This month was great, but in a strange and different way than usual. Some days we would have the best weather and couldn’t ask for more and then the next day would be the opposite: cold and rainy, which is a little bit unusual for this time of the year. We had a total of 95mm of rain this month and the average maximum temperature was 27 °C. With all this lovely rain, it still didn’t stop us from going out on drive and having some amazing sightings. After the rains the bush transformed dramatically, from the pale beige colour of last month to a lush green, with new leaves on the trees. We had an awesome month as far as game viewing goes. We were fortunate enough to see four sub-adult cheetahs, three males and one female. These are thought to be siblings that got kicked out to fend for themselves and have decided to start up their own territory. We saw them on a regular basis, making kills and feeding well before they moved on again. We also had a pack of fourteen wild dogs that came into our area and stayed on the property for almost half the month. This pack consists of eight adults and six 3-4 month old pups. They really caused havoc amongst the impalas and grey duikers as they would sometimes make two kills at a time to feed the hungry pups, as well as themselves.
The best way to describe this month would be that it was very spotty! We were fortunate to have wonderful leopard sightings. Salayexe is still looking good and doing just fine and we saw her on a regular basis. The cubs are a bit of a concern at this stage as we have only been seeing one cub at a time, moving around with Salayexe and resting or playing at the den site. It’s unclear what happened to the second cub and if it is still alive. It will be heartbreaking if Salayexe lost another cub, but chances of both cubs surviving is normally not very good at all. The little one is becoming a bit more relaxed with the vehicle around it. We still have a long road ahead of us with getting it habituated like mom, but it has been a good start. I must just say what a treat it is when you get to see this cub playing around, climbing small logs and going halfway up trees, then falling out them. Shadow is still in good shape and we saw her a few times this last month. She is moving around a lot as her tracks go all over the area. Kurula and Ntima was really under the radar as we didn’t see them a lot this month. Ntima was seen mating with Lamula a few times. Kurula also came sneaking into our area and then moved out again. Moya is a really beautiful cat and also very popular among the males in our area. She was seen mating with Tingana, following him around through his whole territory for a total of four days. On her way back to her own territory she joined up with Lamula and mated with him for another four days. When a female’s territory overlaps two male territories, it is common for them to mate with both males. When she does fall pregnant and give birth, both males will think it is their cubs and will not kill the cubs when the female brings them into either of their territories. Lamula was a very busy boy this last month as he was mating with Kwatile, Ntima and also Moya. Tingana is the ultimate legend and there is no other word to describe him! This big brute has really taken hunting to the extreme. Tingana killed a juvenile giraffe this month during the time that he and Moya were mating. The two of them fed well for a day, before the hyenas stole the kill from them. Leopards can bring down prey bigger than impalas if the opportunity arises. If the prey is too big though, the leopard will not be able to get it into a tree and then they might lose it to hyenas or other predators.
The four young Tsalala lionesses are doing very well for themselves and they still feed well. These four ladies are enormous and you can definitely see that they are the prodigies of the older Tsalala lioness and the late Mapogo coalition. One of the young lionesses is quite far pregnant as her milk glands are swollen and her belly is big. If all goes well, it’s not going to be much longer and we will have more of the Majingi’s offspring in the area. The gestation period for a lioness is about 110 days and she will have between two and four cubs at a time. We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything will go well. The older Tsalala lionesses are also looking very healthy and added another member to their pride. BB, the 14 year old lioness who is the anchor of the pride, had one little cub a few months ago. At last the wait is over as the pride brought this small bundle of joy over to our side. This youngster is a few months old already and walking around with mum and the rest of the pride. The pride won’t walk very far in a day, as the short little legs of the cub can’t keep up and he tires very quickly. The Styx pride has also added to their pride as there are three new bundles of joy that belongs to the young Styx female. When the little cubs are about two to three months old they will start moving around with the pride as they would by then start eating meat. At this stage the females will start taking them along to kills.
We were very lucky to see a nice big breeding herd of buffaloes during the month. Big breeding herds will very seldom stay in one area for very long before moving on as they are driven by the availability of food and water. Looking through the herd, there were a few youngsters that was probably born at the beginning of this year. Most of the females are pregnant at the moment. They will normally give birth during summer time, when food is plentiful so it will usually happen sometime between January and April. We also saw the bachelor herds and old dagga boys on a regular basis. The bachelor herds usually leave the breeding herds because there is no mating that takes place at the moment. For now, they need to pick up weight and get into shape in order to be fit and healthy before the next breeding season starts. The old dagga boys would normally be found around the waterholes on nice and hot days. Buffaloes lack sweat glands and can’t stay cool on their own. The word “dagga” means mud in the local language. These old boys were given the name of “mud” boys because they are always covered in mud and spend a lot of their time in or around the waterholes and mud wallows.
We saw a few big herds with 60 + individuals and a lot of babies with them. We were very lucky with elephant sightings this month as we saw about three to four herds every day. While having lunch or just lying around at the swimming pool, you could see a herd of elephants come to drink water in front of the lodge. We saw a few small little family groups with a few week old babies that stayed in the area for about a week or so. It’s really something to see the small babies trying to use their little trunks for the very first time. The youngsters will only be able to fully use their trunks at the age of around 6 months. That is normally the time when they will start experimenting with solid food. These small ones would stay close to mum, rubbing up to her legs, sometimes even standing under her chest and between her front legs. When she starts moving they are never too far behind and she will also wait for her youngster to catch up when he lags behind. This little one won’t go 10 minutes without any of the herd touching him, just to let him know that he is protected and safe. An interesting fact is that the young elephant will eat the dung of its mother or another adult elephant, just to kick start their digestive system and give them the necessary bacteria and enzymes to be able to digest the solid food they eat.
It was very special to see the wild dogs again. To be able to spend time with them on a daily basis for a continued period of time and to watch them interact with each other was truly amazing. While watching this pack of 14 dogs hunt the one day, two of the dogs managed to separate a male impala from the group. The impala changed course suddenly and dived into the dam to escape the jaws of the hungry dogs. The two wild dogs left the area for a few minutes, only to return with the whole pack. The poor impala had no chance and swam from one side to the next, but the wild dogs covered all its escape routes. At a stage the hippos started charging out of the water to chase the wild dogs away, but they were too slow for these fast and slender wild dogs, or at least so we thought… Then the unexpected happened! A hippo charged out of the water and turned around very quickly with its mouth wide open. The hippo managed to grab hold of one of the wild dogs. Without hesitating, the hippo picked the wild dog up and ran straight into the water. Both stayed submerged for a few seconds when suddenly the poor wild dog broke the surface and swam as fast as he could to get to shore. I don’t know who was more shocked… the guides, guests or the 13 other wild dogs that watched this spectacle. The wild dog wasn’t hurt because the hippo never closed his mouth.
Did you know?
A lion’s tongue is very rough and it can remove the meat of bones just by licking it long enough.
Hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!