Elephant Plains Game Lodge

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

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