This month was very exciting with awesome game viewing opportunities. The wild dogs blessed us with their presence, as we saw them several times this month. We were also very fortunate to see a young male cheetah moving through the area. The matriarch of our hyena clan has given birth to the cutest little pup. The little one, who is now a few weeks old, is not shy at all. The older pups at the den do not know which way to go as this little pup bites their ears and heels. When the older pups fight back and manage to pin the little busy body down on the ground, he calls his mum. When the mother hyena stands up, the older pups knows they are in trouble and scatter into different directions. We are very fortunate to have this resident hyena clan in our area – especially the den with the small pups. The weather went from one extreme to the other. We had wonderful day temperatures in the deep 20°C to the low 30°C. There was yet another heat wave that came through the area, pushing the temperatures up into the mid 40°C. There was a few overcast days to help against the scorching sun, but no real, sufficient rain. The average maximum temperature for the month was 33°C, with 8mm of rain.
Salayexe and her daughter are doing very well. Salayexe’s daughter is now 10 months old and getting really brave and adventurous. The one morning we found the two resting not too far from the lodge. Out of nowhere a hyena made his way closer to them and the cub ran straight towards her mum. Salayexe moved in between the cub and the hyena, in order to keep a watchful eye on the hyena. The cub then started stalking the hyena and mum just had to follow and make sure that nothing went wrong. If this little cub makes it to independence, it will be great to have another relaxed female in the area. Kurula, the old lady, recently gave birth to small bundles of fluff. We do not know how many cubs she has, as they are safely tucked away in a den. This is exciting for us and we can’t wait to see the little one/ones running around. The core of her territory is out of our traversing area, so we do not know where their den is and how they are doing. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that these youngsters make it and not fall prey to something. Thandi is doing fine and she is moving all over the area and that includes moving through Kwatile’s and Kurula’s territory. She was also seen with Tingana this month. Both these ladies are occupied with their cubs at this stage, so they have other priorities. Shadow was also seen a few times this month and she is also looking great. She moves around all over and she was seen in and out of her mother’s territory. We were very fortunate to see young Tsakani, the daughter of Kwatile this month. This young female is looking very healthy and she is growing more and more in confidence. She is not scent marking yet, but is still moving around in her mother’s territory. We also found her moving deep into Salayexe and Shadow’s territory, maybe getting familiar with the area and her future neighbours. Nsele was also seen this month, and it looks like she has big plans. Nsele is trying to expand her territory more east, as her two daughters are moving around on the western part of her territory. She had another standoff with her mother (Salayexe) the one evening. Nsele stood her ground for the first few minutes, but then the more experienced and more intimidating Salayexe took charge and chased Nsele away. The next day Salayexe was still on the tracks of her daughter, making sure that she really did move out of her territory. This did not scare Nsele off as we found her on the tracks of Salayexe and her cub again the one afternoon. Nsele is getting older and stronger, but she is not ready to take on her mother, although this will not stop her from testing the waters. Tingana, the male leopard is all over as well, expanding his territory more north at the moment. Tingana is looking to take over Mvula’s whole territory. Mvula is well under the radar as we do not see him much anymore. Tingana is looking great and he is in the prime of his life. Anderson was up to his old tricks again and made us work hard to find him. Overall we had great sightings of him during the times that we saw him. The young Flat Rock male was moving around in our area, making life very difficult for the big males. This young male is a nomad and does not have a territory at the moment. At 3 years of age this youngster was pushed out of his birth area which was in the southern part of the reserve. With the presence of this new intruding male to the area, Anderson and Tingana are much more alert and active. This young male does not stay very long in one spot and moves all over the area. It is a beautiful male with piercing, bright orange eyes, a rounded head and strong shoulders. This male almost looks exactly like the late Lamula, just a little smaller.
The lion sightings were a bit slow at times, but still we still had a great time with these big cats. We had a wonderful surprise visit by three of the adult lionesses of the Breakaway pride the one day. The Breakaway pride spends a lot of their time more in the western part of the reserve, as this is where the Majingi males are. Their visit was short-lived in our area, as they moved back southwest, out of our area. This might be due to the presence of the 5 young Birmingham males in the eastern part of the reserve, who is looking to expand more west. Also a big threat is the two Matimba males who have set up territory in the central part of the reserve. The adult lionesses of the Breakaway pride are in great condition and they are looking very healthy. These four adult lionesses are a few of the last daughters of the late Mapogo males, who ruled this reserve. I think out of all the lionesses in our area they are looking the best. The three Styx pride lionesses were also seen a few times this month and they are spending much more time with the Birmingham males. All three females have mated with the Birmingham males, so if everything goes well we might have some more cubs in the near future. It would be great for this pride if they could get cubs and stay with the young Birmingham males. This pride has struggled a lot over the last few years to raise a single cub. It will be great for them if the pride can grow more with a few new members. The Nkuhuma pride lionesses were also out and about this last month and they are also in top shape. This pride is unbelievable hunters and they always eat well. The Nkuhuma pride has always been a pride that specialized in hunting buffaloes and doing it very successfully. Even today these five females that we see in our area are not afraid to take on a full grown male buffalo bull. The Birmingham males have been all over the show as they are patrolling their boundaries, making sure that there are no intruders in their territory. The only problem that I see now is that these males are splitting up into two’s, or singular formation. We all know too well that they have a better chance of survival if they stick together and face danger as a team. We have seen it so many times that when a coalition splits into smaller groups, it could mean their downfall when a younger and stronger coalition moves into the area. I think there are still very interesting times waiting for us in the near future, concerning the lions in our area.
The buffaloes were very generous to us as we had awesome sightings this month. At times it was so hectic that there were about three to four different herds of buffaloes moving through our area. There were big, medium and small herd’s moving through the area almost every day. The few smaller herds that moved in and out of our area were anywhere from ten to forty individuals strong. These might be splinter groups of the big herds that moved through. The one herd we saw the one morning was extremely nervous and was snorting and running away when we got closer to them. This might have been due to lions that chased them around the night before, or even that morning. There were one or two small babies in the herds as well. The majority of calves were yearlings. The different herds stayed in the area for quite some time, feeding away at the new green grass that is coming out. We also noticed a few females that were in two’s and three’s, which is really unusual. Females always stay together as a unit as they are stronger in a group. If a lion pride moves through the area and they come across these ladies, they will definitely go for them. There were also a few wonderful bachelor herds that moved into the area. These young and big male buffaloes are staying really close to the main waterholes, as this is where the best food and water is.
We had such a great time with these big heavyweights. There were so many herds that moved through the area. The waterhole on our open area was again a massive attraction, as we had up to three herds per day moving through to quench their thirst. We were spoiled the one day when a tiny baby elephant came charging out of the bush towards us while we were on drive. After realizing that we were not afraid and did not plan to run away, the little rascal tried a different approach. He went all around the car to see what was going on. Suddenly the little one came straight towards the vehicle and sniffed the side of the vehicle. Mum saw this and came towards us as well and we knew that it was time to leave. As we moved off the baby followed us without the intention of leaving his new found friend. Mum soon stopped him in his tracks and he followed the rest of the herd, trumpeting as he went along… maybe to say: “see you guys later again.” This was such a special sighting for both me and our guests alike. There were so many big bulls this month and we had a few that were in full musth again. One bull in particular was always around the lodge and he also provided us with some great sightings. This big boy chased all the animals away from the waterhole in front of the lodge, claiming the waterhole for himself. The big males were accompanied by a few younger males who would learn from them in the years to come.
This month it is the tiny baby hyena at their den site. It is so great to see the little one moving around the den. Being a baby of the matriarch, this little one learned from a young age that she is untouchable and she can do what she wants. She does not stand back for any member of the clan as she knows where she is in the hierarchy. It is great to have her at the den and she is not shy at all as she likes to entertain us.
Did you know?
The giraffe is the biggest ruminant. Ruminants have a four chambered stomach.