Rangers ReportMay 2018
Nyl crocodile basking in the sun by Morné Fouché
This month was one for the record books. We had a great time with awesome weather and spectacular sightings. The day temperature was very pleasant, with only a few days where the temperature went as high as 33-34°C. The average maximum temperature for the month was 25°C, with 24mm rain. The game viewing was absolutely incredible. We saw a sable antelope, as well as a mother cheetah with her two cubs. The wild dog pack also spoiled us with their presence. The alpha female of the pack is heavily pregnant and it will not be long before we see a few pups with the pack. The rutting season is in full swing now. Horns are clashing while the males are fighting for dominance and mating rights. Predators are definitely taking full advantage of the distraction and impala is the most popular item on the lion and leopard menu at this stage. In a way, this is also nature’s way to keep the strongest genes in the pool.
May was definitely a very spotty month. We saw ten different individuals on a regular basis. We almost did not have one day without more than one leopard sighting.
Tiyani, the female, finally mated for the first time with Hukumuri. A young female will usually mate with a male for a number of times over a few month, before she conceives. Tiyani is now three years old, meaning that she is now sexually matured and will hopefully have her own cubs within the next six months to a year. We are hoping that she will be more successful in raising cubs than her late mother, Salayexe.
I am proud to announce that we have a pregnant female amongst us. Xidulu is showing definite signs of pregnancy, with her growing belly and swollen milk glands. She also mated with Hukumuri, who will be a first-time father. Xidulu is now almost four years old and having her first cubs. If she carries her mother’s instincts, she will definitely raise plenty of cubs during the next few years to come. Due to the pregnancy, Xidulu is scent marking all over her territory. Once the cubs are here, she will not have as much time to get around, while caring for them.
We saw Moya, the female, only a few times this month. We usually see her quite often, while patrolling her northern boundaries. This month, she was a bit shy and we only saw her about two or three times while scent marking. She is now expanding her territory more to the north and east. After she mated with Anderson a month ago we can not confirm if she did conceive, as it would still be early days. Hopefully the next couple of weeks will bring good news.
After months of debating, Moya’s daughter has been named. This young female spends most of her time outside of our traversing area to the south. It was the privilege of the guides in the south to decide on a name. We found it easy to adopt to their decision to name her Makhomsava, meaning “mother earth”. She was seen scent marking around an area within her mother’s territory. I hope this does not lead to more bad vibes amongst them, while they decide who will stay and who will go. Moya’s current territory is just not big enough for both of them.
Tiyani’s older sister, Nsele, was also seen once or twice this month. She is still expanding her territory more to the east and north. The older she gets, the more she gets challenged by her younger sister. It will not be long before Tiyani starts to take over parts of her territory. Nsele is in very good condition for a nine-year-old and definitely has a lot of fight left in her.
Ingrid’s Dam female was also seen a fair bit this month. She and her cub are in really good condition and very healthy. She was also seen mating with an unknown male close to our lodge the one day. While she was mating with the good looking unknown male, she crossed over Nsele’s territory into Tiyani’s territory. This is a sign that it is almost time for the young daughter to move on. We also noticed that mum is a lot more annoyed with her daughter lately.
Sibuye, the female was also seen a few times this month. She is such an awesome mother and her two little cubs are growing up very fast. They are so relaxed with the vehicles around them. It is such a bonus if mum is relaxed with vehicles. One will find that the mother leopard plays a very important roll in the habituation of cubs. The cubs will always look at mother’s behaviour and then do the same.
Hosana, the young male is all over the show. We saw him the one afternoon on our southern boundary. The area where he was in was very far to the south/west from his normal area. We eventually left him as he crossed south over our boundary. It was not long before we saw him again close too Elephant Plains’ western boundary. This is good that he moves around and explores a little bit.
Hukumuri, the new dominant male leopard was seen a lot this month. Hukumuri is still expanding his territory more south into Anderson’s territory. He got one huge shock the one day while going south, scent marking in Anderson’s area. While Hukumuri was moving south, Anderson was moving north on the same road. The minute Hukumuri saw Anderson coming towards him, he turned around in his tracks and went back north. This showed me that he is still not confident enough to take on Anderson.
Anderson, the male, was also seen a few times this month. At the age of almost ten years, he is still looking good. One thing we noticed is that he’s age is starting to show. If he is lucky, he will be able to hold on to his territory for another 2 years maximum.
Zebra drinking water by Morné Fouché
The lion dynamics are slowly but surely changing again. Change is not always a bad thing, but not while there are small cubs around…
The Nkuhuma pride was seen on a regular basis this month. They spent almost 90% of their time around our lodge and Elephant Plains property. We are so exited with the pregnant female who gave birth this month. It is unclear how many cubs she has, as she chose a very dense area for a den site.
We did not see the Styx pride a lot this month. They spent a lot of their time in the southern part of their territory. The youngsters are getting bigger and growing up fast. This pride had a lot of ups and downs in the last few years. I must say that it is really looking good for the Styx pride at the moment. All the members are looking very healthy.
The young Mhangeni sub-adults also made an appearance this month. They had a massive standoff with the Nkuhuma pride the one evening. The Nkuhuma pride killed an impala male and all the noise attracted the young Mhangeni sub-adult lions, who were not very far from the area. The very hungry Mhangeni’s came charging in and did not hesitate for one second. There was not a lot of food left for the nine hungry lions. They did not stay in our area for very long as they returned to the southwestern part of the reserve the following day.
We were very surprised to see the three young Tsalala males again this month. Like I mentioned earlier, the lion dynamics are changing. The Birmingham males are currently establishing a new territory down in the southern part of the reserve. This is forcing the other males of that area in different directions. The three Tsalala males were scent marking and calling the one evening, with no response from the Birmingham males. It really looks like these three boys are testing the waters. At this stage, only time will tell if they have what it takes to take over this area.
Tingana the male leopard Morné Fouché
There were no big breeding herds this month, which is a bit strange, as we normally have big herds moving around this time of the year. These bulk grazers need a lot of food, as there are a lot of mouths to feed. Fortunately, we had a lot of late rains during May. This rain gave the grass much needed help to take us through the winter. We still had some wonderful sightings of the old dagga boys and the dominant males that recently left the herds.
Woodland Kingfisher by Morné Fouché
The elephant sightings were really spectacular. We saw at least two different herds per drive. There were also a few smaller herds in the area, of about ten to twenty animals. Overall, we were very fortunate with the big herds of about forty to sixty animals and sometimes even more. We were also joined by herds coming to drink water on our open area in front of the lodge almost every morning during breakfast, or in the afternoon during lunch. After they quenched their thirst they, moved down towards the dry riverbed to feed on the wild date palms. We also saw a few herds with tiny little babies of only a few weeks to a few months old. This is a very good sign, as it shows that the elephant herds are very healthy and that conditions are in their favor. These little babies made it so memorable for us as they were trying to be so big and fearless like mom or dad. We did not see a lot of really big bull elephants this month. One bull in particular followed a herd around the one afternoon. With his approach into the herd, the females were really stressed out and very vocal. When a big male gets the scent of a female in estrus, he will pursue the female to mate with her and that makes the rest of the females and the babies very unhappy.
Our resident pangolin, Benji, surprised us with his presence again this month. These illusive mammals have such secretive lives and when you see them out foraging, you realize how special and unique they are.
Did you know?
The scales of a pangolin are modified hair, which is keratin.
See you out on the game drive soon.