The month of August was a very productive month where game viewing is concerned. As if all the wonderful sightings were not enough to make every day exciting, we had lovely weather conditions as well. Some days were a bit chilly, but I can definitely feel that summer is on the way! The days are overall pleasant with an average temperature of 26?C. The 13.5mm of rain we had also brought along some new green grass, especially on the firebreaks. Some acacia trees are now also wearing a new, green outfit. As the sun is rising earlier in the morning and setting later in the evening, we will shortly change over to our summer times, meaning early morning wake-up at 05:00 to start the 05:30 game drive. Our afternoon drive will depart at 16:00.

It is wonderful to see all the elephants coming back to our area for the different vegetation found here in the northern part of the reserve. The more southwest you go, you will come across open plains, less trees and more grasslands. Elephants have the largest environmental impact than any other mammal, except for man. The root of the problem is the increasing concentration of elephants in one specific area within parks. Tree destruction is a normal elephant activity and when spread over a wide area, it contributes to habitat diversity and soil turnover. Therefore it is actually a positive action for elephants to move out of a specific area for a season, in order to give trees and vegetation a chance to rehabilitate and grow, in order to feed other animals during the next season.

A herd of giraffes

A herd of giraffes

What a treat it was to welcome two new babies this month! Before giving birth, a female rhino will look for dense cover where she will deliver the calf and hide there for a few hours. The calf can walk within the first hour of birth, but is a bit wobbly for a few days, until he gets used to moving along with mom. Within a month after birth, the female resumes her normal routine with her new baby by her side. Rhino babies are weaned at the age of 2 months and will then graze together with their mothers. The rest of the rhinos are doing very well. Shorthorn has left the female group and joined up with a young male and female who came into his territory. We also saw Londoz a few times, still chasing after the females as usual.

This last month we were lucky enough to have a breeding herd of about 400 buffalo that came into our area for a few days at a time. It is interesting to sit amongst such a big herd and witness all the different personalities and structures within the group. Same as last month, we had the buffalo bulls of about 20-25 in a group that mainly stick to a waterhole or mud wallow. Although males and females occasionally take mud baths, dominant males and dagga boys wallow more frequently and may spend a couple of hours a day in mud wallows, especially during the hottest hours of the day. For the buffalo, it’s a great way to cool down when they take a mud bath or go into the water, but also a prevention method against parasites.

When it comes to lion sightings it has been another awesome month. We saw the Tsalalas, Ottawa brothers, Nkuhuma brothers and a few other young males. To start off, it looks like the Nkuhuma brothers have accepted another young male into their brotherhood as the three of them were seen feeding together on a buffalo kill and they are still walking together. I think the brothers might have realized that having another member in the coalition will be a great asset for them, hunting wise. Young males will sometimes join other young males to form a bigger coalition. The Ottawa males are coming into our area more often, but don’t stay very long before moving west again to a more familiar area. It might be because of the absence of the dominant males that they are now exploring new areas. The last update we got was when they linked up with the Sparta pride and were busy mating far southeast. BB and the 4 youngsters are doing very well and they were in our area for most of the month.

Full moon in the bushveld

Full moon in the bushveld

All the resident leopards were out and about and really provided us with unbelievable sightings. Salayexe was seen mating with one of the unknown young male leopards and also with Tyson. It sometimes happens that female leopards mate with more than one male to ensure that she conceives. Shadow was seen mating with Nsagwen for 4 days, so hopefully in the next 110 days she will have new spotted bundles of fluff. Kwatile and her cub are doing very well. Safari is still moving all over everyone’s territory. Ntima is the main attraction, with the small cubs, walking with her and climbing trees. Kurula and her cubs also gave us a big surprise when we found them on a kill. She called the cubs and suddenly 3 cubs appeared. We saw the 2 younger cubs and their older brother from her previous litter.

Special Sighting
At last the long wait is over. August 8th was a very special day as Ntima finally brought her cubs out for us to see. I couldn’t believe my eyes when she called the cubs and then stood up, fetched them and brought them out. The 2 was about 8-9 weeks old by the time and looked very healthy. Hopefully during the next few weeks she will bring them out more often and introduce them to everyone.

Did you know?
Giraffes will sometimes eat sand and chew on bones. They do this, not because they like the taste of mud and meat, but to obtain precious minerals.

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

Morné Fouché