Saturday, 26 March 2011

Karula's family tree - Her Son Mixo, part one.

Hi everyone!

There were some tracks of Karula around Impala plains and Impala road yesterday morning, having checked there the previous night we know she must have been on the move after sunset. I was hoping we would catch up with her on drive again, but she is being elusive once more, keeping us wanting more!

With Mixo checking in with us a couple of days ago, I thought it was time to focus on him! 

Induna on the left and Mixo and the right
Karula's second litter was the two boys Mixo and Induna. Born in November 2008, they are now just over 2 years of age and are still in their mother's territory even though she has cubs again! We have been waiting to see what will happen if she meets them and how they will react if they meet the cubs. If the cubs are with her, they may recognise them as their siblings, but it is hard to say if she will tolerate the boys being in close proximity to the new cubs especially with them being so small still.

With her tracks coming from the same area as the kill on quarantine a couple of days ago (more info in the previous Blog) and Mixo also being seen there, I would love to know if they did see each other and if they did, how they reacted! But sadly they will keep that a secret between mother and son forever! 


Mixo meaning Dawn was named by Rexon after seeing them the first time as the sun rose and it is believed his father is Yambilu-Jordan, which will make him full brother to the new cubs. I will go more into the character of this special leopard on the next Blog about him. For me, he is special being the first leopard I met in the Sabi sands and a very distinctive leopard at that!

 Both brothers are extremely good looking and here is how to recognise this particular stunning leopard:

His most distinctive feature are the markings at the corner of each eye forming a "Y" and heavy marks above each eye forming a "V"

A lot of people including Beryl have also noticed a symmetrical line of spots running down his back, something I haven't noticed in other leopards, but I think would be interesting to see if it also distinctive!




The pattern on his forehead forms a deep "U" shape from his ears and meets in between the eyes.






The banding under his throat is a shallow "W"  I have also noticed on his right side a clear "C" mark, which you can see clearly here in the picture to the right!



He is such a fantastic leopard to watch in more ways than one and I hope we continue to see him for many more sightings! Thanks again for all the great pictures of Mixo that were sent in and I will be using more of them in future Blogs! 

Written by Tara

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Welcome back Karula!

WOW!
What a fantastic drive WE had last night! Just like London buses, you wait a while for one and then 4 come along at once! What a wonderful sighting of Karula and the cubs AND Mixo also made an appearance! 


Marc was on drive, with Catherine on camera, I was sitting in the directors chair in final control. The drive was very relaxed, a few buffalo were around, but with the humidity and heat climbing throughout the day, animals were a little scarce! Just as Marc heard a squirrel calling in a tree next to him, I saw Herman pulling up outside FC in a hurry. I was starting to think something was wrong, but then he shouted "Karula and the cubs have been seen on Vuyatela access road heading towards Sandy Patch!"


Not a moment was wasted to relay this wonderful piece of information to Marc! How quickly a drive can change! He was a distance away from the area, so immediately left the squirrel to it's calling and headed for Sandy Patch! Every second counts and in this situation you wish you could fly there! As he turned onto Vuyatela access to start looking for her, Mixo popped out in front of him, throwing a spanner in the works! Could Mixo have been mistaken for Karula? Sadly he didn't stick around, disappearing into thick bush. 

Just as Marc spotted Karula and cub spoor, I got confirmation Patrick was the one to see her, so Mixo was a happy bonus! We later found out there was a kill not to far from where he crossed the road, which must have been where he had come from!


Marc did a great job of predicting Karula's next move and finding fresh track. The suspense was mounting as WE followed them into a notoriously bad signal area, Impala road. With a black screen, I was worried she may have crossed into thick bush already, but what a huge surprise when the picture came back and there was the lady herself drinking at a puddle! I am sure everyone watching was jumping as much as me!


He followed the family to the junction of Impala road and triple MMM, but instead of continuing West, they sat out in the road in full view. It was almost as if she could sense how much everyone wanted to see her and the cubs! WE were treated to one of the cubs grooming mum while one was draped over the side of the road! All leopards were panting very heavily and it certainly looked as though they had fed recently! This coupled with the heat, the cubs were not in the mood for play!

Keeping a respectful distance, WE were still not able to confirm the sex of the cubs, but WE all enjoyed spending a long awaited time with them!

Eventually other vehicles wanted to join the sighting, so Marc pulled out and went in search of the kill by the Quarantine open area. With Karula's tracks also in the area, it is hard to determine who had made the kill, we can only speculate. Did Mixo hunt that night or even the day before and Karula came to feed on it, or did Karula make the kill with Mixo turning up to share it? 

As the sun set Mixo returned, but instead of going to the impala carcass in the tree, he sniffed around a bush where the kill might have been stashed earlier or maybe Karula had sat with the cubs! Certainly an exciting drive and great to know Karula was here with the cubs!

Mixo

Thank you so much to everyone sending in pictures! I will be using those I haven't had chance to use in following Blogs! Maybe Marc might share his thoughts and pictures in a Blog at some stage! What a drive!

Written by Tara.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Karula seen in the West!

Hi everyone!

I had a radio call last night after I closed down from PM drive to say Karula was heading towards Impala Plains. She was alone and had left the cubs around 800m West of triple M, which is our Western boundary. I was hoping she would have been successful in hunting in the area, because her last kill was stolen by hyenas. If she was able to catch something, she may have brought the cubs to it. Being 4 months old now they will be eating meat, having been weaned by roughly 3 months old.

It is difficult to say what is happening with her, even though she is spending time over in Simbambili it could be that has always been part of her territory and we have just not known it. There have been times Karula would disappear for a while and suddenly pop up around Western Gowrie again. I wonder if we are truly starting to get an insight into how large her territory is because we are following her movements more closely than before.

I was also told she had a fight with her daughter, Tingana/Shadow, a couple of days ago, which has forced her daughter to head further West. This is not the first time she has been aggressive towards her either. Here is a link to a clip posted on http://wildearth.ning.com/ of Karula fighting with Tingana, maybe telling her to stay out of her territory (warning it is quite intense, showing a different side to the usually calm lady we know so well ). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RK2gw3Y62E&feature=player_embedded

A study on the leopards of Sabi sands showed female leopards may have an average of 2000ha territory. We traverse 1000ha. If she has an average sized territory, she has another 1000ha to play with. We know she heads South onto Little Gowrie, (opposite Zoe's road) West into Arathusa and Simbambili (West of triple MMM) and North in to Buffleshoek (North of Buffleshoek boundary), but we don't know how far her boundary reaches in those areas. I am pretty sure Cheetah cutline is the Eastern edge of her territory.

Map of our traversing area.

There could be a number of explanations why she is spending time in the West. It could be the hunting opportunities are better over there at the moment, maybe the presence of the boys, especially Induna, has put pressure on the game here, so she has stayed that side for now. It could be the hyena activity here is more than there. It will be interesting to see if she does move the cubs elsewhere after her run in with the hyenas a couple of nights ago! It could be nothing to do with these possibilities, there might be something I haven't even thought of! I am sure she will be back on Western Gowrie in Djuma at some stage as I am sure it is still a huge chunk of her territory, but for now we shall have to see how this chapter plays out!

Written by Tara, 
With thanks to Karen and Collen for posting the clip and map to the wildearth.ning website.




Monday, 21 March 2011

Karula's family tree - Her mate of choice, part two.

Yambilu-Jordaan
Hi everyone,

Quick update on Karula and cubs before we focus on the possible father! She was seen in the West with the cubs on a kill, but their meal was interrupted by hyena and by accounts they only just managed to climb a tree in time. Thankfully they are well, but it sounds like Karula is putting pressure on her daughter Shadow who has also been in the area. Maybe the boys are putting pressure on her in this area? We wait in anticipation to see how this will unfold!

As you saw from the last Blog, Karula's mate of choice is a shy one. With him being so secretive it is difficult to say for sure if he is the father of Mixo and Induna as well as the new cubs, but judging by his interaction with the boys it is highly likely he is!

 Yambilu-Jordaan

One such occasion sticks in my mind as it occurred in the first couple of months I arrived at WildEarthSafari early last year. Do you remember the usual sighting of the family sharing a meal together? Karula with the boys, when they were 18 months old, feeding on a carcass and he was close by? The whole family were then disturbed as night fell by floppy ear and her hyena clan. Mixo and Induna fled and only just made it into the tree, while Yambilu-Jordaan took it in his stride and stayed put. Incredible sighting! This wasn't the first time he has been seen with Karula and the boys and I hope he makes an appearance with the new family too! 


WE may not see him often, but he never ceases to amaze us! Through out the mating between him and Karula in August last year, (seen here at night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEFK8HL9-zA, which should make him the father of the 3rd litter ), Induna, then nearly 2 years of age, was in the vicinity. Instead of chasing the young male away, which is what we would expect, Yambilu-Jordaan accepted he was around and even spent time with him!

 Yambilu-Jordaan

Over the last year I have seen a marked change in his behaviour. He has always been shy, even when he was first viewed on Wildearth in 2007. He would move away as soon as a vehicle approached, my first encounter with him was also very brief. Over the year I wonder if he has learned from Karula and the boys, he doesn't need to worry about the vehicles. When he has been with the family, he has stuck around with a vehicle present and maybe seeing them not react has rubbed off on him? What ever it is, it is working and he even seems to be OK with a second landy or cruiser sometimes nowadays, although a third is still too much for him to handle! 

As long as we continue to respect his space I am sure he will become more calm around the vehicles. He may not ever be as relaxed as Karula and the boys, maybe he had a bad expereince when he was younger or is just a naturally cautious leopard, but he is such a handsome male I think WE would all enjoy seeing more of him!

Thanks once again to everyone contributing pictures for the Blog!

Written by Tara

Friday, 18 March 2011

Karula's family tree - Her choice of mate - part one

Yambilu-Jordaan
Hi everyone,

Karula is still playing hide and seek with us for the time being, staying over in the West towards Arathusa and Elephant Plains. But seems as Marc was lucky enough to find her preferred mate recently, I thought we would focus on the handsome, but elusive, male Yambilu-Jordaan. As I started to write this I have realised there is so much to this male to discuss so instead of trying to condense it. I thought he deserved to have a couple of Blogs written about him!

Yambilu-Jordaan was originally known as the Jordaan's male as he would be found around Jordaan's Dam. The Yambilu part is Shangaan for heart due to the distinctive heart shape on his forehead.

Not much is known about this elusive cat. It is thought he was born around 2002, but his parentage is unknown and there is only speculation to his siblings. Some say he is the brother of the Beacon female and he may have sired her cubs Rupert and the female, who we see occasionally in the North, Inkanyeni in 2005.
What we do know is he is shy around the vehicles, although he seems to be getting better!

Mafufunyane

How does he fit into Karula's life? He seems to have been the mate of her choice for the last 2 litters. It is thought Mafufunyane could have sired the first litter though. The Lady of Djuma has the possibility of mating with 3 territory holders. Mafufunyane, also thought to be her father, patrols the South, Mvula who patrols in the East and Yambilu-Jordaan. WE have been fortunate to find him in a few different places mainly in the Northern half of our traversing area, from Galago short cut in the West and Gowrie Dam to Bateleur road and Buffelshoek Dam in the East. There can also be nomadic toms that pass through the territories of these males even though we haven't seen any, they could be keeping a low profile!

Yambilu-Jordaan

There are a couple of distinguishing features on this rarely seen male. The most prominent mark is his name sake, the heart shape on his forehead, as you can see in the picture above. You may also notice above both eyes it is very pale and the 2 vertical lines above the eyes, that are present in most Sabi sands leopards, are very pale too. Over the right eye he shares the semi circle of spots with his probable son, Induna.

On the picture below you can see the long vertical black mark next to his left eye and there is also a semi circle of spots above the left eye.

Yambilu-Jordaan

Thanks again to everyone sending in these great pictures of him and to Karen and Collen for collecting the information about this stunning leopard. 

Written by Tara




Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Happy Birthday Karula!

Hi everyone!

I am hoping the Diva of Djuma is going to make an appearance on drive today, so WE can celebrate her 7th birthday with her! In human terms she would be in her late 20's. Having had 2 litters already, her 3rd cubs are around 4 months old now and she is doing a great job at keeping them well hidden, away from any potential danger. This she has proved efficient at, having had a 100% success rate so far with the previous cubs. The eldest have families of their own and the boys are getting to that age where they might start to move away. It maybe another year or so before they will get to sire cubs though. It is anyones guess when they will make the leap and move out of the area or if it will happen at all! The leopards in the Sabi sands are full of surprises, as we have seen, anything is possible! I must admit I am enjoying every encounter and learning more from them each time, as I am sure you are too!


I was hoping Shirley, from the Gowrie Gang, would have given birth today to make it a double celebration as she is heavily pregnant, but as yet the troop have not been seen today. Lets hope WE find her to see if there is a new member of the troop!

I have had news of Karula though! The Nkoro and Arathusa guides have told me she has been seen with the cubs West of triple M, which is our Western boundary. This does mean the owner of the leopard tracks on Cheetah cutline found a few days ago may have to remain a mystery! It could have been Karula looking for food or another female crossing into her territory. Either is possible!


Karula is a such a special leopard in more ways than one. To nature, she is just a leopard who has good bush sense and survival skills, but to us she is so much more. She has not only expanded our minds by giving us an incredible insight into her successful life so far, which has been impressive even by leopard standards, as cub mortality can be high. She has also melted our hearts by allowing us to follow her life so closely, she has brought so many people together by being such a relaxed and charismatic lady and I hope WE all share many more years and memories with her!

Happy Birthday Karula!

Written by Tara

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Karula's family tree - Her daughter Tingana

Hi everyone!
It's been a while seen we have dipped into Karula's family tree, so I thought we would focus on  her other daughter from her first litter. She is known to us as Tingana, meaning "shy one". Her official name being Shadow, possibly came from her staying in the shadows, being shy!

She was the first offspring to be born to Karula around mid December 2006, along with her sister Saseka (offical name Thandi). At the time of mating, Karula would have been just under 3 years old. The father is thought to be Mafufunyane, although not confirmed, due to his interaction with Karula and the cubs when they were young, it looks highly likely!

Tingana snarling at Saseka 
First seen in February 2007 the two girls looked to be around 8 weeks old. Tingana now spends more time in the South West, taking a territory close to her grand mother's, Safari, in Arathusa. If she wonders onto Karula's territory she is seen around Impala plains and Gowrie main area. 

She was seen mating with Yambilu-Jordaan by Arathusa guides and gave birth to her first litter around September last year. It is difficult to say if he is the father. Sadly cub mortality can be high and only one cub now remains. I do not know what the fate of the lost cub was. With them being so tiny, they are vulnerable to a number of predators from jackal and snakes to hyena and lion. They can also be killed by other male leopards who have not sired the cubs. Females move the cubs around so much to possibly to reduce the chance of a predator or other leopards detecting them.





To id her, the most distinctive feature is the "v"notch in the top of her right ear as seen in the picture to the right. 

On her chest, she has a "Y" collar, but I always find it difficult to see this on any leopard! 






The picture on the left showing her forehead, you can see it almost looks like she has a small heart, some say a butterfly, shape which also looks quite distinctive.












The whisker pattern on her left side is also interesting, with 2 spots and a blotch almost forming a triangle with the lower whisker line, as you can see in the picture to the right.






Thank you again to everyone sending in pictures of this shy beauty! Also thanks to Lou Ann for id information as well as Karen and Colleen for all the information gathered over the years about these stunning creatures, in particular Karula and her extending family! I hope WE get chance to see Tingana and her cub sometime when she comes to visit!



Speaking of Karula, she could possibly be making her way North now. I am told there were tracks found on Cheetah cutline of a female leopard this morning, which could have belonged to her! It is going to be interesting to see where she pops up next!


Written by Tara