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

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

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

Rangers Report November 2016

Finally, the first baby impala arrived on the 19th and a few days after it was like a baby boom. All the migratory birds are finally back. If you are a keen birder this is the best time for you to be visiting the bush. The weather was absolutely great and we had some wonderful rain again. The bush has undergone a complete transformation. It is hard to imagine that a few months ago we experienced a bad drought in the area and there was no food around. The day temperature was really up and down with wonderful rain. The average maximum temperature was 32°C with 85mm of rain. We are so blessed with the wonderful rain that we had this month. We were also spoiled rotten with the animal sightings in our area. The pack of three wild dogs kept us on our toes as they came into our area on a regular basis this month. Our resident hyena clan is also doing really well as they got their share of the weak buffaloes in the area.

Tiyani the female leopard by Morné Fouché

Tiyani the female leopard by Morné Fouché

Leopard

Interesting times are awaiting us on the side of the leopards in our area. Salayexe and her daughter Tiyani are still together but I do not think it will be for much longer. Tiyani is spending much more time on her own. Salayexe left her for a full five days and she had to fend for herself. After those five days she went to fetch Tiyani again and took her straight to a fresh kill. This tells me that Salayexe is ready to break the bond between them in this next month or so. Tiyani spends the majority of her alone time around our lodge area. It is going to be very interesting to see how Tiyani starts her beginning to adulthood all alone and which piece of mum’s territory she will get. Both Salayexe and Tiyani are looking great and is in top condition after the drought. Nsele and her cub is also looking great. It is good to see that her cub is still alive and well. Nsele’s mother, Salayexe, is not making life so easy for her and her cub because Salayexe is moving more and more into Nsele’s territory. This next few months will be very interesting as both these females have daughters that needs a territory. Shadow kept a very low profile this month. We saw her once or twice this whole month. It is difficult to say where she went as her territory stretches into an area that we do not traverse. Fingers crossed that she is looking for a potential den site to use very soon. Kurula was also very low under the radar this month. We had a lot of tracks of her this month but she was always one step ahead of us. At least we saw her once or twice this month moving through our traversing. It is great to know that she and the cubs are doing just fine. The daughter of the Ingrid Dam female was also seen in our area this month. This young female very relaxed with the vehicles around her. She is definitely looking for a territory for herself. The only problem now is that she is moving around in Salayexe and Tiyani’s territory. It will really be interesting to see where she will end up in this next year or so. Tingana, the male, is looking great and was seen a few times this month. He is still patrolling his territory on a regular basis. He also has bulked up very well in this last few months with the weak animals. Anderson, the male, was seen a lot this month. This big beast is giving poor Tingana a run for his money as he is expanding again. We followed the Anderson male one day scent marking and vocalising in Tingana’s territory. The big question is now; Will Tingana just accept defeat and move on, or will he take on Anderson in a titanic brawl? These two have a history when it comes to territory and Anderson was victorious in all of them. Anderson also mated with the Ingrid’s Dam female and Salayexe this month. Fingers crossed for the next few months.

Lions

Baby hyena by Louis Liversage

Baby hyena by Louis Liversage

Once again we had a wonderful time with these big apex predators of the bush. The Tailless female of the Tsalala pride was seen a few times this month with the four sub adults. Later the month she left the four youngsters to fend for themselves and she returned to her sister and the rest of her pride. The four sub adults stayed around our area for a few days before moving on to look for the big female. These four youngsters also killed a buffalo in the time that they were alone. It is really strange that the old female did not take the young female with her to the rest of the pride. The young female will be a great asset to the rest of the pride when it comes to hunting. She has proved herself so many times in the last two months hunting next to the old female and sometimes leading the hunt. Only time will tell what fate lies ahead for the young female. Will she be excepted by the rest of the pride or will she remain with her brothers. For these four youngsters it is great to be in this area as there is no big males that will chase them around. The Styx pride is really doing great and looking really healthy. We were very fortunate to see them quite frequently this month. The two females who lost their cubs have mated again with the Birmingham male this month. The old female and her two cubs are still doing really well and the little ones are growing up very fast. The old lady still hides them a lot but does bring them to kills made by the pride. The little ones are so relaxed with the vehicles around them. What makes it even better is the fact that the old female let them come closer to investigate the vehicle. The Nkuhuma pride was also seen a few times this month. We were very lucky to see the females along with their cubs and a Birmingham male feeding on a buffalo kill. The Nkuhuma pride’s core of their territory is north east of us. We have seen them moving far west onto EP property. This is great if they expand their territory this way. We also had two young nomadic male lions of the Avoca pride in our area this month. These two males were nice and relaxed but very alert as well. They are two beautiful males but like all young males they are just passing through trying to avoid the big territorial males. These two males are extremely good buffalo hunters and they killed a few buffaloes in our area. They also had a run in with our resident hyena clan over a buffalo kill. The two males stood their ground but the twenty adult hyenas were just too powerful and the two brothers moved on. The Birmingham males are turning into impressive males as their manes are getting fuller. They spend a lot of their time with the Styx and the Nkuhuma pride. There are still times that they will join forces to patrol their boundary but that does not happen very often.

Buffalo

Bull elephant by Louis Liversage

Bull elephant by Louis Liversage

The big herds have returned. We have seen a few big herds of about 100-200 buffaloes this month moving through the area in search of enough food and water. With all the wonderful new green grass all over the area there is finally a lot to eat. There are still the smaller herds of between 20 to 30 all over the area. These smaller herds tend to stay longer in one specific area as there is a lot for them to eat seeing that they are not a big herd. The big herds on the other hand have to keep on moving more as there are a lot more mouths to feed. We have not seen any new born calves yet but it is still early in the wet season. The bachelor herds are also still in the area enjoying the new grass and fresh water in the waterholes. It will not be too long before these bachelor herds brake up and they return to the breeding herds to fight for mating rights. The old dagga boys are enjoying every moment of this wet season as all their mud wallows are once again filled with water. When driving past any mud wallow on a hot day you are bound to find a dagga boy or two having a day at the bush spa.

Elephants

Plains zebra by Morné Fouché

Plains zebra by Morné Fouché

The elephant herds are still in the area and they provided for some spectacular sightings this month. Once again we were fortunate to have three to four different herds moving through the area per day. The waterhole in front of the lodge was a real hot spot again as the elephant herds came to quench their thirst. We saw quite a few babies this month struggling to find the purpose for their trunk. We had such laughter and great fun with these small babies. It is so special to sit and watch the toddlers in the herd doing all kinds of things. One in particular was a little rascal. He will go and look for trouble as he picks a fight with the bigger youngsters in the herd. When the youngsters get fed up with him and turns around he runs to the safety of mums big and strong forelegs. When he sees that the coast is clear and everyone is busy eating again he makes his silent approach. This went on for nearly an hour. We did not see a lot of big males this month, just a few younger males moving through the area. With all the new growth the herds do not move very long distances in search of more food.

Special sighting

It is always great to see predator interaction and this month we witnessed just that. The two young nomadic male lions killed a buffalo bull during the day. After a few hours the first hyena got the scent of a fresh kill and followed the scent. On arrival she realized she was outnumbered and called for reinforcements. After calling the first time a few other hyenas responded with calls from different areas. It was not long before two more came running in and then more after that. In a matter of ten minutes there were just over ten hyenas. The young males did not stand back as they charged at the hyenas every so often defending their kill. At a stage it looked like the two brothers had the upper hand, or so we thought. There was more vocalization going on by hyenas behind us and they were coming closer fast. Suddenly the rest of the hyenas regrouped and got ready for the battle. The two brothers launched yet another attack and the hyenas scattered. Suddenly the matriarch hyena and a few of her daughters arrived on the scene. The now twenty strong group of hyenas with the matriarch leading from the front marched forward. The two brothers charged at the hyenas again but with a different result this time. The hyenas did not scatter, they split into two groups and went around the brothers. Realizing they were outnumbered the two brothers disappeared into the darkness.

Did you know?

The hyena does not fall under the cat family nor the dog family. They are under the Hyaenidae family.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report September 2016

Spring has finally arrived and the bush received a facelift in the form of wonderful colours. We were truly blessed this month with 18mm of rain. The average maximum temperature for this month was 31°C. The majority of the trees are full of flowers and their new bright green leafs are emerging. The first flowers have merged from the dry soil in some of the areas. It is not going to be too long before the entire area will be transformed. More migratory birds have returned to this area as the weather is changing and it gets warmer every day. Game viewing was again awesome this month and full of excitement. The wild dogs have been moving through the area again this month and we see them more frequently now. Our resident hyena clan is still doing very well and there were more babies born this month. The clan moved their pups to a new den on the western side of our airstrip. The pups are having a blast as they are exploring this new area around the den.

Red-billed oxpecker by Dawie Jacobs

Red-billed oxpecker by Dawie Jacobs

Leopards

There was so much excitement with the leopards again this month. Finally, Salayexe mated with the big man, Anderson. We are excited to see if she conceived this time around or will she go and look for Tingana as well. For the first time in her life, Tiyani was left to look after herself for longer than three days. Time is running out for this young female and we hope that she learned a lot from mum in this last few months. Overall Tiyani is looking great and although mum has mated with Anderson there is still somewhat of a bond between these two. I think it is safe to say that Shadow has lost her last cub again. She was seen mating with Tingana on two separate occasions for four to five days. Things are just not working out for her at this stage and she is really not a bad mother. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she is pregnant at the moment and that it will work out for her this time around. Kurula and her two cubs are doing very well. These two cubs are growing up very fast and they are very relaxed with the vehicles around them. We still allow only two vehicles with the cubs if mum is not there and three when mum is present. With them being only seven months old we are still not viewing them at night with the spotlight. From next month we will give it a test run and see how they react with the light. If by any reason they do not like it, we will give it another month before putting light on them. Nsele was also seen a few times this month. Although she has only one eye, she is an extremely good hunter and great mother. We have not seen her cub this month but we have seen her tracks moving up and down with her mother’s tracks. We have started using the spotlight with this cub and she is totally relaxed. Thandi was also out and about this month. Finally we saw her two little bundles of fluff. They are looking great and are not too bad with the vehicles around them. As long as we keep our distance they are nice and relaxed. It is great to see these little cubs playing around mum and play with anything and everything. Nsele’s older daughter Nchila, is also still moving around in our traversing area. She is also much more relaxed with the vehicles. Tingana is still a beautiful male with a spectacular duel lap under his neck. We are seeing him a lot more in the western part of his territory. This might be due to young males moving through his territory. Anderson is just an impressive male and to see him mating with Salayexe just confirmed his size. Anderson is so relaxed with vehicles that he will even relax in the shade of the game viewers. It is wonderful to have this big male so calm with the vehicles.

Lions

Anderson the big male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Anderson the big male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

There were a few sad days with some of the lions in the area this month. With all the sadness we also had joy and excitement. The month was not great for the Styx pride as they had a major setback with their cubs. It is never nice to lose an animal but that is part of nature. With this big loss in the Styx pride, there was also some excitement as the old female gave birth to a few youngsters. We closed the area where she was seen moving in and out from, so we do not know how many cubs there is at the moment. This is great for the pride to get a few more cubs after the loss of a few of the older cubs. She will keep them hidden for the next six to eight weeks before she introduces them the rest of the pride. Sometimes it can also happen that she keeps them hidden for longer as her cubs will have to compete against the older cubs for milk. At this stage we don’t really worry about how many cubs she has or what the sexes of the cubs are, as long as they are healthy. The three Styx pride females are very healthy and in good condition as they are killing a buffalo almost every week. These ladies are working together like an oiled machine. The Nkuhuma pride also braced us with their presence the one morning. They had two buffalo kills a mere 50 meters from each other. This pride is looking great and very healthy and the cubs are in mint condition. With all the weak buffalo around the lions do not have to go very far in search of them. At this stage the lions are hammering the buffalo herds in the area. The Birmingham males were also out a few times this month. They split themselves up again as two went with the Styx for a few days and two went with the Nkuhuma pride before they joined up again. These four boys are also looking great and they are eating very well, thanks to their ladies.

Buffaloes

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

What a great time we had with the buffaloes this month. Finally, the big herds have arrived and let me tell you it was awesome. We had a massive herd which leisurely made their way through the area. This herd was about 800 or more strong. Before seeing the herd, we saw the dust cloud in the sky which looked like a dust storm making way towards us. This was also short lived as they passed through the area in one day. After the big herd we saw a few smaller herds of about 60-80 individuals. There are no small babies but a few of the females are currently pregnant. We also had a lot of bachelor herds moving around in the area. We are spoiled every day with a big group of buffalo bulls resting in the water in front of our lodge. With the temperature rising and the days getting hotter, these buffalo bulls are spending a lot more time at the water holes or inside the mud wallows hiding from the African heat.

Elephants

Young Tsalala male lion by Dawie Jacobs

Young Tsalala male lion by Dawie Jacobs

The elephant sightings were absolutely brilliant this month. We had two to three different herds of elephants moving through the area every day. All of the waterholes around the lodge have dried up except for the waterhole in front of the lodge. The elephant herds move back and forth from this waterhole throughout the day to quench their thirst. We saw a massive herd on drive the one day with one of the smallest babies I have seen these last two months. We also saw a herd with a little white baby again. Although there is almost no grass, the elephants are still thriving. With the new leafs and flowers on the trees there is enough food for the elephants.

Special sighting

Special sighting this month was the interaction between the mother hyena and three wild dogs. The mother hyena had pups in the den when the three wild dogs killed a steenbok close to her den. After the wild dogs finished their meal they turned their attention to the single mother hyena. Although the mother hyena was out numbered she still did not give in and did not once hesitate to defend her babies.

Did you know?

A group of leopards together is called a leap or lepe of leopards.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report August 2016

One of the things that I have learned in my time in the African bush is that things are constantly changing. The season is again changing and one can see this when going out on game drive. The knob thorn trees are the first to get their flowers and are now covered in their yellow pollen balls. It is spectacular to see all the yellow flowers on the trees and this is a great reminder that spring is upon us. Another giveaway we saw was the return of the Wahlberg eagles this month. The temperature has also changed and it is much warmer than last month. The maximum average temperature was a nice 27°C with no rain. Animal sightings were awesome as always with our resident hyena clan making sure we get some spectacular sightings. This clan is doing really well and is still growing. The wild dogs were also out in our area this month. It is always very exciting to have them in the area, especially if they hunt. Overall, this was a great month for wildlife.

Female hyena by Neil Coetzer

Female hyena by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

What an awesome time we had with the leopards this month. We saw leopards every single day of the month.  Some days we saw up to five different individuals. We are spoiled with all the great leopard sightings that we have in the area and this month just confirmed it. Salayexe and her daughter Tiyani are doing very well, and looking good. Poor Salayexe had to work extra hard this month to put food on the table for the two of them. Every time she made a kill there was a hyena that ran in and stole her kill from her. These hyenas have realised that if they follow the leopards around, they could get an easy meal. When the leopard makes a kill and she cannot put it in a tree fast enough, the hyenas score. Salayexe has lost four of her kills in a week due to these opportunistic hyenas. She eventually moved hunting grounds to another part of her territory and had some success. There is still tension building between mother and daughter and time is running out for the young Tiyani. Kurula and her cubs are doing great and we have seen them a few times this last month. The youngsters are getting more relaxed, but they need more time. All fingers are crossed that she can raise both cubs to adulthood. Moya was also seen a few times this month as she is expanding her territory more north and east. It looks like she and her aunt Salayexe have their eyes set on the same area. This will only lead to one thing. It just shows you that just when you think the leopard dynamics are sorted out between the ladies, oestrogen levels causes havoc. Nsele and her cub is still doing really well and Nsele is taking her all over the territory. Nsele’s little cub is looking good and is much better with the vehicles around her. Out of all the cubs she is the shyest and the oldest. Nsele’s older daughter has finally left Nsele’s territory and exploring further east and north looking for her own territory. Thandi was seen a lot this month moving around the eastern part of our traversing area. We have not seen the cubs yet, but she is still suckling them. They are still small, but it will not be very long before she brings them out for all of us to see. Let’s hope that she has better luck than her sister Shadow. Shadow was also seen a few times this month without her cub. She was also seen mating with Tingana for a few days. This does not look good for this female as she has only managed to raise one cub so far. We also had a surprise visit from a leopard female called the Ingrid Dam female, whose territory is south, out of our traversing area. This might be that she was looking for Anderson, or that there is pressure from another female. Whatever the cause might be, it is always great to see another new leopard in our area. The young Flat Rock male moved into the area again causing all kinds of havoc in the area. This young male is a really good looking male and he looks very healthy. He is still very young and not that bulky yet, but give him a few years. Tingana is also looking great and always on the move. With the young Flat Rock male moving around in his territory he had no chance to rest. Both Tingana and Anderson was much more vocal than normal during the month, due to the young male in the area. We were so very fortunate to see the big boss, Anderson a lot this month. After moving into the area he had a baby face with no scars. A few years later, he looks like a dominant male, with his face all scarred up.

Lions

Birmingham male lion by Louis Liversage

Birmingham male lion by Louis Liversage

There was great joy with some of the lions in the area this month. We were very happy to see that the two young brothers of the Tsalala pride have re-join their mother and other two siblings. These two boys were separated for a few months from the rest of the group. They are big enough to look after themselves and they just proved that by fending for themselves the last few months. The Styx pride of lions were also out and about this month. They have spent a lot of their time in the far eastern part of the reserve, close to the Kruger National Park. The three females are looking great and they are eating very well. These lionesses are excellent hunters as they make about two kills a week. They do not just go for smaller things like impala, kudu, zebra and wildebeest, but mainly big animals. I would go as far to say that the majority of their kills are buffaloes. The little cubs are also looking very good and always have full bellies. It is always great to see them moving around in the area. The Birmingham males are in the best shape of their lives at the moment. These four males are getting more and more bulky as they get older. Their manes are still not fully grown yet, but it is looking great already. The problem I have with these big boys is that they are still splitting up and not staying together. As we all know by now, the bush can be very unpredictable. When these Birmingham males split up in ones or two’s it will be very easy for other young males to take them out. The survival of the Styx and Nkuhuma pride’s cubs all depend on the survival of their fathers. The Birmingham males are the defenders of the territories and the protectors of the prides within. This is why it is so important for the four males to stick together as a unit. There might be another reason why they are going their separate ways more than normal and it might be that they know there is no competition. So hopefully when they realise there is competition, they with stand together and fight together.

Buffalos

Karula the female leopard and her cub by Neil Coetzer

Karula the female leopard and her cub by Neil Coetzer

The big herds of buffalos have been scarce this month as we have not seen many big herds. I think over the last few months we have seen so many big herds and we got use to them being around the area. We saw one herd this month, but they did not stay for very long. Food supplies are now on the bare minimum and the grazers like buffalos are moving around more and further away in search of food. Once again the old dagga boys came to our rescue, together with a few bachelor herds. The bachelor herds are moving all over the area, one particular bachelor herd had seven bulls and one cow. This is quite strange as the females don’t normally break away with the dominant bulls. There is one reason for this.  When the herds are attacked by lions, the buffalos split into splinter groups. With all the confusion of the lion attack, a female might end up with a few males. The old dagga boys are spending a lot of their time on the banks of the dry river beds as there is still a little bit of green grass. These old boys do not travel long distances as there is still enough water and food for them around the area.

Elephants

Tiyani the female leopard on an impala kill by Neil Coetzer

Tiyani the female leopard on an impala kill by Neil Coetzer

Elephants are the free roaming lords of the African bush. Their awesome size and strength have always commanded respect and they have proved to be supreme survivors, masters at adapting to different climates and habitat. Their relationship with nature and other species is highly cooperative and symbiotic. The destruction caused by these big animals is phenomenal, as there are broken branches and uprooted trees everywhere. With the extremely dry season that we are experiencing at the moment one would think that the elephants would be effected most. This is not true as elephants are extremely clever and they can adapt to any condition. Seeing that the elephants are mixed feeders, they are still in great condition. We have seen so many herds this month and especially around our lodge. Our water hole has become a great lifeline for the animals and especially the elephants. It is such a great sight to have breakfast or lunch with the elephants quenching their thirst in front of the lodge.

Special sighting

Tiyani made sure that she gets the special sighting spot this month. Like I mentioned before, Salayexe the female leopard and Tiyani lost a few kills to the powerful hyena clan. The one day they lost yet another kill to the hyenas, and little Tiyani did not take it well. The hyena dragged the kill a short distance away while Tiyani followed. This poor hyena thought he was in the clear until he turned around and saw Tiyani. Without any hesitation and warning Tiyani lashed out with a fast right and followed with a quicker left paw with claws out. The poor hyena did not know what happened at that very moment. Tiyani is now 15 months old and she had her very first big fight with a hyena. We can definitely see who her parents are.

Did you know?

Giraffes can last longer without water than camels.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché