June was an excellent month with unbelievable sightings. Even with the extreme cold, the animals showed their best sides.  We saw a female cheetah and her cubs for a number of days and BB the lioness with the 4 youngsters were seen almost daily. The Styx lion pride also provided our guest with the most wonderful photographic opportunities. The cold fronts which came through during the month provided us with some chilly morning game drives, but our hot water bottles and blankets brought welcome relief from the cold.  The average maximum temperature for the month was 24° C and we even had 5mm of rain!  With the low rainfall and colder temperatures during winter time, the usually lush, green bush has turned into a picture of pale brown and grey, as the trees have almost completely shed their leaves and the grass have dried out.

This has been a very good month for elephant viewing, with a lot of small breeding herds of between 20 and 40 elephants in each. We also saw an old bull with massive tusks moving around our traversing area, accompanied by two younger bulls. It is nice to see so many baby elephants in the breeding herds. This shows that even with the cold and with little rain, Mother Nature still provides for the animals, as mating and birth usually only take place during the rainy season.  Elephant cows will have their first calf at an age of between 13 and 15 years.  The gestation period is around 22 months (almost 2 years!) and the mother will give birth to a single calf, although there have been recordings of twins in the past.

As far as buffaloes concern, we’ve had some wonderful sightings this month. We saw some big breeding herds of between 100 and 400 buffaloes. The older bulls will stay in separate herds the whole year and sub-adult males in their prime will separate from the main herd during the dry season, when no breeding takes place.  A breeding herd has a very strong social structure and there is strength in numbers. If one is in distress, the others will come to the rescue.

All the rhino’s are doing very well. We were lucky enough to see a rhino female with her healthy newborn calf. Londoz is still trailing a female group which crossed over into his territory. Whenever he gets too close to the calf, the female quickly lets him know that he is overstaying his welcome. Adult females rarely allow any individual, except their partner, to come closer than a few meters to their young.  It appears that Shorthorn has moved more to the eastern side of our traversing area, where he has been scent marking and moving with a female and 4 sub adults.  Skewhorn on the other hand is starting to move around and has moved far west from his normal playground.

June was a really good month for lion sightings.  BB and the 4 youngsters pulled it off to bring down a big Daggaboy (old male buffalo). This shows what a good mother and teacher this 13 year old lioness is.  The young Styx male is still moving around with the pride, but moves off whenever the Majingi males come into the area. Two of the Styx females are also currently mating with the Majingi males, so we might see some cubs soon.  Regarding the big boys, we got news from the west that the Majingi’s and the Mapogo’s had a brawl and after this they were all limping around, but luckily there were no fatalities. I recon it is safe to say that it was the clash of the titans!  The two young Kuhuma males are doing well. They do not stay in the same area for a long period so we do not get to see them very often.

It has been a bittersweet month on the leopard’s side.  Salayexe lost het cubs, but has already mated with an unknown male on the 14th and again on the 26th. At the moment, there are a lot of young males crossing Tyson’s territory, in search of a place to call home.  Big males like Tyson, do not stay in the same area for too long as they have very big territories and have to mark their boundaries to keep other males out.  We are a bit concerned about Nyeleti, as we have not seen her for a few months now, but it is possible that she moved out of our traversing area.  Ntima is still hiding her cubs from us. We know that they are somewhere, as she has clear suckle marks – she is just too shy to show off her new cubs at this stage. The granny, Safari, who is 19 years old now, has lost most of her territory to Kurula, Ntima and Shadow. But she still has a lot of fight left in her and of course, wisdom that comes with age!

During our drives, we rarely get to see civets, and what a breathtaking experience it was to see five Tsalala lionesses trying to pin down a civet.  When the lions moved in for the kill, the civet surprised us all as it jumped up straight into the lions, ready for a battle!  The lions got such a fright from this brave attempt of survival that they actually turned around and walked away, leaving the civet at peace and quite impressed with its newfound power!

Did you know? When she is ready to lay eggs, the female hornbill will pluck out all her dawn feathers to use for her nest.

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

Morné Fouché