Rangers ReportJanuary 2018
Young Ingrid's Dam female leopard by Morné Fouché
We could not ask for a better way to kick off 2018. It was an absolute pleasure to be out in the bush this month. The sightings were phenomenal and there was never a dull moment. The weather was up and down, but the rain was a huge, welcome relieve. The average maximum temperature was 31°C with 90mm of rain. Bird life was fantastic and we saw an abundance of our feathery friends. We were very lucky regarding the wild dogs. We had several different packs moving in and out of our area this month. Our resident hyena clan is also doing great. All is going well at the den and the pups are growing up very fast. The young warthog male is still sharing the hyena den from time to time and it looks like they came to some kind of an understanding! The wild dogs and the hyenas provided us with excellent sightings. We have witnessed plenty of epic standoffs between them and I know that there will be many more in the near future.
This month was excellent for leopard viewing. The number and quality of sightings that we had, was just crazy. This area is renowned for its leopard sightings and this month we were not disappointed. Tiyani, the young female was seen almost every day of the month. She is looking great and growing a lot in confidence. I watched her stalking a hyena one day. She almost pounced on the hyena! The poor hyena got such a fright when Tiyani came flying through the air. Xidulu, the young female, was seen a few times this month, moving all over her new territory. At this point it looks like she wants to expand more east. She pushed Shadow more east and took over the western part of Shadows territory. She was also seen mating with the Hukumuri male again. Hopefully the mating was successful and she conceived this time round. Moya, was also seen a few times this month.
Good news is that my feeling was correct in December. Moya has suckle marks, which is a definite sign off small cubs! This beautiful female is still in good shape and excellent condition. I can’t wait to see the new cubs as soon as she starts moving them. Thandi was also seen once or twice this month. Still no sign of her cub, but we have faith that she will move her sooner or later. Thandi is still looking great, but unfortunately, she is getting older. She is almost 11 years old and at this age she might start to lose some of her territory to younger females like her daughter, Kuchava. Shadow was also seen a few times this month, moving all over the show. Shadow lost a small section of her territory on the western border to the younger and bigger Xidulu female. Shadow’s daughter is looking great and spending a lot of her time alone. The future of this little cub is looking great and she is almost independent. Nsele was also seen a few times this month. Excellent news for us is that she had suckle marks when she was last seen. We know the den is just out of our traversing area, as we have followed her tracks crossing the boundary. Luckily, we know it will not be too long before she brings the babies over to our side.
Nsele’s daughter from her previous litter is also moving around our lodge. She and Tiyani already ran into each other twice this month. The Ingrid Dam female was also seen this month. She is still scent marking in the area, but Tiyani is like a nasty thorn in her flesh, as she is scent marking over her scent the whole time. So far, she is not really worried at all, as she does not go and look for Tiyani. It will be a matter of time before their paths will cross, though. Thamba, the young male, is moving all over his father’s territory. This young male is moving around a lot more than the other young males normally do. He is an excellent hunter and he eats well. This youngster is looking really healthy. Unfortunately for us, he will have to leave his birth place at some time in search of his own territory. Hosana is still moving around in his father’s territory and has no intension of leaving. This young male is growing up really fast and he is looking very healthy. Hosana is a really beautiful male and it will be sad to see him leave. Mvula was also seen a few times this month. At this stage, his age is really counting against him. This once very impressive territorial male, is now totally nomadic. It is sad to see yet another legend fading away, but I guess that is the way of life.
Tingana was also seen a few times, but not as much as we are used to. He is looking good, but his age is also taking a number on him. So far it looks like he still has some fight left in him to defend his territory against rival males. Anderson was also seen a lot this month. I think he finally realized that Hukumuri is moving into his territory. It is great to see him patrolling and doing his deep territorial call again. Anderson is almost 10 years old, which means that he will now also start losing some of his territory. One thing that counts in his favour is his size. It is crucial for him to hold on to his territory for another two years at least, as two of his ladies has new babies at the moment. Hukumuri was just all over the show. He has grown a lot in confidence while scent marking and doing his territorial call. One thing he is still afraid off is Anderson, and for good reason. He was pushed more north east by the old brut, Anderson. The positive aspect of this move, though, is that he appears to like this area and he is going to make it his new home.
Birmingham male lion by Morné Fouché
The lion sightings were just awesome and we had such great sightings again this month. The Styx pride was seen a lot this month and they had full bellies almost every time we saw them. The three big females are doing a really good job with the youngsters. One thing we noticed is that when they go hunting, they will leave the four small cubs behind and take the six older cubs along on the journey. The six older cubs are not ready to help with the hunts, but at least they are starting to learn. I can not wait for the day that the young females will join the hunts in order to feed their own cubs. If all goes well, the Styx pride will be one formidable force to take on.
The Nkuhuma pride was also moving through our area the last month. Things are looking better and they are also eating very well. Like the Styx pride, all the members are fit and healthy. The sub adults in the pride are now undergoing hunting lessons. Hunting is an art, a skill passed on from generation to generation. Every lion pride in Africa is specializing in a certain animal when it comes to hunting. For the Nkuhuma pride, buffalo is their preferred meal. The two Ximungwe females came in for a quick visit this month. These two young females are really looking good and I do hope that we can see more of them in the near future. With the future of the Tsalala pride looking very shaky, it might open a door of opportunity for the two Ximungwe females. As we know all too well, nature works in mysterious ways. The Birmingham males spent a lot of their time out of our traversing with the Kambula females. Overall, the Birmingham males are looking great and very healthy. Still the one concerning factor is that they tend to split up for days at a time before they reunite. Maybe they feel confident enough and know that there are no other males in the area to challenge them.
Grey heron by Morné Fouché
There is still no sign of the big breeding herds in the area. There was a small splinter group, who moved around in our area. This group consisted of several females accompanied by a few dominant males. This group was only about fourteen individuals with no babies. They unfortunately did not hang around for very long before moving off again. The bachelor groups are still moving all over the area and they were spending a lot of their time close to the water. These males have bulked up a lot comparing to the bulls in the small breeding herd. These bachelors will soon leave the safety of the brotherhood and return to the herds to fight for the females again. We have not seen a lot of the old dagga boys this month, but their tracks still indicate that they are in the area. There is an abundance of new mud wallows after the amount of rain that we had. This can also be why we do not see them very often.
Young elephant bull playing in the mud Morné Fouché
It was a real treat to see all the different breeding herds of elephants in the area. There was really no shortage of elephants, as we saw five to six different herds on a drive. We saw several new baby elephants who were born during the month. It was a spectacular sight to see, as the herd comes moving through, with the babies safely tucked away in the middle of the herd. These herds do not move very far in a day and they rest quite a lot, because of the new-born babies who need to take more regular breaks. There were a few of the herds who moved around in the area, who had up to fifty members. This was definitely an elephant month!
We saw several baby elephants this month, but it was very special to see one specific baby, trying to take his first little baby steps. This baby was only about a day or two old at most. It was so difficult for this little youngster to stand up and the uneven roads made walking somewhat of a challenge. He tried with all his might, but gravity was just too great. He came down face first a few times, but that did not stop him from trying even harder. With each attempt his little legs became stronger, until he finally got the hang of it and followed mum into the bush. This was an awesome sighting and I am glad we were part of this.
Did you know?
An elephant herd is considered one of the most closely-knit societies of any animal. Then only time a female will leave a herd, is when she dies.
See you out on the game drive soon.