Rangers Report

December 2017
Nkuhuma cubs - Morné Fouché

Birmingham male scanning the area by Morné Fouché

And so all good things have to come to an end. It is hard to imagine that we’ve reached the end of 2017. Looking back on this year, one realizes once again just how fantastic the sightings were. December is normally a really hot and wet month. It was a little different this year, with little rain and mild days. There were only a few days where the temperatures reached the low 40°C’s. The average maximum temperature was 31°C and we had 23mm of rain.

We had a great time with the wild dogs once again. The wild dogs and hyenas made sure that we were entertained by having some standoffs. The Elephant Plains hyena clan has a new, rather unusual member in the clan. A young warthog male decided that the hyena den is the perfect place for him to call home. It is rather unique to see this kind of relationship between hyenas and a warthog. The warthog leaves the den in the early mornings to go and feed and returns later in afternoon. He does not bother the hyenas and they apparently do not bother him!

Leopard

The leopard sightings in our area were mind blowing, as always. Still there are some interesting times ahead of us, with the shuffling between the leopard females in the area. As we all know, nature works by a different guidebook than what we are used to and there is always a curve ball in the works. Moya and the older Ingrid Dam female have expanded their territories more north. At this stage they are putting more pressure on the two young females, Tiyani and the young Ingrid Dam.

Tiyani, the young female leopard, is growing a lot in confidence. After her mother, Salayexe, died it was like she transformed and climbed out of her shell. It is awesome to be a part of her life and to see how she grows into a more successful female.

The young Ingrid Dam female was also all over the show. She is getting more confident as the months go by. There is a big confusion regarding the two Ingrid Dam females, as the older Ingrid Dam female is pushing more north. We have decided that the young Ingrid Dam female will receive another name. We decided to give her a name that will suit her character. There is only one leopard who will always be on a termite mount. So, this made the choice very easy and we decided to call her Xidulu. Xidulu means termite mount in the local Shangaan language.

Shadow and her cub were also seen a few times this month. The young female is a beautiful cat and she is growing really fast. It will be great for us if she can survive and stay in the area. Shadow is still looking great, although she’s had some altercations with Thandi this month. Both these females are busy expanding into their late mother, Karula’s, territory. Shadow is really doing well in raising her little cub and so far, it looks like a bright future ahead.

The Ingrid Dam female and her cub are both very healthy. This female is expanding her territory more north east into a part of Salayexe’s old territory. This puts more pressure on Tiyani to also move more north. I think that the Ingrid Dam female has realised that Tiyani is a young female and that she could easily take her on.

Moya was also seen a few times this month. Moya is also expanding her territory more north, putting more pressure on the Xidulu female and Tiyani. Moya is only 8 years old and still in her prime, so she still has the upper hand. Moya’s daughter is now spending a lot more time on her own. It looks like Moya’s milk glands are swollen.  If this is the case, then there are new babies on the way. Moya’s daughter is a really awesome little friendly leopard. Hopefully she will survive to adulthood and stay in the area. The south-western section of the late Kwatile’s territory is still open and any young female can still claim this territory.

Nsele’s daughter from her last litter was also seen a lot this month. A few months ago, she was really skittish and did not like the vehicles at all. She has improved a lot and is much more relaxed with the vehicles around her. It would be awesome to see this young female more often. 

Both Tingana and Anderson were low under the radar this month. It looks like Tingana was in a fight with another leopard, as he had a sore front paw. It was nothing serious, but he just looked uncomfortable. Tingana is still looking good and very healthy.  I do, however, expect a lot of competition for him in 2018, with all the young males in the area.

Anderson is still fit and strong. It is always great to see this big guy, but it looks like he is neglecting his area a little bit. This is not good for business, as it leaves an open invitation for other young males to move in.

There is a new kid on the block called Hukumuri, who is currently moving into the area around our lodge. This young male came from the western part of the reserve where he was born. We estimate him to be about 4years of age and he is already scent marking in the area. Hosana was also seen a few times and he is still looking great. He still has no intention to leave his fathers territory. Slowly but surely, Tingana will get fed up with this little youngster and eventually push him out.

Lion

The lion sightings were absolutely spectacular and we ended the year with some mind-blowing sightings.

The Nkuhuma pride had more bad luck this month, as they lost yet another cub. Nobody really knows what happened to the little cub. We just saw them one morning with only one small cub. Overall the pride members are looking very healthy. The sub adults are also looking great and the youngsters are getting nice and big now. When the females go out to hunt, they take them with so that they can start learning.

The Styx pride was also out and about and seen very often. The three adult lionesses are in top condition. The 10 cubs are growing up fast. With the 10 hungry youngsters, the females need to hunt more often than usual. The three females are always on the lookout for a good meal and will travel long distances in search of food. The cubs are still too small to join in on the hunts and they are left in a safe place. The future is looking bright for the Styx pride, but as we know, nature works in mysterious ways.

The Tsalala pride was also seen a few times in our area this month. We only saw three members of the pride. The two older lionesses are approaching 16 years of age and they might not be around for much longer. Unfortunately, the future of this pride is really not looking good at the moment.

We were very fortunate to see the Mhangene pride again this month. This is definitely my favourite pride of all. These females had a tough life growing up, but they had a fantastic teacher to help them. They are awesome females and look very healthy. The 12 sub adults are also in good condition. The nine young males are going to be a formidable force when they grow up. If these nine males stay together, they will surely cause mayhem. It is still too early to say what will happen to these youngsters and if the three females will stay with their mothers or not.

The Birmingham males were very low on the radar this month. This might be because they are expanding and looking for new horizons.  Two of the Birmingham males were seen in the southern part of the reserve. There are definitely changes happening and it looks like the Birmingham males want to move more south. It is difficult to say what they are busy with, but I hope that they will stick around until their cubs are bigger, before they make a move.

The two old Matimba male lions also came for a visit this month. It was great to see these beautiful males again, even if it short lived. They are now nomadic, because they lost all their territory. These males are moving all over the reserve and avoiding the dominant males in the different areas. Careful not to hang around in another male’s territory…

Buffalo

Finally, the long wait is a thing of the past. We had a big herd of about 100 or more buffaloes this month, moving through the area. It is good to see that the herds are finally moving closer to our area in their quest to find food and water. One thing we noticed is that there were no small calves within this big herd. There were, however, plenty of pregnant females in the herd. This might be a smaller splinter group that broke off of the main herd. Hopefully this herd will realise that there is enough food for the whole herd and remain in this area for the next few months. We also saw several bachelor groups moving through the area. One specific group had about 14 males sticking together.  This all male group also stayed in the area for a long time, before moving on again. It is almost time for these big boys to return to the breeding herds.

Tiyani the female leopard by Morné Fouché

African sunset by Morné Fouché

 

Elephant

We had mind-blowing elephant sightings this month and could not ask for more. The rainy season is always great for elephant viewing. The mud wallows are full of water, acting as a mud bath spa for these gigantic bodies. Elephants need a lot of water to drink and need to cool down in the harsh African heat. Therefore, any water mass big enough to accommodate an elephant is a potential water spraying, mud throwing zone.

Special Sighting

It is always difficult to decide on the best, most special sighting of the month. This month there was one sighting that stood out from the rest. A spectacular interaction between a pack of wild dogs and the resident hyena clan still lingers in my memory. It was fascinating to watch how neither of the two groups wanted to give in. The noises and calls gave us all goosebumps and there was never a dull moment. Predator interaction like this is always very intense and exciting.  At the end, both parties got a bit of the impala pie and went their separate ways in peace.

Did you know?

A lion’s roar can be heard up to eight kilometres away. Roaring helps pride members to keep in contact, discourages intruders and advertises that the territory is occupied.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

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