I can’t believe that this is the last month of the year and it is time to say goodbye to a wonderful 2013. It feels like the year started just yesterday, but we are welcoming 2014 with open arms! By leaving 2013 behind, we are left with wonderful memories of all the awesome adventures we had in the bush… This past month, we had a lot of very hot days where temperatures pushed up into the high thirties so the immense amount of 227mm rain we had during December, was a huge welcome. The average maximum temperature this month was 30°C, which was accompanied by some very humid days. The game viewing was really good and we couldn’t ask for a better way to end the year. We were very fortunate to see the illusive pangolin foraging the one evening and we had some of the best wild dog and cheetah sightings ever. It just shows you, when you think you have seen it all, think again. The bush always has something new and exciting to offer!
We had unbelievable leopard sightings this last month and we can once again call it a “spotted” month. Salayexe is still looking great and she surprised us all when we saw her mating with the young Robson’s male this month. If she was pregnant at the time she mated with this particular male, it would help a bit with the survival of the cubs as he would be under the impression that the cubs are his own. We will have to wait and see. Talking about cubs, one of the rangers followed Shadow one afternoon when she took him straight to her den site. Upon approach, she started calling softly to the cubs and out of the thickets came two little bundles of fluff. It is therefore now confirmed that she gave birth to two cubs and we estimate them to have been between 5-6 weeks old around 22 December. If all goes well, we will start viewing them in January, thereby giving them some more alone time as a new family. Thandi and her son, Bawuti, are also looking good and they were seen quite a lot this past month. It is also not going to be too long before he needs to start looking after himself when his mother pushes him out of her territory. Kwatile was also seen a few times, although not as often as normally. Nsele was also seen and every time we see her she is prettier; looking more and more like her father, Tyson. We also saw Moya mating with Lamula. After seeing her mating, a few red lights went off in our heads, as she is supposed to still have cubs, unless she lost them. Only time will tell what happened here. Lamula was seen on a regular basis. He is in the best shape of his life thus far and still expanding his territory more north. Tingana is getting much more relaxed with the vehicles around him, but sometimes he really lives up to his name, which means “the shy one”. With Mvula we could see a definite change in his behaviour, as he does not go into Tingana’s territory to expand any further.
The lion sightings this month were once again out of this world. The Styx pride is still healthy and looking good. The two boys are getting bigger and looking gorgeous with their manes, which is getting fuller by the day. The lioness with the new little cubs is also looking very healthy, although she needs to eat twice as much to provide her cubs with much needed milk. She spends a lot of her time with the pride and then once a day she leaves the pride to go to the cubs, which are safely hidden in the den site, only to return to the pride again. We also had a great sighting of the Fourway pride. We saw two sub adult males and what looked like two adult lionesses. This pride is coming in more west than normally, straight into the Styx pride’s territory, but so far they are avoiding each other as far as they can. Saying this, the time will come when these two prides will have to face each other as they are starting to use parts of the same area. We did not see the Nkuhuma male a lot this last month, but the sightings that we had of him were just awesome. Some days I wonder how different things would have been if his brother was still alive. They would have been two impressive males. Being a solitary male between two territories that are guarded by big coalitions of males makes it very difficult. You will never have a pride of your own. The four Majingi male lions came into the area the one evening and stayed for a while before moving on. This was the first sighting of all four males walking together and scent marking their boundaries in a very long time. The first thing I noticed, whilst spending time with them, was that there has been a shift in dominance between the males. Black Mane was always the more dominant male of the Majingilane coalition as he also mated with the majority of the females. Well, the new dominant male seems to be Pretty Boy. We could see this in his behavior and also his posture. When they drank water, Black Mane waited for Pretty Boy to quench his thirst, before he came to drink. We also saw Black Mane approaching Pretty Boy, lying down next to him. Pretty Boy stood up and mounted Black Mane as a sign of dominance. The other two males, Smudge and Hip Scar, are also looking very good.
We did not have the big herds in our area this month as they already moved on to greener pastures somewhere else. The big herds move to areas with enough food and also water supplies that can sustain the whole herd. When food and water is plentiful in the rainy season, it also becomes baby season for the buffaloes, with lots of little calves running around. With all the hot summers days that we had this month, you did not really have to go far to look for the dagga boys, as they would be resting in a waterhole or mud wallow to seek refuge against the harsh African sun. We have noticed a lot of older bulls this month, compared to last month. I think what might have happened was that the dominant males that have returned to the breeding herds, pushed out the older competition.
We were so fortunate with all the wonderful elephant sightings that we had over this past month. Some days it was so good that you were spoiled for choice as to which elephant herd to respond to, as they were around every corner. We also had a lot of entertaining sightings with the babies playing around in the mud puddles and water pools. Now that there is an abundance of food and water supplies everywhere, the elephant herds do not stay in the same area to feed and drink from one source over a long period of time. They move around quite a bit between all the different water pools which have formed with the rain and the obvious lush, green grass that comes with that. We also saw about eight different adult bulls moving through our area, following the breeding herds. The young bulls kept us entertained with their play-fighting. When two young bulls play-fight, they actually test each other’s strength and therefore, if they meet again as adults, they will not have any urge to fight as they will already know which one is the stronger and more superior male.
The special sighting this month was to see a pangolin foraging out in the open. This shy animal did not have a care in the world and it was a treat to see this very illusive animal being so relaxed with us around him.
Did you know?
Although it has the appearance of a reptile, a pangolin is actually a mammal.
I hope you enjoyed the last report for 2013 and hope to see you out on game drive during the New Year!