I know I say the same thing every month, but this month was once again full of excitement! We had wild dogs in our area, as well as a female cheetah and her cubs that made their appearance when we least expected it! We had some lovely rain this month with a total of 65mm. Although it is not as much as we had in January, with the soil still saturated from the previous rains, this was enough to make off-road driving tricky and very slippery at times around some of the areas we normally drive with ease. This month we had a lot of zebra and giraffe sightings as well, due to all the green grass and trees with their full coat of green leaves. The bush is still very lush and there are still many water puddles that formed with the rain. All the animals are obviously in a very good condition! We’ve already noticed a slight drop in the morning temperatures, which is a result from the ground being very saturated. The cooler mornings did not really have a big effect on the daytime temperatures and the average maximum temperature for the month was 30°C.
We were very fortunate to have a nice big breeding herd of about 400 buffaloes moving around in our traversing area this month. One of the main reasons for the buffaloes visiting our area is due to all the water being available to them, everywhere, at any time! What made their visit even more special is all the newborn calves within the herd and there are a few more pregnant females due to give birth at any time now. When a female buffalo that is part of a breeding herd is about to give birth, she falls behind the group a bit as they can not walk as fast and as far as the rest of the herd. This makes them an easy target for predators as they do not have the safety of the rest of the herd around them. Apart from the breeding herds, we also saw a few bachelor herds moving through our area and there is of course always an old bull or two, soaking in the water puddles or having a mud bath.
Marula season came to an end this month and the majority of the marula trees have shed their fruits and where there were still some fruits hanging in the trees, the baboons, monkeys and elephants made sure to feast on them till there were no more left. We have not seen very big males with, or following the breeding herds, but there were some very nice young males who entertained us with their typical “I am in charge” behaviour. These young males will be forced by the matriarch to leave the herd when they reach the age of between 12 to 17 years. The breeding herd normally consists of old females, their siblings, female offspring and a few young males. Once the young males leave the herd, they might form bachelor groups of up to 30 males, or they will join up with other older, bigger males. Although these young males have a very good self-esteem while part of the breeding herd, they do feel very vulnerable and insecure when on their own, almost like when a teenage boy leaves the house after school.
This month, the lion sightings brought us a lot of excitement! The four breakaway lionesses of the Tsalala pride are getting bigger by the day and with the cubs, the pride is also growing in numbers. At this stage, we are unsure of how many cubs there are, as we have only seen one till now. We saw the three other lionesses walking with a Majingi male, so we are hoping for some more cubs. It is strange how at first, we were hoping that the young females would stay out of the Majingi’s way as they could have been killed and now, we are actually grateful to see them together as they are mating and this will bring more cubs! This just once again shows that nature works in a very strange, but wonderful, way. The old female of the Tsalala pride, BB, came to visit us a few times by herself and we also saw her two older daughters on our airstrip, also with three of the Majingi males. We were surprised with a visit from the Nkuhuma pride this month as well. We had three females with their 8 month old cubs in our area for a while, but it was not long before they moved on again.
This month was a spotty affair, as we had leopard sightings all over the place! Salayexe and her cub were seen very often and the little one is making every sighting an unforgettable one with her playful personality. It is unreal to think that this little cub is actually not that little anymore, as she is already 8 months old. She has now reached the age where anything and everything that moves is prey and is constantly busy chasing or stalking something. Shadow and her two cubs are doing very well and she is now also getting very relaxed with the vehicles moving around her. She is no longer hissing or growling at the vehicles and her cubs are also following her relaxed behaviour. We have not seen Karula’s cub or cubs yet and are therefore are not sure how many she has. She still has suckle marks and this is evidence that she is feeding 1 or 2 or maybe 3 newborn bundles of fluff, somewhere where they are safely tucked away in their den. Ntima was not seen a lot this month, but for a new mother being kept busy by her small cubs, this is normal. Yes, she is also a new mother now! We know where she has her cubs hidden away, but we are avoiding her den site as we do not want to disturb the new mom with her tiny cubs. We are giving her time to bring them out for us to see, but, hopefully this will not take too long. Tingana is also doing well and looking good. This big bully now realized that it is actually much easier to steal food from the females than hunt for his own food.
We were very fortunate to see a female cheetah, accompanied by three small cubs. It’s always so special to see a cheetah in the area as cheetahs need wide open areas to hunt in. What made it even more special was that she had three lovely cubs with her. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she will raise these cubs to adulthood.
Did you know?
Elephants communicate with each other over vast areas by using infrasound.