Hyenas feeding on a wildebeest by Dawie Jacobs

Hyenas feeding on a wildebeest by Dawie Jacobs

As expected we picked up where we left off last month. The sightings were just awesome and ridiculously great at times. This month we were spoiled by wonderful sightings and I must say it was such a joy to spend quality time with the animals. There is a big change happening in the bush and there are such exciting times coming up. It is again that time of the year when the impala males are busy with the big fight for mating rights. The rutting season has started. The changing season is now really in full swing as it gets darker earlier in the evening and lighter later in the morning. The temperatures are also dropping a little bit and we have pulled our jackets out of storage. The average maximum temperature for the month was 30 ⁰C with no rain. Once again we had a few wonderful wild dog sightings this month. The alpha female is heavily pregnant and we have seen them digging around in a few termite mounds. We all know what that means; she is looking for a suitable den somewhere. Their preferred dens are around a thicket or thick drainage areas. Every time we see this pack we hope that she will get a suitable den and have her pups here. All we can do at this stage is wait and see what will happen. Our resident hyena clan is still growing in numbers. This month we saw there is yet another new baby of a few weeks old at the den. The little one is still a little shy but when mum is there she calls him out of the den to play outside.

Leopards

Karula the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Karula the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

The leopard sightings were such a treat this month. We had a wonderful time with all the tiny babies around. Kurula and her two cubs are doing really well and she is so relaxed with us being around them. She has moved her den into a nice thick donga with a lot of hiding place for the little ones. One of the little ones are a bit skittish but getting better with the vehicles. The other one is fine with the vehicles. Shadow surprised us all as she is much more relaxed than previous years. It is wonderful because both her cubs are much more relaxed than her mother’s two cubs. Although one of Shadows cubs are more shy than the other one they still provide us with a good show when playing around the den. This next few months will be very crucial in the habituation stage of these little cubs. Shadow has moved the cubs to a great area where it is very thick but still great for the cubs. The only problem with the new den is that it is very close to Anderson’s territory. A very good sign is that both mothers are so relaxed with the vehicles at the den. If they had enough of you they will let you know with a quick snarl. Salayexe and her daughter is also doing really good. Salayexe has been snarling and hissing at her daughter a lot this month. This looks like Salayexe will be breaking the mother – daughter bond between them. For the young cub this new behaviour of her mother came as a shock to her. Salayexe hissed at her before but never to the extent that it looks like she wants to bite her. Salayexe also expanded her territory further south and that is where the little one spends more of her time. So it looks like it is sorted, the daughter will set up her territory to the south of Salayexe’s territory. Tsakani was also seen a lot again this month and she is moving all over her absent mother’s territory. This is going to be such a beautiful female leopard and we can’t wait for her to set up her territory and have young of her own. We have started seeing Nsele’s older daughter also a few times this month. She is also such a great leopard female. Mvula is spending a lot of his time back in the western part of his old territory. It looks like the leopard dynamics are starting to change again, concerning the male leopards. Now that Mvula has moved more west it is clear that he is under enormous pressure from the other male leopards like Tingana. With him being here it puts tremendous pressure on Kurula and Shadow as they have tiny babies and he is not the father. When he stumbles onto one of the dens he will kill the cubs and there is nothing these ladies can do. Tingana is pushing more north and further east expanding his own territory and does not have the faintest idea that Mvula is in his territory. Tingana is really looking great but still getting pressured from Anderson. Anderson does not stay very long in one area as he has such a big territory that he needs to check. This male most definitely has the biggest territory of all the males in the area. Anderson spends a lot more time with Salayexe and her almost one-year-old cub. This might be a sign that Salayexe might come into season in the next few months.

Lions

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

We had great lion sightings this last month. The three Styx pride lionesses are still looking great and very healthy. There is still no sign of more cubs from the other females but let’s hope it is not going to be too much longer. The old female moved all over and in and out of thick drainage lines, which means that she might be looking for a den. This will be great news for us and for the pride. Although the young female has a den already two females do not normally share the same den. The young Styx female has also moved her cubs again to a new location this month. One of the Birmingham males moved into the area of the den and the young female just lashed out and gave him a good hiding. Let’s just hope that these young boys won’t kill their brother’s cubs like the Mapogo’s did. It is unclear what the male’s intention was but the female did not want him around that day. We do not know how many cubs there is as we have not seen them yet. I think I speak for everyone here when I say we cannot wait for the little ones to start moving around with their mother. The Nkuhuma females were also out and about this month and it is great to see them spending more time in our area. They are still some of the best looking lionesses in the area and are in top condition. It looks like one of the females are pregnant as her milk glands are swollen. This will be great for the pride to also grow in numbers. The Nkuhuma pride was once the biggest pride in the area and was so successful in hunting, raising cubs and defending their territory. The Birmingham males have started again to move more west. These males did spend a lot of their time in the eastern part of their territory as this is where all their females are.

Buffalo

Anderson the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Anderson the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

There was no change with the buffalo sightings again this month. We were fortunate to have seen two and at times even three big herds on one game drive. We all know too well that it can happen at any time where food gets scarcer and the herds move on to greener pastures. But for now we are enjoying every moment with these wonderful animals. The majority of the females that were pregnant last month gave birth and the herds are full of newborn babies. The poor youngsters need to move when the herd moves and can rest when the herd settles to rest or stop to feed. When you find a big herd you must take the time to watch them closely as they do their day to day things. You will actually see that they are very unique animals in their own way. When you look at the buffalo calves, they have to drink on the move. Due to buffalo herds always being on the move the babies walk behind their mothers and drink from the back while mum is feeding. With the last of the big males back with the herds there is a bit of pushing and shoving going on between the males. We have not yet seen a full on fight with these big boys this month but it is bound to happen sooner or later.

Elephant

Salayexe`s cub and an elephant by Dawie Jacobs

Salayexe`s cub and an elephant by Dawie Jacobs

If there was one thing where there was no shortage of then it was elephants. It was wonderful again to spend some time with these big heavyweights. We were so fortunate to see two males in full musth having a standoff. There was so many big males in the area this month and we saw a group of males together with a herd of females. Sometimes it might happen where you see an old male that is close to 50 years old with a few young males. These young males are called askaris bulls, they will follow the big male and he will teach them everything they need to know. When a young bull comes into musth for the very first time he will be about 25 years old. The body will undergo a massive change with high testosterone levels and the young bull might get very aggressive. With this high testosterone levels shooting through the body, the young male wants to fight with everything that stands in his way. That is when the old big male comes into play to show the young male who the boss is and to put him on his place. The herds of females moved through the whole area again this month. We had such great times with these beautiful animals. Herds came from far to drink the fresh water from the waterhole in front of the lodge. It was such a treat to see the females and their babies coming to drink water while we are having breakfast or lunch. These big animals drink water twice a day and will drink between 100L – 200L of water per day.

Special sighting

The sighting that stood out above the rest was Shadow and her cubs. It is a treat to spend quality time with this little family and the cubs are very relaxed with the vehicles, jumping and playing.

Did you know?

A giraffe’s tongue is outside of its mouth for about 10-14 hours a day while eating.

See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché