This month started on a high, with a few surprises in store for us. The day temperatures were not too bad as it was in the high twenties to low thirties, with an average maximum of 30°C. We also had a few spells of very welcomed rain, 73mm in total. We were very fortunate to have the pack of wild dogs stay in our area for a while. One day we followed the tracks of a big crocodile coming into our area, straight to one of the waterholes where we found him waiting for his first meal! It’s very nice to have gained a nice sized crocodile in one of our waterholes, but that can change at any time, as crocodiles prefer flowing to standing water.
The leopard sightings were really unbelievable this month. Salayexe was a bit quiet, though. We still saw her a few times, but not as often as we normally do. We heard her a lot, as she was very vocal but then her tracks would lead us into the thickets, this tells me only one thing: she’s looking for a den site. At this stage it is very difficult to say who the father of the unborn cubs is, as she mated with a few different males. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that Salayexe will raise this litter to adulthood. Shadow and her two cubs were also out and about and they had a big male impala kill that they enjoyed feeding on for a few days. The two little ones are not the most relaxed cubs I’ve seen, but they will get there, as all they need is time and patience from our side. With these little ones it might take a little longer that normal, as the mother leopard plays a massive roll in the habituation process of the cubs. If she is a relaxed leopard, her cubs would follow suit and vice versa. As you know, she isn’t called Shadow for nothing! Kwatile was seen a few times this month and she still has suckle marks, so her cub or cubs are still alive. One good thing is that she comes into our area more and more to hunt, which is a good sign. If she makes a kill, she might bring the cubs for us to see. Moya was also seen a few times close to our Southern boundary. It is still unclear if her cub is still alive or not. The power shifts with both the Anderson’s and Robson’s males, looking to expand more into Lamula’s area, might be the reason why she keeps them hidden. The young male, Xivambalana, still has no plans of leaving his father’s territory as he still hunts and feeds well in the area that is familiar to him. The young Robson’s male is still moving over the whole area and has no respect for any boundary as he was seen scent marking in Lamula and Tingana’s territories. By the looks of things, this young male wants to set up his area right between these two heavyweights’ territories. This young male does not lack confidence, but to be over eager can cost you your life in the bush! Let’s wait and see how this unfolds. Lamula is becoming my favourite male leopard and he is so relaxed with the vehicles. When I look back to how far he’s come and what it took to get there, you have to admire him as it was a tough stretch for him. The first time I saw him he had had a run-in with the legend, Mafufunyana. Although Mafufunyana was the dominant male, the youngster showed a lot of character and courage to stand up against this big warrior. Then it was Mvula that stood in his way and look at him now, he is a force to be reckoned with! Anderson still has his sights set on Tingana’s prime real-estate, with good hunting grounds and a few ladies. They had another stand-off, but with no fighting this time around. I think that Anderson is waiting for the right moment to strike. Tingana is still looking good and eating very well as he even killed a wildebeest female that was most probably around 240 kilograms in weight! This shows that Tingana is now in the prime of his life.
The lion sightings this month were magical! The Styx pride had a few ups and downs over these last few years and things did not go their way at all, but let’s just hope that that stays in the past. The Styx pride is yet another few babies richer, as the other adult lioness also gave birth this month. It is still unclear how many little ones she has, as we just heard the little rascals calling for mum from the safety of their den site. We will leave them at peace for the next two months, so that mother and babies can bond before we will open it up, start with the habituation process and make it an active sighting for the world to see. The female with the three older cubs is also looking good and the cubs are already active and very adventurous. When mum and her babies are found, only one vehicle may view them for a period of 10-15 minutes at a time. The four sub adult lions of the Styx pride are really looking good and still eating well. At this stage they still join up with the two adult lionesses, but leave them again when they go hunting. The two sub adult male’s future still looks rosy. With the absence of their fathers from the area, they will stay with the pride for as long as possible. Normally they would have been pushed out already, but the Majingi male lions have not been with the pride for a very long time. We also got a very nice surprise the one morning when we followed the tracks of a few lions. We eventually found them late that morning. It was what looked like three adult lioness and two sub adult cubs and these tracks belonged to the Nkuhuma pride. It was very nice to have them in our area for a while, as we do not see this pride too often. I must say, they are really looking good and very healthy. The Majingi male lions have kept a very low profile and we haven’t seen them this past month.
Although we had nice buffalo sightings this last month, there is still no sign on the big breeding herds. The breeding herds will return in a few months, when food sources get scarcer and this is normally around May. For now these bulk grazers will take their time to get here as there is a lot of water and food for them along the way. We had some great sightings with the lazy old men or “Dagga boys” as they are also called. They spend a lot of their time soaking up the sun, rolling in the mud, or resting inside the waterholes to try and get some relief from the hot days. The biggest group of males we saw was close to ten, but you normally only find between one and four males travelling together. It’s also these smaller groups that the lions would target, as there are fewer horns to watch out for.
There was no shortage of elephant sightings during February! As we are slowly reaching the end of the marula fruiting season, it forces the elephants to move around a lot more, in search of the last fruits. Another tree that had fruit which the elephants love was the Milkberry tree, but that also came to an end. There are no more big herds as they have split up into smaller units, because there is enough food and water for them almost everywhere. We also saw a few newborn babies this month, trying to keep up with the herd or trying to work out how their trunks work. We also had a few really big male elephants working their way through the area, following the herds or even joining up with some of the herds. One big male in musth can push over about ten trees per day, not necessarily to eat it, but just to impress the ladies and show off his strength. The females on the other hand, will always go for the biggest or strongest males, as they would have stronger genes. Survival of the fittest and nature’s way of making sure the best genes possible go forward. How amazing is this world we live in?
The special sighting this month was Tingana with his adult female wildebeest kill. It is not uncommon for a big male leopard to go after bigger pray like kudu females, waterbuck females or wildebeest females. What made this sighting very special was that the next morning after he made the kill, four hyenas pulled in and had a feast. The hyenas were really gorging themselves on this wildebeest kill and all that poor Tingana could do was to keep an eye on them from a safe distance. Suddenly out of nowhere, five adult wild dogs came running towards the hyenas. The standoff between the wild dogs and the hyenas only took five minutes, as the hyenas ran for the hills as fast as they could. After the wild dogs had their fill, they moved away to go and fetch the pups. Tingana had his kill back. It does not happen often that you see three different predators eating from one kill.
Did you know?
A Wildebeest or Gnu falls into the antelope family, same as the impala.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!