Elephant Plains Game Lodge

Rangers Report December 2012

It’s just so unreal to think that this is my last report for the year 2012. Well, what can I say? All great things must come to an end, but the memories of the past year will always remain with us. It might be the end of the year, but this is not the end of the wonderful sightings and amazing experiences that the bush has to offer and now we have 2013 to look forward to! This last month was once again very busy, with exciting and special moments. There’s never a dull moment!  We were again very fortunate to see the wild dogs that come into our area quite regularly. These magnificent animals have made sure to provide some amazing sightings for our guests. They made a kill the one morning as we followed them and it soon turned out that we were not the only ones following them. Two hyenas came charging in to steal the kill from the pack of wild dogs, but the wild dogs didn’t give it to them on a platter.  After a fight the hyenas left with the kill, but also had a few wounds to show. Hyenas are much stronger than wild dogs and if their numbers are correct, then it is quite easy to steal a kill. The average maximum temperature for the month was 33°C and we had 84mm of rain.

Redbilled Oxpecker - Morné Fouché

Redbilled Oxpecker - Morné Fouché

Leopard

What a good month for leopard sightings!  Salayexe and her little one is looking great and they provided us with a lot of action, fun and laughter. The cub is really growing fast in size and confidence with the vehicles. The two went on a stroll the one afternoon when suddenly Salayexe ran off into the bush with the cub short on her tail. Then a grey duiker female came running out with Salayexe hot in pursuit, but she was too far behind and couldn’t catch the grey duiker. On her way back we heard a commotion and then the distress call of a grey duiker echoed through the trees. Salayexe jogged into the direction of the sound, with us following her. As we approached, we discovered Salayexe’s cub busy clawing and grabbing a juvenile grey duiker by the neck, eventually killing it. That was a big step for this six month old cub as the duiker was about the same size as what she is. Salayexe tried to help put the kill up in a tree, but the little one growled and hissed at mom when she got too close. She tried to put it into the tree a few times, but had no luck and decided that it’s easier to eat on the ground. Shadow is also looking good and she was seen a few times this month, but she still keeps the cubs safely hidden in the den. It’s not going to be much longer before she will move them around and show them off for the world to see. Kurula was only seen a few times this month, which is understandable as the last time she was seen she had suckle marks. We can’t wait for this next two months to go past so that we can see the little ones moving around with her. Kwatile and Ntima were keeping a low profile and we didn’t see them a lot. Moya is looking really good and she has settled in and established a territory and hopefully in the near future she will become a mother and raise her cubs here. Tingana, the dominant male of our area, has got more competition as Mvula is expanding his territory more west into Tingana’s area. These two males are about the same size, but Mvula has a lot more experience as he is older than Tingana. The pressure is building up for our big male from the east and the west, but knowing Tingana he’s definitely up for the challenge.

Knobbilled duck - Louis Liversage

Knobbilled duck - Louis Liversage

Lions

It was once again a good month for lion sightings, although some days were a bit slow. That’s the way of the bush, though. The Styx pride is still in tip-top condition, feeding well and looking good. They also came into the area this month and killed a wildebeest. It was not long before the scent of the fresh kill filled the air and hyenas picked up on the scent, homing in on the kill. What the hyenas thought will be a push over and stealing a good meal turned out not to be so easy. As the hyenas came running in while being very vocal and communicating with each other, their attack was met by four very angry lionesses charging at them and chasing them off. The small cubs of the pride are looking really good and well fed, which is great for the pride. There has been a dispute for dominance between these two predators since the dawn of time and especially now, with cubs, the females will go all out to protect them. The older Tsalala pride graced us with their presence as they stayed around our lodge and open area for a number of days. Like always, the hyenas were everywhere and in the thick of things these lionesses also had a stand-off with a few hyenas on our open area. These girls will always hold a grudge against hyenas as BB and one of her daughters both lost their tails due to attacks from hyenas. The years are really starting to show on BB’s face, but there is still a lot of fight left in this old worrier. The older daughters are also looking good and hopefully the one daughter, that was seen mating with one of the Majingi males, is pregnant again. The sub adult females in the pride is growing really fast and looking great and not long from now they will be a great asset for the pride, especially when it comes to hunting. The four Breakaway Tsalala females where a bit under the radar as we only saw them a few times during the month. They are looking good and one of the females that we saw looks pregnant as her milk glands were swollen. We are keeping our fingers crossed that things will go well for her and that we will have new cubs soon.

Buffalo

Salayexe's cub - Morné Fouché

Salayexe's cub - Morné Fouché

On the side of the buffaloes it was quiet at times. The big herds are still nowhere to be found. It can’t be too long now before they finally reach our area as there is so much lush green grass on this side. There are also enough sustainable water supplies for the big herds when they do come into our area. As with most herbivores, buffaloes also have their calves during this time of the year and I will not be surprised if the majority of the females have small calves at the moment. Luckily the old dagga boys have still been loyal like always as they were almost always in or around the waterholes, cooling down in the water and mud. The mud is not just for cooling down, though. It also gets rid of parasites as the mud dries and falls off. On one of our drives we saw a group of male buffaloes and to our surprise a few females walked with them to the waterhole to enjoy a mud bath. When mating season is over, males leave the breeding herds as they need to fatten up and get ready for the next mating season. It sometimes happens that a few females might also break away with the big boys when they go on their quest in order to get enough food and water.

Elephant

Sub-adult Nkuhuma male - Morné Fouché

Sub-adult Nkuhuma male - Morné Fouché

The majority of elephant sightings were action packed as the herds are slowly returning west from the Kruger National Park where they enjoyed the nice green Mopani tree forests. They do this yearly migration towards the end of the year during the rainy season, as soon as the Mopani trees have wonderful lush green leaves. We have seen a few big and some smaller herds and it is always nice to see 30-40 elephants moving through our area. These big heavyweights are really enjoying all the lush green vegetation that the bush has to offer. During the rainy season the elephant herds don’t have to go to the main waterholes as there is so much water around everywhere. The big males who are in musth are still in the area, walking with the herds or sometimes trailing a herd. Male elephants will go into musth for the first time at the age of 25 years, but then they are still too small in size to impress the ladies and to mate. Young males will only be big enough when they reach the age of between 37-40 years. Only then are they able to mate or compete against the other bigger and older males. When a male goes into musth their bodies will release a very high level of testosterone and they are ready to mate with the females. With this process going on it can happen that the males can get very aggressive. It’s great to see that the herds are looking good and also very healthy as they have a lot of youngsters around.

Did you know?

The collective noun for a group of Zebra is a “dazzel”.

Special sighting

The special sighting of the month was when Salayexe’s little female cub made her first real kill at only six months old!  The killing took a bit longer than normal, as she didn’t really know how it worked yet. She was unsure how to close the wind pipe or break the neck and looked at mom every now and again for guidance. She soon got a hold of it and grabbed the neck, killing the juvenile duiker.

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

Morné Fouché

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