Elephant Plains Game Lodge

Rangers Report April 2014

Salayexe the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Salayexe the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

During April we once again had some amazing sightings, including wild dogs hunting in our area and so much more! With the seasons changing, we’ve reached that special time of the year when all the male antelope, like the impala, show off their strength. Yes, believe it or not, it is the rutting season again. As the rutting season is almost in full swing, the air is filled with fiery tempers and bodies pumped full of testosterone. The impala males will all compete in this epic battle to win over as many females as possible, before the mating season. For these males, all that matters is eliminating or out-whiting their opponents with strength, agility and speed. This time of the year, you will find that predators kill a lot more males than females, as they are so focused on fighting that they let their guard down, not concentrating on their surroundings. The weather was also up and down, as the day temperatures were sometimes cool and then hot again. Some mornings and evenings were very cold and we decided to get the blankets out of storage, as this will be an early winter with all the water in the veld. So guests would be treated to blankets and hot water bottles during the cold morning start. The average maximum temperature was 27 ?C with no rain this month. As the sun rises later in the morning and sets earlier in the evening, we also changed our morning and afternoon game drive times. Guest will now have an extra 30 minutes in the morning to snuggle up in bed, as the morning game drive now departs at 06:00 and the afternoon game drives start at 15:30.

Leopard

Elephant bull by Morné Fouché

Elephant bull by Morné Fouché

Overall the leopard sightings were really good this month and we could clearly see that there are big changes happening. With all the good sightings we had, there was also a very sad incident with one of the leopards in our area. Wabayiza, the young sub-adult male, was attacked by the Styx lion pride the one morning during game drive and suffered severe injuries, resulting in him passing away that same evening. This young leopard will be missed and it is sad that his life was cut short, because I think he would have achieved great things in the years to come. This is nature though and we don’t always understand how it works, but in a bizarre way you come to accept the brutality between these animals. In their world there is a motto of kill, or be killed. This is a battle that has been going on between predators since the dawn of time and this rivalry will always go on… Salayexe was seen a few times this last month and she still has suckle marks to show that the little ones are alive. We are still not too sure how many babies she’s got and where her den site is. She might regularly move the cubs to another den site, to avoid attracting unwanted attention to the helpless cubs. All that we know is that it can’t be too far away from camp as she is regularly spotted in the vicinity. Shadow was very shy this month and we just saw tracks of her and the cubs moving all over the area. Thandi was also seen a few times this month. She was also seen mating with Mvula, the big male leopard. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she conceived and that we will see more baby leopards in the next few months. Kurula and her two boys were also seen this month and it is really strange to see the size difference between the two brothers, no wonder everyone thought it was a male and female cub. Xivambalana, the young male leopard, is still looking good and still has no plans of moving out of his father’s territory. It will not be long from now before Mvula will step in and make sure that his son gets the message that he is no longer welcome in his territory. Mvula is still looking as impressive as ever, but don’t really venture into Tingana’s territory anymore, so it is unclear if they had another encounter, or are just respecting each other’s boundaries. Talking about respecting boundaries, the young Robson’s male is moving around and making kills within Tingana and Lamula’s territories. Everything looks to be changing now, as Anderson and Tingana are also expanding their territories. With these new changes that are happening, it is now putting Lamula between a rock and a hard place, forcing him more south. It will be really interesting to follow their movements these next few months and see how these three males will sort each other out.

Kurula's male cub by Louis Liversage

Kurula’s male cub by Louis Liversage

Lions

We were really spoiled with all the lion sightings that we had. The Styx pride is still looking good and very healthy. They are also eating well. We are getting used to the idea of the Styx pride settling down in our area, as they very seldom move south over our southern boundary. This change has to do with the cubs, as they do not belong to the Manjingi male lions and these males will kill them the moment they get hold of them. The sub adult males are also benefiting. This gives them more time with the pride as their fathers rarely move this far north and will therefore not kick them out of the pride for now. This pride had a rude awakening when they walked into all four Manjingi males one night and it resulted in the entire pride splitting up for a few days. The four Manjingi males did not stay for very long after chasing the Styx pride around, they just scent marked their area and then moved back south. The four lionesses and nine cubs of the Breakaway pride were also seen around our camp and on our airstrip. One morning we saw them finishing their aardvark kill, which they caught the previous night. They are really growing fast and looking healthy and the cubs appear to be five females and four males. If all five females survive, this will be an enormous pride and a force to reckon with. We also saw Solo, the male, but only for a short period as he moved out of our area again to meet up with his partner. We were also very fortunate to see the big male of the Matimba coalition, who came in and marked his territory. The Nkuhuma male is also back in our area and it looks like he is here to stay. One evening, we heard a lion’s roar echoing through the night. The next morning on closer inspection we found male lion tracks close to our lodge. We eventually found the man behind the voice and tracks and to our surprise, it was the Nkuhuma male, scent marking all over, accompanied by one of the Styx females.

Buffalo

Buffalo bull by Dawie Jacobs

Buffalo bull by Dawie Jacobs

The big herds of buffaloes are still nowhere to be found, but we still had good buffalo sightings. The buffalo bulls are still out and about and they are still hanging out around the waterholes. It is not going to be too long before the big herds make their way through our area as the grass is slowly drying out. We are also getting ready for the dagga boys and maybe also some breeding herds to visit the water hole on our open area in front of the lodge. There is nothing to describe the excitement when a big breeding herd arrives on the open area to have a drink, while guest are sitting around the pool, or having lunch!

Elephants

Once again, an amazing month for elephant sightings! From the word go, we had some of the best sightings we’ve had this year! There are still a lot of water puddles everywhere in the bush after the March rains, so the herds do not have to walk long distances to one specific water source to drink. Although there is still a lot of water, the seasons are changing and therefore the grass is slowly losing their bright green colour to a paler yellow. The smaller breeding herds are also joining the bigger herds to form big breeding herds, as they normally do during the winter months. When food get scarcer, elephant herds merge to follow the matriarch, who will lead the herd to food, water and mineral supplies.

Kurula's male cub by Louis Liversage

Kurula’s male cub by Louis Liversage

Special Sighting

What a treat it was to see the four Majingi male lions together, resting in the open plains. It is always great to see these big worriers with their scarred faces, a proven result of all the fights they’ve been in! Every scar tells a unique story, the fight for territory and dominance!

Did you know?

Did you know that an adult male baboon has longer canine teeth than an adult male lion?

I hope to see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

One Response to “Rangers Report April 2014”

  1. Jeannie says:

    Hi everyone,

    Can anyone tell me if the one eyed lepoard is still around, she was still catching her own food when we last came to visit 2011. ( Louie was our ranger) It would be great to hear if she is still alive, any news would be appreciated.

    We are hoping to come for another visit next year.

    Kind Regards,

    Jean Ward

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