Sunday, 9 August 2009

Battle Field at Tigers Roars

Aug 5th. 2009 Hunting Intensified
I feel so privileged to witness what I saw today. Hulooo and brothers were let into Tigers Roars in the evening of Aug 2nd and they made a kill overnight. Last night they took down two more blesbok, reducing their numbers to 26. When I went to see them around 4.30pm today, I was surprised to see one tiger was stalking an antelope in the distance, probably emboldened by their success from last few days. I quickly drove up to the lookout point from where I saw one of the younger brothers on the prowl.
Just when I was wondering if this would be Coco, Hulooo appeared in my binoculars, also with a meaningful walk.

The two brothers kept some distance about twenty meter between them, sniffing all the way, tracking the blesbok, heading South West. In the North-Eastern part of the camp, I saw the big group of blesbok standing, keenly aware of the tigers presence and monitoring their every move.
Hulooo's brother was closer to the antelopes and used the little bushes to hide himself during the approach.

Both tigers got closer and the blesbok lost their nerves and ran off towards the Western part of the camp, tailed by the two tiger brothers. Just when I thought what a pity that the other brother must be feeding on the kills, the third tiger ran out from behind the trees in the Western part towards the Blesbok, who were shocked to see an enemy coming out of nowhere. I had but to admit that that was an incredible cooperation among the brothers!

Way cut off by the third tiger, the blesbok split in different groups, with the third tiger chasing them to the West and the other two following them eastwards. There were a couple of close encounters and my heart was beating fast, anticipating a kill. But to my disappointment, no capture was made.

The brothers regrouped playfully and then split off again with a mission.
They sniffed along the grass pushing towards East again. The full moon was rising in the East, and slowly the sky turned a blue-reddish hue. Hulooo and bros continued their pursuit with such energy and stamina and there was another near encounter soon. For the next half an hour, I could see the blesbok had lost their cool, constantly running back and forth, with the brothers on their sides with seemingly endless energy. The hunt continued as the sun disappeared completely and judging from the constant moving shadows of the blesbok, I can guess the tigers were still hard at work. I bet they would make another kill tonight!

Aug 6, 2009 Battle between JenB Bros and a Blesbok
Having not seen any kills, never mind a dramatic hunt for years since Feb 2006, I was totally taken by surprise today. My friend Nicky F and her family of five came in helicopter today from Johannesburg, bringing my husband Stuart with them.

After a leisurely drive around our reserve and a lamb burger lunch, specialty of Villa TigerLi, my guests wanted to go and see the tigers early so we arrived at the Tiger Rewilding Center around 4pm in two vehicles.
Madonna put in an appearance for a few moments in the Catkins camp before disappearing into the river, tailed by King Henry who kept on playing with her tail.

We went into Tigers Roars Camp and just when I was wondering which direction to go to find Hulooo and brothers, we saw blesbok running wildly in the hilly area in the western section of the camp, and shadows of running tigers from time to time. We quickly drove towards the west, seeing now blesbok scattered all over this part of the camp, running off. We saw two tigers not far ahead going behind the trees. We followed them down the river area and saw in the distance against the sun the silhouette a blesbok and a tiger!

My goodness!!! The blesbok was charging the tiger! My heartbeat raced as I anticipated the third ever fantastic witnessed battle between tiger and blesbok during the history of our rewilding! What followed after was beyond words can describe, as I pulled out my little video camera quickly and recorded the fantastic tackle of the blesbok by JenB. JenB tried, almost half-heartedly, to bite the blesbok by the neck but the blesbok kept avoiding it. However, standing in the pool of water, the blesbok kept slipping giving the tiger advantage to tackle him. After a few rounds, with my females guests wooing and aahing, and me screaming and shrieking, JenB almost confused what to do seeing the slipping blesbok, finally grabbed the blesbok by its neck tentatively, and dragged it behind the tall grass! The moaning of the blesbok died eventually, followed by a few minutes of dead silence.

I could not contain my excitement at having witnessed this most fantastic hunt-only the third one I have ever witnessed during the entire nearly 6 years of rewilding. I am so proud of JenB, whom we thought had been the lame duck.

Another surprise laid in store, as we discovered another kill lying on the hilly rocks of the river bank a bit later, as Coco and JenB tried in turn to drag it down to a more accommodating area. Only after much effort, Coco managed, in a clever move, to dislodge the blesbok whose legs were caught in the rocks. Afterwards, all three young tigers came to where our vehicles were and lied down watching us as if seeking praise and approval. I was impressed that Hulooo did not come and jump on our vehicles as if having erased past memories from his childhood. Or maybe he is just getting less attached to humans as the wild side took over.
After much compliment and encouragement we showered on them, we left them before it turned completely dark. We got out of Tigers Roars just before they arrived at the gate, as if not wanting us to leave.

I must say the progress of these young tigers were remarkable. I counted 24 blesbok left this morning, so two kills were made overnight, and now we counted 21 blesbok remaining which means they made three kills during today, bring the total number of kills to 8 in the last 4 days since Sunday.

Aug 8, 2009
Heaven forbids! Hulooo brothers took another blesbok overnight, AND a springbok!! Springbok are famously fast runners and can spring 7 to 8 meters in one jump. They can also run through the fence when faced with danger. Two Springbok came into Tigers Roars a few months ago and have managed to survive through the onslaught for a few months. But clearly, one has now lost its life last night. This brings a total number of hunts to 10 kills in past five days. I can't but congratulate the brothers for their achievement.

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