I am still amazed at what transpired on the afternoon drive of the 10th! After a false start in the morning, the team became full on technicians to resolve the issue which prevented us going on drive. With the help of Pete and Skype, (what a wonderful invention!) We found ourselves standing around the Ganda just like Melusi and Alex had done so many times before with their laptops open working out where the fault was! It really was like a Eureka moment!! It also meant afternoon safari went out with no technical problems which was to prove perfect timing for sure!
Starting at quarantine open area in the hope of seeing the new born impala lambs who were seen the day before, we introduced Eugene, one of the lodge managers of Vuyatela, who was joining us for the drive. With no luck in the lamb department, we headed off on in the direction of one of the water sources, with it being so hot I thought it was a great place to start!
We bumbled around tree house dam looking for the cubs who had been seen there earlier in the day Enjoying a spot of birding we slowly made our way to the wall to view the weaver nests a bit closer. Just as I was saying to Eugene and Seb, “have a good look on the other side of the dam wall in case the cubs are there”, they both shouted, “there, there, there!” Indeed there was Xivambalana looking proud of himself, busy eating what turned out to be a squirrel!
We watched him finish his snack and settle down to digest it, hoping Xivindzi would turn up, but alas she didn’t. As much as I wanted to stay with him, I thought it was a good point to excuse ourselves and have a bit of a drive around!
Not too much was happening at twin dams and after checking in on the vulture chick which is probably around 2 months old now and close to fledging, we headed back to tree house dam in the hope, once again, of seeing Xivindzi. We had heard she happened to show up just after we left earlier!
As we approached Graham radioed saying Yambilu-Jordaan, their father, had just shown up too! Wow! I couldn’t wait!! We pulled in to find Xivambalana keeping his distance and coughing at his father. I though it was a bit odd, but thought the way he snarled at him last time, maybe he had decided to keep clear!
The old boy found the spot Xivambalana had been sitting eating his lunch and as he sniffed the area we were able to gain a better view of him. It was not Yambilu-Jordaan! It was possibly Mufufunyane, who was the cubs granddad! This could be why the cubs had been wary of him. Last time they met, he had chased them! Xivindzi had high tailed it out of there, but Xivambalana sat on the dam wall to watch his relative drink from the same puddle he had also quenched his thirst at earlier. I must admit something wasn’t sitting right in my mind though.
This male was a little lighter than Mufufunyane and something in his face seemed different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. His is ears were more rugged than I remembered too, but it has been a while since I have seen him and I don’t know his spot pattern all that well. I had also heard from guides the night before he didn’t look well, he was seen salivating and had a swelling on his neck. This male was salivating slightly, I didn’t see the swelling, but a few others did, this coupled with another guide saying it was Mufufuyane, I thought well it must be him, maybe just in a bad way!
He followed the young cub’s trail on to the dam wall where he rested his thin body. He was clearly hungry. Xivambalana still was not sure of this old cat and watched from behind a termite mound quietly sounding his displeasure at his presence! The old boy saw him but luckily made no attempt to chase him. The heat of the day and his illness had obviously taken it’s toll on him over the day, so instead he chose to rest for a while, probably enjoying the cooling breeze and cooling temperatures!
His relaxed mood changed in the blink of an eye, flattening his body and ears, with full attention focused on something on the opposite side of the dam. Someone excitedly shouted it’s Xivindzi! Sure enough there was another spotted feline strolling towards the water’s edge from the Southern side. Suddenly our old boy was seen. The other cat stopped in it’s tracks assessing the situation, then to our amazement continued walking towards the dam. In doing so we could see clearly this was another male! Someone else shouted it’s Yambilu-Jordaan! Dad has come! But looking through the binoculars, I couldn’t see the distinctive heart that is so clear on his head. I kept saying “no! it’s not him, I can’t see the heart!” Then I noticed the trade mark thick black lines running from the eyes of none other than Mufufunyane himself! This was the real grandpa to the cubs!
He was so nonchalance in his approach towards the stranger, taking his time as he advanced along the water’s edge on the side of the dam wall, but as the the gap closed he stopped and looked directly at him. I thought a fight was about to erupt between them, but the intruder, it seemed, wanted to avoid any conflict and without some much as a snarl or a hiss, he fled. Mufufunyane didn’t follow, he seemed content to watch his dust settle. Having a quick check of the immediate area, possible to make sure he had indeed left and hadn’t just gone to hide in the nearby bush, he then returned to the water and to where his grandson had watched the whole episode from.
Clearly the young cat was still a bit wary, occasionally coughed to tell him he wasn’t sure off him, as he approached his grandfather. Not greeting him like he did his father, but watched him with respect as Mufufunyane busied himself with smelling the scent of another being, not paying too much attention to his young observer. The last time we know of when these two had met was at the same dam, Xivambalana had not gone too far, bit hide awaiting the arrival of his mother. Later that afternoon Karula came to collect them, she hissed a little in her father’s direction, but did little else to berate him! She even sat on the wall a while, waiting for her daughter to also respond to her calls, while her son was eager to show her how much she was missed! Xivindzi had disappeared once again like she did that day too. This time though Karula has no where to be seen.
Xivambalana watching the intruder from a safe distance!
Xivambalana may have remembered this day and decided a metre or 2 was close enough and with his old relative not really that interested, he left him to his own devices. After refreshing himself with a quick drink, Mufufunyane went back to where the mystery cat had been sitting, almost like he was picking up his scent. He then started to follow what may have been his trail, heading back into the drainage line. Following where we could, we eventually lost him. He had been salivating a bit but not as much as had been reported to us. We are unsure what has caused him to drool it could be any number of things but he looked in better shape than the mystery male he was now following! A final lap of the area reviled where the little boy chose to hide which was now on the Southern side of the dam. But with night falling rapidly, I felt it was the best cover for him in case the other male was still around and left the cloak of darkness to conceal him once more. I need not have worried though, just moments later, the rouge male was found already at twin dams by another guide!
Thanks to some wonderful detection work by a number of people, the mystery feline seems to be the Marthly male from Mala mala. There is another which also goes by the name of Tyson, but this is not him!
WE also found out from Seb in the morning, that he bumped into Mufufunyane on Gowrie Main later on that evening, heading in the same direction as the rouge male! Probably making sure he was long gone out of his territory! It could be the old boy was forced out of his original territory and is now a nomadic male skipping from one territory to the next trying to keep out of the way of the owners! It seems to me he was just hungry and came to find what had been eaten in case there was a scrap left for him. The cubs although in some danger were also clued up and kept a safe enough distance to be able to out run the older male with ease.
What is interesting is the interaction between grandfather and grandson. I wonder if Xivambalana remembered how his mother reacted to Mufufunyane and that he was chased by him when he was younger. But he was more willing to approach his relative than the he was the non-related male. Mufufunyane has been known to kill very young cubs, even his own offspring, maybe he knew Xivambalana would be able to run away or fight for himself. What ever the reason he wasn’t interested in him at all. Could it be he was watching out for his younger relative? There’s no doubt he didn’t want the male there and it will be mostly intolerance to another potential rival, but still it makes you wonder, was he protecting the cubs that day too? I wouldn’t put the possibility of anything past this family anymore!
Karula was seen the following day with Xivambalana by Vuyatela access. She wasn’t best pleased with him as he kept getting in her way while she was trying to hunt! It is thought Xivindzi was seen around the lodge late in the afternoon, almost as if they have an understanding to meet her there if they get lost!
Thank you everyone for sending in the pictures, if anyone has a picture of the baby vulture to share please send it through and I’ll add it to the Blog!
Written by Tara