September can be best described as a month of ups and downs… We had some awesome wild dog sightings, as well as fighting leopards, fighting lions, lion cubs and to top all of that, a huge breeding herd of about 1000 buffaloes! The downside of the month I will only share with you later on. We experienced some really hot days, with the average maximum temperature for the month being 31? C. We still had some cold days in between, but the temperatures mostly reminded me more of summertime than spring. Morning game drives are becoming more pleasant with the sun rising earlier and therefore the hot water bottles will not be needed for much longer. The surrounding vegetation is still pale brown and dry, but there are still some nutrients left in the grass and this will be sufficient until we have our first proper summer rainfall.
We have some big breeding herds in our area. In each of them you will find newborn and month old babies. Elephants breed throughout the year, but most births occur during early summer. Cows are only in estrous for 3 to 6 days and their gestation period is a full 22 months, that’s almost 2 years! One baby is born at a time and there have been very few recordings of twins being delivered. When a calf is born, it weighs around 100kg and stands 90cm to the shoulder. The calf will suckle on mum and is normally weaned between the age of 3 and 5 years, just before the birth of the next calf. Baby elephants will get their little tusks between 18 and 20 months, if it is a male and 27 and 30 months, if it is a female. The females, or cows, will stay in the breeding herd and the males will leave the herd after about 12 years.
Buffaloes remain one of nature’s strangest animals. One minute they seem calm and the next they are stampeding! As they are the smallest of the Big Five herbivores, they are easier targets for predators like lions. Large packs of wild dogs will even attempt to catch the calves. Buffaloes might appear aggressive if lions are in their immediate surroundings and they will sometimes take their frustrations out on anything, including the surrounding bush. These temper tantrums can sometimes be quite funny to watch! The majority of the females in the breeding herds have round bellies at the moment. Buffaloes do not really have a breeding season, but nearly all the births will be in the summer. Females occurring in the Kruger Park area will mostly give birth between January and April. The reason for this would obviously be an abundance of water and food.
September turned out to be a great month for lion viewing. The two young Nkuhuma males are having a really tough time. Firstly they got chased around by the Majingilane males and then they had a fight with the two Ottawa brothers. The Nkuhuma males decided not to accept the young male (that was seen with them last month) into their coalition and they are yet again moving around alone. The Ottawa brothers are exploring more and more, going further east every time. They are also now looking for females and an own territory, as they are still maturing. BB and the 4 youngsters of the Tsalala pride are still avoiding the Majingilane males. They are all still very healthy and fit and are now strong enough to take down a buffalo every now and again. But with all this happiness comes a sad end. The two other Tsalala females brought their 8 cubs into our area a few days before the end of September. The four smallest cubs are believed to be 3 months old. Tragedy struck when the two females went after a breeding herd of an estimated 1000 buffaloes. Two cubs got trampled by the herd but the other six were luckily not harmed. It was heart breaking to see the lionesses return from their successful hunt, only to find two of their cubs killed. These two members of the Big 5 will always remain one another’s biggest enemies.
Our resident leopards were all out and about this month, although some of them were a bit shy and hard to find at times. Whenever there is a high lion population in a certain area, smaller carnivores tend to hide away a bit. We had some good sightings with Salayexe and she appears to be pregnant once again. On the other hand, it was a sad month for Ntima, as one of her cubs got killed by Mafufunyana. This definitely confirms that he was not the father of the cubs. It is very common for males to kill any cubs they did not sire.
Have you ever witnessed teamwork and survival of the fittest at its best? BB, the 4 youngsters and a young Styx male lion was in the process of bringing down a buffalo bull when they got interrupted by two of the Majingilane males. The males chased them off of the buffalo and killed him themselves. How is that for crossing the line?
Did you know?
Ruminants have a 4 chambered stomach. These include the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum.
Hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!