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Rangers Report December 2012

It’s just so unreal to think that this is my last report for the year 2012. Well, what can I say? All great things must come to an end, but the memories of the past year will always remain with us. It might be the end of the year, but this is not the end of the wonderful sightings and amazing experiences that the bush has to offer and now we have 2013 to look forward to! This last month was once again very busy, with exciting and special moments. There’s never a dull moment!  We were again very fortunate to see the wild dogs that come into our area quite regularly. These magnificent animals have made sure to provide some amazing sightings for our guests. They made a kill the one morning as we followed them and it soon turned out that we were not the only ones following them. Two hyenas came charging in to steal the kill from the pack of wild dogs, but the wild dogs didn’t give it to them on a platter.  After a fight the hyenas left with the kill, but also had a few wounds to show. Hyenas are much stronger than wild dogs and if their numbers are correct, then it is quite easy to steal a kill. The average maximum temperature for the month was 33°C and we had 84mm of rain.

Redbilled Oxpecker - Morné Fouché

Redbilled Oxpecker - Morné Fouché

Leopard

What a good month for leopard sightings!  Salayexe and her little one is looking great and they provided us with a lot of action, fun and laughter. The cub is really growing fast in size and confidence with the vehicles. The two went on a stroll the one afternoon when suddenly Salayexe ran off into the bush with the cub short on her tail. Then a grey duiker female came running out with Salayexe hot in pursuit, but she was too far behind and couldn’t catch the grey duiker. On her way back we heard a commotion and then the distress call of a grey duiker echoed through the trees. Salayexe jogged into the direction of the sound, with us following her. As we approached, we discovered Salayexe’s cub busy clawing and grabbing a juvenile grey duiker by the neck, eventually killing it. That was a big step for this six month old cub as the duiker was about the same size as what she is. Salayexe tried to help put the kill up in a tree, but the little one growled and hissed at mom when she got too close. She tried to put it into the tree a few times, but had no luck and decided that it’s easier to eat on the ground. Shadow is also looking good and she was seen a few times this month, but she still keeps the cubs safely hidden in the den. It’s not going to be much longer before she will move them around and show them off for the world to see. Kurula was only seen a few times this month, which is understandable as the last time she was seen she had suckle marks. We can’t wait for this next two months to go past so that we can see the little ones moving around with her. Kwatile and Ntima were keeping a low profile and we didn’t see them a lot. Moya is looking really good and she has settled in and established a territory and hopefully in the near future she will become a mother and raise her cubs here. Tingana, the dominant male of our area, has got more competition as Mvula is expanding his territory more west into Tingana’s area. These two males are about the same size, but Mvula has a lot more experience as he is older than Tingana. The pressure is building up for our big male from the east and the west, but knowing Tingana he’s definitely up for the challenge.

Knobbilled duck - Louis Liversage

Knobbilled duck - Louis Liversage

Lions

It was once again a good month for lion sightings, although some days were a bit slow. That’s the way of the bush, though. The Styx pride is still in tip-top condition, feeding well and looking good. They also came into the area this month and killed a wildebeest. It was not long before the scent of the fresh kill filled the air and hyenas picked up on the scent, homing in on the kill. What the hyenas thought will be a push over and stealing a good meal turned out not to be so easy. As the hyenas came running in while being very vocal and communicating with each other, their attack was met by four very angry lionesses charging at them and chasing them off. The small cubs of the pride are looking really good and well fed, which is great for the pride. There has been a dispute for dominance between these two predators since the dawn of time and especially now, with cubs, the females will go all out to protect them. The older Tsalala pride graced us with their presence as they stayed around our lodge and open area for a number of days. Like always, the hyenas were everywhere and in the thick of things these lionesses also had a stand-off with a few hyenas on our open area. These girls will always hold a grudge against hyenas as BB and one of her daughters both lost their tails due to attacks from hyenas. The years are really starting to show on BB’s face, but there is still a lot of fight left in this old worrier. The older daughters are also looking good and hopefully the one daughter, that was seen mating with one of the Majingi males, is pregnant again. The sub adult females in the pride is growing really fast and looking great and not long from now they will be a great asset for the pride, especially when it comes to hunting. The four Breakaway Tsalala females where a bit under the radar as we only saw them a few times during the month. They are looking good and one of the females that we saw looks pregnant as her milk glands were swollen. We are keeping our fingers crossed that things will go well for her and that we will have new cubs soon.

Buffalo

Salayexe's cub - Morné Fouché

Salayexe's cub - Morné Fouché

On the side of the buffaloes it was quiet at times. The big herds are still nowhere to be found. It can’t be too long now before they finally reach our area as there is so much lush green grass on this side. There are also enough sustainable water supplies for the big herds when they do come into our area. As with most herbivores, buffaloes also have their calves during this time of the year and I will not be surprised if the majority of the females have small calves at the moment. Luckily the old dagga boys have still been loyal like always as they were almost always in or around the waterholes, cooling down in the water and mud. The mud is not just for cooling down, though. It also gets rid of parasites as the mud dries and falls off. On one of our drives we saw a group of male buffaloes and to our surprise a few females walked with them to the waterhole to enjoy a mud bath. When mating season is over, males leave the breeding herds as they need to fatten up and get ready for the next mating season. It sometimes happens that a few females might also break away with the big boys when they go on their quest in order to get enough food and water.

Elephant

Sub-adult Nkuhuma male - Morné Fouché

Sub-adult Nkuhuma male - Morné Fouché

The majority of elephant sightings were action packed as the herds are slowly returning west from the Kruger National Park where they enjoyed the nice green Mopani tree forests. They do this yearly migration towards the end of the year during the rainy season, as soon as the Mopani trees have wonderful lush green leaves. We have seen a few big and some smaller herds and it is always nice to see 30-40 elephants moving through our area. These big heavyweights are really enjoying all the lush green vegetation that the bush has to offer. During the rainy season the elephant herds don’t have to go to the main waterholes as there is so much water around everywhere. The big males who are in musth are still in the area, walking with the herds or sometimes trailing a herd. Male elephants will go into musth for the first time at the age of 25 years, but then they are still too small in size to impress the ladies and to mate. Young males will only be big enough when they reach the age of between 37-40 years. Only then are they able to mate or compete against the other bigger and older males. When a male goes into musth their bodies will release a very high level of testosterone and they are ready to mate with the females. With this process going on it can happen that the males can get very aggressive. It’s great to see that the herds are looking good and also very healthy as they have a lot of youngsters around.

Did you know?

The collective noun for a group of Zebra is a “dazzel”.

Special sighting

The special sighting of the month was when Salayexe’s little female cub made her first real kill at only six months old!  The killing took a bit longer than normal, as she didn’t really know how it worked yet. She was unsure how to close the wind pipe or break the neck and looked at mom every now and again for guidance. She soon got a hold of it and grabbed the neck, killing the juvenile duiker.

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

Morné Fouché


Rangers Report November 2012

As we are getting closer towards the end of the year, one would think that we have seen and experienced all the interesting things the bush has to offer. But just as we think things can’t get any better, the bush spoils us with yet another great natural wonder. It is once again that  time of the year when we welcome the brand new impala, warthog and wildebeest babies! The first newborn impala was spotted on the 2nd of November and two weeks after that it looked like a baby boom with little ones running around everywhere. We are now being entertained by juvenile impalas  jumping and playing around every corner. The rainy season normally starts at the end of October, towards the beginning of November.  Then the bush undergoes a massive transformation. The pale dry bush turns to lush green and dense vegetation as far as the eye can see. When there is an abundance of food like this, the impala, warthogs and wildebeest all have enough food and therefore they would have their babies at about the same time each year. Along with the rain and the higher temperatures, we also welcomed the return of the Woodland Kingfisher and some of the other wonderful bird species that migrates to the north during our winter time. We once again had wonderful game viewing this month and the four cheetahs and the pack of wild dogs that came into our area made the drives even more interesting.  Now that we are in the full swing of summer, we had some really hot days and the average maximum temperature for the month was 31?C. Although summer is definitely here we still had some mornings that were a bit chilly, resulting in the game drive blankets once more making their way back onto the vehicles. The total rainfall for the month was 27millimeters.

Leopards                                                                              

Salayexe's cub

Salayexe's cub - by Louis Liversage

As always, we had brilliant sightings with a lot of excitement. Salayexe and her cub were seen a lot this month and the two of them are looking really good. The little one is now 5 months old and very relaxed with the vehicles.  We now allow two vehicles to view them at a time and we also started viewing the cub on her own, but just with one vehicle at a time. Yes, you read right – it is indeed a little girl! This time around it is our ranger, Richard Davis’, turn to name the cub. We will keep you posted on what he decides. The habituation process has been a huge success till now and soon we will be able to view the little one with two vehicles during the day. The cub is a little busy body and Salayexe has her hands, or paws in this case, full. Usually when the cub gets too busy mom would escape into a big tree to get some quiet time, but now the cub’s climbing skills are really good and she follows Salayexe   into the tree to continue her terrorizing onslaught. With all the juvenile impalas around, hunting is a little easier for the leopards and this is especially an advantage for mothers with small cubs as they need to hunt more than usual to feed the little mouths as well. We didn’t see Shadow on a regular basis during November, but I am sure the cubs are taking up most of her time. Leopard cubs need a lot of care and attention during the first two months as they are fully dependant on their moms. We managed to see her once or twice, moving around and hunting. Last month we were still unsure how many cubs she has. This month I can confirm that she was seen with two cubs at her den site. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that all goes well and we can have some photos to share with you when we start viewing them next month. Kurula was also keeping a low profile, but it might be that she is very close to her due date and looking for potential den sites.  Ntima, the old lady, is still going strong and looking good, but there is only one problem. Her two daughters, the Ostrich Koppies Female and Kwatile, are slowly moving into parts of her territory. As a norm, female cubs will set up a territory next to their mother’s and this will result in the mother losing part of her territory as the daughters get older, while expanding their territories even further. Moya is doing just fine and looking better than ever at this stage. She is more confident and her territory is getting bigger day by day.  The big boy, Tingana, is still looking great and it seems that he might soon have a challenger after all. There is a new male leopard that came from Ottowa, our western boundary. By the looks of it he seems dead set on stealing some of Tingana’s territory, bit by bit. He is still moving all over the area, and rarely stays for long, but his presence might signal a change in the near future. Only time will tell if these two magnificent beasts will fight for a bigger territory, or rather stay out of each other’s way, in peace and harmony.

Breakaway Tsalala pride with elephants in the background

Breakaway Tsalala pride with elephants in the background - by Morné Fouché

Lions                                                                                                                                             

Yet again, we were blown away with the most wonderful lion sightings! We had the Breakaway Tsalala lionesses in our area and were amazed by their hunting skills. They killed a wildebeest and fed well and only three days later they brought down a big male waterbuck, just behind our lodge. The best of all was when the hyenas made their appearance to try and overpower the young lionesses. These two arch enemies were entangled in a very long and vocal stand-off, where neither wanted to back off. Lions are opportunistic animals, meaning that if they are busy feeding off a kill and the opportunity presents itself to kill another animal; they will not hesitate to make another kill.  They might not start eating it right away, but would save it for later. It’s good to know these four lionesses are doing great and it just shows that their old master, BB has done a great job of raising the four youngsters. Although only two of the four are her own daughters, she raised all four as her own. BB, her older daughters and the two sub-adult cubs are also looking really good and we saw them a few times this month, but there is a cause for concern. I mentioned in my last report that one of BB’s older daughters was pregnant. She was  seen mating with the dark maned Majingilane male this month, so it might be that something went wrong with the pregnancy although we are not 100% sure what happened. We also haven’t seen BB’s small cub for a while and we are not sure if the cub is still alive. The Styx pride with the four sub-adults and the three small cubs are all doing great and things are looking much better for this pride. If all goes well the next few years, the cubs can reach adulthood and this pride will grow stronger in numbers. The age is showing in the old lady of the Styx pride. When she yawns you can see the wear and tear on her teeth and even some broken canine teeth. The Styx pride has been through some tough times before and pulled through and this is the oldest pride in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, they have been around for over 30 years. At this stage it seems like they would continue to thrive for many more…

Buffalo

Styx cub suckling

Styx cub suckling - by Morné Fouché

The breeding herds are still nowhere to be found.  We did see tracks of a breeding herd which moved through our area, but along with the buffalo tracks we found some lion tracks as well.  While searching for the breeding herd, we came across two Majingilane males with a sub adult buffalo kill. The bachelor groups and the old dagga boys are still in the area though, always at the water or close to a waterhole at least. It is strange to see the amount of lone males walking about, just soaking in the cool water and going about with their daily routine. It might be that they joined up with some young guns in a bachelor group and now those young males left to get back to the various breeding herds. It might also happen that another group of old males joined the one group, making a bigger group, giving the advantage of safety in numbers.  With all the lions in the area, the older bulls are definitely one of the favourite items on the lion menu.  As mentioned before, the bush is now very green and there is enough food for the breeding herds all over.  As the breeding herds move around, they stay in one area a bit longer than normal so I am hoping that we will have them in our traversing area again  next month.

Elephants

Well we can’t complain about the elephant sightings this month as we had some awesome sightings. We saw a really big female with a very small calf, only a few weeks old moving through the tall grass towards the clearing around one of the waterholes. While enjoying this very nice sighting and waiting for the little one to make his way into the clearing around the water we got a bit of a surprise, leaving us confused for a moment.  The female came out first and just behind her was not only one, but two tiny babies following her to the water’s edge. There was an awkward silence for a minute or two. While the female was drinking water both babies started to suckle from the female. Elephant twins?  Multiples are not common in elephants, but it’s not impossible.   There have been a few recorded cases of twins in the Kruger National Park before. We were very fortunate this month to have some spectacular big bulls that were in musth, following the female groups around. We also had a nice big tusker in musth, followed by a small group of younger males. They were in pursuit of a breeding herd and stayed in our area for about a week.

Special sighting

This was definitely to see the big tusker moving around in our area, following the female herds. We haven’t seen a big tusker of this magnitude for quite some time. Even when he moves through the herds, it is noticeable that the younger males move away as he approaches. The size of the tusks is genetically controlled, but also age-dependent.

Did you know?

An elephant’s tusks are actually upper incisor teeth that continue growing till the day they die.

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

Morné Fouché


Rangers Report October 2012

The month of October once again lived up to our expectations! It was action packed, full of new life and it even had a few surprises. We had some spectacular evenings where the skies lit up in wonderful colours, due to the electrical storms we had. What can I say? Summer is here and we had a few really hot days this month. The mornings and evenings are lovely and warm and we finally took the blankets and hot water bottles off of the game drive vehicles. Last month we started seeing the new growth transforming the bush into a nice, green colour. With all the lovely rain we had the bush is now totally transformed and very dense, with different shades of green as far as the eyes could see. We had a total of 92 millimetres of rain and the average maximum temperature for October was 28 °C. Game viewing was spectacular as we had our fair share sightings of lion and leopard cubs. We were also fortunate to see some wild dogs and cheetahs.

Breakaway Tsalala Lionesses

Breakaway Tsalala Lionesses - by Morné Fouché

Leopards

Salayexe and her cub is still the main attraction and are doing just fine, while still being full of surprises at times. They also had a run in with a few hyenas around kills this last month. Like a well-trained team, Salayexe would just give the alarm call and the youngster would run for cover. The next time the youngster sees a hyena, it will automatically know that it is associated with danger. The little one is much more relaxed with the vehicles and using them to practice the art of stalking. From a young age, leopard cubs will try and stalk any and everything that they come across. These include mom, lizards, birds and a whole lot more. When there is only one cub, the mother has to double up as a playmate for the little one, because at a young age like this they are still very playful. Shadow, on the other hand, will be stealing the limelight from Salayexe pretty soon now. The first time we saw her this month, it looked like she had suckle marks and we just knew what that meant: somewhere safely tucked away in a den there must be one, two or maybe even three bundles of joy. While we were still wondering about the cubs, something spectacular happened… Shadow was spotted twice while carrying a tiny cub in her mouth. It might be that she was moving the cubs towards a new and safer den site. In the beginning, she will only move the cubs if there is pressure from other predators and the cubs are in danger. At this stage, only time will tell how many cubs she’s got. At the age of about three months when they start eating meat, she will start bringing them out. She would make a kill and go and fetch the cubs to bring them to the kill. It will be so nice to see her with the little ones, as she’s had some really bad luck while attempting to raise previous litters. Please keep your fingers crossed that this will be her time to shine. Kurula’s tummy is really big and she has heavily swollen milk glands, so we hope it’s not going to be too long before we have even more cubs in the area. When she was last seen she was really uncomfortable, but still scent marking her territory and making sure that everything was fine in her area. The proud father of all the new cubs, Tingana, is still top cat around our area and it appears that he has not finished expanding his territory. He is always up and down through his whole territory, while also moving more eastwards into the area where Lamula established a territory. When he became dominant he had a small area to call home and two lady friends. Over time, this has grown into a massive area with five to six females. Thus far he has been lucky enough not to be challenged by other males. So far, so good.

Lions

Salayexe's cub

Salayexe's cub - by Willie Woest

This was a very good month for lion sightings, especially the new lion cubs of the different prides. Let’s get started with the older Tsalala pride lionesses: BB and her two older daughters with the two sub-adults. All of them, including BB’s new cub, are doing just fine. BB’s little cub is just too cute and looks like it is scared of nothing. Well, why be scared if you are the king of beasts? Better still, when you are protected by your mom and aunts. It sometimes happens that the pride leaves BB and the little one behind when he gets too tired to keep up the pace and needs to take a rest. They don’t separate for too long before joining up again, though. We are speculating that one of BB’s older daughters might also be pregnant, so hopefully it’s not going to be too long before we will have more cubs and the pride can grow in size. The younger Tsalala Breakaway lioness are looking very healthy and in good condition. . All four of these lionesses mated with the four Majingi male lions, so it’s not going to be too long before they might have their first litter. A lioness will normally have her first litter at the age of 3 ½ – 4 years and they are in that age group now. The Styx lionesses with their cubs are doing really well and what a special treat they had in store for us this month. It really looks like the Styx pride is growing in confidence once again, as they killed a buffalo this month to feed the whole pride. It only took the pride two days to finish the buffalo. The three new cubs even had their share of buffalo meat. The four older cubs / sub-adults are also doing very well and looking good. The manes are already starting to show nicely on the two young males. These two young brothers will have between a year and two years left with the pride before they are pushed out by their fathers. They will then start with their nomadic existence. Pride males will kick out their sons at about three years of age. If they stay for longer than that, they might become competition for their own fathers in a few years’ time. The four dominant Majingi males also came into our traversing area for a short while and also gave us a very special sighting when all four of them gave their signature territorial roar. They will randomly do this, just to make sure that all challengers know that they are still in the area and ready to protect it.

Buffaloes

We had some big herds, averaging between 100-150 animals a herd that came through our area this month. Because of the abundance of food during summer, the big breeding herds, that used to be 400+, has split up into smaller groups during the rainy season because there is enough food around. Last month we did controlled burns on certain sections in our area and we also burned the firebreaks. With all the lovely rain we had during the past two months, there is lush green grass on these sections. Bulk grazers will spent a lot more time here before moving on again, travelling far in order to cover a big area in search of more green grass. The old dagga boys and a few younger, dominant males are still in the area and we saw them regularly this month. These old boys can still re-join the herds if they want to, but they prefer to rather just lie around the waterholes, sometimes spending the whole day in the mud. This time of the year there is a lot of water in the waterholes, with abundant food close by. The big herds on the other hand need to move around more regularly, because they get driven by food and water supplies and also because they have many more mouths to feed.

Salayexe having a stand off with a hyena

Salayexe having a stand off with a hyena - by Louis Liversage

Elephants

With regards to the elephants, we had some good elephant sightings this month. We saw a lot of young elephant bulls and also smaller herds of about 15 or so animals. Same as the buffalo herds, the big breeding herds of elephant have also split up into smaller, more manageable groups. With all the nice rain comes the start of a new beginning for the vegetation and animals and there will obviously be a lot of water and an abundance of food for them. This is one of the reasons why elephants would continue to move on to greener, lusher vegetation. The leader of a herd is always a female, called a matriarch. It is up to her to lead the group and decide where and when to go in search of food, water, salts and minerals that’s lacking in the vegetation that they are currently eating. We are also approaching that time of the year when the elephants will start to move towards the Kruger National Park to feast on the lovely Mopani tree forest that is located in the park. When we go into the winter season again you will find that the smaller groups will join up again, forming a big family unit. A herd consists of females and their offspring that will be related to each other like mothers, daughters and also sisters.

Special sighting

Salayexe was with her cub at a kill when suddenly out of nowhere a hyena showed up, probably by following the scent trail of blood and meat. Salayexe jumped up and moved in between the hyena and her cub and was hissing and growling at the intruder to back off, but to no avail. The hyena just came closer and closer to inspect, when suddenly Salayexe’s mother instinct kicked in and she went all out – open jaws, sharp teeth and claws in a quick, but very efficient attack on the hyena. Her quick action did the job and the hyena scattered off into the bush. This sighting just once again proofed that a mother will do almost anything to protect her offspring!

Did you know?

A female Baboon spider can live up to the age of 20-25 years.

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

Morné Fouché


Rangers Report September 2012

This month was great, but in a strange and different way than usual. Some days we would have the best weather and couldn’t ask for more and then the next day would be the opposite: cold and rainy, which is a little bit unusual for this time of the year. We had a total of 95mm of rain this month and the average maximum temperature was 27 °C. With all this lovely rain, it still didn’t stop us from going out on drive and having some amazing sightings.  After the rains the bush transformed dramatically, from the pale beige colour of last month to a lush green, with new leaves on the trees. We had an awesome month as far as game viewing goes. We were fortunate enough to see four sub-adult cheetahs, three males and one female. These are thought to be siblings that got kicked out to fend for themselves and have decided to start up their own territory. We saw them on a regular basis, making kills and feeding well before they moved on again. We also had a pack of fourteen wild dogs that came into our area and stayed on the property for almost half the month. This pack consists of eight adults and six 3-4 month old pups. They really caused havoc amongst the impalas and grey duikers as they would sometimes make two kills at a time to feed the hungry pups, as well as themselves.

Zebras with youngster feeding on the floodplains - by Morné Fouché

Zebras with youngster feeding on the floodplains - by Morné Fouché

Leopards

The best way to describe this month would be that it was very spotty!  We were fortunate to have wonderful leopard sightings.  Salayexe is still looking good and doing just fine and we saw her on a regular basis. The cubs are a bit of a concern at this stage as we have only been seeing one cub at a time, moving around with Salayexe and resting or playing at the den site. It’s unclear what happened to the second cub and if it is still alive. It will be heartbreaking if Salayexe lost another cub, but chances of both cubs surviving is normally not very good at all. The little one is becoming a bit more relaxed with the vehicle around it. We still have a long road ahead of us with getting it habituated like mom, but it has been a good start. I must just say what a treat it is when you get to see this cub playing around, climbing small logs and going halfway up trees, then falling out them. Shadow is still in good shape and we saw her a few times this last month. She is moving around a lot as her tracks go all over the area. Kurula and Ntima was really under the radar as we didn’t see them a lot this month. Ntima was seen mating with Lamula a few times. Kurula also came sneaking into our area and then moved out again. Moya is a really beautiful cat and also very popular among the males in our area. She was seen mating with Tingana, following him around through his whole territory for a total of four days. On her way back to her own territory she joined up with Lamula and mated with him for another four days. When a female’s territory overlaps two male territories, it is common for them to mate with both males. When she does fall pregnant and give birth, both males will think it is their cubs and will not kill the cubs when the female brings them into either of their territories. Lamula was a very busy boy this last month as he was mating with Kwatile, Ntima and also Moya. Tingana is the ultimate legend and there is no other word to describe him! This big brute has really taken hunting to the extreme. Tingana killed a juvenile giraffe this month during the time that he and Moya were mating. The two of them fed well for a day, before the hyenas stole the kill from them. Leopards can bring down prey bigger than impalas if the opportunity arises. If the prey is too big though, the leopard will not be able to get it into a tree and then they might lose it to hyenas or other predators.

Lions

Cheetahs drinking water - by Morné Fouché

Cheetahs drinking water - by Morné Fouché

The four young Tsalala lionesses are doing very well for themselves and they still feed well. These four ladies are enormous and you can definitely see that they are the prodigies of the older Tsalala lioness and the late Mapogo coalition. One of the young lionesses is quite far pregnant as her milk glands are swollen and her belly is big. If all goes well, it’s not going to be much longer and we will have more of the Majingi’s offspring in the area. The gestation period for a lioness is about 110 days and she will have between two and four cubs at a time. We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything will go well. The older Tsalala lionesses are also looking very healthy and added another member to their pride. BB, the 14 year old lioness who is the anchor of the pride, had one little cub a few months ago. At last the wait is over as the pride brought this small bundle of joy over to our side. This youngster is a few months old already and walking around with mum and the rest of the pride. The pride won’t walk very far in a day, as the short little legs of the cub can’t keep up and he tires very quickly. The Styx pride has also added to their pride as there are three new bundles of joy that belongs to the young Styx female. When the little cubs are about two to three months old they will start moving around with the pride as they would by then start eating meat. At this stage the females will start taking them along to kills.

Buffaloes

We were very lucky to see a nice big breeding herd of buffaloes during the month. Big breeding herds will very seldom stay in one area for very long before moving on as they are driven by the availability of food and water. Looking through the herd, there were a few youngsters that was probably born at the beginning of this year. Most of the females are pregnant at the moment. They will normally give birth during summer time, when food is plentiful so it will usually happen sometime between January and April. We also saw the bachelor herds and old dagga boys on a regular basis. The bachelor herds usually leave the breeding herds because there is no mating that takes place at the moment. For now, they need to pick up weight and get into shape in order to be fit and healthy before the next breeding season starts. The old dagga boys would normally be found around the waterholes on nice and hot days. Buffaloes lack sweat glands and can’t stay cool on their own. The word “dagga” means mud in the local language.  These old boys were given the name of “mud” boys because they are always covered in mud and spend a lot of their time in or around the waterholes and mud wallows.

Red-billed oxpeckers taking a dust bath - by Louis Liversage

Red-billed oxpeckers taking a dust bath - by Louis Liversage

Elephants

We saw a few big herds with 60 + individuals and a lot of babies with them. We were very lucky with elephant sightings this month as we saw about three to four herds every day. While having lunch or just lying around at the swimming pool, you could see a herd of elephants come to drink water in front of the lodge. We saw a few small little family groups with a few week old babies that stayed in the area for about a week or so. It’s really something to see the small babies trying to use their little trunks for the very first time. The youngsters will only be able to fully use their trunks at the age of around 6 months. That is normally the time when they will start experimenting with solid food. These small ones would stay close to mum, rubbing up to her legs, sometimes even standing under her chest and between her front legs.  When she starts moving they are never too far behind and she will also wait for her youngster to catch up when he lags behind. This little one won’t go 10 minutes without any of the herd touching him, just to let him know that he is protected and safe. An interesting fact is that the young elephant will eat the dung of its mother or another adult elephant, just to kick start their digestive system and give them the necessary bacteria and enzymes to be able to digest the solid food they eat.

Special sighting

It was very special to see the wild dogs again. To be able to spend time with them on a daily basis for a continued period of time and to watch them interact with each other was truly amazing. While watching this pack of 14 dogs hunt the one day, two of the dogs managed to separate a male impala from the group. The impala changed course suddenly and dived into the dam to escape the jaws of the hungry dogs. The two wild dogs left the area for a few minutes, only to return with the whole pack. The poor impala had no chance and swam from one side to the next, but the wild dogs covered all its escape routes. At a stage the hippos started charging out of the water to chase the wild dogs away, but they were too slow for these fast and slender wild dogs, or at least so we thought… Then the unexpected happened! A hippo charged out of the water and turned around very quickly with its mouth wide open. The hippo managed to grab hold of one of the wild dogs. Without hesitating, the hippo picked the wild dog up and ran straight into the water. Both stayed submerged for a few seconds when suddenly the poor wild dog broke the surface and swam as fast as he could to get to shore. I don’t know who was more shocked… the guides, guests or the 13 other wild dogs that watched this spectacle. The wild dog wasn’t hurt because the hippo never closed his mouth.

Did you know?

A lion’s tongue is very rough and it can remove the meat of bones just by licking it long enough.

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

Morné Fouché


Rangers Report August 2012

This month was action-packed with a steady mix of amazing sightings, a tad of mystery and a whole lot of action. The only downside to the month was the strong winds we experienced for a few days, but which are quite normal for this time of year. Strong, stormy winds can sometimes make game viewing a bit more difficult, but luckily they never last very long. I always tell my guests that one quiet game drive in the bush is still way better than thirty normal days in the city! Overall it was a pleasant month as the mornings and evenings also started warming up towards the end of the month.  During the first days of August, we had a few cold fronts that came past as it snowed in some parts of South Africa. But since then midday temperatures have been warming up nicely and guests are already enjoying the swimming pools again. Our average maximum temperature for the month was 29°C.

Shadow the leopard - by Willie Woest

Shadow the leopard - by Willie Woest

On the game viewing side we had a quick glance of a female cheetah that came into our area, but with all the lion activity that we had, she decided that it might be better not to hang around for too long. We were also visited by a lone wild dog that came through our area, continuously calling as she searched for the rest of her pack. This contact calling almost got her into trouble as she was approached by Salayexe the leopard, who quickly chased her out of the area.

Leopards

Well what can I say to describe the leopard sightings this month? Marvelous and spectacular are two words that come to mind first! It is confirmed that Salayexe indeed still has both her cubs as we’ve seen them on numerous occasions during the month. The other day we found her not too far away from camp. She took us straight to her new den site where two little hungry cubs were waiting for mom to return so that they could feed. Paying no attention to the vehicle, they continued their little game of “king of the castle” as they fought each other for the best teat and spot to lie down, while trying to avoid mom – who attempted to give them their afternoon bath. What a special sighting this was! Since then we have seen them more regularly. It is still a one vehicle log, permitted that she leads you to the den site and only when she’s present.  All of us here in the area have our fingers crossed that she will successfully raise these two cubs to maturity. We will keep you posted on their progress. Moya is really growing in confidence as she scent marks her territory while giving territorial calls to let the other females know that she is now in charge. She doesn’t have a big area yet, but that will come with time as soon as she’s older and bigger in size, ready to fight for her territory. At this stage she mainly resides in her mother, Nyaleti’s, old territory. Shadow was giving us the slip this month as she kept a very low profile, staying true to her name, no doubt! We saw her once or twice and also followed a lot of her tracks, but she is very good at hiding. Kurula is still looking good and we saw her scent marking quite a lot this last month. Hopefully she is pregnant at the moment and if all goes well, we will soon have more cubs from her and her daughter, Shadow. Lamula is getting much better with the vehicles and is also taking more risks around his territory. He was seen mating with the Ostrich Koppies female that usually resides in Mala Mala. This took place around the Big Dam area, which is far into Tingana’s territory. Tingana is much bigger and older than Lamula, so he should be aware of overplaying his hand… Tingana has taken a big chunk out of the Jordaan male’s old territory that was up for grabs. He’s a great male, fearless, but also sometimes a bit reckless. We saw him the one day arriving at a buffalo kill where four Majingi male lions were busy feasting. He came to within 20 meters or so from the lions and lay down in the grass. After a few minutes he decided to leave, maybe realizing that it was a bit too dangerous for him to hang around. When I look at Tingana and what he has achieved in such a short while, I can’t help but remembering the small male that has evolved into a regularly sighted, beautiful resident leopard, fathering many cubs and continuing his legacy.

Lions

Sunrise over the bush - by Louis Liversage

Sunrise over the bush - by Louis Liversage

Lion sightings were really good this month as we had a lot of lion activity around our area. The four young breakaway Tsalala females are looking fantastic. They are getting bigger and bulkier by the day and they are hunting anything, from impalas to young giraffe. They killed a young giraffe in the beginning of the month, fed well and kept the hyenas away before they got pushed off by the three older Tsalala females. Just when we thought there was going to be blood and hair flying, the older females decided not to fight with them! They just pushed them off and started feeding on the carcass. A day went past before the younger females returned and was greeted by BB. Together they fed on the remains of the kill, along with the older females. For me this was one of my happiest moments:  to see them feeding alongside each other as one pride. It was short lived though, because soon enough the youngsters moved away, leaving the older females behind to finish the remains. After they finished the carcass the older females left again leaving the hyenas, vultures and a side stripe jackal to battle it out for the last scraps. It was the first time that there was no fighting or blood shed between these females, so maybe there is still some hope left for them to accept each other and join forces. The Styx pride is back to normal as they killed another buffalo this month. They had a good feed and the youngsters are looking good and healthy again. The young Styx cub that was injured in the fight with the other pride last month is doing much better now. The majority of his wounds healed up very well and he is keeping up with the rest of the pride. When they move too fast for the little one and he falls behind, one of the older male cubs will wait for him. They will walk together until the rest of the pride stops to rest and then they usually catch up. The four big Majingi males also came into our area a few times. They usually join up with the female groups in the area. If, however, there is no food or females in oestrus, they would move on again, rejoining their coalition. We had a wonderful surprise when four of the six Matimba males came into our area and started to scent mark in the Majingi males’ territory. The Matimba males are getting bigger and stronger day by day and they are now getting to an age where they will want to expand their territory and start looking for females. The stage is set for the ultimate heavyweight championship between the Majingi’s and Matimba’s. If they keep on coming in and scent marking, it’s not going to be too long before they meet again…

We were sad when the dead Styx male lion was found not too far from the lodge. It is very difficult to let nature take its course sometimes, but living out here in the bush that is the only thing we can do. We need to respect our natural surroundings and always remember that we are here to witness, not interfere in the natural circle of life that plays out around us every single day. In the end, it all boils down to survival of the fittest. This is the only way to ensure that good, strong and healthy genes are carried forward to the next generations, continuing the healthy breeding of magnificent animals.

Buffalo

Salayexe the leopard and one of her cubs - by Willie Woest

Salayexe the leopard and one of her cubs - by Willie Woest

Like last year August, the big breeding herds started coming through as food is getting scarcer and they have to travel further and wider from their core home ranges. We had very nice buffalo sightings this month and there were two big herds that moved in more or less the same home range. It is possible that these two big herds that’s about 300-400 individuals strong, may actually join up to form a bigger herd. We also had some excitement between the buffaloes and the lions. With big herds like this, it usually draws a lot of attention to predators – lions, leopards and sometimes even hyenas. We watched as one of the Styx females was stalking the herd of buffalo and we went down to the waterhole, just to find a Nkuhuma female and cub, as well as the four breakaway Tsalala females also waiting for the buffalo to come down the embankment to drink…Three different lion prides stalking the same herd! The wind turned in the favor of the buffalo and the lions’ cover was blown. This gave the buffaloes a chance to regroup and launch a counter attack, leaving the lions with no other choice but to retreat. Over all, lions would rather take down the older, weaker males in the bachelor herds, but they would sometimes still follow the breeding herds for days, studying their routine and behavior and hoping for an opportunistic chance at an easy meal. Some of the pregnant females will sometimes stay on one side of the group, or lag behind and that’s what the predators hope for.

Elephants

We’ve had unbelievably good elephant sightings this month. Ask anyone who regularly watches the Africam and they would be able to attest to the amount of elephants that passed in front of the lodge during August. There were so many elephant herds that one could hardly drive around a corner without bumping into the next one. This also made bushwalks slightly more challenging than usual! Strangely enough we only saw two or three big herds of about 40-50 animals, the other herds all had between 15- 25 in each. This time of year you will normally find bigger groups of elephants moving through the area. One elephant needs close to five hectares of food per day, which would explain why they need to eat at least 18 hours a day. The majority of herds have new born babies with them and it comes to show that the elephant population is very healthy at this stage. The youngsters in an elephant herd are always fun to watch, especially the toddlers of between 3-5 years of age. When stopping next to them you can almost see the mischief in their eyes. Then all of a sudden they would start moving closer to the vehicles, inspecting with ears wide open, head held high and a rocking motion of the front leg. This action, together with dust kicking and a high pitched trumpet, mimics the mock charge of an adult elephant. The young ones are always playful and full of themselves, testing the boundaries and challenging everything in their way, sometimes even their mothers. The mothers are not always in the mood for a game of tug of war or pushing and shoving… This is why the older daughters or sons normally get to do the babysitting, trying to keep the youngsters in line and out of harm’s way. Don’t be mistaken though, mom would never be far away…

Special sighting

The special sighting of the month was definitely spending time with Salayexe and the new cubs! Just to be able to watch the interaction and love between the three of them is truly amazing! We are looking forward to spending more and more time with them and to watch them grow into magnificent leopards.

Did you know?

When threatened, black rhino calves will follow and white rhino calves will lead their mothers during flight.

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

Morné Fouché


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