What an awesome way to kick off the new year! The day temperatures were like a roller coaster with a few cold days followed by a few hot days. We were once again blessed with wonderful rain this month. This gave all the plants a massive boost. We had 144mm of rain, with an average maximum temperature of 31°C. We also had a few unbelievable sightings this month. We had the privilege to spend some quality time with the Sands wild dog pack and also the Breakaway Investec pack. It is always a treat to see these endangered predators move through our area. The excitement did not stop there, as we were very fortunate to see two cheetah brothers moving through the area as well.

Leopard

Tiyani is looking great and very healthy. This young female got a very rude awakening by her mother, Salayexe. The once unbreakable bond between mother and daughter is for sure something from the past. The one day Tiyani followed the call that she knew so well – the call of her mother, only to be chased up a tree and growled at! Tiyani tried everything, but she received no compassion from Salayexe, who was sitting at the base of the tree. Salayexe made it very clear that it was time for Tiyani to move on. Tiyani found some relieve and peace in the north-eastern side of Salayexe’s territory. Time will tell if she will move further east, or decide to stay in the area. Salayexe is doing just fine and she was scent marking all over the show. Salayexe is now twelve years old, but she still has a few years left to raise more cubs and defend her territory. The young Ingrid’s Dam female was also out and about this month. Once again, she was moving around in Salayexe’s territory. She is definitely like Houdini, because every time that Salayexe moves through her territory this young female disappears, making it very difficult for Salayexe to find her. This young female is such a treat to watch and she is a truly beautiful leopard. I really hope that she would stay in our area. Kurula and her two cubs are also doing great. The male cub is definitely the more adventurous one of the two. His sister is also great with the vehicles around her, but she is still a little shy. It is a true show to watch these three cats playing together. Fingers crossed that she will raise these two cubs to independence.  Shadow was also seen this month, but she was very illusive. She is looking great and very healthy, though. Word is that she gave birth, but we do not know where and to how many cubs. I certainly can’t wait to see them for the first time! Nsele was also seen a few times this month. She was alone the majority of the time but her daughter is still doing well. Being a year old now, it is common for Nsele to leave her alone for longer periods – forcing her to start practicing her own hunting techniques. The big boys were all over the show again this month and missed each other the whole time. Tingana is still patrolling his territory’s western boundary, as Anderson is looking to expand. Tingana is a big leopard but not as big as Anderson, so it will be interesting to see what will happen in the near future. Tingana is also expanding more east, so I think he knows what is coming. Anderson, the brut, is still expanding into Tingana’s territory and he is constantly moving more east, claiming a big chunk of Tingana’s territory. If Anderson succeeds in taking over the western part of Tingana’s territory, Shadow’s new cubs would be at risk.

Lion

Giant platted lizard by Louis Liversage

Giant platted lizard by Louis Liversage

All the lion prides and males were out to play this month! The Styx pride was seen a few times, accompanied by one of the Birmingham males. It is always good to have a big male present, in order to protect the cubs from danger. These three females are looking great and the cubs are very healthy. The Styx pride is moving all over the show and even into Tsalala pride territory. This sudden change might be due to the Birmingham males looking to expand their territory. The Tsalala 5 pride consist of the tailless female and the four youngsters. This pride is still sticking together at the moment, but I do not think it will be for much longer. The tailless female and the young female in the group are roaring every now and again… Who knows? They might be calling the big males… Unfortunately for the young males, their time to leave is closing in. The first two years of a young male lion’s life is the most crucial, as it is a struggle for survival. The Birmingham males are looking to expand their territory more west. The only problem is that this area still belongs to the Majingi male lions. Although the Majingi males do not patrol this part so frequently, they would not hesitate to fight with anyone who dared to try and take it from them. The Birmingham males are looking great and in good shape. They are, however, not ready for the Majingi males. One good thing is that they are walking together more than what they used to. The Majingi males made yet another turn in our area as the Birmingham males started calling in Majingi territory. Only two of the Majingi males came into the area to take on three of the four Birmingham males. Two was enough, as it was the two big boys, Black Mane and Smudge. The Birmingham males got a very rude awakening as the roars of the two Majingi males echoed through the trees next to them. The Birmingham males wasted no time and made a hasty retreat, leaving their fresh buffalo kill. The Majingi males chased these young males for kilometres before they went back to claim the free meal.

Buffalo

Breeding herd of buffalo by Neil Coetzer

Breeding herd of buffalo by Neil Coetzer

What a treat it was to spend some more quality time with the big buffalo herds in the area. There was no shortage of buffaloes this month. We are still waiting for the first calves to arrive. There are a few females that are pregnant and the clock is ticking. There are also a few of the females within the herds, still showing no signs of pregnancy. This might be due to the drought we experienced last year. When one of the herds moved into our area, they did not just move through the area like during previous months. We sometimes had two or three herds, feasting on the lush green grass for a few days before moving on. There are still bachelor herds in the area, accompanied by a few old dagga boys. With all the lion activity in the area we noticed that the majority of the old males have joined the bachelor herds for safety.

Elephant

Tsalala pride lioness feeding on a buffalo kill by Neil Coetzer

Tsalala pride lioness feeding on a buffalo kill by Neil Coetzer

The elephant sightings were also great, considering that we had a rather quiet start. At the beginning of the month we did not see too many different herds on drive. That being said, we still had a few mind-blowing sightings with the big and small herds in the area. Towards the end of the month we started seeing more and more elephants moving back to our area. With the number of trees pushed into the roads and pieces of branches scattered all over the area, we soon realised that our gentle giants indeed returned. There was one herd with a small calf, that stayed close to the lodge for the whole month. There are plenty of marula trees around our lodge, so they did not have to go very far, especially with the new-born. There were a few big males in musth, following the herds in the area. Two of the males really stood out and they had impressive tusks to go with their massive body size. These two big boys met one day, as they were following the scent of a female in oestrous. That was a sight to see – two big males battling it out for mating rights.

Special sighting

Once again there were many great sightings, but as always, there was only one that stood out. To actually see males of a species fighting for supremacy must be one of the ultimate sighting. The two elephant bulls were minding their own business whilst following the scent of the elephant cow in oestrus, when suddenly, they spotted each other. There was no greeting ceremony, or love lost between these two males. It was all down to business! They had the same body size and also the same sized tusks. It was an equal fight. Both tried from all angles to outwit his opponent, but neither succeeded. They even tried brute force, but once again, they were equally strong! The female group was also very close to them – keeping a watchful eye on both. The males started braking branches and they even pushed over some big trees in order to impress the ladies. This carried on for more than an hour, as these two males tried to battle it out for the female. After a while we decided to leave the two at peace – until today I am not sure who won the battle…

Did you know?

A leopard cub will stay with its mother till the age of 18 to 24 months. After that, the mother will kick will kick him / her out of her territory.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

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