Rangers Report February 2016

This month was very exciting with awesome game viewing opportunities. The wild dogs blessed us with their presence, as we saw them several times this month. We were also very fortunate to see a young male cheetah moving through the area. The matriarch of our hyena clan has given birth to the cutest little pup. The little one, who is now a few weeks old, is not shy at all. The older pups at the den do not know which way to go as this little pup bites their ears and heels. When the older pups fight back and manage to pin the little busy body down on the ground, he calls his mum. When the mother hyena stands up, the older pups knows they are in trouble and scatter into different directions. We are very fortunate to have this resident hyena clan in our area – especially the den with the small pups. The weather went from one extreme to the other. We had wonderful day temperatures in the deep 20°C to the low 30°C. There was yet another heat wave that came through the area, pushing the temperatures up into the mid 40°C. There was a few overcast days to help against the scorching sun, but no real, sufficient rain. The average maximum temperature for the month was 33°C, with 8mm of rain.

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

Salayexe and her daughter are doing very well. Salayexe’s daughter is now 10 months old and getting really brave and adventurous. The one morning we found the two resting not too far from the lodge. Out of nowhere a hyena made his way closer to them and the cub ran straight towards her mum. Salayexe moved in between the cub and the hyena, in order to keep a watchful eye on the hyena. The cub then started stalking the hyena and mum just had to follow and make sure that nothing went wrong. If this little cub makes it to independence, it will be great to have another relaxed female in the area. Kurula, the old lady, recently gave birth to small bundles of fluff. We do not know how many cubs she has, as they are safely tucked away in a den. This is exciting for us and we can’t wait to see the little one/ones running around. The core of her territory is out of our traversing area, so we do not know where their den is and how they are doing. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that these youngsters make it and not fall prey to something. Thandi is doing fine and she is moving all over the area and that includes moving through Kwatile’s and Kurula’s territory. She was also seen with Tingana this month. Both these ladies are occupied with their cubs at this stage, so they have other priorities. Shadow was also seen a few times this month and she is also looking great. She moves around all over and she was seen in and out of her mother’s territory. We were very fortunate to see young Tsakani, the daughter of Kwatile this month. This young female is looking very healthy and she is growing more and more in confidence. She is not scent marking yet, but is still moving around in her mother’s territory. We also found her moving deep into Salayexe and Shadow’s territory, maybe getting familiar with the area and her future neighbours. Nsele was also seen this month, and it looks like she has big plans. Nsele is trying to expand her territory more east, as her two daughters are moving around on the western part of her territory. She had another standoff with her mother (Salayexe) the one evening. Nsele stood her ground for the first few minutes, but then the more experienced and more intimidating Salayexe took charge and chased Nsele away. The next day Salayexe was still on the tracks of her daughter, making sure that she really did move out of her territory. This did not scare Nsele off as we found her on the tracks of Salayexe and her cub again the one afternoon. Nsele is getting older and stronger, but she is not ready to take on her mother, although this will not stop her from testing the waters. Tingana, the male leopard is all over as well, expanding his territory more north at the moment. Tingana is looking to take over Mvula’s whole territory. Mvula is well under the radar as we do not see him much anymore. Tingana is looking great and he is in the prime of his life. Anderson was up to his old tricks again and made us work hard to find him. Overall we had great sightings of him during the times that we saw him. The young Flat Rock male was moving around in our area, making life very difficult for the big males. This young male is a nomad and does not have a territory at the moment. At 3 years of age this youngster was pushed out of his birth area which was in the southern part of the reserve. With the presence of this new intruding male to the area, Anderson and Tingana are much more alert and active. This young male does not stay very long in one spot and moves all over the area. It is a beautiful male with piercing, bright orange eyes, a rounded head and strong shoulders. This male almost looks exactly like the late Lamula, just a little smaller.

Lions

Salayexe and her cub by Neil Coetzer

Salayexe and her cub by Neil Coetzer

The lion sightings were a bit slow at times, but still we still had a great time with these big cats. We had a wonderful surprise visit by three of the adult lionesses of the Breakaway pride the one day. The Breakaway pride spends a lot of their time more in the western part of the reserve, as this is where the Majingi males are. Their visit was short-lived in our area, as they moved back southwest, out of our area. This might be due to the presence of the 5 young Birmingham males in the eastern part of the reserve, who is looking to expand more west. Also a big threat is the two Matimba males who have set up territory in the central part of the reserve. The adult lionesses of the Breakaway pride are in great condition and they are looking very healthy. These four adult lionesses are a few of the last daughters of the late Mapogo males, who ruled this reserve. I think out of all the lionesses in our area they are looking the best. The three Styx pride lionesses were also seen a few times this month and they are spending much more time with the Birmingham males. All three females have mated with the Birmingham males, so if everything goes well we might have some more cubs in the near future. It would be great for this pride if they could get cubs and stay with the young Birmingham males. This pride has struggled a lot over the last few years to raise a single cub. It will be great for them if the pride can grow more with a few new members. The Nkuhuma pride lionesses were also out and about this last month and they are also in top shape. This pride is unbelievable hunters and they always eat well. The Nkuhuma pride has always been a pride that specialized in hunting buffaloes and doing it very successfully. Even today these five females that we see in our area are not afraid to take on a full grown male buffalo bull. The Birmingham males have been all over the show as they are patrolling their boundaries, making sure that there are no intruders in their territory. The only problem that I see now is that these males are splitting up into two’s, or singular formation. We all know too well that they have a better chance of survival if they stick together and face danger as a team. We have seen it so many times that when a coalition splits into smaller groups, it could mean their downfall when a younger and stronger coalition moves into the area. I think there are still very interesting times waiting for us in the near future, concerning the lions in our area.

Buffaloes

Hyena pup by Neil Coetzer

Hyena pup by Neil Coetzer

The buffaloes were very generous to us as we had awesome sightings this month. At times it was so hectic that there were about three to four different herds of buffaloes moving through our area. There were big, medium and small herd’s moving through the area almost every day. The few smaller herds that moved in and out of our area were anywhere from ten to forty individuals strong. These might be splinter groups of the big herds that moved through. The one herd we saw the one morning was extremely nervous and was snorting and running away when we got closer to them. This might have been due to lions that chased them around the night before, or even that morning. There were one or two small babies in the herds as well. The majority of calves were yearlings. The different herds stayed in the area for quite some time, feeding away at the new green grass that is coming out. We also noticed a few females that were in two’s and three’s, which is really unusual. Females always stay together as a unit as they are stronger in a group. If a lion pride moves through the area and they come across these ladies, they will definitely go for them. There were also a few wonderful bachelor herds that moved into the area. These young and big male buffaloes are staying really close to the main waterholes, as this is where the best food and water is.

Elephants

Elephant bull by Neil Coetzer

Elephant bull by Neil Coetzer

We had such a great time with these big heavyweights. There were so many herds that moved through the area. The waterhole on our open area was again a massive attraction, as we had up to three herds per day moving through to quench their thirst. We were spoiled the one day when a tiny baby elephant came charging out of the bush towards us while we were on drive. After realizing that we were not afraid and did not plan to run away, the little rascal tried a different approach. He went all around the car to see what was going on. Suddenly the little one came straight towards the vehicle and sniffed the side of the vehicle. Mum saw this and came towards us as well and we knew that it was time to leave. As we moved off the baby followed us without the intention of leaving his new found friend. Mum soon stopped him in his tracks and he followed the rest of the herd, trumpeting as he went along… maybe to say: “see you guys later again.” This was such a special sighting for both me and our guests alike. There were so many big bulls this month and we had a few that were in full musth again. One bull in particular was always around the lodge and he also provided us with some great sightings. This big boy chased all the animals away from the waterhole in front of the lodge, claiming the waterhole for himself. The big males were accompanied by a few younger males who would learn from them in the years to come.

Special sighting

This month it is the tiny baby hyena at their den site. It is so great to see the little one moving around the den. Being a baby of the matriarch, this little one learned from a young age that she is untouchable and she can do what she wants. She does not stand back for any member of the clan as she knows where she is in the hierarchy. It is great to have her at the den and she is not shy at all as she likes to entertain us.

Did you know?

The giraffe is the biggest ruminant. Ruminants have a four chambered stomach.

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report January 2016

What a way to start off 2016! We had such a great time, with some awesome sightings this month. The weather, on the other hand, was a rollercoaster ride. We were blessed with some rain in our area and although it was only 52mm in total, it was still enough to help the new shoots of grass to generate growth. Once again there was a heat wave that came through, which pushed the temperatures into the high 40’s. The average maximum temperature for the month was 32⁰C. It looks like our resident hyena clan might be growing in numbers, as we found the alpha female at a new den site. We have not seen any pups yet, but maybe during the next month they will start running around outside the hole. The five bigger pups are looking very healthy and they have replaced their black coats with the characteristic spotted coats. We were so fortunate with the wild dog and cheetah sightings once again this month. The wild dogs moved in and out of our area for the entire month. We saw cheetah twice this month and the one male was not too far from our lodge. We also had a fantastic birding month and saw so many birds of prey all feasting on the termites after the rain.

Male giraffe drinking water by Neil Coetzer

Male giraffe drinking water by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

The leopard sightings did not disappoint us in the New Year, as we had such incredible sightings once again. Salayexe and her little girl are still the light of the party, as we had such great sightings of this mother and daughter. Salayexe is like a killing machine as she has to make a kill almost every second or third day. The young 8 month old cub eats like a champ and if she gets half the chance, she hogs the kill and her mother does not get a lot of meat. Salayexe had a few days that she was not impressed with her daughter regarding the kills. When it is the cub’s turn to feed, she climbs up the tree and moves the kill from its original spot. Sometimes she gets it right, but at other times she gives a free meal to the hyenas that are patiently waiting at the base of the tree. The cub has not yet mastered the technique of moving around in the tree with the kill in her mouth. She still has a few months to learn from her mother, but at this stage everything is a game to her. Kurula was also seen this month and she might be pregnant, as it looks like her milk glands are swollen. It would be wonderful if she can raise another litter of cubs before she gets too old to reproduce. As we all know the older a leopard female gets, the more difficult it gets to raise a litter. Kwatile is looking great and good news is that she still has suckle marks. It is still too early to say how many cubs she might have. She made a good job of getting a great den for the little cubs. We can’t wait for the day that she brings them out for the first time. Thandi was also seen moving around in her mother’s territory but this might be due to her looking for Tingana. A few days later she met up with Tingana and started mating. The honeymoon couple was rudely interrupted when Kurula came charging in and send Thandi running. Thandi is looking great and is very healthy, but she is not ready to take on her bigger and more experienced mother. She tried that once and it did not go down too well for her. The trio moved around together for a short while before Kurula moved away. We also saw Nsele twice this month, but only very briefly. She is still looking healthy and with the one bad eye she is still hunting well. It looks like the Ximpalapala female has taken over Moya’s territory, as we have recently seen her scent marking all over. She is not the most relaxed female, but I believe that with time and effort, we can change that. Tingana is in top shape and looking great. He has expanded his territory far east and now again puts more pressure on Mvula. We will just have to wait and see what this year has in store for us. Anderson, the brut of a male, was also seen this month. He was spotted together with Salayexe and her daughter, resting in the river bed close to our lodge. It is so difficult to say who the father of Salayexe’s cub is, as she mated with both Anderson and Tingana. We also had a surprise visit from a young male called the Flat Rock male. He dit not stay for very long before moving on again to try and find his own piece of Africa to call home. It is great to see new blood moving into the area, but unfortunately there is also a lot of competition.

Lions

Karula the female leopard by Neil Coetzer

Karula the female leopard by Neil Coetzer

On the lions side it was a bit quiet, but we still had some great sightings. The three Styx females are looking great and it looks like they have accepted the Birmingham males, as they are moving around with them. It will be great for them to be around the males as this will mean better protection for the new cubs that might be arriving. We had five Nkuhuma females in our area that killed a young buffalo. These five females are looking very healthy and in great shape. The core of their territory is more to the north eastern part of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. They do come in from time to time to say hello. At this stage it looks like they are also trying to stay clear of the Birmingham male lions. When the Birmingham males go north, the females either go further north, or they come west into our area. We did manage to get one of the adult lionesses of the Breakaway pride on drive the one morning, all alone calling for the rest of her pride. There were tracks for a lot more lions moving all over the area and also our resident hyena clan, who seemed to be in hot pursuit. It looked like the pride was chased by the hyenas and this female was separated from her pride. We were very fortunate to see the five Birmingham males on a regular basis. They are looking spectacular and their manes are getting fuller by the day, although their manes are only going to be fully grown by the age of 6-7 years. At this stage it is difficult to say who the dominant male is. All five males are mating with the females and sometimes they will mate with the same females.

Buffaloes

European roller by Morné Fouché

European roller by Morné Fouché

The buffalo sightings were once again out of this world! We had a big herd of buffaloes that came through our area again. They did not stay very long before moving along in the ongoing search for food and water. Fortunately it did not stop there, as we also had smaller herds of about twenty to thirty buffaloes moving around the area. One of these herds was chased around by the Nkuhuma pride of lions the one evening. Smaller buffalo herds like these will be chased around more often by lions than what big herds would be. Within a big herd you have a lot of backup on your side to help when a lion pride tries to take one of the herd members down. We had loads of buffalo bulls, both young and old, relaxing in the mud wallows or bigger water holes. The old dagga boys were seen on a regular basis this last month and you can always count on these old gentlemen.

Elephants

Impala babies by Morné Fouché

Impala babies by Morné Fouché

Once again we picked up right where we left off with the elephant sightings from last year to now. There were enormous herds of elephants that paid visits to our waterhole in front of the lodge. These herds were about 50-60 animals strong and moved gracefully through our area, in no hurry at all. This might be due to all the small babies that are currently present within the herd. We counted seven tiny babies that were under a year old and another five babies that were about two to three years old and a lot more that were older than three years, all in one of the herds in the area. There were many young males walking around, trying to rejoin the herd, only to be chased out again by the females. All young males are being kicked out at the age of about 14-17 years. If they are lucky they might join forces with a big adult male who will teach them the ropes as they get older. The young males will also join forces and form a bachelor herd of young males. There were also many older males in our area. Some of them were in full musth and were looking for the female groups. When a male elephant goes into musth, his body undergoes a dramatic change as the body produces a very high level of testosterone.

Special sighting

The special sighting was to see three leopards playing together in a dry river bed. Salayexe and her daughter were relaxing in the dry river bed when Anderson came down the embankment. Salayexe’s daughter saw this as a good opportunity to practice her stalking and pouncing skills. Anderson knew what the little one was up to and made it very clear that he was not in the mood for fun and games. Oblivious to all the warning signs of Anderson, the cub pushed forward. Salayexe knew there was trouble on the way and she jumped in. Just before the little one got into striking distance, Salayexe intercepted the cub and made sure that she did not get hurt. Salayexe and her daughter started playing, while Anderson just kept a watchful eye over the little cub.

Did you know?

The insect that makes the loudest sound is one of the African cicada species. Its sound was measured at 106.7 decibels.

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report December 2015

It is difficult to think that the year 2015 has come to an end. It feels like yesterday that we greeted the year with open arms. With 2016 around the corner, we can’t wait for all the new adventures and challenges awaiting us in the new year. When you look back at the past year and think about all the great times we had, you come to realize how blessed we were to be out in the bush and to be a part of this year. December was very good to us and once again we had great sighting and perfect weather. There were days that were scorching hot, but overall it was nice to be out. We also had a few wonderful lightning storms. The average maximum temperature for the month was 34 ⁰C, with 34mm of rain. We were very fortunate to see the wild dogs again, while they moved in and out of our area. We had two different packs moving through the area at the same time, but luckily they managed to avoid each other. The impala, wildebeest and warthog babies gave us some spectacular sightings. It is so great to see all of these babies moving around with their mothers. The nightlife was also a great treat and we were very fortunate to see an elusive pangolin one afternoon. What a wonderful way to end off the last chapter of the year 2015.

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

The leopard sightings were again out of this world. Salayexe and her little cub have spoiled us rotten with unbelievable sightings during most days of the month. Salayexe is doing very well to keep the little one alive and well fed. The little cub is so relaxed with the vehicles and her confidence level is building more and more. She is so relaxed that she would lay down in the shade of the vehicle and stalk the trackers. It will be great if this little playful female can make it to independence and set up a territory in this area. Kwatile was also seen a few times this month. Great news with this beautiful female is that she has cubs at the moment. We saw her the one hot afternoon resting on the cool sand in one of the dry riverbeds. She was so uncomfortable and could not seem to get a nice spot to rest. Upon closer inspection we realized that her tummy was moving and it was not from breathing! We were so exited and a week later we saw her again with suckle marks. We do not know how many cubs there are yet. It is going to be great when she brings them out for the first time. Tsakani, Kwatile’s independent daughter, was also out and about. Although we did not see her as much as we wanted, it was still special to see her. She is looking good and is still moving around in Kwatile’s territory, as this is an area that she knows well and is comfortable with. It is great to see all these young females moving around here. Hopefully they will settle down in the area. Shadow was also seen again this month and she still lives up to her name. It seems like the only time we have a great sighting of her is when she has a kill. The rest of the time she just disappears into the bush. Moya gave us a surprise visit again this month, but only because she was looking for the Anderson male. We see more and more of the Ximpalapala female, as she is expanding her territory more north. At this stage she is pushing the younger and smaller Moya more south, while slowly taking over her territory. The only problem that Ximpalapala has at this point in time is that Salayexe is moving more south, so it is only a question of time before these two females meet. Tingana was also seen a few times this last month. Tingana is still looking great and on top of his game. Anderson is still dominating this area while forcing Tingana more east. With Tingana going more east, he is forcing Mvula more east as well, while claiming more of Mvula’s territory. Anderson has grown into an enormous beast and has no real competition in this area.

Lion

One Birmingham male lion mating with one Styx female

One Birmingham male lion mating with one Styx female

Lion sightings were really up and down this last month, but overall we had a lot of great sightings. The Styx pride females were all seen mating with the Birmingham males during the month. One of the females had suckle marks, but she still mated with the males. This might be due to the fact that the males killed the cubs, or the fact that she is trying to confuse the males and keep them away from the cubs. It is a good sign that all the females have mated with them, so hopefully we will have new cubs in the new year. We saw one of the Nkuhuma females also mating with one of the males, but that was short lived. Five members of the Tsalala pride also gave us a surprise visit this month. The tailless female and the four sub-adults once again had a standoff with our resident hyena clan the one morning. The Tsalala pride stumbled upon Tsakani, the young female leopard, with a kill in the tree. The lions stole the kill and then the hyenas arrived on the scene. The tailless female stopped feeding and walked up to the hyenas to face them front on. The ten hyenas did not know what to do with this and they were very cautious. After the meal was finished the lions moved on, with the hyenas following to make sure they left. After the lions and hyenas moved on, Tsakani climbed down the tree and ran into the opposite direction. The Tsalala pride’s visit was also very short-lived, as they moved out of our area after the hyenas kept on harassing them. The Birmingham male lions have been all over the area, as they were scent marking their new territory. These five males are really in good shape and their manes are getting bigger day by day. My only concern with these males is that they are splitting up a lot more than what they should. Several times now we have seen only one or two together, with no sign of the others. This might be a problem when they meet other males, as they do not have the strength of a coalition. These males are spending a lot of their time in the eastern parts of our traversing area, hardly moving into the western side. It will not be too long before they get more confident and start venturing more westwards into Majingi territory.

Buffaloes

Buffalo bull by Louis Liversage

Buffalo bull by Louis Liversage

What fantastic buffalo sightings we had this month. There were buffaloes almost around every corner and road. We had a few wonderfully big herds that came through our area and stayed around for a few days at a time. The one afternoon we had two different big herds and a small herd in our area. The big herds move all over and do not stay in one area for very long. As food is getting scarcer it forces the big herds to move around much more during the day and night, in order to try and get enough food and water. We have also seen so many male groups staying close to the waterholes. The dagga boys you will always find around the waterholes or mud wallows. Being ruminants, they will fill their stomachs with grass during the morning and during the hottest time of the day they will chew on the cud.

Elephant

Wild dog pups by Morné Fouché

Wild dog pups by Morné Fouché

The elephant sightings were quiet at times, but the sightings we had was again out of this world. We had a few herds with a lot of youngsters, both big and small. We have seen two or three big males moving around, following the breeding herds. We were very lucky the one afternoon at one of the big watering holes as three different breeding herds came to quench their thirst. There was a lot of trumpeting and rumbling going on as these herds greeted each other. The massive count of just over a hundred elephants finished their greetings and moved away from the waterhole. The elephants are also causing havoc amongst the trees, as they uproot the trees to get to the root system. The big females will push over the trees to get to the leaves on top of the tree and also for the babies to get to the leaves. If they manage to uproot the whole tree and eat all the roots, then the tree will unfortunately die. Sometimes it does happen that the tree still has some roots firmly intact in the ground. When this happens, it will grow parallel to the ground, which would be great for smaller mix feeders like kudu and impala.

Special sighting

Once again we were very fortunate to see a pangolin this month. This pangolin was so relaxed with the vehicles. He was going about his business of foraging for termites and then he decided to walk into the open and what a show it gave us! It is always so great to see one of these very elusive animals on drive.

Did you know?

Although a pangolin has a very reptile like appearance with its scaly body, it is actually a mammal.

See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report November 2015

What an unforgettable month this was in all aspects of the game. This month was really a photographers, or bird watchers dream. We had two awesome sightings of a male cheetah that moved through our area. We were fortunate to see wild dogs on several occasions. There were also two different packs that moved through our area, causing havoc amongst the impala herds. The weather was up and down from one extreme to the next. There were a few breathtaking lightening storms that lit up the African night sky, but there was not a lot of rain that followed. We had 37mm of rain and an average maximum temperature of 31 ⁰C. With only 37mm of rain, the bush has really turned nice and green. The majority of all the migratory birds are back and this month was great for birding.

Violet-backed starling by Neil Coetzer

Violet-backed starling by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

It was yet another great month with these spotted cats. Salayexe and the little cub are doing really great and the cub is growing up fast. Salayexe is giving her best raising the little cub and she is doing an excellent job too. If the little cub can make it to adulthood she will stay in the area as she is a little female and females set up territory next to their mothers. The cub is getting very relaxed with the vehicles around her. She sometimes stalks the tracker on his tracker seat, or runs after birds and grasshoppers. Kurula was also out and about this month, but kept a low profile. Shadow was also seen a few times this month and she looks really healthy. Shadow was again seen mating with Tingana for a few days. After she finished mating with Tingana she started scent marking all over her territory again. Nsele is out and about and it looks like she wants to expand her territory more east. The only thing standing in the way of expanding her territory is her mother, Salayexe, who is to the east of her. There will come a time when Salayexe and Nsele will fight it out and Nsele will probably push Salayexe out, if she is too old by that time. But for now Salayexe proves to still be too strong for Nsele to kick her out. Kwatile was also seen moving around and marking her territory this month. This might be due to Shadow who followed Tingana into Kwatile’s territory, while mating with Tingana. It will happen that females might leave their own territory following a male during the time they are mating. Moya gave us a real big surprise visit the one day as she was mating with Anderson in our area. Moya has moved her territory further south out of our area because of her aunt Salayexe. Salayexe has expanded her territory south into Moya’s territory. It was great to see Moya again, as we did not see her for some time. Moya is a stunning leopard female and she is looking great and very healthy. Mvula was also seen marking his boundaries this month. Tingana has taken a good chunk of Mvula’s territory on Mvula’s western boundary. Mvula is still in good condition and still holding on to the majority of his territory. Tingana on the other hand is also being pushed more east by Anderson. Anderson has expanded his territory more south west and north east. Anderson and Tingana both are in top condition, but Anderson is stronger and bigger than Tingana. The big question still remains, will these two heavyweights have another standoff, or even possibly a fight?

Lions

Breakaway pride lioness playing with a tortoise by Neil Coetzer

Breakaway pride lioness playing with a tortoise by Neil Coetzer

The lion sightings were so great and we saw a lot of different lion prides and coalitions. The Breakaway pride was once again not in their full numbers. We only had 6 or 7 individuals that moved around in our area. We have seen the young females and males the majority of the times, moving around without the adult females present. The young females are looking great and I can’t wait for them to come of age in order to start mating so that the pride can grow even bigger. The young males are also growing up fast and their manes are looking more impressive day by day. The Tsalala pride is also looking great and the two old ladies in the pride are still impressive. The old ladies are getting annoyed with the young males in the pride as they snarl and hiss at them a lot. The sub-adult female cub in the pride is looking great and she has a really strong bond with her mother, aunt and cousin. The young males on the other hand are very close to each other as they have to leave the pride together and need to look out for one another. The Nkuhuma pride also moved through the area the one day, but did not stay very long. Although they did not stay long, it was long enough to spend some quality time with them. The young male is looking stunning and he is getting nice and big now. His mane is not that big yet, but his body size is big for his age. At this time I think that the females in the pride does not mind that he still stays with the pride, as he can be a great asset during hunts. The females in the pride are also in good shape and looking very healthy. It is always such a treat to see this pride moving into the area. The Birmingham males were also out and about this month, as they were patrolling their boundaries and roaring all over. The young males are getting so much more confident and bolder by the day. These youngsters are still moving into Majingi territory every now and again. At this stage they are testing the waters, but every time they move in, the Majingi male’s powerful roar makes them turn around. The four Majingi males also came through the area the one night and killed a buffalo in our area. This made them stay in the area for two days, while they fed. They are still looking good, but you can see in their scarred faces that their age is starting to show. Although they are getting older, they can still put up a good fight and win.

Buffalo

Water monitor by Neil Coetzer

Water monitor by Neil Coetzer

The buffalo herds were so great to us this month, as they graced us with their presence. There were several big and small herds that moved around the area. The smaller herd was about 50 animals strong and the big herd was about 400 strong. The smaller herd did not have any small babies in it, just yearlings. The big herd on the other hand had a lot of small babies who are a few months old. Being a bulk grazer the big herd moved all over the area, in search of enough food and water for the whole herd. The herd moved basically from water source to water source whilst stopping along the way for food. We also had a few bachelor herds of between 10-20 bulls hanging around some of the bigger water holes. These big boys are really fattening up and getting ready for the mating season, which is around the corner. Our trusty dagga boys are always around the mud wallows and water holes close to our lodge. These guys do not go too far away from the water holes during the day, as they spend a lot of their time in the water to cool down against the heat.

Elephant

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

Tingana the male leopard by Neil Coetzer

The elephant sightings were just unbelievably good this month. There were elephants all over the show and it was all big herds moving through. The waterhole in front of our lodge was a hotspot for elephant sightings. There was at least one herd everyday coming to the water to quench their thirst and have a swim to cool down. There are many small babies in some of the herds at the moment and the best is when they get their first experience with mud. These youngster slip and slide, fall on their sides, trip and land face first in the mud. You can really sit there and watch them for hours, as they play around in the mud or the water. We have seen a few smaller females that are pregnant at the moment with their first babies. Females will have their first babies between the ages of 12-15 years, after a 22 month gestation period. There was only one really big male that moved around our area this month, looking for a few females. There were a lot of younger males that also followed the female groups around and made for great sightings. They would play fight with each other or fight with a harmless tree and be very vocal as they would trumpet the whole time.

Special sighting

To see a leopard with a kill is always a great sighting, but to see three leopards on the same kill is more than special. This is just what happened this month with these beautiful cats. Salayexe and her little cub had an impala kill up in a tree, when Anderson suddenly merged from the tree line. Anderson also went up the same tree when five hyenas charged him on the ground. Salayexe was not that happy at first, as he made his way to the kill where the cub was eating. With low growls he told the cub he was coming and that she had to move. The little cub was so excited with him being there, that she grabbed his tale the whole time while he tried to eat. This was so great to see how they interacted with each other and to see three leopards in one tree while five hyenas were resting at the base of the tree.

Did you know?

A zebra’s stripes are like finger prints, no two of them are the same.

See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report October 2015

What a great month, with spectacular game viewing opportunities October was. We have some great news about our resident hyena clan. They have five new pups in the den and all of them are still black in color. It is great to see that this clan is moving up and breeding well. It might not be very long before we see a clan of between 20-30 hyenas moving through the area, making them the new apex predators. We were also fortunate to see a pack of wild dogs that moved through our area, staying around for a few days. The nightlife was once again out of this world and we saw honey badgers, civets, genets, porcupines and bush babies. We had a few wonderfully hot days and some spectacular sunsets, due to the cloud build-up. We also had some rain, but not a lot. The drought in South Africa is also affecting us. The total for the month was 17mm, with an average maximum temperature of 31°C.

Birmingham male lion by Neil Coetzer

Birmingham male lion by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

The leopard sightings were all memorable this month. Salayexe and her little female cub are looking great. They provided us with some really great photographic opportunities. The little one is now 6 months old and a real busy body. We followed the two cats the one afternoon, and let me tell you, Salayexe has her work cut out for her. The cub stalked and chased her mother up and down trees and all over the show. When mum has had enough of all these fun and games, she quickly lets the cub know by hissing or growling at her, or even by sitting on her. The cub is now at that very adventurous age where everything looks like food, or something to play with. She was already seen stalking a few elephants, giraffe’s, buffalo bulls and plenty more. It is so great to see the little one growing up and getting so relaxed with the vehicles. We also saw Kurula a few times this month and she was mating with Tingana for the full 4 days, twice during the month. Kurula is really looking good and I hope that she will have another litter of cubs early next year. As a leopard female gets older, one tends to think it is easier to raise a litter of cubs, but in fact, it becomes more difficult. Next year she is turning 12 and she is currently the oldest female in our traversing area. Hopefully she has got her mother’s genes and also reaches the age of 19 years. Shadow was seen a few times this month, but not very often.

After her mother mated with Tingana, she also started mating with him for a full 4 days. Shadow is looking great and very healthy indeed as she still makes kills on a regular basis and eating well. Kwatile is still a stunning cat and she is looking great. This 8 year old female is still expanding her territory. Her boundaries border the boundary of the twins, Shadow and Thandi. Out of the three females, Kwatile is the biggest and the most confident. She’s had standoffs with Shadow and Thandi before and the outcome was the same, the twins moved away. Tsakani, the young female, was also seen this month, moving around in both Salayexe and Moya’s territories. She is such a beautiful cat and very relaxed with the vehicles around her. At this stage, she does not have a territory yet and moves around in the outskirts of mom’s territory, also exploring further west. Nsele was also out and about, patrolling her boundaries. She was out patrolling when she got the familiar and unmistakable scent of her mother. Her mother does not always play by the rules, as she was far into Nsele’s territory. It was not long before Nsele caught up with her mother and the heat was on. Salayexe is still too strong for Nsele and quickly chased her up into a tree, showing her who’s still the boss between them. Anderson is also moving very far, while expanding his area. He was seen with Salayexe and the cub a few times on kills, without ever harming the cub, which is wonderful. Tingana is looking great and also expanding east and pushing Mvula out further east. We do not see Mvula that often any longer, as his moved his territory closer to the Kruger National Park.

Lions

Female buffalo drinking by Louis Liversage

Female buffalo drinking by Louis Liversage

We had such awesome lion sightings. The lion dynamics are still changing, causing havoc and confusion. This time, it is not only from the Birmingham males, but also the two Matimba male lions, that came to join the party. It looks like the two Matimba males are thinking of setting up territory south-east of their old territory. These two males are also moving more northwards into our traversing area, which is very dangerous for them, as this is still Majingi male territory. Within this new territory there are two prides: the Breakaway Tsalala pride and the Tsalala pride. The Matimba males have caused some havoc with these two prides, as we have seen the two prides split into two or three groups.

The Tsalala pride has even moved out of their territory, into the territory of the Nkuhuma pride for a few days. The Tsalala pride spent a lot more time with us in the north than before and this can be due to the presence of the Matimba males. The Breakaway Tsalala/Mhangeni pride moved more towards the western part of the reserve. It will just be a matter of time before the Majingi males realize that there are two new males in their territory. The Birmingham males are also expanding their territory and getting more confident as they go along. They are moving more west, into the Majingi territory and this might be the build-up to the fight of the century. The Birmingham males came into the area the one night, roaring and making sure all the other males were aware that they mean business. Once again the Majingi males responded to the roars of the younger males. We heard the loud roars of the Majingi males, echoing through the night, announcing their presence. The following morning we followed the tracks of the young males, moving straight east towards their territory. These 5 young males are just scouting and they have a lot of time on their hands, while waiting for the Majingi males to age. Although the four Majingi male lions are 10 years old now, they are still a formidable force to be reckoned with. The Nkuhuma pride is also looking great and the young male in the group is getting nice and big.

Buffaloes

African fish eagle by Morné Fouché

African fish eagle by Morné Fouché

We had some spectacular buffalo sightings this month. We saw a few massive herds moving through our area. One of the herds that we saw was easily over 400 animals strong, with a lot of youngsters. There are a few of the females that are still pregnant. Buffaloes will try and have their babies during the rainy season, or very close to the rainy season. This will be the time when more food and water are available, to help them get back into top condition, while nursing their newborn calves. We also had a few smaller groups moving through the area, but these were just splinter herds from the main herd. The old boys are still moving around the lodge and every afternoon with lunch, they are enjoying the water in front of the lodge. These old boys are spending the majority of their time in the water, as this brings welcome relieve against the hot African sun. Overall, the buffalo herds have taken a beating from the lions this month. The Birmingham males took more than ten young and old buffaloes in just more than a week. We found these 5 buffalo slayers on 6 buffalo kills in one area. The Tsalala pride also had their fair share of buffalo meat this month, as their total was 3 -4 buffaloes.

Elephants

Female cub Louis Liversage

Female cub Louis Liversage

What unbelievable elephant sightings we had this month! It is always such a treat to watch them as they go on with their day to day routine. We had a few big herds with tiny babies around some of the water holes. One of the herds we saw moving towards the water had a really small baby with them. As the herd was approaching the water they started moving faster and the baby had to run very fast to keep up. All the adults and youngsters started walking into the water for a swim, except the baby and its mother. There was a lot of trumpeting and rumbling going on as these elephants enjoyed themselves in the cool water. The little one was so confused and did not know what was going on and where its family is going to, that he/she also ran straight into the water. With a very big splash and loud trumpet-like noise baby went into the water head first and then submerged itself. The mother got such a fright that she gave a big rumble and ran into the water after the baby. The baby emerged above the water and mother guided him/her out of the water to the safety of the waters edge. With all this commotion, the matriarch and a few other adults came running out of the water to the female and baby. After all of them ran out of the water they huddled up around the female and calf, with the matriarch making sure that everything was fine. This gave us a firsthand experience of the social structure of these extra-ordinary mammals.

Special sighting

We saw a newborn elephant calf with a breeding herd one afternoon. The herd was heading toward a waterhole, with the baby following from behind. Due to its size, the calf’s mother was preventing him to go too close to the water. The little rascal decided to follow his own way and ran straight into the water. His mother got the fright of her life when her baby submerged himself in the shallow waters and came running to its rescue. It was amazing to see how all the other cows immediately focused their attention on the baby and made sure his mother got him to safety before they moved on.

Did you know?

An elephant calf often sucks its trunk for comfort.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report July 2015

What a very exiting month we had in the bush! From day one we had a lot of awesome sightings and it just got better as the month went on. We had a wonderful sighting of a female cheetah, moving past the lodge in search of a meal. We don’t get a lot of cheetahs around the lodge area, because it is too dense and bushy and cheetahs need open areas to hunt. When we do see a cheetah in this area, they are normally young animals, or females, moving through the area looking for a territory. We were also very fortunate with the wild dog sightings and some more great nightlife. The bush has totally changed its colors. The grass is very short in some areas and some of the smaller waterholes are bone dry. A few of the mornings and evenings were really chilly, but the normal day temperature was warm and pleasant. The average maximum temperature was 24 °C with no rain for the month.

Buffalo by Jonathan Vogel

Buffalo by Jonathan Vogel

Leopards

Once again there was so much laughter and excitement with our beautiful cats. Salayexe and her cub are doing really well. Salayexe moved the little one to a new den. For the cub this is a great outing and she is exploring her new home and surroundings. The previous den was right next to a very busy road and I think that helped a lot with the habituation process, as the cub was exposed to a lot of vehicles. When Salayexe returns home after a long day of hunting, the little one gives her a warm welcome by jumping on her back or grabbing her by the ear or tail. Salayexe really has her hands, or paws, full with this little busy body. Shadow and her cub are also looking great and the young male is growing nice and big. Shadow is still hunting for the young male and both of them are eating enough. Shadow needs to hunt a lot more than the other leopards in our area, because of her teenage son with his big appetite. Fingers crossed that she will raise this young male to independence. Now a young female we have seen a lot this month, was Nsele. It looks like Nsele has finally pushed her daughters out, as we don’t see them together anymore. One of Nsele’s daughters was seen with a duiker kill in a tree within Nsele’s territory. As we tried to get closer she climbed out of the tree and moved to a safe distance. Animals will quickly let you know when they feel uncomfortable with your presence, so we left her in peace. It will be great if one of the young females sets up territory next to mum. Seeing that Kwatile’s daughter is now independent, we had to decide on a suitable name for this young and adventurous female. After scratching our heads for a while, the name Tsakani came to mind. Tsakani is a Shangaan name, meaning “always happy”. We have seen her a few times moving around in Salayexe’s territory. At this stage Salayexe has bigger things to worry about, but if she finds her, she will definitely chase her out. Tyson also came through the area again, but with a lot of new battle scars to his collection. It looks like he had a run in with one of the other territorial male leopards. Still, it was great to see this old legend again and I hope that he will return in the months to follow. Back to the territorial shifts… Anderson is turning his attention to Lamula again. Lamula and Anderson had a territorial standoff at the beginning of this month. Lamula was resting on a big termite mount when Anderson stalked him from behind. The wind turned in the nick of time and Lamula turned his head, just in time to find Anderson a mere 20 meters behind him. Lamula showed great courage as he stood up and came down the mount and walked straight up to Anderson. As Lamula got closer to Anderson, Anderson knew he had to do the same and he met Lamula halfway. The growling was so loud you could barely hear the diesel engine of the game viewer idling. It was not long before Anderson turned up the heat. Lamula knows that he is not as big and he moved away to fight another day. It will be very interesting to see what will happen in the next few months, as just the next day Lamula was back and scent marking all over the area. Tingana was also seen a few times, marking his territory. Although he lost a part of his territory, he is still going strong and it looks like he has his sights set on Mvula’s territory.

Lions

Salayexe, the female leopard, with a cane rat kill

Salayexe, the female leopard, with a cane rat kill

There was so much excitement regarding the lions of this area. The five Birmingham males came back for a quick visit. They are looking great, in good shape and their manes are well developed, but not yet full. They had a good feed as they had a buffalo bull and also stole two young buffalo kills, but this was all short-lived. Just when the young males though life was at its best, the Majingi male lions moved into the area and caught up with them. The Birmingham males made a quick run for it and the Majingi males chased them all the way back to where they came from. The Majingi males are still in good shape and by the looks of things they are not ready to step down as kings of the area. One of the Majingi males was seen mating with a female from the Breakaway pride. The Breakaway pride is doing great and they are just magnificent. My guests and I had the wonderful opportunity one chilly morning to witness the Breakaway lion pride hunting and killing a male giraffe. Now the best part of this entire hunt was that only 5 pride members killed the giraffe. The other 8 were at the back. A day into the feeding frenzy the two young Styx pride males came in to join them. At first there was loads of growling to establish a hierarchy between them. After all that they fed together around the kill. The Styx pride is also looking great and the small cubs are big and healthy. The two older females were again seen mating with the two Matimba males. We were also very lucky to see the Styx pride in full force as they eventually joined up. There is only one obstacle in their road and that is the Matimba males. The Matimba males don’t like the sub-adult females in the group and they just want to kill them. The young Ximungwe lions were also seen this month and they showed us their unique way of hunting. They followed a herd of impalas the one afternoon and then they chased them into the fence, those who got stuck in the fence were dinner. These youngsters don’t have an adult to teach them how to hunt. They have to teach themselves and by the looks of things they are slowly, but surely getting there. The Tsalala pride also came in and had an interesting afternoon at one of the waterholes. As the pride had a relaxing and peaceful day, they were challenged by 8 wild dogs.

Buffaloes

Breakaway female lion by Jonathan Vogel

Breakaway female lion by Jonathan Vogel

We had wonderful buffalo sightings again this month. We saw 2 to 3 different big buffalo herds and then also a few smaller splinter groups that broke away from the main herds. The buffaloes took a beating by the lions this month as the Birmingham males, Breakaway pride, Styx pride and the Majingi males had some buffalo steaks for dinner. We had a few bachelors and bachelor herds also moving around in our area. These old boys are staying close to certain big water holes and don’t stray too far, as there is enough food for them around the waterholes. The big herds, on the other side, are constantly moving around in search of more food and water to sustain the whole herd.

Elephants

Leopard cub by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard cub by Jonathan Vogel

With all the smaller waterholes now dry, the elephants spend a lot of their time on the open area in front of the lodge in order to get the fresh water that is pumped into the waterhole. One elephant can drink between 100-200L’s of water in one day and consume 100-300Kg’s of food per day. An elephant herd will stay in one particular area until food and water sources are exhausted, and then move on again. The herds we saw all had small babies in the group and they will not move very far in one day, as the babies can’t keep up with the adults. One of the groups we saw was about seventy members strong and the matriarch was a big female with big tusks, so she was easily recognizable. It is not always possible to recognize each and every elephant in a group, as there are too many. They are always on the move and not territorial, so you can just imagine how fantastic it was to be able to follow the big herd’s movements as they gracefully moved through the area.

Special sighting

The Breakaway lion pride with their buffalo kill takes first prize this month. Seeing a lion hunt from stalking to feeding is such a rare sighting. This was such a special sighting to witness with our guests. What made it even better was to see how these lions communicate with each other, without making a sound. Each member in the pride has a certain roll to play when it comes to hunting and all of them know that one wrong move might lead to you either getting hurt, or having to go hungry.

Did you know?

A giraffe has only 7 neck vertebrae, the same as humans.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report. See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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