Rangers ReportNovember 2017
Nkuhuma cubs - Morné Fouché
Finally, the long wait is over and the first babies of the season started arriving during November. The first impalas arrived between 10 and 13 November. November is the start of the rainy season and that directly translates into baby season. The majority of the animals will normally give birth during the wet season, when water and food is more abundant. The vegetation is getting really dense and searching for food is a thing of the past. The average maximum temperature was 30°C and we received a very welcome 74mm of rain. Game viewing was absolutely incredible. We were spoiled, not only with the quality of different sightings, but also with quantity. This month we had two different pangolins on our traversing area. This was once again so amazing to see, as the one pangolin was spotted a few hundred meters from our lodge. The wild dogs were also out in their numbers and they made sure we got some great sightings. The Elephant Plains hyena den have a brand-new puppy! What an amazing little creature. We are really spoiled with this hyena den on our property, especially due to this fact that it has been very active for more than a year now.
There is still a lot of uncertainty with regards to the territory of the late Salayexe. Both Tiyani and the young Ingrid Dam female are still occupying the same area and they still scent mark the same areas as well. Both these females are fairly young and have a lot of life lessons to learn. It will be nice if both of them can share this available territory.
Tiyani is still getting bigger and she is showing some strong features. She also looks very healthy and this is definitely due to her successful hunting routine. It is always a treat to see this young cat. She was often spotted, moving through the area and scent marking as she went along. The area that Tiyani is scent marking and claiming is quite big for a young female. The possibility is evident that she might need to downscale a little to something smaller.
The young Ingrid’s Dam female was also seen a few times this month. This young female is a little older than Tiyani, but they are similar in size. Both of them can hear the distinct territorial call of the other, but chooses not to engage in any territorial disputes. Unfortunately, a territorial dispute is bound to happen somewhere in the near future.
Nsele was not seen too often this month. When we did see her, she had a belly that almost dragged on the ground. It would be so awesome if she is pregnant and we could see new bundles of fluff soon. This is not impossible, as her daughter from her previous litter is almost two years old now. We saw her older daughter a few times as well this month and she is a really stunning cat.
The young Hosana is growing up really fast and he is becoming a beautiful and bulky leopard, due to his excellent hunting skills. He still has no urge to move away, in search of his own little territory. Unfortunately, there will come a time when he would have to leave, as he will be forced out. But for now, he is still loving life around the area.
There is a new male on the block and he is moving around in the south-eastern corner of Tingana’s territory. He looks like a confident, focused and strong male, who wants to make his mark in the area. He is not that relaxed with the vehicles, but he will get there. At this stage he is smack bang in the middle, between Tingana and Anderson. Talk about being between stuck in between a rock and a hard place!
Mvula was also seen this month and he is still looking good. Mvula is still moving all over the show, as he has Tingana to the east and then Anderson to the south of him. So far it is still looking good and he is avoiding the younger, stronger males. The big question is just for how long he would be able to keep up this Houdini act.
Anderson was very low on the radar this month. During the times we did see him, he was still on a mission, patrolling his territory. He is spending a lot of his time in the southern and western parts of his territory. It might be because there is some new competition coming into the area, or he might just be busy expanding his territory.
Elephants and a leopard drinking water by Morné Fouché
The lion sightings were absolutely brilliant this month. We were very fortunate with the different lion prides in the area. There was also a lot of excitement with these beautiful cats.
The Nkuhuma pride stole the spotlight during November. The Amber eyes female has suckle marks. It is still unclear how many cubs she has, as she was only spotted in a thick dry riverbed. It will be so awesome if we could see the cubs and find out how many there are. The young female with the two older cubs is spending a lot of time with the Amber eyes female at the den site. Fingers crossed that she will keep the new babies safe for the next few months or so, before she re-joins the pride. The young female with the two older cubs are also doing well. The two cubs are growing up really fast and they are keeping their mother on her toes. The other females with the bigger cubs are also looking good and they are eating really well. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this pride.
The Styx pride was also seen a few times during the month. They are looking great and all the cubs are very healthy. It is always great to see this pride. As they are the oldest pride in the Sabi Sand, I will always have a soft spot for them. They’ve had a really tough time the last couple of years, as they were not able to raise a single cub to adulthood. So far, the three adult lionesses are doing really well for themselves. As long as they can eat well, they will stay healthy. It is good for the pride to have one, or even all four, of the Birmingham males accompanying them, to keep them safe.
The Tsalala pride was also seen a few times this month. Unfortunately, this pride still doesn’t have any pride males to keep them safe from other males. The responsibility all comes down to the adult females to keep the rest of the pride safe. It looks like the two fifteen-year-old sisters are back together, but there are a few pride members missing. The one young female of the Tsalala pride was mating with one of the Birmingham males this month. It is great to see that this young female is mating with the Birmingham male. All that needs to happen now is for the Birmingham boys to expand their empire more south, into the Tsalala prides territory. This is most probably what will happen within the next year.
The four Birmingham males are also looking very healthy. They have really turned into beautiful big male lions. They are getting more and more confident and moving further and further south, while scent marking and roaring. With the aging Majingi males to the west, it will not be too long before the Birmingham males will expand their territory further west.
Young Ingrid's dam female by Morné Fouché
More and more bachelor herds are making their way back to our area. This has a lot to do with the awesome rain we’ve received during the month. It is great to see the waterholes that were bone dry a month ago, finally three quarters full again. Mud wallows are an essential part of the day to day living of a buffalo’s life during the summer months. The buffalo bulls love to roll in the mud, as it is cool and soothing and also helps them to get rid of some of the parasites that might be stuck on them. We are still hopeful that the females and their calves are not too far away. Hopefully they would soon make their way into our area as well. This time of the year there should already be a few females with very small calves. Buffalo cows have a gestation period of between eleven and twelve months. This is the longest gestation period in the bovine family. Despite a long gestation and the ability of the calve to be able to stand within the first ten minutes after birth, they can’t keep up with the rest of the herd. Mothers that give birth within the herds rest period, are usually left behind by the herd when they move on to feed. This will force the mother to go into hiding with the calve, until it is strong enough to move along with the herd.
Tiyani the female leopard by Morné Fouché
The elephant sightings were just incredible this month. Normally the elephants will embark on their yearly journey to the Kruger National Park this time of the year. This year it was different and we had so many elephant herds moving through the area. One noticeable thing is that there are a lot more family units than in previous years. This certainly has to do with the amount of rain we’ve recently had, which totally transformed the bush. These family units will normally consist of an old female and her offspring, as well as their offspring. These herds consist of only about ten to fifteen animals. These family units will again join forces with the rest of their family during the winter, when they rely on the matriarch of the herd to find food for them. Leadership and experience play such a crucial role in the social structure of elephants.
The special sighting this month was to see a new, tiny hyena cub at the hyena den. He was so small that he had a hard time getting up to the entrance of the den. His mother was very relaxed with us being there and her focus was only on the little cub. Mum was lying on the slope just next to the entrance of the den and the cub walked with very wobbly legs towards mum. The slope turned out to be quite a challenge for the inexperienced walker, as he tripped and rolled down the slope, all the way to the bottom. Mum just looked on in shocked disbelieve at his clumsiness, as baby ended up all the way at the bottom of the mound.
Did you know?
Spotted hyena cubs are born with their eyes open.
See you out on the game drive soon.