Being situated in the Lowveld, we are very fortunate to usually experience mild winters, but this year has been extremely harsh. We’ve already had five cold fronts, with more being predicted. Due to the colder temperatures, game viewing had a roller coaster effect on some days, but we cannot complain as our sightings statistics are still out of this world!  The average maximum temperature for the month was 22 °C and we even had 5 millimetres of rain.

July has been a very productive month for elephant viewing as there were really big breeding herds of 60 – 100 elephants moving in and out of our area. When on game drive, you might notice some trees lying on their sides with branches into the road, almost as if a big storm swept past. In the winter months, when the trees have shed their leaves and the grass is dry, elephants will push over trees to expose the roots, which stores water reserves. They will also strip the bark in order to reach the cambium layer, which transports water from the roots to the rest of the tree. An adult elephant can eat between 200 to 500 kg of vegetation per day. They have a poor digestive system and will only digest 41% of what they eat. Therefore they have to eat a lot more than what is actually used up by their enormous bodies.

Elvis the hippo entertaining guests with his antics

Elvis the hippo entertaining guests with his antics

We saw bachelor groups, but also a few breeding herds of buffalo this month. The breeding herds are on the move, searching for food and water. In the winter months the smaller groups will sometimes merge to form a larger herd – safety in numbers against predators. In some of the breeding herds, the last calves have arrived. They are very vulnerable at this stage as they are the slowest, at the back of the moving herd. A buffalo calf will be able to run within the first few hours after birth. Although this will not be very fast, it will be sufficient to keep up with the herd for a little while, especially when predators like lions or hyenas are in the area.

Londoz, the rhino bull, was following a group of females, trying to keep them in his territory. It is my privilege to inform you that he succeeded and that he has also started the courting process with a young female! If everything goes according to plan, we might see her with a newborn calf in about 16 months. A young rhino cow will have her first calf at the average age of 5 years. Skewhorn is still keeping a low profile, but the times we do see him, he is still chasing after the females as usual. Shorthorn on the other hand, has joined up with a group of females and other young males. He is desperately trying to push the younger males out, in order to have all the females to himself.

The young Styx pride male is doing very well. He brought down a giraffe cow all by himself and fed well, until two of the Majingi male lions chased him off his kill. He stood his ground for a while, but later on reluctantly left the kill, only to hide and watch the other males devour it from a distance. The Majingi’s are expanding their territory as they are going very far south in the reserve. We still see them on a regular basis, either mating with females of the other prides, or trailing the buffalo herds. BB the lioness and the four youngsters are still moving around trying to avoid any contact with the Majingi’s. If the four young females can survive another few months, chances are good that the Majingi’s will accept them in the same way they did with the young Styx female. BB’s 2 older daughters are a bit shy at the moment – we got word that both of them have cubs, sired by the Majingi males. It is good to know that the Styx pride is growing in numbers once again! We also had three unknown young males in our area one night, but there was no sign of them again the next day.

Cheetah

A female cheetah sitting on a termite mound scouting the vicinity for impala

We are very fortunate to have very good leopard sightings. Last month we saw Salayexe mating and now in July, she is scent marking her area and calling often to let Moya her niece and Nzele, her daughter know that she is still active in the area. We saw Safari quite a few times during the month and the old lady is looking as strong as ever. There is only one word to describe Safari – she is legendary! Nsagwen, the big male leopard is seen on a regular basis while scent marking and he is expanding his territory each month. Mafufunyana is getting older, but is still holding on to his small territory. We still have not seen Ntima’s small cubs. Leopard cubs will stay hidden for the first 6-8 weeks after birth, so hopefully mum will show them off soon.

This month, we were very fortunate to see Moya and Mati’s brother, Matifuma. His name means “the independent one”. We last laid eyes on him over a year ago! Mati had a kill on Mamba Road. Not long after we pulled into the sighting, his aunt, Salayexe joined him. Suddenly another young leopard appeared out of nowhere! I could not believe my eyes, but it was indeed Matifuma! So this sighting was special in more than one way, not only did we see him for the first time in a year, but we also had three different leopards in one sighting!

Did you know?

Out of the water, a hippo can run up to 36km/h. So be sure never to come between a hippo and its waterhole!

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

Morné Fouché

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