reminded us that when things go quiet…expect something marvelous to happen! And she announced this in style. I drove out of camp into the clearings on Tuesday morning and there she was in a grand marula tree with an impala ram already hoisted into its branches.

The rutting impala have left themselves vulnerable and the leopards are now beginning to take serious advantage. The ram was too large for her to hoist so whether intentionally or not, she allowed hyenas to make the load lighter for her and then climbed the tree with about half the carcass.

She later thought about hunting more rutting impalas but the efforts of the previous evening

made her commitment less than strong and so she returned instead to her kill and ate her fill before heading back west into Aruthusa – gone as quickly as she arrived!

As if we had forgotten that she remains an important part of our lives, Thandi, with little Tlalamba in tow, lead us to another impala ram’s unfortunate end just in front of Vuyatela camp. They had a good meal before heading east once more…leaving the hyenas to clean up the remains.

Tingana – the Duke of Djuma – not to be outdone and an old master of the rutting season, produced marvelously with a kill on Chitwa where he gorged himself before showing us that he had killed not one but two impalas. He remained there through the latter part of the week, eating at his leisure!

All in all, a wonderful week for leopards and the lesson I learnt from Xidulu is that patience made this a passage of time that I will remember for many moons…

Written by: Ralph Kirsten