Matimba the male lion by Morné Fouché

Matimba the male lion by Morné Fouché

August is the month where we start seeing changes in the bush and the weather. There is a definite change in the weather, as we had a few very hot days that went up into the mid thirties. This month was full of excitement, new adventures and so much more. We are sad to report that the wild dog pack that denned in our area has moved the little pups to a new den site, out of our traversing area. We still see the adults on a regular basis when they come and hunt in our area, though. After a successful hunt and a good meal, the adults retreat to the den before dark to feed the hungry pups. It will not be too long now before the pups start running and hunting with the pack. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that somewhere in the near future, we will see the little pups again and that the pack decides to make this area their home once more. We were also very fortunate to see four different cheetahs this month. It really looks good for the cheetah population and we do see more cheetahs coming through our area. This month proved to be the beginning of summer, with an average maximum temperature of 26 °C. We also had our first millimeter of rain.

Baby elephant by Jonathan Vogel

Baby elephant by Jonathan Vogel

Leopards

The leopard sightings were any photographers dream! Salayexe, the female leopard, was seen patrolling her territory and also mating with Anderson again. Kurula’s two boys were also seen a lot this month. I don’t think it will be too long before they will be completely on their own. The two boys almost never stay together when mum leaves them in a certain place. Each one will go his own way. I think when the time comes, they will hang around in their mother and father’s territory, for the first few months or so. Mvula reminds me of two leopards that I loved dearly: Mafufunyane and the big boy, Tyson. The thing that these three awesome male leopards have in common is that they were all very family orientated. I think that is why Mvula does not mind his sons moving around in his territory, for now at least. Nsele was seen a lot this month and she is looking really good and healthy. One thing that I saw this month was that Nsele is expanding her territory more east, straight into her mother, Salayexe’s, territory. It might be that she feels she is ready to take on her mother in a battle for territory. Nsele is just over 5 years old now, which puts her in her prime compared to the older, but more experienced Salayexe who is now over 9 and a half years. Kwatile was also seen a few times this month and the best thing was when her little cub was also seen moving around. The cub is not that relaxed, as the core of Kwatile’s territory is out of our traversing area and we do not see her that often. Moya, the beautiful female leopard, was also seen once or twice this month. She is really looking good and healthy, yet, there is still no sign of her new cubs that should only be a few months old now. Lamula is doing very well and he is looking really good, although he is still losing bits and pieces of his territory. Anderson and Tingana are expanding more and more. Anderson is expanding more east and Tingana more south. We had the battle of the titans at Elephant Plains as Tingana and Anderson met for an epic battle of territorial dispute. These two met the one day, not too far from the lodge in the ultimate standoff. It was very difficult for us to determine who dominated who, as both males did not want to give in. Anderson really grew in confidence and in size, day by day he reminds me more of his father. His father was Emsagwem, who was a brut of a male that unfortunately passed away in 2012/2013. Tingana might be a little shorter on the legs, but he is really bulky, where Anderson is longer on the legs. It is unclear who won this epic battle as both males went their separate ways that same afternoon. Tingana stalked and killed a big aardvark the one afternoon, but before he could hoist it, a few hyenas showed up and stole the kill. The next morning the kill was in a big marula tree with the four hyenas under the tree and Tingana feeding on the kill. The big question on all our minds was how he got his kill back and chased off four hyenas?!

Lions

Kurula, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

Kurula, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

The lion sightings were a bit of a roller coaster ride this month. We were very fortunate to see the Breakaway pride and the Majingi male lions with a kill this month. These four females are killing machines and this is why they are so healthy and in a magnificent condition. The young cubs are looking fabulous too and all nine cubs are still alive and kicking. I think that these four ladies will have a great success rate raising their cubs, because the Majingilane male coalition loves to move around with this pride. With the presence of their fathers, the cubs will be protected against other prides and males. It was so nice to see these four females, nine cubs and the Majingi males moving in and out of our area. I think we can all get used to seeing this massive pride moving through and bringing down a buffalo or two. The Styx pride was also out and about, but not like the previous months. This might be because the Majingi males were spending a lot of time with the Breakaway pride in this area. The Majingi male lions are a threat to the small cubs of the Styx pride, as they will kill them if they can find them. The two sub adult males are looking great and getting bigger by the day. They are not just growing in size, but in confidence as well. These two males are scent marking and roaring from time to time. The two sub adult females are also looking great and should also be coming into estrous not too long from now. The young males are trying their luck with the big females and their sisters, but have not accomplished anything yet. The two adult lionesses of the Styx pride are also in good shape and still looking very healthy. The little cubs are also growing fast and are not so little anymore, but still playful as always with no worry in the world. Two male lions of the Matimba coalition are pushing further west and also south into Majingi lion territory, scent marking and roaring. So far the Majingi males are kept quite busy in the western part of their territory, as they are busy mating with females there. With all that going on, their northern and eastern parts are left unattended. Let’s wait and see how this scene will unfold.

Wild dog puppies by Jonathan Vogel

Wild dog puppies by Jonathan Vogel

Buffaloes

We were blessed with a few very nice buffalo sightings this month. We had a big herd of about 300-400 individuals that moved around in the eastern parts of our traversing area. The big herds will be moving more and more and also much further than normal, as their food sources are getting scarcer. The herd that we saw had some old females amongst them, who were not in the best of shape. These females have small calves which are still nursing and most of the food they consume goes to the calves. There were also a few youngsters that were born last month and then a few older calves as well. Then it brings us to our trusty old dagga boys. We still had a few great sighting of these old warriors, which are moving around between waterholes. All the natural pans and mud wallows have dried up and these bulls need to move to the smaller waterholes to cool down from the harsh African sun.

Elephants

Wild dog female by Morné Fouché

Wild dog female by Morné Fouché

We had a few unbelievably great elephant sightings this month. We had some spectacular bulls that came through our area, following some of the bigger herds. With these enormous heavy weights moving through, they made sure we know they were here by pushing over a few trees and breaking branches, leaving it scattered over the roads. There were one or two big males that were in musth. Musth means that there is an increase in the testosterone levels of the male. When an elephant bull is around 25 years of age, he will go through this stage for the first time. Some of the young males are very aggressive when this happens and they turn their anger towards everything in sight. Luckily for us we did not have any aggressive ones, but we had the older, bigger males who push over trees to impress the ladies. We also had a lot of elephants coming to drink at the waterhole in front of the lodge. You can sit there and watch them for hours as they quench their thirst, before moving towards the river bed to feed on the wild date palms. It is always wonderful to view these majestic animals from the comfort of the pool deck, while enjoying the sun.

Special sighting

This month it was to see the epic battle between two spectacular male leopards. Tingana and Anderson were locked in a typical age old territorial dispute, where both males did not want to back down. They did not get physical with each other as both of them know that they can’t afford a serious injury at this stage. Although there was no bloodshed, it was still amazing to watch how these two big boys attempted to settle their dispute, by growling and hissing at each other.

Did you know?

The stomach acids found in a snake’s stomach can digest bones and teeth, but not fur or hair.

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

Morné Fouché

 

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