The month of April was action packed with intense moments and full of surprises. Finally the time has arrived for the males of the different antelope species to battle it out for supremacy and hierarchy. The impala males were the first ones to announce that love is in the air, as they were snorting and grunting, followed by the familiar clash of horns. The kudu and waterbuck males showed us that size does matter and you do not always have to fight for the ladies. We also had two nyala males that did a lateral display, complete with raised hair on their backs and fluffed up tails. I must say that we had some very exciting sightings with all these males, battling it out for mating rights. We had some really great sightings of both the Half-tail and Investec wild dog packs. We also had a great time around the hyena den, with the pups getting bigger and bigger by the day. The hyenas are making life difficult for the leopards and lions around our area, because they are stealing kills wherever they go. We changed over to our winter game drive times during the last week of April. With the sun rising a bit later and setting a bit earlier, we changed our times with 30 minutes in order to keep a good balance with the first and last bits of daylight. The blankets made their way back onto the game drive vehicles and within the next few weeks we will also add the hot water bottles for extra comfort. The average maximum temperature for this month was 27°C and we had 23 millimetres of rain.
Hippo by Jonathan Vogel
This month delivered some impressive leopard sightings. It is confirmed that Salayexe is definitely pregnant. We noticed that her milk glands are swollen and her belly is starting to hang. She is far pregnant and by the looks of things Tingana is the father, as she mated with him during the middle of January. Leopard females are pregnant for a period of between 15-16 weeks. If our calculations are accurate, she should give birth during the first week of May. We are all very excited and can’t wait any longer! We are keeping our fingers crossed that she will have more success in raising these cubs to independence. Nsele, Salayexe’s daughter, and her two cubs are looking great. The cubs are eventually at that stage where they no longer run away when they see the vehicles. They are beautiful cubs and it is great to see that Nsele have managed to raise them this far. Kurula was seen once this month and what a pleasant surprise it was to see that she has got suckle marks. It will be interesting to know where her new den site is. At the previous den site she lost her cub, so I guess she will not use the same one again. We will have to wait and see. Shadow and her cub are also looking great and the cub is now finally relaxed with the vehicles. The two of them gave us some great sightings, while running up and down trees or playing hide and seek. We started viewing the little cub at night with the spotlight, but only one spotlight is allowed to be on. He is very relaxed with the spotlight. In fact, he’s always trying to catch the moths that fly towards the light. Moya was also moving around in the area, following the scent of an unknown female leopard. Female leopards will sometimes leave their territory to look for a male leopard, if there are no males available in her area. After mating is finished, she will return to her area. Kwatile and her cub are also doing great and at this stage the cub is spending more and more time away from mom, as she explores around. Kwatile and Mvula were also seen mating this month. Bahuti, the young male, is still moving around in Mvula’s territory and he is growing into a spectacular, very healthy male. Quarantine, the young male, is also looking good and he is getting nice and big – even bigger than his twin brother, Nkunyuma. Mvula is still in the prime of his life and still in good shape. He is very active in his area and he hasn’t had any challengers yet. Anderson is moving far into Tingana’s territory and these two heavyweights have met up again this month. Once again there was no fighting between them, just a lot of growling and running next to each other. It looks like it doesn’t matter what Tingana has to say about Anderson moving into his territory, as Anderson definitely has his sights set on Tingana’s territory.
Hyena pup by Louis Liversage
The most exciting part of all the lion sightings this month, was the new beginning for the two young Styx females. The one young Styx female had her very first litter of cubs. This was headlines in the bush and we are overwhelmed with joy and happiness for this first time mother. So far, she is doing very well in raising the cubs, without the help of her mother or aunt. She has moved the cubs three or four times since their birth. It seems that she does not want any unwanted attention, which is great. The two Matimba males were often seen with the two Styx females, very close to the den site. If the Matimba males stay with the Styx females, on and off, for the first year and a half, things can work out for the Styx ladies. It will be interesting to see when the other Styx female will give birth, as she is also far pregnant. Every time we see the Tsalala pride they are looking healthy and very well fed. These females are very good hunters and the little cubs are growing fast. We saw the Tsalala pride a few times more this month than last month. After the run-in with the Breakaway pride last month, we have not seen the Tsalala pride close to our lodge again. When they move through the area, they move around the southern part of our traversing area. We also had some great sightings of the Nkuhuma pride that moved into our area and had a kudu kill to feast on. The Breakaway pride had a real up and down rollercoaster time this month. The one evening they followed a big herd of buffaloes on one of the airstrips. What a sighting! One of the Breakaway females is definitely coming into oestrus, as she was scent marking and calling for the Majingi males. That evening the males responded, but it was not the Majingi males but the Matimba males. The next morning we had small groups of lions scattered over our area. All the members were accounted for except for one, the adult lioness who was calling for the males the night before. We found five youngsters close to our lodge, all shaken up after being chased by the big unfamiliar male lions. Just when we thought it can’t get any worse, the five youngsters had a run-in with the resident hyena clan. The clan soon saw that they had the upper hand and launched their attack. The young lions all ran up a marula tree to get away from the sharp teeth of the hyenas. That afternoon we found the missing female, she was mating with the Matimba male. The big male followed her and tried to keep up, but soon realized it is no use as she moved back into Majingi male territory. We also had the Majingi males feasting on a buffalo for three days and in the early hours of day four we heard them calling to say goodbye.
Anderson the male leopard by Louis Liversage
We were once again very fortunate to have one of the big breeding herds of buffaloes moving through the area. With the lack of rain, food is getting scarcer for these bulk grazers, moving together in a big herd. We had a great sighting of them the one late afternoon. The Breakaway pride was resting, when suddenly the one adult lioness lifted her head and looked south. She heard the buffaloes moving towards them and she rounded up the troops and moved towards them. The big herd could smell the lions, but they did not know where they were. The buffaloes quickly regrouped and made their way to the big open airstrip, for safety as light already faded. It was great to see them regroup after a few of the members smelled the lions. True teamwork!
Male wild dog by Dawie Jacobs
This month we did not have loads of herds moving through our area, but the herds that moved through made it worthwhile. We also didn’t see a lot of tiny babies this month but we did see a few in the terrible two stage. We also saw an old female with really impressive tusks that moved through the area. It is always nice to see an elephant with a pair of impressive tusks and to see a female with big tusks is a big bonus. The majority of the herds have moved towards the areas where it rained a lot this year. The big bulls were really scarce as we saw just two big males moving around. The one bull had an impressive body but no big tusks. He also had about five young males that moved around with him. It does not bother the old male when the youngsters tag along with him, the only time he minds is when the youngsters invade his tree where he is feeding.
We had an amazing sighting with lions and hyenas which truly took first prize! The five young Breakaway pride members were minding their own business when the hyenas came running in. The poor sub-adults immediately new that they were outnumbered and the hyenas knew they had the upper hand. After the lions went up the tree, the unimaginable happened. The one young male fell out of the tree and landed right in the middle of the twelve hyenas. Before warning the hyenas attacked and the young male did not hold back. He took on the angry hyenas, grabbing one by the head and then another in quick succession. After a good ten minutes or so, the hyenas suddenly turned and ran south. This gave the young male enough time to get up the tree again. A few of the hyenas walked away with a few cuts and bruises, but the young fighter just had a bloody nose and a few scars on his tail.
Did you know?
A marabou stork is the only stork that eats rotten meat. These birds can often be seen around carcasses with vultures.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!
Wild Photo of the Month
Wild photo of the month by by John and Linda
We are already through the first quarter or the year and the days just keep coming. March is the month where you first notice the season changing and with the low rainfall we had, the bush is already transforming to its winter appearance. Slowly the grass is turning a light brown shade and the trees are shedding a little more leaves every day. With the grass drying out in the bush, we are seeing a lot more Bushbuck and Nyala antelope inside the camp. They visit us to feast on the green grass around the buildings, knowing that this area inside the fence is a safe haven for them, where they can even peacefully enjoy an afternoon nap.
Lamula the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs
Around the lodge, things were buzzing as always. The maintenance team finished clearing the last of the roads this month and they are now set for the winter. We also gave one of the luxury suites a fresh coat of paint on the inside. We are planning to give each of our rooms a makeover as availability allows. When taking on such a challenge, we need to close the room for maintenance for quite a few days and with new bookings confirming each day, such a room block needs to be done well in advance.
Louis and Janine
The 14th will forever be a very special day for Louis and Janine, as it was their wedding day! Louis and Janine met at the lodge in 2011, quickly fell in love, got engaged in 2013 and after almost 2 years of planning, they celebrated a very special day in the Drakensberg Mountains. Everything was perfect, just as they had hoped and Janine looked amazing. I am sure Louis found it difficult to keep his eyes off his beautiful bride. Congratulations Mr & Mrs Liversage! I am sure that you will have a brilliant future together.
This month, our trapcam took a very close up mug shot of a young elephant bull. After the little rain we had during the past two months, most of the small water puddles are dry and therefore there are a lot of animal activity around the bigger pans and dams. We placed the Trapcam at Rampan pan for a few days and caught this elephant inspecting the camera. I must say, he did a pretty good job taking a “selfie” while inspecting the unfamiliar black box situated on the tree trunk.
We said goodbye to two of our staff members this month, Stefan Kruger and Linda van Heerden. Both Stefan and Linda decided to take on a new challenge at different lodges. Stefan will continue his career as a guide and Linda hers as a chef. We wish both of them the best of luck and all the best for their future goals.
We celebrated some special staff birthdays at the lodge again. On the 6th, Yoldah celebrated her birthday. Yoldah is part of our housekeeping team and one of the friendliest people I know. On the 23rd Sidness had her special day. Sidness spends a lot of time in Nelspruit with Etienne Jnr and little Martin, but she still visits the lodge over school holidays and weekends. On the 26th Etienne Jnr had his 7th birthday. The little man is busy with his first year of primary school and enjoys every second. Louis had two special days this month. Not only did he get married on the 14th, but he also celebrated his birthday on the 28th. Happy birthday ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you all had wonderful days. To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during March, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter.
Although the season is changing a little bit every day, we still have some hot days and there is nothing better on a hot day, than a cold, refreshing dessert. Head chef Reimond shares the perfect recipe for such a cold dessert, Strawberry Parfait.
1 Cup Fresh Cream
1 Cup Mascarpone Cheese
1/3 Cup Castor Sugar
1 ½ Cup Chopped Strawberries
½ Cup crushed Oatmeal Biscuits
32ml Frangelico Liquor
¼ Cup Sugar
60ml Lemon Juice
Beat the cream with the castor sugar until firm. Add the Frangelico to the cream. After you have added the liquor to the cream, gently fold through the Mascarpone Cheese, trying not the over-mix the cream.
In a small sauce pan add 1 cup strawberries, ½ cup water and ¼ cup sugar. Bring the strawberries to a boil and keep boiling until the strawberries are tender. Boil until ¼ of the liquid has reduced. Place the mixture in the fridge to cool down.
Take a serving dish and spoon in a thin layer of the Cream mixture. Add a layer of strawberries, biscuits and syrup. Keep layering the ingredients until the serving dish is filled. Top off with some fresh strawberries and place in the fridge to cool.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
Once again it was just outstanding and brilliant to be out in the bush this past month. The nightlife was excellent and we were very fortunate to see a lot of porcupines, genets, civets and even a few honey badgers. We also had wonderful sightings of giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and loads of general game. A pack of wild dogs were very generous to us, as we had them hunting and moving through our area for a number of days. We also had a few wonderful sightings of a cheetah that moved through the area. The day temperatures were in the mid-thirties, with an average maximum temperature of 32°C. The humidity was very high, but we had no rain this month. The trees and grass are slowly but surely changing colour from green to a pale brown and yellow. Although they are no longer green, they still contain a lot of nutrients for the animals.
Lamula the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel
What great sightings we had with our beautiful leopards this month. Salayexe is still looking great and moving all over her territory, even sometimes venturing further than her own territory. She is moving more eastwards into Shadow’s territory, more south through a part of Moya’s territory and also west into her daughter, Nsele’s, territory. It will be interesting to see how things will unfold in the next few months, if she is pregnant. Shadow is also moving a lot more on her western boundary, but that might be due to Salayexe, who is moving around on her western boundary. Shadow’s cub is looking great and we had a few lovely sightings of him this month when mom made kills. He is much more relaxed when she is there with him and when he is busy feeding on a kill. Things are really looking good for Shadow, as this might be the first cub that she can raise to independence. Thandi was also seen a few times this month, but this time only with one cub. It looks like she lost the other cub. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that she can raise the remaining cub. Unfortunately the cub that was killed looks to be the more adventurous one. This is normally the case with the majority of cubs that get killed. Being the adventurous one also exposes you to more danger…
Moya was also seen a few times this month, moving through the area and patrolling her boundaries. Moya is not one of the biggest female leopards around. In fact, she is just a little bigger than the twins, Thandi and Shadow. Moya’s mother, Nyaleti, was an above average female and her father, Tyson, was an enormous male leopard. Nsele was seen a few times this month and we are viewing her more and more these days. Her two cubs are getting big and it will not be too long before she needs to kick them out and have new babies. Kwatile was also seen a few times and she is looking really healthy and in good shape. She is leaving her cub alone more often and for longer periods of time. I think when she kicks her cub out the cub will be fine, because Kwatile is a great mother. We managed to see Kurula again this month and the old lady is looking great. She is also moving all over the area, whilst scent marking. It might be that she is advertising again, trying to get another male to mate with her. She could also just be expanding her empire. Lamula was seen a lot more this month than in previous months. He was seen scent marking all over and doing his territorial calling while moving through. The next day we had Tingana and Anderson close to the area where Lamula was calling and scent marking. It was only a few days later when Lamula walked straight into Anderson at one of the main water holes, Big Dam. Anderson quickly showed Lamula who the new boss in the area is, but Lamula did not back off. After the standoff Lamula was back scent marking and calling to say that he was still in the area. This territorial calling might work in his favour as it is sure to attract both Tingana and Anderson. Luring them both to the area, might cause a stand-off between the two of them. Who knows what will follow then? Anderson is pushing further east into Tingana’s territory. Tingana and Anderson are both looking great and they are in their prime. It will be a match that I do not want to miss. Mvula is also looking great and he still tolerates all the young males in his territory, but the question remains, how long before he’s had enough?
Tingana and sunset by Dawie Jacobs
We had great lion sightings again this month. The two young Styx pride lionesses are still moving around in their old territory and strangely enough they are scent marking as they are going along. The big question is now, are these two young ladies looking to reclaim their old territory? If this is the case and they want to take back this area, there is only one problem: they are outnumbered. The Nkuhuma pride is a strong pride and a force to be reckoned with, so it will not be a push-over for the young females. The one thing that is great for the young Styx females is that the Nkuhuma pride is still spending the majority of their time in the northern and middle part of their own territory. The two young Styx females are spending a lot of their time with the two Big Matimba male lions. The Nkuhuma pride definitely has their eyes set on the Styx pride’s old territory, so only time will tell. The battle for supremacy has begun between the Breakaway Tsalala pride and the original Tsalala pride. There is a definite change in the lion dynamics in our area and it is so interesting to see it unfold. Although these two prides are related, there is no love lost between them. The Breakaway pride was in the shadows of their mothers for a long time. It looks like they just had enough, wanting the spotlight for themselves. We had both these prides close to our lodge one evening. That night we heard an explosion of lions roaring and growling and it sounded as if the bush came to a complete standstill as all the other night-time sounds abruptly stopped. The lions were chasing each other over our open area in front of the lodge and it was difficult to spot which lions belonged to which pride. Upon closer inspection that evening we found the Breakaway pride with three of the Majingi male lions resting close to our lodge. We soon realized that the Tsalala females were the ones that got chased south by the Breakaway pride. The Tsalala females are still looking great, but they are much older than the younger and stronger Breakaway females. Both these female prides are very healthy. The cubs are getting bigger and bigger by the day. It is always great to have them in our area. The Majingi males are still looking powerful, but their ageing bodies are full of battle scars, each telling a different story. Although they are ten years old this year, they still have enough strength in them to fend off any rival males.
Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché
Buffaloes and more buffaloes. This was the sightings we had for the month. The herds moved in and out of our area for the entire month. With the bush taking on a wintery look, these herds do not move too far away from the big water holes and they will frequently move between favourite feeding places. When they move around a lot, it spreads the grazing impact over a wider area than if they stayed in one area. When buffaloes feed, they move around very slowly. They will normally drink water in the mornings and in the evenings and rest during the hottest time of the day. The majority of the females already gave birth and there are loads of healthy calves within the breading herds. We also had our trusty dagga boys moving to the main water holes to enjoy a cool and refreshing mud wallow. Our guests were once again entertained by these big boys in the water on the open area in front of the lodge.
Elephants and Jonathan at Big Dam by Dawie Jacobs
We had awesome elephant sightings this month, so much so that we had tears of joy in our eyes. We had such a great sighting the one morning when we came across a herd of about twenty elephants all huddled up together. When we moved closer for a better look it became clear that they did not want us that close as they were very vocal. As we got back to the road the herd calmed down and it looked like they planned to move towards the road. We knew that there was something going on in the middle of the many grey bodies, but we did not know what… So we waited for them to reveal what they were hiding. After what felt like forever, a female came out of the bush towards the road. We immediately saw the female with a piece of afterbirth still attached to her backside and then the tiny baby came stumbling out of the thicket following its mother, aunty and older siblings. The newborn calf could hardly walk, let alone keep up with the rest of the herd, but mum and the older siblings were always around making sure that the newest addition to their family felt safe. That small baby did not go ten minutes without any one of the other elephants touching and reassuring it. It was great to see how gentle these big animals can be when it comes to a small baby. They truly are gentle giants.
This month was filled with great sightings, but there was one that stood out from the rest. This was when a cheetah had a standoff with a female leopard. It was awesome to see how the cheetah stood its ground, although it was no match for the leopard. We do not see cheetah and leopard in the same area very often as their habitats hugely differ, therefore, watching these two cats staring each other down was truly amazing.
Did you know?
Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest cat.
I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!
Wild photo of the month by Paul, Sue, Mark, and Kirsty Johnstone, Brisbane, Australia
The shortest month of the year came and went in the blink of an eye. We had loads of wonderful game drive sightings, celebrated many staff birthdays and on the 14th of February our guests were treated to a romantic Valentine’s Dinner. We experienced some strange weather patterns as well. We had very hot, humid days, warm, windy days and ended the month with some chilly, rainy days. It is noticeable during the evenings that the season is now slowly changing. The warm humid nights are being replaced by cooler, breezier temperatures. We can also notice the sunrise and sunset times changing a little more every day, as we slowly move towards autumn.
Red-billed oxpeckers by Morné Fouché
We all know that February is the month of love, because we celebrate the ever so special Valentine’s Day. This year, we decided to spoil our guests with a romantic dinner by candlelight and roses. Elizmari did a wonderful job decorating the tables and we had a true Valentine’s atmosphere in the air. To all the guests who joined us over this period, I hope you enjoyed your evening with us.
This month we welcomed a new face to the kitchen. Henk Human joined our team as a junior chef on the 26th and is already part of the family. He has a great passion for cooking and being in the kitchen. He has already blown us away with his creativity and fresh ideas. Welcome to the team Henk, I am sure you are going to spend many happy days at EP, while spoiling us with your delicious meals.
Trapcam photo – Giraffes
The last few months, we have been very fortunate to capture some amazing wildlife on the trapcam. This month was no exception. The trapcam was placed at Kraaines, which is just west of our airstrip. Many animals will graze around the airstrip and then head to Kraaines for a drink before moving on again. This month we captured some giraffe at the water. These tall horses are spectacular animals with their extra-long legs and necks. Luckily, the camera was placed just at the correct height to capture a complete picture. You can just imagine how far they have to bend down to get to the water.
February is a very busy birthday month at the lodge. Five of our staff members celebrated their birthdays this month. We started the month with our head ranger, Morné, who celebrated his birthday on the 1st. I am sure all of you are already familiar with him, reading his monthly Ranger’s Reports. On the 2nd, our trusty tracker, Derrick celebrated his birthday. Derrick has been part of our team for a few years now and he enjoys sharing stories of his childhood with us. Another gentleman who celebrated his birthday was Dion, on the 4th. Dion is not only a very passionate gardener, but also very good with general maintenance around the lodge and he even knows his way around the tractor! Marlet celebrated her birthday on the 24th. Although we do not see her every day as we used to, now that she is based in Nelspruit with the children, she still visits the lodge as often as she can and is still very involved with the day to day running of the lodge. The last one for the month was another tracker, Thomas, whose birthday was on the 27th. This is his first birthday as part of the Elephant Plains team and I am sure it was a special one. Happy birthday to all of you! To all our readers who celebrated their birthdays during February, we hope you also had a fantastic day, filled with happiness and laughter!
Each month our chefs spoil us with delicious new recipes from the EP kitchen. This month is no exception, with a delicious Haddock and Dill Quiche by chef Reimond. This is one of my personal favourites on our lunch menus. Served with a garden salad and a fresh bread roll, it makes a perfect light meal.
Haddock & Dill Quiche
Haddock & Dill Quiche
1 Roll Puff Pastry
½ Cup Smoked Haddock
1 Cup Full Cream Milk
½ Cup Cream
1 Tbsp Chopped Onion
1 Tsp Crushed garlic
2 Tsp Fresh Dill (lightly Chopped)
Pinch Salt and Pepper
Sauté the onions and the garlic in a sauce pan until the onions turn translucent. Roughly chop the smoked haddock and add it to the sauce pan and gently fry the haddock with the onions and the garlic. Take the sauce pan of the heat and stir through the fresh dill.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cream, milk, eggs, salt and pepper until well combined. As soon as the haddock mixture has cooled down, pour the egg mixture over the haddock and set aside.
Prepare your baking dish by lining the bottom with a thin layer of puff pastry. Pour the haddock mixture over the puff pastry and place into the oven at 150°C. Bake the quiche for 15-20 minutes, or until it feels firm.
Serve and enjoy!
All the best till next month
This month was jam-packed and full of action! All the animals made sure that we were really sitting on the edge of our seats. We were very lucky the one day on drive to see two massive heavyweights battling it out. Two hippo bulls were fighting for the ultimate prize: a big watering hole with loads of female hippos in it. We had a few lovely wild dog sightings again this month, as they moved through the area. Our resident hyena clan has two new pups and that brings the total pups to a staggering total of nine. If all of these pups survive, this specific clan will have close to 20 members and then the other predators will have to be on their toes. We had a few hot days with very high humidity. Other days had a massive cloud build up, only to disappear again. We did not have a lot of rain and you can notice it by looking at the grass and trees, as they are beginning to struggle in this heat. The average maximum temperature this month was 31°C, with 44mm of rain.
African sunset by Jonathan Vogel
Again the leopard sightings were just out of this world. Salayexe was out and about a few times this month, moving all over her territory to mark her boundaries. Salayexe is now ten years old, but she is still looking like a six year old female; very healthy and looking great. It would be great if Salayexe can have another litter soon. It is not that she is a bad mother – she has just experienced extremely bad luck with raising her cubs. We saw Kurula a few times as well and she was her old self again. Kwatile was seen mating with Tingana for four consecutive days. It will be interesting to see when she would mate with Mvula again, because he is the dominant male in her territory. The fact that she is mating again is a sign that she will soon break the bond with her cub. Shadow and her little cub are both looking great and very healthy. The little one looks like a little male cub as his footprints are almost the same size as his mother’s. The little one is getting bigger and more relaxed with the vehicles, moving around them in the sightings. With this little cub the habituation process is taking longer than normal, but it is understandable if you look at his mother, who is also not the most relaxed with the vehicles. Nzele is looking great and she is now really a beautiful leopard, just like her grandmother was. Her cubs are still not relaxed with the vehicles when on their own, but when mom is present it does not take long before they settle down. We were very fortunate to view Lamula again a few times this month. Although it was short lived we spent some quality time with him. He is such an awesome leopard and it is a shame that he is getting pressured by Tingana and Anderson. Anderson is looking good and more relaxed with the vehicles, but when he had enough he disappears in the absolute thickets. We struck it lucky when we found him in a tree with a newborn buffalo calve right next to him. We had him there for two days while feasting on his big prize. Tingana was seen a lot this month. He is still holding onto his territory. Anderson is scent marking well into Tingana’s territory and then Tingana will come along and return the favor. It will not be too long before these two will meet again and who knows what will happen then… Mvula is still a beast and looking great, when he walks down the road you can see the confidence in his stride.
Elephant calfs by Morné Fouché
All the lions were very generous, showering us with some unbelievable lion sightings. The Breakaway pride once again came into our area and stayed a day or two. The youngsters are getting bigger and they are almost just as big as their mothers now. It is so nice to see that all nine cubs are still alive and well. These four females have really done well and they can be proud of themselves for this achievement. I for one can’t wait for this pride to have their next litter of cubs. Can you imagine 20+ lions walking down the road towards you – our first super pride…? Saying that there are always a few things that you need to keep in mind, like a pride takeover or a run-in with another pride. But as the bush have showed us many times before, nothing is impossible. We had a wonderful surprise visit from the Tsalala pride the one day. It is great to see the young sub-adult have settled in nicely with her mother and aunt. The two older ladies are also looking great, considering that they are 13 years old this year. I think that the sub-adult is a great asset to the pride, as she has a lot to bring to the table. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in heart. The four youngsters are also looking great and growing fast. I hope that they will all survive and that the pride can further expand. We also had the Nkuhuma pride that moved through the area. Time is running out for the young male in the pride. He is starting to show interest in the females of the pride and for that his father will not tolerate him for much longer. The Birmingham males are looking stunning and their manes are slowly getting bigger and also changing color. The pale blond color is changing to a dark brown-to-black color. They were also following one of the breeding herds of buffalo around in our area and eventually the one night they killed a small calve. These boys had a run-in with other males the one evening. We are unsure who the other males were, as we did not see them. The one morning we found tracks for a few big males and then we found three of the young males. One of the three had fresh bite and claw marks on his back and fresh blood stained his tawny colored fur. Luckily there were no serious injuries. Tracks for the other males went up north again. It looks like when they get split up, they move north and regroup again. The two Matimba male lions are also looking good and going strong. They were seen walking around with the two young Styx females again this month. If the young Styx females do fall pregnant and the Matimba’s are the fathers, they would have to move back into their old territory so they can be close to the males. The Majingi’s also come through every now and again but more to make sure that the Birmingham males are not causing havoc in their territory. They have their work cut out for them as the five young guns have no interest in leaving this area.
African wild dog by Louis Liversage
We had some of the best buffalo sightings yet this month. We were so lucky to have three different buffalo herds that were moving in and out of the area at the same time. We saw a few females with newborn calves of maybe a day old at most and their mothers were very nervous with these youngsters. It was interesting to see how all the pregnant females walked at the back of the herd. One way to see if the females are pregnant is to look at their bellies. They will have very low hanging belies and would be lagging behind the rest of the herd. When pregnant females lag behind, they become easy prey to lions. The pregnant females who were walking at the back of the herd were accompanied by a few big males though. With all the buffalo herds moving through the area, the young Birmingham male lions thought it was heaven! This time of the year all the predators will be waiting for that exact opportunity to strike a herd, when they least expect. We had quite a few new dagga boys that hang around a few of the scattered mud wallows. These males were pushed out by the new dominant males within the herds.
Monitor lizzard by Morné Fouché
What a wonderful treat we had with our elephant sightings, being even better than last month. We had a few big groups that came through the area, followed by a big male or two. We did not see a lot of big elephant bulls this last month, but this might be due to the females that have small calves at the moment. Every herd that we saw has calves aged between six months to two years and older. The elephant herds that we saw were always moving and feeding as they went along. Elephants normally gain a lot of body reserves during the rainy season, when there is a high nutritional value in the food they consume. They will then loose body condition again during the dry season when nutritional value in the food is low. The elephant’s large body enables them to withstand nutritional stresses. Death due to starvation does sometimes occur, but elephants are capable of traveling long distances in search of food and water. Breeding herds are limited in a way, as they can only go as fast and as far as the smallest calves’ capabilities.
The special sighting this month was to see two hippo bulls in a battle for dominance. The fight happened between an older and younger bull, both living in the same dam. At one stage the older and more dominant male managed to lift his younger challenger out of the water with his head and neck. Battered and bruised, the two males called it a day and returned to opposite ends of the water hole. Although both males sustained deep cuts and wounds, they will live to tell the story another day. It is only when you witness such an awesome spectacle that you realize how strong and dangerous these animals really are.
Did you know?
Besides whales and dolphins, the hippo is the only African mammal that mates in the water.
Hope to see you all out on game drive soon!