The month of October once again lived up to our expectations! It was action packed, full of new life and it even had a few surprises. We had some spectacular evenings where the skies lit up in wonderful colours, due to the electrical storms we had. What can I say? Summer is here and we had a few really hot days this month. The mornings and evenings are lovely and warm and we finally took the blankets and hot water bottles off of the game drive vehicles. Last month we started seeing the new growth transforming the bush into a nice, green colour. With all the lovely rain we had the bush is now totally transformed and very dense, with different shades of green as far as the eyes could see. We had a total of 92 millimetres of rain and the average maximum temperature for October was 28 °C. Game viewing was spectacular as we had our fair share sightings of lion and leopard cubs. We were also fortunate to see some wild dogs and cheetahs.
Salayexe and her cub is still the main attraction and are doing just fine, while still being full of surprises at times. They also had a run in with a few hyenas around kills this last month. Like a well-trained team, Salayexe would just give the alarm call and the youngster would run for cover. The next time the youngster sees a hyena, it will automatically know that it is associated with danger. The little one is much more relaxed with the vehicles and using them to practice the art of stalking. From a young age, leopard cubs will try and stalk any and everything that they come across. These include mom, lizards, birds and a whole lot more. When there is only one cub, the mother has to double up as a playmate for the little one, because at a young age like this they are still very playful. Shadow, on the other hand, will be stealing the limelight from Salayexe pretty soon now. The first time we saw her this month, it looked like she had suckle marks and we just knew what that meant: somewhere safely tucked away in a den there must be one, two or maybe even three bundles of joy. While we were still wondering about the cubs, something spectacular happened… Shadow was spotted twice while carrying a tiny cub in her mouth. It might be that she was moving the cubs towards a new and safer den site. In the beginning, she will only move the cubs if there is pressure from other predators and the cubs are in danger. At this stage, only time will tell how many cubs she’s got. At the age of about three months when they start eating meat, she will start bringing them out. She would make a kill and go and fetch the cubs to bring them to the kill. It will be so nice to see her with the little ones, as she’s had some really bad luck while attempting to raise previous litters. Please keep your fingers crossed that this will be her time to shine. Kurula’s tummy is really big and she has heavily swollen milk glands, so we hope it’s not going to be too long before we have even more cubs in the area. When she was last seen she was really uncomfortable, but still scent marking her territory and making sure that everything was fine in her area. The proud father of all the new cubs, Tingana, is still top cat around our area and it appears that he has not finished expanding his territory. He is always up and down through his whole territory, while also moving more eastwards into the area where Lamula established a territory. When he became dominant he had a small area to call home and two lady friends. Over time, this has grown into a massive area with five to six females. Thus far he has been lucky enough not to be challenged by other males. So far, so good.
This was a very good month for lion sightings, especially the new lion cubs of the different prides. Let’s get started with the older Tsalala pride lionesses: BB and her two older daughters with the two sub-adults. All of them, including BB’s new cub, are doing just fine. BB’s little cub is just too cute and looks like it is scared of nothing. Well, why be scared if you are the king of beasts? Better still, when you are protected by your mom and aunts. It sometimes happens that the pride leaves BB and the little one behind when he gets too tired to keep up the pace and needs to take a rest. They don’t separate for too long before joining up again, though. We are speculating that one of BB’s older daughters might also be pregnant, so hopefully it’s not going to be too long before we will have more cubs and the pride can grow in size. The younger Tsalala Breakaway lioness are looking very healthy and in good condition. . All four of these lionesses mated with the four Majingi male lions, so it’s not going to be too long before they might have their first litter. A lioness will normally have her first litter at the age of 3 ½ – 4 years and they are in that age group now. The Styx lionesses with their cubs are doing really well and what a special treat they had in store for us this month. It really looks like the Styx pride is growing in confidence once again, as they killed a buffalo this month to feed the whole pride. It only took the pride two days to finish the buffalo. The three new cubs even had their share of buffalo meat. The four older cubs / sub-adults are also doing very well and looking good. The manes are already starting to show nicely on the two young males. These two young brothers will have between a year and two years left with the pride before they are pushed out by their fathers. They will then start with their nomadic existence. Pride males will kick out their sons at about three years of age. If they stay for longer than that, they might become competition for their own fathers in a few years’ time. The four dominant Majingi males also came into our traversing area for a short while and also gave us a very special sighting when all four of them gave their signature territorial roar. They will randomly do this, just to make sure that all challengers know that they are still in the area and ready to protect it.
We had some big herds, averaging between 100-150 animals a herd that came through our area this month. Because of the abundance of food during summer, the big breeding herds, that used to be 400+, has split up into smaller groups during the rainy season because there is enough food around. Last month we did controlled burns on certain sections in our area and we also burned the firebreaks. With all the lovely rain we had during the past two months, there is lush green grass on these sections. Bulk grazers will spent a lot more time here before moving on again, travelling far in order to cover a big area in search of more green grass. The old dagga boys and a few younger, dominant males are still in the area and we saw them regularly this month. These old boys can still re-join the herds if they want to, but they prefer to rather just lie around the waterholes, sometimes spending the whole day in the mud. This time of the year there is a lot of water in the waterholes, with abundant food close by. The big herds on the other hand need to move around more regularly, because they get driven by food and water supplies and also because they have many more mouths to feed.
With regards to the elephants, we had some good elephant sightings this month. We saw a lot of young elephant bulls and also smaller herds of about 15 or so animals. Same as the buffalo herds, the big breeding herds of elephant have also split up into smaller, more manageable groups. With all the nice rain comes the start of a new beginning for the vegetation and animals and there will obviously be a lot of water and an abundance of food for them. This is one of the reasons why elephants would continue to move on to greener, lusher vegetation. The leader of a herd is always a female, called a matriarch. It is up to her to lead the group and decide where and when to go in search of food, water, salts and minerals that’s lacking in the vegetation that they are currently eating. We are also approaching that time of the year when the elephants will start to move towards the Kruger National Park to feast on the lovely Mopani tree forest that is located in the park. When we go into the winter season again you will find that the smaller groups will join up again, forming a big family unit. A herd consists of females and their offspring that will be related to each other like mothers, daughters and also sisters.
Salayexe was with her cub at a kill when suddenly out of nowhere a hyena showed up, probably by following the scent trail of blood and meat. Salayexe jumped up and moved in between the hyena and her cub and was hissing and growling at the intruder to back off, but to no avail. The hyena just came closer and closer to inspect, when suddenly Salayexe’s mother instinct kicked in and she went all out – open jaws, sharp teeth and claws in a quick, but very efficient attack on the hyena. Her quick action did the job and the hyena scattered off into the bush. This sighting just once again proofed that a mother will do almost anything to protect her offspring!
Did you know?
A female Baboon spider can live up to the age of 20-25 years.
Hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!