It is difficult to think that the year 2015 has come to an end. It feels like yesterday that we greeted the year with open arms. With 2016 around the corner, we can’t wait for all the new adventures and challenges awaiting us in the new year. When you look back at the past year and think about all the great times we had, you come to realize how blessed we were to be out in the bush and to be a part of this year. December was very good to us and once again we had great sighting and perfect weather. There were days that were scorching hot, but overall it was nice to be out. We also had a few wonderful lightning storms. The average maximum temperature for the month was 34 ⁰C, with 34mm of rain. We were very fortunate to see the wild dogs again, while they moved in and out of our area. We had two different packs moving through the area at the same time, but luckily they managed to avoid each other. The impala, wildebeest and warthog babies gave us some spectacular sightings. It is so great to see all of these babies moving around with their mothers. The nightlife was also a great treat and we were very fortunate to see an elusive pangolin one afternoon. What a wonderful way to end off the last chapter of the year 2015.

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

The leopard sightings were again out of this world. Salayexe and her little cub have spoiled us rotten with unbelievable sightings during most days of the month. Salayexe is doing very well to keep the little one alive and well fed. The little cub is so relaxed with the vehicles and her confidence level is building more and more. She is so relaxed that she would lay down in the shade of the vehicle and stalk the trackers. It will be great if this little playful female can make it to independence and set up a territory in this area. Kwatile was also seen a few times this month. Great news with this beautiful female is that she has cubs at the moment. We saw her the one hot afternoon resting on the cool sand in one of the dry riverbeds. She was so uncomfortable and could not seem to get a nice spot to rest. Upon closer inspection we realized that her tummy was moving and it was not from breathing! We were so exited and a week later we saw her again with suckle marks. We do not know how many cubs there are yet. It is going to be great when she brings them out for the first time. Tsakani, Kwatile’s independent daughter, was also out and about. Although we did not see her as much as we wanted, it was still special to see her. She is looking good and is still moving around in Kwatile’s territory, as this is an area that she knows well and is comfortable with. It is great to see all these young females moving around here. Hopefully they will settle down in the area. Shadow was also seen again this month and she still lives up to her name. It seems like the only time we have a great sighting of her is when she has a kill. The rest of the time she just disappears into the bush. Moya gave us a surprise visit again this month, but only because she was looking for the Anderson male. We see more and more of the Ximpalapala female, as she is expanding her territory more north. At this stage she is pushing the younger and smaller Moya more south, while slowly taking over her territory. The only problem that Ximpalapala has at this point in time is that Salayexe is moving more south, so it is only a question of time before these two females meet. Tingana was also seen a few times this last month. Tingana is still looking great and on top of his game. Anderson is still dominating this area while forcing Tingana more east. With Tingana going more east, he is forcing Mvula more east as well, while claiming more of Mvula’s territory. Anderson has grown into an enormous beast and has no real competition in this area.

Lion

One Birmingham male lion mating with one Styx female

One Birmingham male lion mating with one Styx female

Lion sightings were really up and down this last month, but overall we had a lot of great sightings. The Styx pride females were all seen mating with the Birmingham males during the month. One of the females had suckle marks, but she still mated with the males. This might be due to the fact that the males killed the cubs, or the fact that she is trying to confuse the males and keep them away from the cubs. It is a good sign that all the females have mated with them, so hopefully we will have new cubs in the new year. We saw one of the Nkuhuma females also mating with one of the males, but that was short lived. Five members of the Tsalala pride also gave us a surprise visit this month. The tailless female and the four sub-adults once again had a standoff with our resident hyena clan the one morning. The Tsalala pride stumbled upon Tsakani, the young female leopard, with a kill in the tree. The lions stole the kill and then the hyenas arrived on the scene. The tailless female stopped feeding and walked up to the hyenas to face them front on. The ten hyenas did not know what to do with this and they were very cautious. After the meal was finished the lions moved on, with the hyenas following to make sure they left. After the lions and hyenas moved on, Tsakani climbed down the tree and ran into the opposite direction. The Tsalala pride’s visit was also very short-lived, as they moved out of our area after the hyenas kept on harassing them. The Birmingham male lions have been all over the area, as they were scent marking their new territory. These five males are really in good shape and their manes are getting bigger day by day. My only concern with these males is that they are splitting up a lot more than what they should. Several times now we have seen only one or two together, with no sign of the others. This might be a problem when they meet other males, as they do not have the strength of a coalition. These males are spending a lot of their time in the eastern parts of our traversing area, hardly moving into the western side. It will not be too long before they get more confident and start venturing more westwards into Majingi territory.

Buffaloes

Buffalo bull by Louis Liversage

Buffalo bull by Louis Liversage

What fantastic buffalo sightings we had this month. There were buffaloes almost around every corner and road. We had a few wonderfully big herds that came through our area and stayed around for a few days at a time. The one afternoon we had two different big herds and a small herd in our area. The big herds move all over and do not stay in one area for very long. As food is getting scarcer it forces the big herds to move around much more during the day and night, in order to try and get enough food and water. We have also seen so many male groups staying close to the waterholes. The dagga boys you will always find around the waterholes or mud wallows. Being ruminants, they will fill their stomachs with grass during the morning and during the hottest time of the day they will chew on the cud.

Elephant

Wild dog pups by Morné Fouché

Wild dog pups by Morné Fouché

The elephant sightings were quiet at times, but the sightings we had was again out of this world. We had a few herds with a lot of youngsters, both big and small. We have seen two or three big males moving around, following the breeding herds. We were very lucky the one afternoon at one of the big watering holes as three different breeding herds came to quench their thirst. There was a lot of trumpeting and rumbling going on as these herds greeted each other. The massive count of just over a hundred elephants finished their greetings and moved away from the waterhole. The elephants are also causing havoc amongst the trees, as they uproot the trees to get to the root system. The big females will push over the trees to get to the leaves on top of the tree and also for the babies to get to the leaves. If they manage to uproot the whole tree and eat all the roots, then the tree will unfortunately die. Sometimes it does happen that the tree still has some roots firmly intact in the ground. When this happens, it will grow parallel to the ground, which would be great for smaller mix feeders like kudu and impala.

Special sighting

Once again we were very fortunate to see a pangolin this month. This pangolin was so relaxed with the vehicles. He was going about his business of foraging for termites and then he decided to walk into the open and what a show it gave us! It is always so great to see one of these very elusive animals on drive.

Did you know?

Although a pangolin has a very reptile like appearance with its scaly body, it is actually a mammal.

See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché