Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

November 23, 2010

Lions and Leopards

Filed under: 2010,November — Hennie van Heerden @ 5:25 pm

The day started with a drizzle and at first the game drive started quietly. Well. let’s face it, a  quiet day in Mala Mala is still stuff dreams are made off 🙂

The Red Billed Oxpecker to the left showed us his most beautiful side,  and the Pied Kingfisher sat right next to the causeway.  A Rock Monitor Lizard was bathing himself in the early morning sun. Not a bad start at all!!
It got really interesting when we found the Kikilezi Female Leopard a little further on! She was totally relaxed and we could watch her resting, jumping up a tree and generally ignoring us completely 🙂 I can’t really explain what a thrill it is everytime I see one of these magnificent cats. The sight of them leaves me breathless every time..

In Mala Mala main camp a scoreboard is kept behind the bar, listing all the sightings in the reserve on that particular day. There are points for all the animals you see, and the rarer the higher the score. The fact that leopard is the same number of points as for instance a porcupine says something about the number of sightings of leopard in Mala Mala..Every evening it’s exciting to see if we beat yesterday’s score. Today our marks were  higher than usual as we saw an animal that wasn’t even on the blackboard; Reedbuck! Good for 200 points 🙂  Although the antilope is quite common in countries to the north of South Africa, it is a rare sighting in Mala Mala so everyone was quite excited having seen both a male and a female together.

When we continued our drive, our path was blocked by one of the most beautiful roadblocks you can imagine. 4 White Rhinos were not in a particular hurry to make way for us. Seeing those impressive animals always makes me choke a bit; the recent poaching numbers in South Africa are devastating. It seemed they were doing so good after almost having been extinct. Now, a new revival of poaching seems to be going on with a sad high score of over 300 of these animals poached in 2010 alone. And all of that because men feel the need to prove their masculinity….. How sad is that. In China rhino horn is grounded into potency potions – which doesn’t help of course as rhino horn is nothing else than clustered keratin – the same stuff where fingernails or human hair is made of. So Chinese men who read this and consider buying a potion like that: why not just bite your nails or suck on a pony tail before having sex!! The end result is the same…
A further demand for Rhino horn comes from Jemen. There, adolescent boys get a Rhino Horn handled dagger when they come into manhood. As if the possesion of a dagger made from poaching an animal that has more history on this earth than man, will make you more of a man! In this era, and with the awareness of responsibility we have now, quite the opposite I would think. I really hope that the South African government – and with them a lot of other African countries too where poaching is far from over – listens to the calls of millions of people to stop this madness. I wish more African countries would follow the example of Botswana where very strict wildlife protection rules are in place; and with success!

The sun was about to set when we found the 3 members of the Styx pride that had fled away from the encounter with the Manyelethi males. The young male was there together with his year older sister and an old lioness. They looked rested and well fed so they had done well for themself, even without the help of the 2 leading lionesses of the pride (that were still keeping the Manyelethi males busy elsewhere). 2 years ago I photographed the young male as a tiny little cub and I’m so happy to see him alive and well, especially since all of his siblings are dead now. 2 years ago there were 11 cubs, but they all were killed by either dominant male lions – they tend to kill earlier offspring of lionesses to get them to mate with them – of by leopards. Good for him that he made it!!

We ended the day with another encounter with 3 of the Manyelethi male lions and the Emsegwen male leopard. Now I really suck at making videos and I don’t have a clue on how to edit them, but I really would like to give you an idea of how it is when you are out there, on a game drive, when it’s pitch dark and you see an animal as majestic like this walking by, just a few meters away from you. I tried to insert 2 little videos I shot during that night, but so far, haven’t been able to figure out how. Will be continued! 🙂



  1. Fantastic blog entry, as usual. I asked our driver in Masai Mara about poaching there and he said the rangers shoot first and ask questions later, so a rhino is the only animal worth the risk of getting shot.

    Comment by Thomas Chamberlin — February 26, 2011 @ 2:38 am | Reply

  2. It is thought the northern rhino is extinct in the wild due to poaching and only a handful remain in captivity.Some research shows the southern wild population numbers around 11 000 but the IUCN red list list over 17 000.At any rate even though the white rhino has the largest numbers of any of the rhino species it still is endangered and needs our help. On a side note-the IUCN recently took the Asian greater one horned rhino of the endangered red list but I along with others feel it is still needs the protection given by that status There are over 700 white rhinos in captivity world wide. The rhino is one of the few larger animals that can be introduced into the wild.

    Comment by business — March 26, 2011 @ 4:21 pm | Reply

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