I know I say that every month is good but it is just getting better and better as the year goes on. The bush is really dry at the moment and in some areas there are a lot of bare patches. The average maximum temperature was only 23°C. We were blessed with 12mm of rain this month. It was great to see newly formed water puddles in and next to the roads. A few days after the rain we noticed the first new green grass pushing through the ground. The days that followed, more and more grass made their appearance. All the grazers did not let this opportunity sneak pass them as they quickly started feasting on these new green grass. We were very fortunate again with the wild dog sightings this month. Our resident hyena clan is also doing really well and their numbers are steadily rising. This hyena clan showed us this month why they are a force to be reckoned with. They killed a buffalo bull one evening in front of the lodge. The killing was very messy as each hyena ripped chunks of meat out of the living buffalo. Unlike the lions who suffocate their prey and then eat, the hyenas eat while their prey is still alive.

Two Hippos fighting by Lee-Wayne Lubbe

Two Hippos fighting by Lee-Wayne Lubbe

Leopards

There was so much excitement happening with our spotted cats. The best part, there is so much more excitement waiting to unfold. Salayexe and Tiyani are still together and at times it looks like the bond between them will never break. With all that said, sometimes it looks like they are not even related when Salayexe growls at Tiyani. We saw Salayexe, Tiyani and Anderson together for almost 2 full days. All of us thought that Salayexe was most probably coming into estrous and that is why Anderson was with them. After day two Salayexe and her daughter, Tiyani, moved north and Anderson moved south again. We see Tiyani a lot more on her own when Salayexe goes of hunting or just need some alone time. This gives Tiyani time to practice her own hunting skills as she stalks hares, birds, squirrels, duikers and so much more. Sometimes it works out and she kills something small but other times she goes to bed with an empty stomach. Salayexe is still expanding her territory more south and more east. Salayexe, showed her dominance this month after she stole a kill from Moya. Just as expected, Moya came down the tree and moved away from her kill. She knows Salayexe from previous encounters and knows that her aunt is bigger and stronger than her. Otherwise Moya is looking great and still very healthy. She was also seen with Anderson this month but they crossed out of our traversing area before we could see if they were mating or not. Shadow moved more east since Salayexe started expanding her empire. Shadow is also smaller than Salayexe and these two ladies have met a few times in the past and the outcome was the same, Salayexe was the dominant one. Shadow was very low on the radar this month but this might be due to the small cub. She and her cub are still looking great and feeding well. Kurula and her 2 cubs are also looking great and they are much more relaxed than last month. Nsele and her 6-month old daughter was seen a lot this last month. These two are looking great and they are well fed. Although Nsele has only one eye, it does not stop her from being a very successful hunter. Nsele’s older daughter is also still moving around in her territory and we have seen her a few times this month. She is looking good and rather big for a female of her age. We were also very fortunate to see the daughter of the Ingrid Dam female, who moved around our area. It is great to see there are a few young females moving into the area to try and establish a territory. Tsakani is also moving around the area giving the older females a lot of grey hairs. She is a wonderful little leopard and I hope that she will settle down in the area and start her own legacy. Madiba/Sindile, the young male leopard, was also seen a few times this month moving through our area. This young male is looking good and very healthy. At this stage he is a nomad wondering through the area in search of his own piece of Africa. The only thing standing in his way at this stage is Anderson, the big male. Anderson is on the top of his game at the moment and he is still expanding more north. I do not think that there is another big male who can challenge Anderson for his territory. Tingana is still spending a lot of his time in the eastern part of his territory to avoid Anderson. Both these males are still expanding their territories but avoiding each other. There is still loads of excitement instore for us with all these beautiful spotted cats.

Styx pride cub by Lee-Wayne Lubbe

Styx pride cub by Lee-Wayne Lubbe

Lions

The lion sightings were really pumping and we were spoiled with all the sightings again this month. The three lionesses of the Styx pride and their eight cubs are looking fantastic. The cubs are always so full of life with loads of energy. It is great to see that the Birmingham males are interacting with their cubs. They are very tolerant towards the cubs while they play and jump around them. The two female cubs in the group are always on the receiving end as their brothers always bully them. Luckily for them they have their mothers on their side. When things get too rough mum jumps in to help. The eight little ones are growing up fast and they do not have that real baby fur any more. Let’s just hope that all eight will survive to adulthood. This will be great for the pride. We saw the two Tsalala lionesses with two cubs again this month. It was a quick visit from them but they still look very healthy and in good condition. The core of their territory is south of our traversing area and they do not move this far north a lot. The Nkuhuma pride surprised us with our first sighting of three of their new cubs. It was great to see the cubs of this pride. The core of their territory is far northeast out of our traversing area. It is always great to see these little cubs and we also got word that there are two more litters. This means that three of the five lionesses have cubs at the moment and the other two have apparently already mated with the Birmingham males. If it can work out that the five females have babies it will be a great asset to the pride. We are not sure how many male and female cubs there are in the three litters as we do not see them a lot. Still we are full of hope that we will see them again in the next few months to follow. The Birmingham males are still looking great and their manes are just getting bigger and more impressive. These four males are getting more and more confident as they are moving more west again. The young and strong Birmingham males are still in their prime but it means nothing if they are alone. These males are doing so good now, I would hate to see them fall. The only why that will happen is when they keep on splitting up. These males are doing exactly what the Mapogo’s did. A successful coalition always stays together like the Majingilane males.

Buffaloes

Burchell's starling by Lee-Wayne Lubbe

Burchell’s starling by Lee-Wayne Lubbe

As the month came to an end the buffalo sightings exploded. We saw two main buffalo herds this month. The one herd had between 100 and 200 individuals and the other one was bigger with about 300 to 500 individuals. These big herds were constantly on the move in search of food and water supplies. Although they were moving the whole time we still saw them almost every second day of the month. The lion prides in the area had a field day with these big herds. Any young or old buffalo that stray too far from the herd or can’t keep up will fall prey to the lion prides. With the rain we had this month there was just enough water in the mud wallows for the old bulls to wallow in. These old boys are still in good shape. They are always close to a waterhole and the dry river beds where there is still green grass. A few of the dominant buffalo bulls have left the breeding herds to fatten up for the next breeding season, next year.

Little bee eater by Lee-Wayne LubbeElephants

The elephant sightings are just out of this world. There was no shortage of them. The herd sizes range between ten to thirty animals in a group. The elephants are still looking great even now that we are experiencing a drought. Elephants are incredible creatures that eats 95% of all the vegetation in the bush. In the summer months their diet mainly consists of grass as it will make up around 98% of it. In the winter when there is not a lot of grass their diet changes to 90% trees. They also spend a lot of their time in the dry riverbeds to feed of the wild date palms. There were a few big males moving around in the area following the female groups. It is wonderful to see the herds in their numbers moving across the open area in front of the lodge. All the matriarch elephants of the herds know that the waterhole on the open area always have fresh water. We have elephants passing the front of our lodge almost every day.

Special sighting

To see a mother leopard and cub is always a very special sighting. To see a mother with two cubs is even more special. This month we were dumbstruck to see Nsele, her youngest daughter and her older daughter from her previous litter in the same tree with a kill. We all thought that maybe this was a once off thing but we couldn’t be more wrong. Just a few days later all three of them were together on another kill. Nsele was very relaxed with the older cub being there with them and the youngest daughter liked the idea of her big sister visiting them. It was really special to see them all three together as a family.

Did you know?

Unlike many other animals, hippos seldom, if ever, use mock charges on land as a passive defense.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché