What an exciting couple of days we have had with the drives!
WE first heard the brilliant news about Mixo, Karula’s son, being around the lodge on Sunday morning 16 Oct from the guides. With him being nearly 3 years old, he left home to explore further afield about 6 months ago and nobody has seen hide or hair of him since! This is normal for leopards of his age to start cutting his own way in the world and they usually disperse from their natal area which is nature’s way of avoiding inbreeding. Sometimes they go by themselves, sometimes they may get a nudge from their mother or the dominant males in the area.
After speaking to the guides they confirmed they had not seen Mixo since he meet his mother and younger siblings while they fed on a carcass on the quarantine open area around 6 months ago. As I understand from them, during the time they were together one of the cubs cut mixo on the nose, which is why he now has a scar!
Young Nkuhuma female with the Matimba male
Tracks were found on Zoe’s road that morning and headed north past FC. The guides went to check the other side of the lodge and found Mixo sleeping close to Umvubu road! After making sure guests had got his best side for pictures, he disappeared into the drainage line! Marc even found fresh remains of an impala that was killed on the Northern side of the open area the same morning. Unsure of who the culprit was, we could be sure who ended up with the carcass after finding drag marks across the road…hyenas! It could be possible Mixo made the kill, but didn’t have chance to hide it in the tree before the hyenas came!
The following drives brought no more news of him, but we were extremely happy to spend time with Karula on MMM while she started to search for potential breakfast. She was like a cub again, getting so exited her tail was held so high, it was like she was waving her surrender! We even had the privilege of meeting a couple of viewers as they sat with Karula just a few metres from them lounging in the Marula tree!
Teddy, with a splash of pink on the nose!
That afternoon I headed back in the hope of finding Karula or even the cubs who we had just missed in the morning. They had decided the view was good from the Western side of MMM and waited for Karula to come back with lunch and sadly that is where still Xivindzi was in the afternoon. Just as we out this information from another guide, Sebastien was trying to tell me something, but that area is notorious for radio interference, getting only “FC” each time, eventually we hear, “leopard, FC”! Putting 2 and 2 together we all immediately thought it could be Mixo!
Zoe’s road never felt so long! We finally made it to Galago shortcut, after confirming with Seb, he was heading towards that side, I turned onto a two track that leads down to Grahams house. As the dusk was setting in I strained to see any movement around Graham’s house or the open area. I noticed something out the corner of my eye and the realisation came to me and Marc at the same time..a leopard was a couple of metres away in from of the vehicle! Frantically searching for my binoculars I tried to catch a glimpse of any facial markings. I thought I saw a Y but it was so quick I couldn’t study it to confirm!
He continued on his merry way, crossing over Vuyatela access and kept low as he made a beeline to where we had seen impala on Zoe’s road. He stoped in front of us briefly looking down his nose with just the look of Mixo. The only thing that struck me was how small he was, but I had not seen him for a while and with out anyone to compare him with. I didn’t think about it any further.
He strolled down the road, stopping to look at the impala, when one signaled the alarm he was taken a back slightly! I should have realised at this stage it was a mistaken identity, but with concentrating on just keeping up with him and everything else at that stage, my brain went on leave! WE followed for a bit as he looked to be making his way towards impala plains, cutting through the bush I hoped to get a last glimpse that would give us something, but decided to leave him instead, still not 100% sure if it was Mixo or not!
After some great detective work many started to consider Xivambalana and a special thanks to 2 people, firstly to Minerva Cox who found a great side comparison of the unknown leopard on drive and Mixo. I never knew about the ZZCIS on Mixo’s right hip! Some people even noticed who narrow the face was.
The second big thanks goes to Annlyn with her great side comparison which identified our mystery cat as Xivambalana!
I can’t believe how much he has grown firstly and how far he traveled from where Karula and Xivindzi were. It could be he went to drink from the dam, I found out later that it was only Xivindzi who was seen that morning, but he seemed to know exactly where he was going! It just goes to show expect the unexpected. He didn’t even enter into my head because of where the cubs were seen! Just shows they are growing up and starting on the road to becoming independent and great to see Xivambalana is starting to gain courage on his own!
Thank you so much to every one in helping in the positive id with Mixo and Xivambalana!
Not only did we have great leopard sightings, but the Gowrie gang kids were in full sing of play, crowned lapwing chicks barely a day old were running around, one of the young Nkuhuma lionesses was mating with a Matimba male, Teddy, we think is around 3 months old vocalised for us and we even saw a tiny baby elephant who couldn’t have been more than a couple of days old! Look out for it on the waterhole camera!
Written by Tara