Elephant Plains Game Lodge

Rangers Report August 2013

I know that I start most of my reports stating that the past month was definitely the best game viewing to date and August has been no exception! We were yet again spoiled with some awesome sightings. When you get a chance to sit quietly and reflect on the beauty of nature and the animals living here, it is then that you realize how blessed we are to be able to live and work in this wonderful area. Temperature wise, the days and nights were pleasant. We also had a few days with strong winds, which is to be expected during August. The average maximum temperature for the month was 25°C and we had 12mm of rain, combined with light hail, which is out of character for the Lowveld region. We had some very nice cheetah and wild dog sightings and also found an active hyena den, with small pups running and playing close to the den.

Big buffalo herd drinking water - by Morné Fouché

Big buffalo herd drinking water – by Morné Fouché

Leopard

Salayexe once again mated with Tingana. She was also very vocal and on the move, as if she is looking for another male to mate with. This might mean that she has caught the scent of one of the other young males that are currently in the area. Mating with all the males in the area would obviously ensure the safety of her cubs. Shadow was keeping a low profile this month, but was also seen mating with Mvula, the big male from the east. Later on she mated with Tingana as well. Kwatile was also a bit shy, as we didn’t see a lot of her this month. She was scent marking all over her territory and mated with Lamula. One of these days there might be lots of cubs around! I mentioned in some of my previous newsletters that the stage is set for Tingana to defend his territory against the other males in the area. Well, what can I say? The two heavy weights, Tingana and Mvula, walked into each other and what a fight that was! It happened so fast and both males disappeared for a few days after. It’s still unsure who came out on top, as they both had quite a few injuries. Tingana was seen limping, with a few cuts on his front foot and in his face. Mvula, on the other hand, was not limping, but he also had some cuts in his face and a big gash on his throat. I must say that I’m quite impressed with Tingana. He stood up to Mvula, who is older, bigger and has a lot more experience. One thing is for sure, this was not the last time these two will meet.

BB the lioness - by Morné Fouché

BB the lioness – by Morné Fouché

Lions

The lion sightings this month was absolutely brilliant, but unfortunately tragedy struck once again.The Tsalala pride lost their leading lady, anchor and pride mother, BB. We got word that BB was killed by two of the Majingilane males, when she tried to protect the sub adult lioness of the Tsalala pride. It was a very sad day for us, as BB (short for Boerboel, a dog breed that she resembled due to her lack of tail) was always seen as the ultimate lioness. We all knew that she would not live forever and that one day she would die, but not like this. It is difficult to understand these things, but important to remember that this is how nature sometimes work.This old legend lioness will always be remembered as a true warrior and her legacy will be carried on by her daughters and granddaughters.The best part of this month’s lion sightings was a sighting with the four Breakaway Tsalala lionesses and their nine little cubs. They were also accompanied by two of the Majingi male lions. What a treat it was to see them with the cubs. It was so funny to see the little cubs grabbing dad’s mane, tail or jumping on their full stomachs. It was great to see the big males being so tolerant with the cubs. The Styx pride is still looking great and feeding well. Gogi, the eldest female unfortunately also passed away. She was estimated to be around seventeen years old and had a good life, but will still be missed by all. The young Styx pride lions have killed yet another big buffalo bull. They have grown a lot in confidence these last few months. The Nkuhuma male lion surprised us all when he chased the whole Styx pride aroundwhile they were feasting on the buffalo kill. The Nkuhuma male then started mating with one of the Styx pride lionesses and they stayed together for a few days, before they were joined by another female of the Styx pride. This love triangle was short lived, as one morning we were woken up by lion roars echoing through the bush. We knew immediately that the big Majingi male lions have come to collect their ladies. We also had the sub adult Tsalala lioness all by her lonesome self in our area for a few days, looking for safety after her grandmother was killed. For now her future hangs in the balance, not knowing what is going to happen to her as she is only between 2-3 years of age. The four Majingi males also came into our area more often than last month, to scent mark and perform their territorial roaring. These big boys really blessed us with their presence, as it is always nice to see them.

Breakaway Tsalala pride - by Morné Fouché

Breakaway Tsalala pride – by Morné Fouché

Buffalo

The buffalo sightings left us speechless with their quality and quantity! We saw some big breeding herds of between 100 – 300 on a regular basis. This month the Sabi Sand Wildtuin had their annual game count census and the one buffalo herd that they counted had just over 800 individuals in it. To see a herd like that is really special. We were so spoiled at times that two or three breeding herds simultaneously entered our traversing area from different directions of the property. You could almost choose a wind direction to go and see a big breeding herd. We also still have the old dagga boys in our area, as they just move from one water hole to the next. With all these dagga boys around, we’ve also seen a few bachelor groups joining the old boys. These dominant males have left the breeding herds and are trying to regain the weight that they lost during the mating season, in order to be ready for the next one. These bachelor herds have been targeted by the lions as both the Styx and Majingi prides caught a big bull this month.

Zebra - by Dawie Jacobs

Zebra – by Dawie Jacobs

Elephants

We had wonderful elephant sightings every single drive and at least two different herds were seen per drive. We once again had the smaller groups of about twenty to thirty animals and then also a visit from some bigger herds. We were treated with a lot of different herds coming to drink water on our open area in front of the lodge. The Africam viewers enjoyed these sightings immensely! The one day during lunch, our guests watched a massive breeding herd of about eighty elephants, making their way to the open area water hole. They quenched their thirst and moved down towards the dry river bed to feed on the lush green wild date palms.What a special sighting! We also saw a few herds with tiny little calves of only a few weeks old. These little calves made it so memorable for us, while playing in the water and trying to be big and fearless like mom or dad. Strangely enough, we only saw one really big elephant bull that followed the one herd around and then moved on to the next. With his approach into each herd, the females would get really stressed out and very vocal. A breeding herd of elephants consists of females that are closely related and there are no males, except for young bulls under 15 years. When a big male gets the scent of a female in oestrus, he will pursue the female to mate with her. This intrusion can make the rest of the females and calves very unhappy.

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was to see the four Breakaway Tsalala lionesses with their nine cubs, being accompanied by two Majingi male lions. It was really nice to see these big males being so tolerant with the cubs. They get used as a jumping castle, or the cubs play tug of war with their dad’s tails.All while lying around, trying to get some sleep.

Did you know?

The Leopard Tortoise’s diet consists of plants, bones and hyena feaces.

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

Morné Fouché

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