Elephant Plains Game Lodge

Rangers Report August 2012

This month was action-packed with a steady mix of amazing sightings, a tad of mystery and a whole lot of action. The only downside to the month was the strong winds we experienced for a few days, but which are quite normal for this time of year. Strong, stormy winds can sometimes make game viewing a bit more difficult, but luckily they never last very long. I always tell my guests that one quiet game drive in the bush is still way better than thirty normal days in the city! Overall it was a pleasant month as the mornings and evenings also started warming up towards the end of the month.  During the first days of August, we had a few cold fronts that came past as it snowed in some parts of South Africa. But since then midday temperatures have been warming up nicely and guests are already enjoying the swimming pools again. Our average maximum temperature for the month was 29°C.

Shadow the leopard - by Willie Woest

Shadow the leopard - by Willie Woest

On the game viewing side we had a quick glance of a female cheetah that came into our area, but with all the lion activity that we had, she decided that it might be better not to hang around for too long. We were also visited by a lone wild dog that came through our area, continuously calling as she searched for the rest of her pack. This contact calling almost got her into trouble as she was approached by Salayexe the leopard, who quickly chased her out of the area.

Leopards

Well what can I say to describe the leopard sightings this month? Marvelous and spectacular are two words that come to mind first! It is confirmed that Salayexe indeed still has both her cubs as we’ve seen them on numerous occasions during the month. The other day we found her not too far away from camp. She took us straight to her new den site where two little hungry cubs were waiting for mom to return so that they could feed. Paying no attention to the vehicle, they continued their little game of “king of the castle” as they fought each other for the best teat and spot to lie down, while trying to avoid mom – who attempted to give them their afternoon bath. What a special sighting this was! Since then we have seen them more regularly. It is still a one vehicle log, permitted that she leads you to the den site and only when she’s present.  All of us here in the area have our fingers crossed that she will successfully raise these two cubs to maturity. We will keep you posted on their progress. Moya is really growing in confidence as she scent marks her territory while giving territorial calls to let the other females know that she is now in charge. She doesn’t have a big area yet, but that will come with time as soon as she’s older and bigger in size, ready to fight for her territory. At this stage she mainly resides in her mother, Nyaleti’s, old territory. Shadow was giving us the slip this month as she kept a very low profile, staying true to her name, no doubt! We saw her once or twice and also followed a lot of her tracks, but she is very good at hiding. Kurula is still looking good and we saw her scent marking quite a lot this last month. Hopefully she is pregnant at the moment and if all goes well, we will soon have more cubs from her and her daughter, Shadow. Lamula is getting much better with the vehicles and is also taking more risks around his territory. He was seen mating with the Ostrich Koppies female that usually resides in Mala Mala. This took place around the Big Dam area, which is far into Tingana’s territory. Tingana is much bigger and older than Lamula, so he should be aware of overplaying his hand… Tingana has taken a big chunk out of the Jordaan male’s old territory that was up for grabs. He’s a great male, fearless, but also sometimes a bit reckless. We saw him the one day arriving at a buffalo kill where four Majingi male lions were busy feasting. He came to within 20 meters or so from the lions and lay down in the grass. After a few minutes he decided to leave, maybe realizing that it was a bit too dangerous for him to hang around. When I look at Tingana and what he has achieved in such a short while, I can’t help but remembering the small male that has evolved into a regularly sighted, beautiful resident leopard, fathering many cubs and continuing his legacy.

Lions

Sunrise over the bush - by Louis Liversage

Sunrise over the bush - by Louis Liversage

Lion sightings were really good this month as we had a lot of lion activity around our area. The four young breakaway Tsalala females are looking fantastic. They are getting bigger and bulkier by the day and they are hunting anything, from impalas to young giraffe. They killed a young giraffe in the beginning of the month, fed well and kept the hyenas away before they got pushed off by the three older Tsalala females. Just when we thought there was going to be blood and hair flying, the older females decided not to fight with them! They just pushed them off and started feeding on the carcass. A day went past before the younger females returned and was greeted by BB. Together they fed on the remains of the kill, along with the older females. For me this was one of my happiest moments:  to see them feeding alongside each other as one pride. It was short lived though, because soon enough the youngsters moved away, leaving the older females behind to finish the remains. After they finished the carcass the older females left again leaving the hyenas, vultures and a side stripe jackal to battle it out for the last scraps. It was the first time that there was no fighting or blood shed between these females, so maybe there is still some hope left for them to accept each other and join forces. The Styx pride is back to normal as they killed another buffalo this month. They had a good feed and the youngsters are looking good and healthy again. The young Styx cub that was injured in the fight with the other pride last month is doing much better now. The majority of his wounds healed up very well and he is keeping up with the rest of the pride. When they move too fast for the little one and he falls behind, one of the older male cubs will wait for him. They will walk together until the rest of the pride stops to rest and then they usually catch up. The four big Majingi males also came into our area a few times. They usually join up with the female groups in the area. If, however, there is no food or females in oestrus, they would move on again, rejoining their coalition. We had a wonderful surprise when four of the six Matimba males came into our area and started to scent mark in the Majingi males’ territory. The Matimba males are getting bigger and stronger day by day and they are now getting to an age where they will want to expand their territory and start looking for females. The stage is set for the ultimate heavyweight championship between the Majingi’s and Matimba’s. If they keep on coming in and scent marking, it’s not going to be too long before they meet again…

We were sad when the dead Styx male lion was found not too far from the lodge. It is very difficult to let nature take its course sometimes, but living out here in the bush that is the only thing we can do. We need to respect our natural surroundings and always remember that we are here to witness, not interfere in the natural circle of life that plays out around us every single day. In the end, it all boils down to survival of the fittest. This is the only way to ensure that good, strong and healthy genes are carried forward to the next generations, continuing the healthy breeding of magnificent animals.

Buffalo

Salayexe the leopard and one of her cubs - by Willie Woest

Salayexe the leopard and one of her cubs - by Willie Woest

Like last year August, the big breeding herds started coming through as food is getting scarcer and they have to travel further and wider from their core home ranges. We had very nice buffalo sightings this month and there were two big herds that moved in more or less the same home range. It is possible that these two big herds that’s about 300-400 individuals strong, may actually join up to form a bigger herd. We also had some excitement between the buffaloes and the lions. With big herds like this, it usually draws a lot of attention to predators – lions, leopards and sometimes even hyenas. We watched as one of the Styx females was stalking the herd of buffalo and we went down to the waterhole, just to find a Nkuhuma female and cub, as well as the four breakaway Tsalala females also waiting for the buffalo to come down the embankment to drink…Three different lion prides stalking the same herd! The wind turned in the favor of the buffalo and the lions’ cover was blown. This gave the buffaloes a chance to regroup and launch a counter attack, leaving the lions with no other choice but to retreat. Over all, lions would rather take down the older, weaker males in the bachelor herds, but they would sometimes still follow the breeding herds for days, studying their routine and behavior and hoping for an opportunistic chance at an easy meal. Some of the pregnant females will sometimes stay on one side of the group, or lag behind and that’s what the predators hope for.

Elephants

We’ve had unbelievably good elephant sightings this month. Ask anyone who regularly watches the Africam and they would be able to attest to the amount of elephants that passed in front of the lodge during August. There were so many elephant herds that one could hardly drive around a corner without bumping into the next one. This also made bushwalks slightly more challenging than usual! Strangely enough we only saw two or three big herds of about 40-50 animals, the other herds all had between 15- 25 in each. This time of year you will normally find bigger groups of elephants moving through the area. One elephant needs close to five hectares of food per day, which would explain why they need to eat at least 18 hours a day. The majority of herds have new born babies with them and it comes to show that the elephant population is very healthy at this stage. The youngsters in an elephant herd are always fun to watch, especially the toddlers of between 3-5 years of age. When stopping next to them you can almost see the mischief in their eyes. Then all of a sudden they would start moving closer to the vehicles, inspecting with ears wide open, head held high and a rocking motion of the front leg. This action, together with dust kicking and a high pitched trumpet, mimics the mock charge of an adult elephant. The young ones are always playful and full of themselves, testing the boundaries and challenging everything in their way, sometimes even their mothers. The mothers are not always in the mood for a game of tug of war or pushing and shoving… This is why the older daughters or sons normally get to do the babysitting, trying to keep the youngsters in line and out of harm’s way. Don’t be mistaken though, mom would never be far away…

Special sighting

The special sighting of the month was definitely spending time with Salayexe and the new cubs! Just to be able to watch the interaction and love between the three of them is truly amazing! We are looking forward to spending more and more time with them and to watch them grow into magnificent leopards.

Did you know?

When threatened, black rhino calves will follow and white rhino calves will lead their mothers during flight.

Hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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