Tuesday, 17 September 2013

OUR SAVAGE QUEEN



Stone Hills belongs to Sheba.  Hardly a day goes by when the scouts don’t pick up her spoor somewhere on the sanctuary, and frequently close to the house.  Leopards are under major threat countrywide from over-exploitation by hunting and poaching, so Rich radio collared her some time ago in order to obtain crucially important data on her movements and habits.  The battery in the collar has now run down, so we will be trying to recapture her and remove it when her latest cub becomes independent.  Whenever we locate one of her kills, we put up trail cameras to try and get as much information as possible.

Sheba is a seriously efficient hunter, and an excellent mother.  Her cub is about 6 months old and she is presently teaching the cub to hunt, focusing on easy prey. Here’s the cub on the carcass of a kudu calf killed very close to the laundry a couple of weeks ago.

Everything is right about that - BUT it was Patience’s calf, and Sheba has followed up by killing Vicky’s calf two nights ago.   Just because we knew and loved them is of course irrelevant (though it hurts like hell), but the real issue is that our kudu are some of the most vulnerable antelope in a drought, as you can see from the way they look in earlier pictures on the blog.  We have now been feeding them up since June – and they have responded amazingly well.   The calves were also looking good and the oldest was so tame that she would eat out of our hands.  Very few of the youngsters make it, though, mostly falling prey to leopard or cheetah - just as our two did. 

It’s sad, but exactly as it should be – one dies so the other might live.  Both species are vulnerable in different ways and both should be protected.  There is no right or wrong involved, just the simple necessity of survival in a harsh world.

A brown hyaena visits the kill

Civet -  another noctural visitor, rarely seen.
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