This month we had some really cold drives in the mornings and late afternoons and it even snowed in some parts of South Africa. Although it was colder than we are used to, we still can’t complain as our midday temperatures were still wonderfully pleasant, with a maximum average of 24?C. We had another wonderful month of game viewing and we were fortunate enough to view a pangolin (scaly anteater) one late afternoon. The sighting was out in the open, so our guests had wonderful photographic opportunities. Pangolins will normally be more active during this time of the year. It is the start of mating season and they are looking for suitable partners. The bush has totally transformed to a brown mass and some of the smaller waterholes are dried out. The water tables in the dry riverbeds are still so full that there is still a lot of water puddles in the dry riverbed. It is therefore safe to say there is still enough water for the animals.
We had a lot of excitement with the leopards this month. During last month’s report, I mentioned that Salayexe had given birth. This month, as we were following her through the bush, she took us straight to her newest den site. We saw her two cubs, estimated to be about a month old. This was indeed a very special sighting! Soon after seeing the cubs, we left her and the sighting has been closed until the cubs are older and stronger. At a later stage, we will slowly start habituating them to the vehicles. When they reach the age of two to three months, they will be big enough to start moving around with mum. Shadow is doing just fine and she has finished mating with Tingana, so hopefully we will have more leopard cubs in about 110 days. Thandi is doing well and the cub that she has raised was seen a few times now. From what I understand he is doing well for himself. Tingana had his hands full this month. He started mating with Kurula, while being followed by Moya for a few days. When Tingana and Kurula were finished mating, Moya grabbed the opportunity and picked up where Kurula left off. But that’s not where it ended. After just a few days, Kurula was back again and followed the pair around for days on end. The trio walked together for a while and the females didn’t even seem bothered by this arrangement. Nyaleti’s one male cub also came to visit us a few times. He is really getting big now. You can see that Tyson is the father is of this young brut. Ntima was seen mating with the youngster Lamula, but after that both of them kept a low profile.
What an exciting month we had on the lion’s front. We saw the return of a familiar face: the young Styx male, who we haven’t seen for a very long time. It was quite upsetting to see the state that the young male was in, though. He was skinny and limping, his left hind leg was swollen and he didn’t want to put any real weight on the leg. It doesn’t seem to be broken though, as he does still slightly use it to walk. There are also no new scars or bite marks on his back or legs. We are unsure as to what caused this injury. It might have been a hunting expedition that went wrong as he is on his own, without the support of his other pride members. He had a run in with the resident hyena clan when they stole a kill from a leopard and he stole it from them. He went all out and really showed them that he is a force to be reckoned with. He charged in, tackling two hyenas with lightning speed, and then going for the others. After the dust settled the hyenas tried regrouping, but he just grabbed the kill and started feeding of it. Having an injured leg can be a problem when being on your own and trying to get food. Luckily for him, he joined up with his old pride, the Styx. This might guarantee a good meal, but it could also have dire consequences. The last time we saw them they were following a buffalo, but when they returned to the area we saw that he had lost his left eyelid. No one knows what happened. We can only hope that he will pull through as he always does and that he will get a lot of love from his old pride members. The Styx pride had a run in with another pride, but walked away with just with a few scratches and deep cuts. The young cub got two deep cuts on his back legs as well as bite marks on his back. He looks to be in pain, but it will quickly heal in time. He just needs to hang in there. He is getting bigger every day and prior to the attack by the other pride he didn’t stand back against the bigger cubs. Usually when the playing got a bit rough for him, he would run away straight to mum or call for help. Now he stands his ground and hits back hard. Life looks much better for the pride and they still have 5 cubs, looking good and very healthy. Last time we saw BB she looked to be far pregnant. I hope that all will go well and that we will have new lion cubs soon. Her two older daughters are really in great shape and we think that the one without a tail might also be pregnant as she lost all her cubs from the previous litter. The two big females are very aggressive towards the four younger Tsalala females, tracking them down and chasing them around. The four youngsters are doing their best to try and rejoin the pride. They are being submissive, but I personally think that too many years went by for a happy reunion. We can only keep our fingers crossed and hope that these big females will come to their senses and realized that it will be a bonus for them when the youngsters rejoin the pride. Hunting will be easier as there is strength in numbers, but a bigger pride also means more mouths to feed. Time will tell.
What a treat is was to watch the buffaloes this month. The smaller groups are starting to join forces and form bigger groups on their annual journey in the search of more food and water. The big herds are slowly making their way through our area. Being highly mobile, they rarely stay in the same area for long periods. Buffaloes prefer longer grass. This is good news for the smaller grazers, who prefer the shorter grass. The buffaloes will feed from the top, shortening the grass before leaving an area. The shorter grass will then again be a preferred meal for impala, for instance. We still see the big old dagga boys, who just want to soak up the sun in the waterholes and mud wallows. These lazy guys also prefer not to travel the whole day. We have also seen big bachelor groups that have between 10 and 20 males of different ages in it. It’s normal for them to be seen together as mating season has passed. Food sources are also getting scarcer for everyone. So in order to be strong and healthy for the next mating season, the dominant and sub dominant males will leave the herds and walk on their own.
The big elephant herds have graced us with their presence again this month. Due to the big diversity of trees and the density of the vegetation in the northern part of the Sabi Sand, elephants will come and feed on the Bush willow, Round-teak and Acacia trees during wintertime. In the summer, the herds move more towards Kruger Park’s side for the Mopani trees and then will return once the Marula trees are bearing fruits. We haven’t really seen any big males around this month. With the big herds we see quite a few smaller babies, which mean that the herds are healthy and there is enough water and food supplies. When driving around the waterholes and riverine areas, you will see what impact the elephants have on the area. With all the destruction going on, there is a positive side to this as well. It helps the smaller browsers to get to some of the higher leaves on the trees.
The first time we saw Salayexe’s babies was when she carried the one over our open area. To see her strong jaws and sharp teeth carrying that tiny and helpless baby and not hurting it is just amazing. If that wasn’t enough, she took us to her new den site and called the two cubs out to show them off. What an amazing experience!
Did you know?
When a cheetah runs at full speed, he spends more time in the air than on the ground. His feet will only touch the ground every 7-8 meters.
Hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!