Elephant Plains Game Lodge

Rangers Report January 2013

It is so exciting to be writing my first report for the year 2013 and keeping you up to date with the highs and lows and everything else happening in the bush. This first month of 2013 was such a delight to be out in the bushveld. It was really full of action and just jam packed. We had some strange weather this month as well. We had really hot days, cold days, windy days and then, of course, also a lot of rain. The average maximum temperature for the month was 28°C, mainly because the rainy days brought the temperatures down. We had a total of 337mm rain for the month! With all these hot days the bush started to change color, from the lush green to a pale yellow color. After the first two spells of rain the bush changed back to the dark and lush green color almost overnight. The bush was crawling with life and we welcomed all the frog species like the African bull frogs, rain frogs, Foam nesting frogs and a lot more. When driving past the waterholes and puddles next to the road the first thing you see is thousands of frog eggs floating in the water, little tadpoles and also the foam nesting frog nests hanging in the trees over the water. It is so beautiful at night when the sounds of the frogs and crickets fill the air and it sounds like a well-trained symphony. Before you know it you and your guests have been sitting there in silence, just listening to the bush choir. Game viewing was again really good as we had two different packs of wild dogs in our area. We were very spoiled with the wild dog sightings this month. We had saw wonderful general game like wildebeest, zebra, warthog, giraffe and much more.

Zebra and Impala - by Richard Davis

Zebra and Impala - by Richard Davis

Leopard

The leopard sightings were just phenomenal this month. Salayexe and her little one, who I love very much, are looking really good and very healthy. The little one is growing up really fast. She’s got a wonderful personality and is full of surprises. It is such a treat to watch her playing around without a worry in the world. The other day Salayexe and the cub were resting, when two big buffalo bulls came out from behind a bush.  The little one stood up and started staking these big heavy weights… She’s really adventurous and growing in confidence. Shadow was awesome this month and we saw her a few times with the little cubs at her den and moving around. Although her two cubs are still very small, we can already see that there is a shy cub and an adventurous one.  In almost every litter of cubs that is born, this will be the case.

Shadow and her cub - by Willie Woest

Shadow and her cub - by Willie Woest

Shadow is also moving her den every so often to avoid unwelcome guests like lions or hyenas that will kill the little cubs if they get the opportunity. Kurula was very elusive this month and we didn’t see a lot of her. Ntima, the older lady, is doing very well and it looks like she might be pregnant again. It will be really nice if she can have another litter of cubs. We started to see a lot more of Nsele this month and it also looks like she might be pregnant as well, because her milk glands are swollen.  Nsele is looking stunning and she grew up into a beautiful cat. She is not yet as big as her mother, or her aunt Nyeleti or even Ntima, but she will get more bulky in time. Tingana, our male leopard, is still looking good if not better than before. He is still holding on to his big territory but there is still a few challengers waiting and wanting to expand their territories and a new kid on the block looking for a place to call home. Mvula and Lamula have been keeping a very low profile this month.

Lion

The lion sightings this month was once again brilliant. We saw the three older Tsalala females a few times and once they were accompanied by the Black Maned Majingi male. There is something strange going on with him as he is always chasing the sub adult females of the Tsalala pride around. It seems like he doesn’t want them around at all. The one sub adult female got separated from the rest of the pride and to make things worse she’s got an injured back leg as well. We are unsure as to how she sustained the injury and where it happened.  We saw the Tsalala pride the one night with the two sub adult females and then the next morning she was all alone with an injured leg. At this stage we keep our fingers crossed that the pride will reunite very soon. The four Breakaway Tsalala females are doing really well and one of the females are very far pregnant. Two of the other three females were also pregnant but it is unsure to what happened to the cubs and if there actually were any.  I can’t wait for the day when this young pride has their first cubs and starts growing in numbers. These four ladies are still moving around in their mother’s territory, but they avoid each other as far as they possibly can. If the three older females just let these four ladies rejoin the pride they would benefit out of this and it will be good for the four youngsters to have some experience on their side.  Chances are good that maybe one day when this older trio gets too old, the four breakaway females might be strong enough to push them out seeing that they use the same territory. As I always say, the stage is set and only time will tell. The Styx pride is also looking good. The four sub adults and the three young cubs are growing up and looking really healthy. It looks like things are eventually looking up for the Styx pride and it looks like the cubs will survive.

Buffalo

Young Tsalala lioness - by Morné Fouché

Young Tsalala lioness - by Morné Fouché

What a treat, we were so spoiled this month with the buffalo sightings!  The big breeding herds we were waiting for returned to our area this month and we had a herd of about 400! With all the lush green vegetation all over, the buffaloes don’t stay in one area very long. If you think about it this way, in a big herd you can get anywhere between 400 and 2000 individuals. When you have so many mouths to feed you can’t stay in one area for too long, because buffaloes are bulk grazers. They get driven by food and water supplies so they need to be on the move all the time in search of enough food for all of them. It was so nice to see all the small calves in the herd as this is also the time of the year where the females will have their babies. The old buffalo bulls are still out and about, spending their days lying in the water or mud wallows or just relaxing somewhere in the shade.

Elephant

Elephant sightings were also very good this month and the reason for all the lovely sightings was the start of the marula season. All the herds had a field day with all this marula trees that’s full of fruits. The marula fruit is also very high in vitamin C, even more than oranges. When the fruiting season starts, elephants can be very destructive when it comes to getting the fruits. Here in the northern part of the Sabi Sand we have a lot of marula trees and this time of the year we have lots of elephant herds all over, walking from one marula tree to the next. As you drive around and past some of the marula trees, you might find that there are branches all over the road. The elephants will break the higher branches to get to the juicy marula fruits. Some of the bigger elephants will shake the trees for the fruits to fall to the ground and if they can’t reach they will even push over the whole tree.

Special sighting

The special sighting of the month was when Salayexe’s 7 month old cub played a very dangerous game with two big buffalo bulls. The little cub saw these two big animals feeding on the nice green grass and she saw an opportunity to practice her stalking skills. Things went really well until the wind direction changed and the buffalo got the upper hand. After the buffalo swung around and moved closer to the young leopard, mum knew that things could go wrong and she jumped up and drew the attention away from the cub, thereby leading the buffalo away. As soon as the buffalo turned and went for mom, the small cub couldn’t help herself and chased after the buffalo again. Luckily it all ended well and the buffaloes and leopards went their separate ways.

Did you know?

A giraffe is the biggest ruminant of all the land mammals.

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

Morné Fouché

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