What a wonderful month it has been! We had our first official summer rain and the bush is looking lovely! The days were pleasant overall, with some reaching temperatures of up to 42°C. We also had a few thunder showers. The total rainfall for the month was 108mm, with an average maximum temperature of 28 °C. With all the nice rain that we had this month, the bush transformed from being a pale, dull colour to bright-green overnight. After the first rains, the bushveld suddenly came alive with all kinds of little critters in different shapes and sizes. All the upcoming king and queen termites of the different colonies left their original colonies to start new ones. We also welcomed back the dung beetles. This is the time of year that they are out and about, doing what they do best – which is rolling dung balls, of course. All the different frog species have also reappeared. We have been seeing a number of foam nesting frog nests at some of the waterholes. We were once again blessed with the presence of wild dogs that came in and out of our traversing area and even stayed here for a few days. After the one wild dog pack moved out of the area, we had a few days and then to our surprise, a different pack of wild dogs moved into our area and also stayed here for a number of days. It was lovely to spend time with these amazing animals.
Leopard sightings were unbelievable and full of excitement. Nzele, the young female leopard, was seen regularly during the past month and we were privileged to watch her mate with the Anderson male. We are unsure whether Nzele lost her cubs and if she did, what exactly happened to the little ones. Although all the evidence points in that direction, it might still be that she learnt a few lessons from her mother. Salayexe once mated with Tingana whilst she had cubs safely in the den site, in order to throw him off. Maybe this is the same in Nzele’s case, but only time will tell. Talking about Salayexe, she was once again seen mating with Tingana. It might be that she did not conceive the first time around. When a female loses her cubs, it sometimes happen that she first goes into a false oestrus cycle in order to establish which males are moving around in the area. Kwatile was seen mating with Mvula, the big male leopard from the east. This female leopard has failed to raise a single cub to adulthood thus far. We are keeping our fingers crossed that, if she falls pregnant now, she would have more luck raising her next litter. We also had a few days with Thandi and her little cub, which by the way is not so little anymore! The cub is really getting big and is very relaxed with the vehicles. There was a lot of excitement with Tingana, our resident male, as the Anderson male came looking for him. Anderson is the big, young male that had a standoff with Tingana a few months ago. Tingana dominated him then. His return shows that Anderson grew in confidence, as he came into Tingana’s territory, scent marking over his scent and even making kills in his area. On one occasion these two heavyweights moved around in close proximity, without knowing each other’s whereabouts. At this stage I think that Tingana is still the dominant male. We saw both males again later on, a mere 80 meters from each other. Tingana started his territorial calling, not aware that the Anderson male was close by. After this, Anderson kept a very low profile and quickly moved away. Lamula is doing very well, looking healthy and well fed.
Our lion sightings were just out of this world! At last, the long wait is over and we saw the two Tsalala pride females and their four small cubs! The cubs are just too cute. They are little busy bodies, being very adventurous and moving around, all over the show. We were also very fortunate to have the four Breakaway females and their nine cubs in our area. They made two kills; a zebra and waterbuck. These four females have become really good hunters and mothers as they were taught by the best, namely BB. The Styx pride is also looking healthy and doing great. The Nkuhuma male is spending a lot more time with the Styx pride these days. He also had a fight with the young sub-adult males of the pride. This fight caused the older lionesses and the sub-adults to split up. At this stage the two older lionesses and the Nkuhuma male are joined up and the four siblings are on their own. It’s just a matter of time before the Nkuhuma male lion will have a run-in, either with the Majingi, or the Matimba males. The four Majingi male lions are still doing their rounds through their big territory. They are in pristine condition. We had a lovely sighting of two of the Majingi males and the four Breakaway lionesses on our southern boundary. It might be that the one female with no cubs is coming into oestrus. These four males have big competition from both the western and northern sides of their area. We also saw two of the Selati male lions on our western boundary. They actually came into our area and started scent marking in the Majingi males’ territory. The Matimba males are also pushing more south, straight into the northern part of the Majingi male lions’ territory. The stage is set and this might be the fight of the century, if these big boys were to meet. We’ll have to wait and see.
It is difficult to describe how magnificent the buffalo sightings were this month! After the last big herd left our area, we thought that it would be a while before seeing them again. But hey, the best was yet to come! We saw a few splinter groups after the big herd moved away. The herds are basically starting to split up into smaller groups, as there is abundant food at the moment. The majority of the females in the herds are now pregnant. We had a big herd of about 300 buffaloes that came to drink water on our open area. After almost all of the buffaloes quenched their thirst, we got a glimpse of the very first newborn buffalo calf. This little one must have been a few days old and really struggled to keep up with its mother and the rest of the herd. The last thing that a female with a small newborn wants to do is lag behind, as this will make them easy targets for hungry lions. It will not be much longer before more females start giving birth. Cows will normally try and give birth during the rainy season, when food and water sources are abundant. We also saw various bachelor herds that stayed behind in the area after the breeding herds moved through.
Elephant sightings were down from the drastic spike during the last few months, during which herd after herd were seen, almost around every corner during game drive. But the sightings we had were still very good. The reason why the elephant sightings went down a little bit might be because of the good rains. The fact that we are approaching that time of the year when the elephants are slowly moving towards the Mopani forests situated in the Kruger Park, might also be a contributing factor. Still, we had some very good sightings of smaller family units ranging between ten to fifteen elephants per herd. With all the food and water available, the bigger herds have started splitting up into smaller units, much the same as with the buffalo herds. We also had a few nice sized bulls moving through the area, following the scent of the female herds. There were also a lot of young males moving around on their own. This is not uncommon, as they are pushed out of the herds from the age of between 12-17 years.
This would have to be seeing the two Tsalala lionesses and their four little cubs. It was really lovely to see these newest additions. They were joined by one of the Majingi male lions, just to complete the pride.
Did you know?
The heart of an elephant weighs between 20-30 kilograms and beats an estimated 25-30 times per minute.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!