April was another exciting month to be out in the bush. The rutting season started and the Impala males were quite busy sizing each other up. At this stage, we have not seen a lot of full-blown fights yet. I think that the males will really start battling it out next month, when the rutting season is in full swing. We experienced our first proper cold front during April. There is a definite change in the weather. The early mornings and late afternoons are getting really chilly, as the sun disappears behind the horizon. We have put the blankets back onto the vehicles to help relieve the cooler mornings and late afternoons. The average maximum temperature was 30°C, with 41mm of rain. We were very fortunate to see a pack of 14 wild dogs, as well as the pack of three who moved though our area for a few days. Game viewing was just incredible and we saw a lot of action out in the bush.

Leopards

During the past month, these beautiful spotted cats made sure that we worked hard for great sightings. That said, the overall sightings were both unbelievable and mind blowing.

We finally found Tiyani, after she was absent from the area for a few weeks. She was seen scent marking all over our southern boundary. The area where she was seen, belongs to her cousin Moya, so the question that remains to be answered is where is Moya? At this stage, it will be great to see Tiyani getting a territory for herself, but this area might not be the best for her at this stage.

Salayexe is still moving all over the area, scent marking her territory and making sure that none of the young ladies try and take a part of her area. Salayexe is still a formidable force to be reckoned with and if any female would dare to challenge her they must know one thing, she will not go down without a fight. This old lady is still looking very healthy and eating really well.

Nsele and her cub were also seen a lot this month and they are both looking great. The majority of the times we saw them, they were apart from each other. This is mum’s way of letting the young female know that she needs to start hunting in order to survive. The young female tried catching various things, but it did not work out for her. She soon realised there are no specific skills needed to catch a tortoise, but you need to have skills to open the meal. Birds, giant land snails and mongoose were all very high on the list of potential preys, but not very high in the “ample food” category. This is a good learning curve for the young female and hopefully she can learn from her mistakes.

Thandi and her cub were also seen a lot this month. This young male is looking really great and he is lucky to have a great mother like Thandi, to provide him with food. With him growing fast and getting bigger by the day, Thandi needs to hunt more often.

Hosana and Xongile are also looking great and they are very healthy. These two young leopards have the ability to hunt and kill something on their own, as they have shown us so many times before. The area they are hanging around in has nice and dense vegetation, with a lot of waterholes and loads of antelope.

The Ingrid Dam female was also seen a few times this month and it is great to see that she is still hanging around the area. She also had a tough time with Salayexe, moving all over the area and letting her know who the boss really is. The young Ingrid Dam female has moved into an area once occupied by Kwatile. After the death of Kwatile that piece of her old territory became a no man’s land. This is great for the young female, as she does not have to fight another female for a territory at this stage.

It is so far, all good with the male leopards in the area and both Tingana and Anderson are not expanding at the moment. Both these males were low on the radar this month.

Lions

Elephant bull by Louis LiversageThe lion sightings were absolutely great. We were very fortunate to see lions on a regular basis. The lion dynamics are currently very interesting and there are loads of changes bound to happen. Like everything else, change is not always a bad thing. I think everyone will surely agree with me when I say that the last few months were very interesting, regarding the different lion prides in the area.

The Styx pride is still doing great and the six cubs are looking very healthy at the moment. The three ladies are doing a great job hunting and providing food for the rest of the pride. The four youngest cubs are also eating meat and they are such a joy to watch, as they fight each other for a piece of meat. The four little ones still do not know where the boundaries are regarding dad’s personal space. It is great to watch these cubs interacting with the rest of the pride. Fingers crossed that all six cubs can survive and that the pride will grow and become stronger.

The Nkuhuma pride is doing very well for themselves and they are still very healthy. We were again very fortunate to have them stay in our area for quite some time. I might be mistaken, but it looks like the milk glands of one of the females are swollen. This will be great for the pride if she is pregnant and the pride can grow with a few more members. All five females are looking very healthy and well fed. The six cubs are also looking healthy as they always have something to eat, thanks to their mothers. The Nkuhuma pride is busy expanding their territory, as we saw them in front of our lodge with a few impala kills. After finishing the kills, they moved back north, scent marking as they went along. Due to the absence of the Tsalala pride, the area around our lodge became neglected and up for grabs. There are definitely interesting times awaiting us in the near future.

The Birmingham males are definitely in the prime of their lives now and they are looking very healthy. They still split up from time to time, but have spent a lot more time together this month than previously. One thing that we noticed is that when they do split up, one will go to the Styx pride and two will go to the Nkuhuma pride, the remaining one will float between the two prides.

Buffalo

African harrier hawk by Louis LiversageThe buffalo sightings are starting to pick up quite a bit. There are more and more evidence of herds moving into our area at night, but by the next day they have already left the area. This is strange behaviour for these bulk grazers, as there is so much grass in the area. There must be another reason. We were very fortunate to see a herd of about 200 buffaloes which moved through the area. This was again short lived, as the herd moved out of our traversing area the following day. We soon realised that we are not the only ones to get all excited when the herds move into the area. Every time a herd or a few dagga boys move into the area the lions are on their spoor. This was the reason why the buffaloes did not stay for very long before moving on again. This is a battle that has been going on for years between lions and buffaloes, this is the battle for survival.

Elephants

Elephant eye by Morné FouchéWe once again had such a great time with these big heavyweights in our area. There were really loads of herds to choose from and we did not need to go very far from the lodge itself. Out of all the herds that we saw this month moving through our area, we only saw two really small babies of a few months old. There are a lot of the big females who are far pregnant at the moment. All the herds spend a lot of their time feasting on the last bit of the green grass in the area. In the next few months one will notice a lot more damage to the trees, as this will be the main food source for the elephants. In the summer season the elephant’s diet consists of 98% grass and in the winter, it is 90% trees. There were also many big bulls moving through the area. These big males were all in full musth and really grumpy. This made viewing the herds really interesting. It is always such an experience to see these big animals feeding and interacting with each other.

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was when we saw a mother porcupine with her two very small babies on drive the one evening. Unfortunately, we did not manage to get a single photo of the babies, but still, it was amazing to see them.

Did you know?

Another name for a herd of elephants is a memory of elephants. Quite an apt description of spending time with these gentle giants of the African bush.

See you out on the game drive soon.
Morné Fouché

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