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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
Leopard and hyena tracking
Cheetahs with prey in trees, caracal sightings, the annual game capture, and seeing leopard cubs in the bushes are just some of the exciting events volunteers have witnessed at the Zingela Predator Conservation project this month!
Up close with cheetahs and hyenas
On one of many cheetah walks, volunteers witnessed Rebecca, the wild, resident cheetah, devour an unsuspecting scrub hare from only 10 feet away. Participants in the project also got to see some brown hyenas up close as Jen describes; “Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen brown hyenas chow down on an impala carcass and even saw one twenty meters in front of me, while I was sitting on the tracker seat!”
Tracking one of our radio-collared animals in the early morning, volunteers came across a leopard in a tree! It had killed a steenbok, pulled it up into the tree and so the group were able to watch it eat the steenbok. It was very exciting for them to see a leopard so close above their heads.
One game drive saw a hyena clean itself, completely unfazed by the presence of the group. As David describes “we were doing a game drive when all of a sudden at one of our water holes, we saw something bolting off quickly. As we took a closer look, it turned out to be a brown hyena. But instead of disappearing into the bush, it stopped, turned around, took a couple of steps towards us and even sat down! We were watching it lying down and cleaning itself- it must’ve taken a bath in the water hole. The hyena wasn’t disturbed by our presence at all!”
When volunteers found a dead impala on one of one of the fence lines, they decided to bait some hyenas with it, to encourage them to an area where they can study the hyenas hunting on the reserve. They took it to the open floodplains and came back later to find that a leopard had found the prey! Upon a second return later on they found the situation had changed... a cheeky brown hyena had stolen the impala from the tree, leaving the leopard in the top of the tree rather helpless.
As the group headed out for a night drive to study the many predators in action, the plan was to find some hyenas, but instead, they saw something quite unusual: two caracals! Although they quickly disappeared into the high grass, seeing these very shy cats left all of the group stunned.
Annual game capture and leopard cub sighting
The owner of the reserve flew in to do the annual game count and some of the volunteers assisted in the game count from the helicopter. The game count saw over 600 animals captured and relocated, an incredible feat! Whilst flying though, there was a lovely surprise in store, with a sighting of a four-month-old leopard cub between the bushes! It made everyone very happy to see that the conservation focus at Zingela is working so well!