Elephant Plains Game Lodge
Currently Browsing: Rangers Reports

Rangers Report October 2013

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.

One of the Tsalala cubs by Dawie Jacobs

One of the Tsalala cubs by Dawie Jacobs

Leopards

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.

Dark maned Majingi male by Dawie Jacobs

Dark maned Majingi male by Dawie Jacobs

Lion

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.

Buffaloes

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.

Giant plated lizzard by Dawie Jacobs

Giant plated lizzard by Dawie Jacobs

Elephants

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.

Wild dog by Dawie Jacobs

Wild dog by Dawie Jacobs

Special sighting

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!

Morné Fouché

 


Rangers Report September 2013

Summer is here to stay! Even though the first of September officially signals the start of spring, the past few weeks made me think that we skipped that season and jumped right into summer. We had a lot of hot days, with temperatures that went into the high thirties! The average maximum temperature for September was 30°C and we had our first summer rains, with 19 millimetres measured. With all these hot days, we also experienced a few cool, windy, cloudy days in between. We can also see the bush changing, as there are new green leaves and flowers appearing on some of the trees. When driving on the higher areas of the reserve, you can see the bright green colours of the leaves and also some beautiful, yellow flowers of the Knobthorn trees. It’s not going to be long before the pale, yellow grass is replaced by the beautiful green, luscious grass of summer. The game viewing did not hold back this month and we were spoiled once again. We were very fortunate to spend some time with a male cheetah and the hyena den entertained us for hours on end. There are five pups from three different litters and it was such a treat to see them all playing around the den.

Catching a lift - Hippo and terrapin by Dawie Jacobs

Catching a lift – Hippo and terrapin by Dawie Jacobs

Leopard

There was a lot of excitement with our spotted friends during the past month. Salayexe is still doing well and looking very healthy. I was fortunate to follow her while hunting; from stalking, to where she killed the bushbuck right next to our vehicle. What a sighting! If everything goes accordingly to plan, both Salayexe and Shadow should be giving birth during the next month or two. We can’t wait to see these little furry bundles. Shadow was seen more often during the month, but she still avoids us if she does not want to be seen, living up to her name. We’ve noticed that Shadow is looking at expanding her territory a little bit more east, into her mother’s most western boundary. We saw Moya a few times, but without the cubs, which is understandable as the little ones are very young. We still have our fingers crossed that she will come and show them to us, which should now only be a matter of time. Kwatile was also out and about this last month, but was not seen that often. She is still scent marking a lot and she was very vocal during the times we did see her. Nsele was also seen a few times. She is a beautiful cat and as she is getting older, she is starting to look more and more like her father, Tyson. It was good to see that she is still lactating. As she has suckle marks, it proves that she still has her cubs. Xivambalana and Wabayiza, the two young males in the east, are getting bigger and bolder as they are starting to scent mark in their father’s territory. I think their time is slowly coming to an end before Mvula chases them out to go and look for their own territories. Mvula was really quiet this month. He spent most of his time in the northern parts of his territory, which is out of our traversing area. Lamula was once again all over the show and is also looking to expand his territory more north and also west into Tingana’s territory. These two big males have met a few times in the past and believe me, there are more battles on the way. Tingana lived up to his name this last month. He was very shy and whenever he was spotted, he’d move out of the open and into the thickets. This big brut was in another fight. We are still unsure who his opponent was, as we only saw a few new cuts and scars on his face.

Golden brown baboon spider by Dawie Jacobs

Golden brown baboon spider by Dawie Jacobs

Lion

It was a very sad time for the Styx pride as the old lady, Gogi, which means grandmother, passed away. She had a good run these past 17 years, but we could see that her age was catching up with her this past month. She started leaving the pride on a regular basis. She most probably knew her time was near and that she was holding the rest of the pride back. She was a great legend and a worrier and will be dearly missed. The rest of the Styx pride is still looking good and feeding well. The two young males are growing up very fast and they are looking gorgeous, with their manes growing larger by the day. They are almost three years old now. Time is running out before they would have to leave the pride. We also had the older Tsalala lionesses around our lodge this month, together with one of the Majingi male lions. To our surprise, the sub-adult Tsalala lioness joined up with her mother and aunt and the Majingi male did nothing to her. We are keeping our fingers crossed that they will now accept her. If she could stay with the pride, the two older ladies would only benefit as the youngster could take her grandmother’s place and help with hunting etc. This just shows how the circle of life continues. When BB was still around, they did not want to accept her and now all of a sudden she seems to have found a safe haven. We have not seen the new members of the Tsalala pride, but we know there are four cubs and we can’t wait for their first visit. As for the four Breakaway Tsalala lionesses and the nine cubs, we haven’t seen them very often this month. Hopefully, during the next few months, this young pride will grace us with their presence more often. The Nkuhuma male lion was also seen a few times this month, moving around a lot. We also saw him feasting on a wildebeest kill. Being a young male, nomadic and alone, he has to try and avoid the big Matimba male lions of the north and also the big Majingi male lions of the south. Speaking of which, we were very fortunate to see some of the Majingi males, although we never saw all four of them together. Each time we saw them, it was one male with females, or two of them walking together. This might be due to the size of their territory. With such a big territory, they need to scent mark regularly, making sure that there are no intruders. Therefore splitting up becomes necessary.

Lamula the male leopard by Devon Bekker

Lamula the male leopard by Devon Bekker

Buffalo

The buffalo sightings were great and it was very special to have another big breeding herd move through our area. We were very fortunate to spend time with these big herds during the last few months. Bulk grazers, like the buffalo, are always on the move to get enough food for the entire herd. There were a few small calves in the herd and a lot of the females have very round bellies, which indicate that they are heavily pregnant. The gestation period for the buffaloes is 11 months. They will always try and give birth during the wet season, when food sources are generous. In my last report I mentioned that the big dominant and sub-dominant buffalo bulls left the breeding herds to fatten up and get ready for the next mating season. Well, we started seeing less bachelor herds this month, so chances are good that they are busy making their way back to the breeding herds. We still saw a big male group, but it only consisted of the old dagga boys.

Elephant

We once again had the privilege of spending time with quite a few breeding herds. Some were big and some were small, but all of them were feasting on the newly sprouted growth on the trees. One of the breeding herds we saw had a tiny baby, estimated to be a couple of weeks old. This particular herd stayed in our area for a number of days. When there is a very small elephant calf, the herd will not travel long distances, as the baby would not be able to keep up with them. At this young age he would still tire easily. It was so special to spend some time with them, especially watching the little one trying to figure out how to use its trunk and what it is really designed for. Watching mom, he would try to mimic her in everything she does. This is also how they learn what to eat and how to get it. There were a few times when mom had to gently use her trunk and move the little one out of the way, so that she could carry on feeding. The little calf was all over the show, enjoying the attention he got from all the herd members and trying to play with everyone. After running around and playing with the other herd members, he would always return to mom to quench his thirst. When a breeding herd has a few small babies, everyone looks after them. The older siblings would take turns with babysitting duty until mom has finished eating.

Zebra by Dawie Jacobs

Zebra by Dawie Jacobs

Special sighting

Tingana, our dominant male leopard, killed a female impala and hoisted it into a big marula tree next to the road, to keep it safe from other predators. At least, that’s what he thought… After having a good feast, he left the kill in the tree and came down to rest on the ground. After a while one of the Majingi male lions came walking down the road, straight towards Tingana and his kill. Luckily for Tingana, the wind changed direction and he got the scent of the male lion sneaking closer. Like a rocket he ran for cover before the big male lion could get hold of him. The Majingi male did not even attempt to run after him as he was too preoccupied with the kill in the tree. He circled the tree a few times and then, without warning, took a massive jump and started climbing towards the kill. The funniest part was watching him, inching forward on his belly on an extremely thin branch, while pushing himself forward with his hind legs. He looked very unsure of himself. After getting the kill he had to do this process all over again, but this time backwards and with the impala in his mouth. He made it three quarters down the tree when he suddenly lost his footing and came crashing down head first, burying his nose in the ground. We could not contain ourselves after this sight and were laughing so much! This whole process took about 25-30 minutes and it must be one of my highlights at Elephant Plains thus far. It just shows that where there is a will, there is a way! Now that is what I call working hard for your food, even if you did not catch it yourself.

Did you know?

The Cape porcupine is the largest rodent in the Southern African sub-region.

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

Morné Fouché


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


Rangers Report July 2013

Driving through the bush you can see that the seasons are changing. During the days, temperatures are mild and pleasant, but as soon as the sun goes down we still reach for our jackets. We also had a few cold fronts that moved through our area. Hopefully this was the last bit of winter chill. The average maximum temperature for the month was 24 °C and we also had 11mm of rain. If we talk about the quality of game viewing for July, I would have to say that it was even better than the previous month! We had some awesome wild dog and cheetah sightings and then some more…We regularly saw lions on kills and saw both lions and leopards mating. Most of the small waterholes have now dried up completely and others have turned into mud baths for elephants, buffalo and warthogs alike. The bigger dams are holding water quite nicely though and the animals really enjoyed utilizing the waterhole in front of the camp, making for excellent Africam viewing.

Side-striped Jackal – by Dawie Jacobs

Leopards

The leopard sightings were just mind blowing and we had such a blast with all the leopards in our area! Let’s start off with Salayexe. She at last mated with Tingana, the dominant male in her area. When we saw the two together, it was such a magnificent and fantastic sighting.

Tingana and Salayexe mating – by Dawie Jacobs

We keep our fingers crossed that she conceived and that her next litter will make it to adulthood. Shadow came back to this side after mating with Mvula, the big male leopard in the east, who also killed her cubs. She then also mated with Tingana. The reason why she did this seemingly unique thing is because her territory overlaps these two big males’ territories. In doing so, both the males will accept the cubs as their own and will not kill them. If all goes well during the next few months, Shadow and Salayexe should give birth a week or two apart. I think all of us are already counting off the days in excitement, although we will only know later on if both are indeed pregnant. We also got word that young Moya is a mother of two small cubs. We are so exited and can’t wait for her to bring the cubs over into our area. When leopard cubs reach the age of about two months, they are big enough two keep up with mum and she will fetch and take them to kills. Kwatile is in a really good condition and we frequently saw her patrolling and scent marking her territory. Like I mentioned in my last report, the stage is set for Tingana and the young males looking to claim his territory. Well, Tingana and the one young male had a stand-off in Tingana’s territory this month. The tension was high and testosterone levels even higher! The young male stood his ground and he looked really impressive. He even seemed to be taller than Tingana. But the most important ingredient was missing: confidence. Tingana had plenty of confidence and during the standoff you could see that he was the boss as he slowly, but surely pushed the youngster out of his area. The standoff lasted only a day, but that was enough to persuade the youngster to leave for now. This was not the last power struggle for Tingana, though. The next evening he came across Lamula, eating a big warthog kill and he was challenged again. Both heavyweights left the warthog kill that was on the ground and focused on each other, walking side by side while continuously growling. The end result was that Tingana dominated once again, but later lost the kill to hyenas. Although Tingana won these two challenges, it was definitely not the last. He can be sure to be challenged a lot more in the near future.

Elephants drinking water – by Dawie Jacobs

Lions

These sightings were also out of this world, with lots of action and excitement. The three older Tsalala lionesses and the sub adult lioness are still looking great and also feeding well. The one older lioness looks pregnant, as she is much fatter than the other two ladies. It also looks like her milk glands are slightly swollen. If their numbers can increase by a few more, it would be really good news for this small pride. The black maned Majingi male lion still doesn’t accept the sub adult lioness and chases her around every time he joins up with the pride. The only logical explanation for this would be that he is not her father. The Styx pride is also looking fantastic, including the old lioness, considering her age. One of the other lionesses of the pride was seen mating with one of the Matimba male lions. As her four cubs are now between 2-3 years old, it is about time for her to come into oestrus again. One thing that is a bit worrying for us at this stage is that the Matimba males are pushing more south. They have mated with one of the Styx pride lionesses as well. As the Styx pride mostly walks with the Majingi males, she would need to mate with them as well, sooner rather than later. Lion females are actually very clever in this way. There have been reports of prides taken over by new males, where the females that were pregnant with the old males’ cubs, went into a false oestrus cycle and mated with the new males, giving birth a short while later. The new males accepted the cubs as their own, when they in fact belonged to the old males. The main problem with the four Majingi male lions is that they have such a big territory and in that massive area they have a lot of females. At this stage it looks like they can’t get to all the females, unless they split up. By splitting up, however, they become very easy targets for younger males. Let’s hope that this doesn’t leave them too vulnerable and that they would stay dominant for another few years, siring a lot more cubs.

Buffaloes

Tsalala female feeding – by Dawie Jacobs

We had lovely buffalo sightings, including some beautiful big herds. When you look at a herd of feeding buffaloes, you will see that they normally choose the taller grass first. They wrap their tongues around the grass then pull it into their mouths, using the bottom teeth to cut the grass. Buffaloes play a very important role in the savannah grazing succession, by keeping the length of the grass to a more preferred height for other selective grazers. Buffaloes normally don’t stay in one area for too long, before moving on again. When the herds move through an area, they trample on a lot of the vegetation and then rarely return to that same area for a while. In one of the herds we saw a female with a few scrape marks on both her sides. There is only one animal brave enough to take on a buffalo and leave their mark: a lion. She was lucky enough to escape the claws of death, though. We also saw a nice bachelor herd of about fifteen males of different ages, mostly resting close to, or inside the waterholes. The old dagga boys are also around and some of the older males have joined forces with other bachelor herds.

Elephants

We had some wonderful elephant sightings and they were not at all shy to grace us with their presence. I think the amount of elephants that we see has a lot to do with the abundance of certain vegetation in our area. The trees that elephants are focusing on at the moment are the Bush Willow species, Round Leaf Teak, Acacia trees and the Wild Date Palms that grow in the riverside areas. The elephants will focus more on trees during the winter months. About 90% of their diet during winter will consist of trees and 98% of their diet in the summer months will be grass. There are a lot more nutrients in grass. When elephants target the trees, you will find that they can be quite destructive, as they push over the trees to get to the roots of the tree. They will also sometimes strip the bark of the tree in order to get to the cambium layer. The cambium layer is situated on the inside of the bark. It is responsible for transporting nutrients and sugars from the roots to the leaves. We call the phenomenon of bark stripping, ring barking. When a tree has lost a certain amount of bark, it would unfortunately die because of damage to the cambium layer. When the elephants push over trees, it helps some of the smaller browsing animals to get access to the juicier leaves, usually situated more to the top of the tree.

Male Cheetah – by Dawie Jacobs

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was to see Mvula, Lamula, Xivambalana and the Ostrich Koppies female, all in one sighting with an impala kill in a tree. What was so amazing to see was that all four leopards ate from the same impala kill!

Did you know?

A hippo can stay submerged for between 6-8 minutes.

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

Morné Fouché


Rangers Report June 2013

This was a nice, but also a cold month! As we are already in the middle of winter this calls for gloves, scarves and beanies. The game drives are at their coldest during dusk and dawn. We had a few cold fronts that moved through the area and this made the morning drives extremely cold. The average maximum temperature this month was 25°C and we did not have any rain. The day temperatures were pleasant, until the sun disappeared behind the mountains in the late afternoons. This is when the blankets on the game drive vehicles come in very handy! We once again had some awesome game viewing this month. The nightlife was especially good. Maybe this had something to do with the lower temperatures, or the fact that the sun is setting so much earlier. We also had some lovely wild dog and cheetah sightings. Unfortunately, we also had some sad moments this month, which I will tell you more about later on…

Mvula - by Louis Liversage

Mvula – by Louis Liversage

Leopards

The leopard sightings overall was really good this month, but it was also a sad month filled with heartache and pain for us. As most of you already know, Salayexe’s female cub was killed at the beginning of the month. This was a big shock to all of us. I think it’s safe to say that there was not one person who was not heartbroken on that day. The saddest part for me was to see Salayexe going back several times to the area where the cub was killed. She would call to the cub, walk around and call again, hoping to see the little one jumping out from behind a tree or bush like she so often did… That little rascal managed to sneak into the hearts of all the staff and many guests alike that stayed at the lodge. So many times we find ourselves talking about her and all the funny stuff she did as well as the games her and mum played. All the good times that we shared while watching them.

This little cat was larger than life itself and she will live on in our hearts for many years to come. Just when we thought it could not get any worse, the unthinkable happened. Mvula, the dominant male from the east, stumbled upon Shadow and her cubs on a kill. Mvula killed both cubs and we saw him walking away with one cub in his mouth. He actually took it up a tree and started feeding on it. Poor Shadow, there wasn’t much she could have done against this big male leopard. It is common that new dominant males or even young males would kill cubs that they did not sire. The female will come into oestrus much quicker and he does not have to wait for about 2 years, when the cubs normally leave their mother. Shadow also went back and forth from the area where her cubs were killed, contact calling a lot for a few days. We can only imagine what goes through their minds when something like this happens.

Baby ellie - by Morné Fouché

Baby ellie – by Morné Fouché

Shadow already started mating this month, which is even sooner than Salayexe. We saw her and Mvula together for a few days, so hopefully she is smart and will mate with Tingana as well, as he is the dominant male in her main territory. If she mates with both the males, both males will accept the cubs as their own and would leave them alone. Some better news was that we saw Nsele more than previous months and she turned out to be a beautiful female, just like her mother, Salayexe. Moya was also seen a few times doing her territorial calling and scent marking all over her area. Both her and Nsele are now of age to have their first litter, so won’t that be a spectacular sight to see! Tingana has big problems on his hands as there is a really big young male, about 5 years old, moving into his territory. Besides this new young brut of a male, there is also another young male who also moves around in Tingana’s territory. We can only wait and see how this will play out. Will we get a new dominant male or will Tingana show the youngster who‘s the boss? In short, we can say the stage is set for some action! Lamula is looking really good and he is getting bigger by the day as his face is getting wider and rounder and his chest is getting more bulky.

Lions

In regards to the lion sightings, it was just out of this world and there was really no shortage of lions! We had a surprise visit from one of the two older Nkuhuma male lions feasting on a big buffalo bull kill when the Styx pride showed up. If I must say so myself, he did a good job in defending his kill as he was seen chasing the Styx pride around. This young male is really looking good and when you look at his long body it’s almost a mirror image of his dad, the old Nkuhuma male. We haven’t seen his brother yet and the last time we saw him, he still had an injured leg and it didn’t look comfortable to live with at all. The Styx pride had lost the last of the three smaller cubs in the pride. We are still unsure of what happened to the little one because when we saw the pride, the oldest lioness was eating the dead cub. The four sub-adult lions of the Styx pride are doing well and they are already taking part in the hunts and with them helping, the old lady can hang back and take it easy. The old lioness of the pride should be around 17 years old now and her age is starting to show as she is always lagging behind and trying to rest ever so often when she gets the chance. The two sub adult males are looking gorgeous with their manes that’s getting bigger and thicker day by day. Well, these two young boys will soon be kicked out by the four Majingi male lions and then their nomadic lives will begin. They need to feed themselves, avoid other big males and stay out of harm’s way until they are big and strong enough to one day get a pride for themselves. It was such a beautiful sight to see BB with her older daughters and the sub adult lioness of the Tsalala pride all together. These three big lionesses are still looking magnificent and then the young sub adult lioness also looks very healthy and she’s getting bigger and bigger day by day. The one daughter of BB looks to be in oestrus as she was followed by the black maned Majingi male lion. They will stay together for about 5-7 days and mate at least 50 times a day. If everything goes well she’ll have cubs in about 110 days.

Buffaloes

Wild dog - by Morné Fouché

Wild dog – by Morné Fouché

We had some big breeding herds this month that came into our area. Just as the one herd moved out of the area, the next group would come in and stay for a while before moving off again. After the herds moved through the area, we started seeing more bulls that stayed behind in small bachelor units. With the big herds moving through, the lions followed and watched their every move. There were also smaller herds that broke away from the big herds. The reason for smaller herds forming might be because the lions chased them at some stage and managed to split the herd. There were a few casualties this month as the Styx pride had their share of buffalo meat, the Tsalala pride took down a young male and also the Nkuhuma male feasted on a nice big male buffalo. When the big herds move around, they draw a lot of attention to themselves. Although they also have a unique social structure and will help each other when in need, it does not always work. When one buffalo gives the distress call, a mobbing attack can be triggered and the herd will come back in numbers to try and help the distressed buffalo. If they are successful in chasing off the predators, they will bunch together with the injured one in the middle of the group till he is strong enough to move again and rejoin the herd.

Elephants

Salayexe - Morné Fouché

Salayexe – Morné Fouché

Similar to last month, the elephants are still quite abundant in the area – you can’t throw a stone without hitting one. This has made bush walks a challenge and we’ve had to get quite creative to try and keep out of the way of the breeding herds. The last thing you would want to do is to surprise a breeding herd of elephant and upset the matriarch, who can be temperamental at times. Elephants are contact animals with a very unique and social herd structure. A breeding herd of elephants consists of closely related females like mothers and their daughters, sisters and aunts. Family members will often touch each other while standing, resting or even while drinking water. They will also lean or rub their bodies together. When two family groups meet there will be a lot of vocalization between them with tummy rumbles and sometimes trumpeting. With the greeting ceremony, elephants will sometimes use their trunks and put it into the mouth of the other one. This might have derived from elephant calves that would put their trunks into their mother’s mouths in order to get some chewed food from her. Mothers will also use their trunks to guide the little ones in the right directions and will make use of their trunk or a foot rub to reassure the baby that everything is fine. Mothers will also use the trunk to discipline the youngster with a slap on the backside if needed.

Special sightings

The special sighting of the month was to see the four Majingi male lions feeding on a buffalo bull which they stole from the Tsalala lionesses. It was very special to see the big males together again!

Did you know?

A male lion on a kill can eat up to 25% of his own body weight in one go.

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

Morné Fouché


« Previous Entries Next Entries »

Copyright 2011 © Elephant Plains | Powered by Dumel