Rangers Report June 2017

It is hard to imagine that we are half way through the year, when it still feels like we celebrated new year’s yesterday. I now know why people always say that time flies when you are having fun! The winter is finally here and we had a few very crisp mornings and some chilly evenings.

The sightings were absolutely out of this world and we’ve had so many wonderful sightings. We were very fortunate to tee the wild dogs on a regular basis. Their den is just outside our traversing area and they move through our area on a regular basis to hunt. They will move though the area almost every 2-3 days, in search of food. Unfortunately, they do not stay very long, as they need to go and feed the alpha female, who is patiently waiting at the den. Zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, nyala and so much more were also out in their numbers. The night life was also out and about and we saw a lot of porcupines, civets, genets and even a pangolin.

Leopard

The leopard dynamics in the area are still changing. There is a lot of changes happening amongst the males and females in the area. Salayexe is still expanding her empire and moving all over the show. It was really hard to find and follow her, as she was on the move the whole time. The only time that she was sitting still was when she had a kill. There are two young ladies still moving around in Salayexe’s territory and that is Nchila and Tiyani. Although these two ladies are family of Salayexe, there is no love lost between them. Salayexe will not tolerate any other female in her territory, even if it is family. Nsele was seen only once this month, without her daughter. Nsele is looking great and she is very healthy. I think it is not going to be too long before she will have a new litter of cubs. Moya and her cub have really surprised us, as they moved into the area on a regular basis. It is great to see these two beautiful cats moving in the area. Both are super relaxed with the vehicles moving around them. I just hope that she will stay clear of her aunt, Salayexe. Shadow and her cub were also seen this month with an impala kill. The cub is still very shy, taking after mom, and does not like a lot of vehicle movement around her. It will still take a while before the cub will become more relaxed with the vehicles. Although these two cats are so elusive, they are still very beautiful. Nchila is becoming a really beautiful cat. She still hasn’t found a territory of her own yet, but she is still looking around and weighing up her options. Nchila had another run in with her grandmother, Salayexe, and this time it was serious. Salayexe did not pack out any tea and cookies, as she made sure Nchila understood who the boss of the area is. We will have to wait and see where this young cat will end up. Tiyani has moved back into her mother, Salayexe’s, territory. Like a naughty teenager she does not respect the boundaries and rules. Once again, these two cats had another fight and like all the other times Salayexe came out on top again. Tiyani is really oblivious to the danger that she is in as she continues to stay in mom’s territory. Tingana is still spending the majority of his time on the eastern part of his territory, which is understandable. Overall Tingana is very healthy and in great shape. It is only time before Tingana and Anderson will meet again. Anderson is still expanding his territory more east, taking more and more of Tingana’s territory on the western side. This male is still looking absolutely fantastic. Although he has been more like a ghost this last month, we still had some great sightings of him.

Lion

Female elephant by Morné FouchéWe had such great sightings of these big cats this month. Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. There is a lot of changes about to happen in the near future regarding the lion prides in our area. We were so fortunate to see the tailless female and her two cubs for the first time. It was such a wonderful surprise when the call echoed over the radio about the tailless female and her group having been spotted. Unfortunately, they did not stay very long before moving south again, out of our traversing area. Her twin sister and her group have spent a lot of their time in our traversing area. This might be due to the continuous changes of the lion dynamics between the male lions in the southern part of the park. With all these changes happening, it might cause the Tsalala females to move back north. The Tsalala pride is looking absolutely great and the 15-year-old twins are doing a great job in keeping the rest of the pride safe. The Styx pride is also looking great and we also saw them a few times this month. They were also seen deep in Tsalala territory. This pride is eating really well and the cubs always have full bellies. The Styx females killed two aardvarks the one evening, so you can just imagine the mixed emotions from the guides and guests when we saw this. Unfortunately, lions do not have a certain food criteria, as anything will do to feed themselves and the cubs. It is good to see that the Birmingham males are still spending a lot of their time with this pride. The Nkuhuma pride is also looking great and very healthy. We were so fortunate to see this pride so often this month. This pride has spent so much time around our lodge area and even more south than that. The pride has moved all the way to our southern boundary, which is very far into the Tsalala territory. It really looks like this pride wants to expand their territory more south, but with the Tsalala pride moving back north, we will have to see what happens. The 4 Birmingham brothers are also moving more and more south and west. They are slowly moving into old Majingi territory, but doing so very cautiously, as they were chased out a few times by the Majingi males. Everything is connected in some way and if the Birmingham males take over this area, it will mean that the Tsalala pride will be in the line of fire. At this stage, the only thing that we can do is wait and see how this story will unfold.

Buffalo

The Tsalala pride feeding on a buffalo kill by Neil CoetzerThe buffalo sightings were not that great this month, as there is still no sign of the big herds. We have seen a small group of about 20-50 individuals making a quick appearance before moving on again. It is always great to see a herd of buffaloes and it doesn’t matter if it is big or small. Buffalo herds will always vary in size, this is due to the area and food and water supplies. Once again, the old dagga boys came to our rescue this month. It was still a challenge to find them, before the lions. As soon as buffaloes realize that lions are on their trail, they quickly disappear again. Unfortunately for the buffaloes, the majority of the lion prides in the area specialize in hunting buffaloes.

Elephant

Tiyani stalking a baby rhino by Dawie JacobsWe once again had very memorable elephant sightings this month. These big heavyweights are moving all over the area. Elephants do not have a fixed territory like lions or leopards, but rather a home range. The breeding herds that we saw this month was only between 10-20 individuals. We saw a few different herds quenching their thirst in front of our lodge. It is great to see all the babies in the herds, which mean that the herds are doing well and that they are healthy. There were not a lot of big bulls in the area this month, but we still had our fair share of big elephant bull sightings. One big elephant bull really stood out from the rest of the bulls we saw. We were very fortunate to see the bull on more than one occasion. His body size was absolutely mind blowing and although he did not have very big tusks, he was still a giant amongst giants.

Special sighting

This month’s special sighting was to see a young pangolin on drive. What made it even more special was that we saw him on four different occasions. Pangolins are very secretive animals and they are mostly nocturnal as well. This young male walked around in day time and he was so relaxed with the vehicles. It was so nice to see him so many times in this month, let’s hope we can continue this lucky streak in July.

Did you know?

Pangolins are the only mammals in the world, covered in scales.

See you out on the game drive soon.
Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report May 2017

With the impala rutting season in full swing, there is no shortage in the action department. Broken horns, bloody faces and puncture wounds on their bodies are only a few signs of the fights this month. These bloody battles can even be heard late at night, as the sound of males rutting and the clash of horns echoes through the night. The sightings were just out of this world and we were again so fortunate to see the African wild dogs this month. We also had great interaction between the wild dogs and the hyenas that kept us on the edge of our seats. The night life is just getting better and better as the temperature is changing. With the winter chill upon us the African civet, genet, porcupine and even caracal was out and about and they start much earlier in the evenings to look for food. The average maximum temperature for the month was 29°C and we had 13mm of rain.

Leopard

If one would ask me to describe the leopard sightings this month in one word, it would be spectacular.

Salayexe was seen a lot this month and she expanded her empire even more this month. She has the biggest territory of all the females in the Northern Sabi Sand Wildtuin. Salayexe is all over the show as she tries to patrol her enormous territory. At this stage, there is no another female in the area strong enough to challenge her for territory.

Tiyani, was seen a few times this month moving back and forth into her mother’s territory. She is growing in confidence and moving more into Shadow’s territory as well. Tiyani killed an impala male the one day and hoisted the kill into a big marula tree. The impala male would normally feed her for a few days, but it did not happen this way. The smell of a fresh kill was picked up by her mother and she homed in towards the kill. Salayexe made sure Tiyani knows who is the boss and who the kill belongs to. After Salayexe had her fill she came down the tree and moved on again. Tiyani was pushed more south into Moya’s territory. Tiyani is a survivor and a fighter, so I am sure that we will see her again in the near future.

The young Ingrid Dam female was also seen a few times this month moving around. She is still in the area that belonged to the late Kwatile. It is always great to see this young female moving all over the show. It will be awesome if she can settle down in that area.

Nchila was also seen a few times this month. This is a beautiful female and it is great to have her back in the area. The only problem here is that she is currently in her grandmother’s territory. As we all know too well, Salayexe does not like any intruders in her territory, even if it is family. Like Ingrid Dam and Tiyani, Nchila is also looking for a place to call home and being 3 years old now she will start looking for a male soon. The other problem is that her father, Anderson is still the dominant male in this area so things might still change.

Nsele and her cub was also seen a few times in the area and both are looking great. The cub has grown so much in size and in confidence. She is a great cat to view and a real poser for the camera, with so much confidence. Moya and her cub was also seen this month in our area. She was seen moving and sniffing around her aunt, Salayexe’s, territory. Moya has a territory on the southern boundary of Salayexe’s territory. Moya and her cub are looking great and it was our first time to see the cub. Thandi and Thamba was also seen a few times this month. Thamba has turned into a wonderful cat with a great personality. Thandi has done a tremendously good job in raising this cub and it looks like he might make it to adulthood.

Shadow and her cub was also seen this month. She has been moving the cub around a lot this month, to and away from kills. The cub is still very shy, but if you just wait a while you will be rewarded with an awesome sighting.

Hosana was also seen a few times this month and he is doing well for himself. We saw him with a big male impala kill in a tree. This just shows that he’s got the ability to hunt for himself. One good thing is that the area which he moves around in does not have a resident hyena clan to steal his food.

Tingana was also seen often this month. He spends the majority of his time in the centre of his territory and did not move very far west which was very confusing for us at first. After we saw Anderson scent marking all over the western part of Tingana’s territory, it made sense.

Anderson is expanding again and has already taken a big chunk of Tingana’s territory to the west. This big brut of a male has decided he wants more. With Anderson pushing more east poor Shadow also needs to go more east as the life of her cub is now hanging in the balance.

Lion

Female buffalo by Louis LiversageWe had a big surprise this month, as half of the Tsalala pride came to visit us in our area. They did not stay for very long before they crossed out of our traversing area again to the core of their territory. This was great to see them again as they do not usually venture this far up because they do not have any pride males anymore. Fingers crossed that the little ones who were sired by the Matimba males will make it to adulthood. This will be difficult, but these females have showed us that it is possible to raise cubs to independence without a pride male.

The Styx pride is doing really well and the cubs are growing up very fast. The three females are looking absolutely great and doing really well in supporting the cubs and feeding them. It is great to see that the cubs are doing well and if all goes well the pride might grow with another four females. One good thing is that the Birmingham males are very involved with the Styx pride.

The Nkuhuma pride is looking great and it is a pleasure to view them. The female with the amber eyes is far pregnant and we cannot wait to see the new bundles of fluff. The rest of the cubs also look very healthy and they are growing really fast. The Nkuhuma females are moving more and more west and south, looking to expand their territory. This will be great for them and for us if they take over this area around our lodge.

The Birmingham males are also expanding and they are also moving more west and south with the Nkuhuma pride. Finally, they have started moving around again as a unit. Maybe just for now, as they are expanding their territory. Let’s hope that they will succeed in taking over this area that once belonged to the mighty Majingi males.

Buffalo

Young elephant bulls playing by Morné FouchéThe buffalo sightings were absolutely great. We had a big breeding herd of about sixty individuals moving in and out of our area. They came into the area but did not stay for very long before they moved on again. This is common for herds, whether it is big or small. They all have one thing in common and that is finding enough food for all of them. Luckily for us we had a small bachelor group of buffalo bulls who stayed around our area. Once again this was short lived as the Nkuhuma pride tracked them down and killed one. This send the other males running and crossing out of our area for good. One would think that these guys are too big to be taken down by anything, but lions are the apex predators of the bush.

Elephant

Baby impala by Louis LiversageThe elephants are back in their numbers and we had a great time with these gentle giants. Evidence of these big animals are scattered all over the roads. As the grass is getting dryer and less palatable for the elephants, they turn their attention more towards the trees and shrubs. For their big bodies, elephants consume a lot of vegetation each day. We had a few big males in the area as well this month. These big boys had one thing on their mind: finding the female groups to mate. We also saw a few younger males that were recently pushed out of their family groups. These young males will sometimes join forces with other young males, who were also pushed out of their herds by their mothers.

Special sighting

One crisp evening we were on our way back to the lodge after a wonderful drive. We came around a corner and there it was, a juvenile caracal! It did not give us any chance to get a picture before it went straight into the tall grass disappearing into the darkness.

Did you know?

Elephants have a really large appetite and can spend up to eighteen hours a day feeding.

See you out on the game drive soon.
Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report April 2017

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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Rangers Report March 2017

It was yet another spectacular month to be out in the bush. The sightings were action packed and full of surprises. The general game like zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck and so much more came out to play and provided some really memorable sightings! We were very lucky to see all these wonderful animals out on the open areas in our traversing area. When you visit a game reserve, always remember that it is not just the Big5 animals that you have to see – the other animals are also very special! The night life was definitely fruitful, with great sightings, including bush babies, chameleons, genets, mongoose and civets. We also had some great owl sightings this month and got to spend time with the giant eagle owl, spotted eagle owl, white-face scops owl, pearl spotted owlet, scops owlet and loads of nightjars. The temperatures are slowly changing. There were a few very windy days, but still some pleasantly warm days. The average maximum temperature for March was 32°C, with a very welcome 33mm of rain.

Leopard

With the leopard sightings, there were no holding back and we had a great time with these beautiful, spotted cats. The sightings we had were any photographers dream. Our resident female, Salayexe, is still looking great and she is moving all over her territory, scent marking and announcing her presence. She is focusing a lot more on her newly claimed territory, making sure that no one else attempts to take it back from her.  Tiyani is also moving around all over the show and Salayexe is not making life easy for her. Just when she thinks she got a little territory of her own, mother rocks up to throw everything upside down. She settled down in the far north-eastern part of Salayexe’s territory for two months and then we found her on the border of the south-eastern part of mother’s territory. Hopefully Salayexe settles down and lets Tiyani stay in the north-eastern part of her territory. Nsele and her cub are both looking great and very healthy. We saw them on a regular basis this month, which was great. Nsele is still very protective of her daughter. Usually, when a cub is older than a year, there is tension between mother and cub. A mother leopard always has a different reaction towards a female cub, than what she would have towards a male cub. Mothers will have a closer bond with their sons than their daughters. Kurula and her two cubs are just a treat to watch. Hosana, the male cub is dominating his sister, Xongile, when they play. Saying that, when two cubs play, they are actually practising their skill to one day be successful hunters. These two cubs are spending a lot of time on their own, while Kurula leaves them to go and hunt. Kurula needs to hunt a lot more now that she has two growing, one year old cubs, that needs a lot of food. Finally, we saw one of Shadows cubs this month. It is unclear if she lost the one cub, as we only saw one cub every time. The cub is very skittish and not at all relaxed with vehicles moving towards it. This cub will be our biggest challenge to habituate as yet and Shadow is not really helping at all by constantly moving around. Let’s hope that the cub will survive and that we could get it used to the vehicles. Thandi and her son is doing great and the little boy is very relaxed with the vehicles around him. When Thandi has small cubs, she is over protective and will not hesitate to charge when you get too close. When the cubs get older, she will definitely get more relaxed with us around them. Thandi is also an amazing mother and it will be great if this youngster will survive to independence. Tingana is still moving all over the show, patrolling his territory. It looks like his north-western border is safe for now as Anderson has other priorities at the moment. There was a new male, the River Bank Male, who moved around the area. This male was born in 2009, but does not have an established territory. He is a nomad, moving from one area to the next. He moved around in Anderson’s territory and made the big male work hard in order to try and find him. Anderson moved all over the eastern part of his territory, looking for the intruder. If Anderson finds him, the fight would be epic.

Lion

Red-crested korhaan by Morné Fouché

It was yet another great lion month, with unbelievable sightings. The Styx pride is looking great and the cubs have a healthier appearance than before. The female with the small cubs do not move around with the rest as much. Although the rest of the pride have to go and hunt from time to time, they still spend a lot of time at the den. This pride is very successful when it comes to hunting and feeding the pride. The Nkuhuma pride is looking great and the six cubs are growing up fast. We have not seen the five females together a lot this month, as they have split up quite a few times. The two females without the cubs were seen hunting wildebeest in front of our lodge the one evening, while the rest of the pride was very far from them. The three females and the six cubs have been moving around our area for the whole month. They are venturing further west onto our property and doing so with more confidence. With the absence of the Tsalala pride in the area, it makes this territory fair game to any other pride. The Birmingham males are looking great and very healthy. It looks like these males will only join forces if they know other males have entered their territory. One of the males are always with the Styx pride, while the other three also splits up to join other prides. This month two of the four males got a rude awakening when two of the Majingi males chased them out of their own territory. If all four Birmingham males were together, it would have been a different story against the two older Majingi males. Hopefully the Birmingham males have now realised the importance of strength in numbers.

Buffalo

Elephant herd by Morné Fouché

We were fortunate to see a small breeding herd of about thirty buffaloes moving through the area. With the wonderful rain we’ve had over the past few months, all the water holes and mud wallows are still full. This also made the bush lush and in some areas the grass comes up to your hip. This means there is enough food around so that the buffaloes do not need to move very far to ample food supplies. We are full of hope that the big herds are still going to make a turn in our area in the next few months… The buffalo bulls have moved into our area and stayed in our traversing area for the entire month. It was nice having the bachelor groups and also the old dagga boys in the area. The bachelor herds that we saw had anywhere from five to ten bulls together, where the old dagga boys were in smaller groups of one to three bulls. We also saw two females who were accompanied by three males in our area and stayed here for a few days before moving on again. This might be another splinter group who got separated from a main herd by a pride of lions.

Elephant

Tiyani the female leopard by Louis Liversage

The elephant sightings were just unbelievable this month. It looks like all the elephants have returned to our area to enjoy the last of the marula fruits. We did not have any problems finding a nice breeding herd of elephants on drive, as they were all over the area. There is so much grass for these big heavyweights to eat at this stage. They need to bulk up with as much food as possible in the rainy season, as they can lose up to 10% of their body weight during the dry months. The females with small babies will have to eat a lot more, as they need to produce milk for the little ones. This month we were again very fortunate to see so many big males in the area. The majority of these big males were all in must and trailing the female groups. It is impressive to see these big males towering above the females in height. A big male is almost double the weight of the females and can reach three meters to the shoulder in height.

Special sighting

The special sighting was to see Shadow’s cub for the first time. Although the cub is not very relaxed with the vehicles it was still great to see him/her. Being Shadow’s cub, habituating the cub would be sure to be our biggest challenge yet. But I am sure that we will slowly but surely get there…

Did you know?

The waterbuck is the most water dependent off all antelope species.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report January 2017

What an awesome way to kick off the new year! The day temperatures were like a roller coaster with a few cold days followed by a few hot days. We were once again blessed with wonderful rain this month. This gave all the plants a massive boost. We had 144mm of rain, with an average maximum temperature of 31°C. We also had a few unbelievable sightings this month. We had the privilege to spend some quality time with the Sands wild dog pack and also the Breakaway Investec pack. It is always a treat to see these endangered predators move through our area. The excitement did not stop there, as we were very fortunate to see two cheetah brothers moving through the area as well.

Leopard

Tiyani is looking great and very healthy. This young female got a very rude awakening by her mother, Salayexe. The once unbreakable bond between mother and daughter is for sure something from the past. The one day Tiyani followed the call that she knew so well – the call of her mother, only to be chased up a tree and growled at! Tiyani tried everything, but she received no compassion from Salayexe, who was sitting at the base of the tree. Salayexe made it very clear that it was time for Tiyani to move on. Tiyani found some relieve and peace in the north-eastern side of Salayexe’s territory. Time will tell if she will move further east, or decide to stay in the area. Salayexe is doing just fine and she was scent marking all over the show. Salayexe is now twelve years old, but she still has a few years left to raise more cubs and defend her territory. The young Ingrid’s Dam female was also out and about this month. Once again, she was moving around in Salayexe’s territory. She is definitely like Houdini, because every time that Salayexe moves through her territory this young female disappears, making it very difficult for Salayexe to find her. This young female is such a treat to watch and she is a truly beautiful leopard. I really hope that she would stay in our area. Kurula and her two cubs are also doing great. The male cub is definitely the more adventurous one of the two. His sister is also great with the vehicles around her, but she is still a little shy. It is a true show to watch these three cats playing together. Fingers crossed that she will raise these two cubs to independence.  Shadow was also seen this month, but she was very illusive. She is looking great and very healthy, though. Word is that she gave birth, but we do not know where and to how many cubs. I certainly can’t wait to see them for the first time! Nsele was also seen a few times this month. She was alone the majority of the time but her daughter is still doing well. Being a year old now, it is common for Nsele to leave her alone for longer periods – forcing her to start practicing her own hunting techniques. The big boys were all over the show again this month and missed each other the whole time. Tingana is still patrolling his territory’s western boundary, as Anderson is looking to expand. Tingana is a big leopard but not as big as Anderson, so it will be interesting to see what will happen in the near future. Tingana is also expanding more east, so I think he knows what is coming. Anderson, the brut, is still expanding into Tingana’s territory and he is constantly moving more east, claiming a big chunk of Tingana’s territory. If Anderson succeeds in taking over the western part of Tingana’s territory, Shadow’s new cubs would be at risk.

Lion

Giant platted lizard by Louis Liversage

Giant platted lizard by Louis Liversage

All the lion prides and males were out to play this month! The Styx pride was seen a few times, accompanied by one of the Birmingham males. It is always good to have a big male present, in order to protect the cubs from danger. These three females are looking great and the cubs are very healthy. The Styx pride is moving all over the show and even into Tsalala pride territory. This sudden change might be due to the Birmingham males looking to expand their territory. The Tsalala 5 pride consist of the tailless female and the four youngsters. This pride is still sticking together at the moment, but I do not think it will be for much longer. The tailless female and the young female in the group are roaring every now and again… Who knows? They might be calling the big males… Unfortunately for the young males, their time to leave is closing in. The first two years of a young male lion’s life is the most crucial, as it is a struggle for survival. The Birmingham males are looking to expand their territory more west. The only problem is that this area still belongs to the Majingi male lions. Although the Majingi males do not patrol this part so frequently, they would not hesitate to fight with anyone who dared to try and take it from them. The Birmingham males are looking great and in good shape. They are, however, not ready for the Majingi males. One good thing is that they are walking together more than what they used to. The Majingi males made yet another turn in our area as the Birmingham males started calling in Majingi territory. Only two of the Majingi males came into the area to take on three of the four Birmingham males. Two was enough, as it was the two big boys, Black Mane and Smudge. The Birmingham males got a very rude awakening as the roars of the two Majingi males echoed through the trees next to them. The Birmingham males wasted no time and made a hasty retreat, leaving their fresh buffalo kill. The Majingi males chased these young males for kilometres before they went back to claim the free meal.

Buffalo

Breeding herd of buffalo by Neil Coetzer

Breeding herd of buffalo by Neil Coetzer

What a treat it was to spend some more quality time with the big buffalo herds in the area. There was no shortage of buffaloes this month. We are still waiting for the first calves to arrive. There are a few females that are pregnant and the clock is ticking. There are also a few of the females within the herds, still showing no signs of pregnancy. This might be due to the drought we experienced last year. When one of the herds moved into our area, they did not just move through the area like during previous months. We sometimes had two or three herds, feasting on the lush green grass for a few days before moving on. There are still bachelor herds in the area, accompanied by a few old dagga boys. With all the lion activity in the area we noticed that the majority of the old males have joined the bachelor herds for safety.

Elephant

Tsalala pride lioness feeding on a buffalo kill by Neil Coetzer

Tsalala pride lioness feeding on a buffalo kill by Neil Coetzer

The elephant sightings were also great, considering that we had a rather quiet start. At the beginning of the month we did not see too many different herds on drive. That being said, we still had a few mind-blowing sightings with the big and small herds in the area. Towards the end of the month we started seeing more and more elephants moving back to our area. With the number of trees pushed into the roads and pieces of branches scattered all over the area, we soon realised that our gentle giants indeed returned. There was one herd with a small calf, that stayed close to the lodge for the whole month. There are plenty of marula trees around our lodge, so they did not have to go very far, especially with the new-born. There were a few big males in musth, following the herds in the area. Two of the males really stood out and they had impressive tusks to go with their massive body size. These two big boys met one day, as they were following the scent of a female in oestrous. That was a sight to see – two big males battling it out for mating rights.

Special sighting

Once again there were many great sightings, but as always, there was only one that stood out. To actually see males of a species fighting for supremacy must be one of the ultimate sighting. The two elephant bulls were minding their own business whilst following the scent of the elephant cow in oestrus, when suddenly, they spotted each other. There was no greeting ceremony, or love lost between these two males. It was all down to business! They had the same body size and also the same sized tusks. It was an equal fight. Both tried from all angles to outwit his opponent, but neither succeeded. They even tried brute force, but once again, they were equally strong! The female group was also very close to them – keeping a watchful eye on both. The males started braking branches and they even pushed over some big trees in order to impress the ladies. This carried on for more than an hour, as these two males tried to battle it out for the female. After a while we decided to leave the two at peace – until today I am not sure who won the battle…

Did you know?

A leopard cub will stay with its mother till the age of 18 to 24 months. After that, the mother will kick will kick him / her out of her territory.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report December 2016

Sadly, we have reached the end of yet another spectacular year. It is hard to believe that this will be my last report for the year 2016. Looking back at this year, one is so grateful for all the people we have met and also the great friendships that followed. Back to the sightings, I think we saved the best month for last, as our sightings was just out of this world! It feels like the bush suddenly came alive as the songs of the frogs, birds and crickets filled the warm summers nights. The first baby warthogs and wildebeest were seen at the end of the month. It is wonderful to see all these juveniles on drive every day. Our resident hyena clan is still doing really well and the old lady is still in charge. You don’t always realize how fortunate you are to have a resident clan with an active den on your property. We also saw two male cheetahs this month while moving through the area. We were spoiled by the eighteen wild dogs of the Sands Pack, that also moved through the area. The weather was great overall, but we had a few really hot days that was over 40°C. We were very fortunate with the rain, as we had 132mm of rain for the month, with an average maximum temperature of 33°C.

Leopard

We saw so many leopards this month and the quality of the sightings were unbelievable. It looks like Salayexe finally broke the bond between her and her daughter, Tiyani. Tiyani is not the same overly relaxed, spontaneous little cat who we came to know and love since she and her mother went their separate ways. We have seen little Tiyani a few times this month moving around the area. It will be interesting to see if Tiyani will take over the middle part of her mother’s territory. By taking over the piece of territory Tiyani has a better chance of survival. Here she will be hidden from the bigger females. Tiyani had her very first standoff with an intruder this month. The one evening she found the young Ingrid Dam female in her area and she did not hesitate for a second. She charged in and chased after the intruder. The Ingrid Dam female ran up a big tree and stayed up there until Tiyani was satisfied and left. It was great to see that Tiyani would be able to defend her territory.

Salayexe was seen a few times but not like before. She was a bit under the radar. Salayexe is looking great and she and Moya had a standoff over a kill the one day. The first thing I noticed was that Moya did not back down and she was ready to fight. She soon realized that it was not worth the fight and that she could make another kill. This was a wise decision from Moya, as she has small cubs safely hidden in a den somewhere who she needs to care for.

Nsele and her cub were also seen a few times and I must say that the little girl is growing up very fast. Nsele is doing really well in finding food for the two of them and they are looking very healthy. We were very fortunate to see the two of them a few times this month.

We saw Kurula a few times this month. A really strange thing though, she was mating with Tingana and both her cubs are still alive and well. The two cubs are doing really well and they are looking very healthy. Kurula is a really good mother. Fingers crossed that she will raise the cubs to independence.

Shadow, at almost ten years old, is still doing great. I am not 100% sure, but it looks like she might be pregnant. She has been extra illusive and seems to easily get irritated with the vehicles. She also has a very low hanging belly. All these signs let me believe that her and Tingana’s mating was successful. If this is true it will be great for her and for us when the new bundles of fluff arrive next year.

The young Ingrid’s Dam female was also out and about in the area. She was seen a few times around our lodge, resting and making kills. She is such a great female and very relaxed with us.

This month it was Tingana’s time to mate, as he and Kurula mated this month. Tingana is moving over long distances at the moment. He will be here the one day and the next day he will be on the other side of his territory. I think the reason why he patrols so much is that he knows it is just a matter of time before he will bump into Anderson. One thing that I learned during my time in the bush is that you never underestimate a small male leopard. Just look what havoc Mafufunyane caused under the males when he was still alive. He was a small leopard with an enormously big heart.

Anderson is still moving all over the area expanding his empire. The only real threat to him is Tingana and I think he will try to catch Tingana off-guard.

Lion

Nkuhuma the female lion by Louis Liversage

Nkuhuma the female lion by Louis Liversage

Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. The time spent with these big cats was just unbelievable.

This month we had a surprise visit from the four breakaway Tsalala lionesses and their twelve cubs. It was great to see them again after such a long time! They came in and out of our area a few times this month. This pride is one of the biggest prides we have at the moment in the reserve. We are not sure how many of the cubs are male and female yet. The pride’s new territory is more in the south-western part of the reserve, far out of our traversing. Their visit was short lived and they returned to their familiar territory. It was great to see them and hopefully they will come and visit again soon.

The Tailless female and the four sub adult males and female of the Tsalala pride was also seen a few times this month. It is great to see that the tailless female has re-joined the four youngsters again. After she re-joined the youngsters it was as if the confidence levels of the youngsters raised a few bars. The almost fifteen-year old tailless female is doing a great job in teaching these youngsters the art of hunting. One thing that I have noticed is that the Tsalala pride never have more than three adult females within the pride. If there are more females in the group, they are pushed out to form a new pride. So, interesting times are waiting for the young female. Will they make an exception to the rule, or will she be exiled together with her brothers?

The Styx pride is also doing great and they were seen a few times this month. The old lady with her two cubs were a little bit under the radar and we did not see the cubs that often. The two cubs are still looking good and getting bigger and bigger by the day. The three lionesses are also doing really well when it comes to hunting for the group.

It was so great to have the Nkuhuma pride with us for almost the whole month. These ladies had a few buffalo kills in the area. This is one of the most successful lion prides in the area when it comes to hunting big buffaloes. These five ladies are really looking great and they are in really good condition. The six cubs are also looking good and they are well fed. It would be great for the pride if these youngsters can survive to adulthood.

The Birmingham males was also out and about this month. We were fortunate to have them on our property once or twice. They are looking great and are in good condition. They were roaring a few times announcing their presence in the area. All this was short lived, as the roars of the Birmingham males caught the attention of another formidable force. We were woken by the loud roars of lions the one morning. On drive, we found three of the Majingilane male lions on two buffalo kills in our traversing area. They stayed here for a few days before moving on again. In those few days, the Birmingham males did not call once. They also did not come back to the western part of their territory again. This tells me that they know that the four Majingilane males are still the big shots in this area. This was not the last we saw of these big males, as we found them again a few days later, on yet another buffalo kill close to our lodge. Although the Majingi males are almost twelve years old, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

It was a treat to see all the different prides and to spend some quality time with the Birmingham’s and the Majingilane males this month.

Buffalo

Styx cubs by Louis Liversage

Styx cubs by Louis Liversage

The buffalo sightings were just unbelievable this month. More and more big buffalo herds are moving into our traversing area. This is a great sight to see, as these big bulk grazers are fattening up with the succulent green grass after the rain. Unfortunately for these herds, they are being targeted by the lion prides in our area. The Tsalala pride, Breakaway pride and Nkuhuma pride were all picking them off one by one. The Majingi males also had their fair share. The younger buffaloes in the herds are fattening up much quicker than the older buffaloes. Now that the herds are finally coming through, the dagga boys have disappeared a little bit. The dagga boys were always around the water holes and mud wallows, but now there are seemingly less. We did, however, a few bachelor herds again this month moving, between the waterholes in the area.

Elephant

Two male hippos fighting by Louis Liversage

Two male hippos fighting by Louis Liversage

With all these waterfilled mud wallows in the area one will always find a lone bull or elephant herd playing in the mud. This in a way makes a great opportunity for us to view these wonderful animals in their natural state. The small babies are really enjoying the wallows and water puddles in the road after the rain. It is like all the elephants have kicked up a gear, playing more than normally. I am glad to see that there is still a lot of herds in our area. Unfortunately, there will come a time that the majority of the herds will move towards the Mopani tree forests within the Kruger National Park. This is normally just for a month or two and then the herds return to our area. There were no big males this month, just a few younger males. I must say that the small bachelor herds are in abundance. These young males were seen a lot, while they followed the big herds. This is a sign that their mothers have just recently kicked them out of the herds and that they are not ready to let go yet.

Special sighting

One morning drive we heard the loud sound of hippo’s fighting in Big Dam. On arrival, we saw that it was two males locked in a territorial dispute. These two males were not playing around and none of them wanted to back off. But like always, there can only be one winner. The loser was immediately exiled from Big Dam and had to find another water source for himself. When two male hippo’s fight they fight for a reason. They fight for dominance, females, feeding grounds and their own waterholes or rivers.

Did you know?

The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek “hippos,” meaning horse. These animals were once called “river horses.” But the hippo is more closely related to the pig than the horse.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

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