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Ulusaba update: Feast on the river

There was an unprecedented amount of predator activity at Ulusaba over the past few days owing to presence of two deceased hippos along the river. After the floods back in January the river has become very shallow along much of its length save for a couple of pools which large pods of hippos use to escape the heat of the sun.

Often there is competition for resting spots as well as mating rites amongst the males. After one of these confrontations, two hippos lay dead along the banks of hippo pools on either side of the river. The first afternoon, the Shangwa female leopard was seen feeding of the northern carcass. It was amazing to see this small cat alongside this enormous hippo! She was probably glad for the scavenging opportunity as she is getting old and free meals are hard to come by in the bush.

We returned the next day and three lionesses from the Otawa pride were lying next to the carcass, including the lactating female who's cubs have been seen recently further east along the river. By this time there were several vultures lining the tops of the trees waiting for their turn at the meat.

Shangwa was still lying close by overlooking the hippo pool with its large hippo population calling and splashing about while the Tai dam female's young male cub was feeding on the southern hippo carcass. Later that afternoon we returned to find one of the lionesses feeding while Shangwa lay close by.

There were also two hyenas lurking around the edges drawn by the strong smell. Every now and again we could hear the low rasping call of the male leopard coming from the southern carcass. Eventually there was a growl and what sounded like a confrontation and Shangwa disappeared down along the banks of the river. We decided to go and have a look but by the time we were able to cross the river we only found the young male leopard by himself a little removed from the carcass.When we approached the hippo, we could see why he was not eating.

There were two large crocodiles tearing chunks of flesh from the carcass! As we got into position for a good photo, one of the crocodiles moved off with a large piece of meat in its jaws. Suddenly the remaining crocodile turned to face us and ran towards the Land Rover but diverted at the last minute. We all went back to the lodge for a well-deserved stiff drink.

This morning the lionesses were joined at the carcass by the four Selati male lions. I'm sure they will be enjoying this feast for the next few days and providing us with some great sightings.

Warm regards,
Phillip Andrew and the Ulusaba Ranger and Tracker team