Rangers Report June 2015

June was hands down the best month of the whole year, so far. The nightlife was amazing and we saw many different nocturnal species on game drive. The general game was also spectacular. We saw loads of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck and much more. Our resident hyena clan is also doing great and we’ve had some really great sightings around their den. Winter is definitely here and not just a figment of your imagination anymore. The mornings and evenings are really cold at times, but the day temperatures are still pleasant. The bush is very dry at this stage, but there is still food for all the herbivores and they are all in good condition. The average maximum temperature for this month was 23°C and we had no rain.

Tyson by Neil Coetzer

Tyson by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

Leopard sightings this month was any photographer’s dream. We also welcomed a very old friend who came to visit us… At last we saw Salayexe’s little cub for the first time, as she took us to the den the one morning. The little one is awesome and unbelievably relaxed with the vehicle. She jumps onto mom’s belly and head, then she grabs mom’s tail and she even stalks the vehicle. This is the start of the habituation process. It is crucial that the process runs smoothly. If we do not stick to the rules, the little cub could become afraid of the vehicles and we will struggle to get her relaxed again. For the next month we will be viewing the little one with only one vehicle at a time. We are so excited to have the little one around and we just hope that she will survive. Hopefully Salayexe can stay clear of Anderson, as the current den site is in his newly claimed territory. Shadow and her cub are looking great and this little guy is growing up so fast. It really looks like Shadow is putting a 110% effort into raising her son to independence. It will be great for Shadow if she can take the little man all the way to independence. She also spends a longer period of time away from her son, maybe to encourage him to get his own food. It looks like the bond between Kwatile and her daughter is busy disappearing, as the two are spending more time apart than together. It will be interesting to see what will happen during the next few months. Moya was seen very briefly this month and she is also looking great. She unfortunately lost her cubs to another female, but then she was seen mating with Lamula shortly after. We were also very fortunate to see Quarantine and his twin brother, Nkunyuma, together on a kill. These two will sometimes join up and will be seen together and then they would just go their separate ways again. Lamula was seen a few times, marking his boundaries and making sure there are no intruders in his territory. The territorial shift between the male leopards has stepped up a notch. Anderson has successfully pushed Tingana more north and east and took over a piece of the southern and western part of Tingana’s area. The part that Anderson took is the part that Salayexe calls home. Tingana is staying well clear of this section around our lodge, but is venturing more eastwards into Mvula’s area. Unfortunately one of these impressive male leopards has to give way, as this is survival of the fittest. We were lucky to see an old friend who came to visit us. Tyson came marching through his old territory the one day. It was a massive shock to see him again after such a long time! He did not stay too long before moving on again. You can expect this from a nomadic male leopard. Come visit again soon, old friend.

Lions

Male cheetah on a duiker kill by Jonathan Vogel

Male cheetah on a duiker kill by Jonathan Vogel

The two breakaway Styx females and the three tiny cubs are doing great. The little cubs are just so cute and also very relaxed with the vehicles around them. It is nice to see these little bundles of fluff running around, chasing after each other. It would be amazing to see these little rascals all making it to adulthood. The only way these youngsters will survive, is if the two Matimba males can stay dominant for at least another two years. The older Styx female of the original pride was seen mating with one of the Matimba male lions this month. It would be nice to have more cubs in the Styx pride, as this can just help them to grow. We had a few wonderful sightings of the Breakaway pride this month. The Breakaway pride also feasted on a big buffalo bull, but with thirteen lions feeding away, the buffalo did not last very long. The 4 big females are looking very healthy and the 9 cubs are getting big now. When you see the pride walking down the road, it is difficult to identify the cubs from the adult lionesses. The Tsalala pride also came through our area and decided to stay here for a few days. It is always such a treat to see these old ladies with their little ones. Talking about little ones, the four sub adults of the Ximungwe pride was seen again this month, while feasting on a zebra carcass. A few days later, after leaving our area they worked together and managed to bring down an estimated 800kg buffalo. These four youngsters are survivors and they do not stand back for anything! One of the young Styx males was also seen around our area, but all alone and without his brother. Three of the Majingi males also moved through our area a few times this month. It is great to see them still holding onto their territory and their females. The Matimba males are also very active in their territory and they are staying close to the Styx females and their newest cubs. At this stage we see the two Matimba males more often than the Majingi males.

Buffaloes

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

This month the buffaloes were back in the game. The big breeding herds we have been waiting for have returned to our area. We saw a massive breeding herd of about 400 buffaloes that slowly moved through our area during the month. The herd did not stay too long before moving on again, in the quest to look for enough food and water to sustain the entire herd. After the herd left our area, we saw a few large bachelor herds of males which decided to stay behind. These male herds consisted of old and young males. In the winter, males might leave the safety of the breeding herds to get back into shape. We still have the dagga boy hotspots, where we are almost guaranteed to see our old, loyal friends.

Elephants

Matimba male by Morné Fouché

Matimba male by Morné Fouché

What a memorable month it was with these gentle giants. There were elephants all over the show and around every corner. We had such wonderful times with all these elephant herds in and around our area. They made sure we were always entertained. We had a few smaller herds that congregated together at one of the water holes close to our lodge the one afternoon. It was so special to sit and watch them, as they were trumpeting and making a lot of noise. A few of the small babies did not know what was happening and they became very agitated and stressed with all the rumbling and trumpeting. After a few minutes the trumpeting and rumbling calmed down and the elephants started feeding again. This vocalization is just their way of greeting each other as they normally do when meeting up.

Special sighting

This month the special sighting was to see Salayexe with her tiny cub at their den site. It was such a treat to be able to spend some quality time with her and her small cub. The one morning we followed Salayexe down the road when suddenly she changed direction. We decided to keep following her to see where she was going and I was glad we did. Very close to the edge of the river bank she went and sat down and stared towards the dry river bed. After a while she decided to lie down and started with soft contact calls. I knew she was calling the cub, so we sat there in total silence. Suddenly from out of the thickets a tiny head appeared. After seeing that the coast was clear and mom was calling, she came running towards Salayexe. A little blue eyed girl! That was really a great sighting.

Did you know?

A lioness will leave her pride to give birth. She will only rejoin the pride when the cubs are between 6-8 weeks old.

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

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report May 2015

What a memorable month this was. Who would have ever thought that this month would be so unbelievable, full of action and surprises! It just comes to show that Mother Nature always has something new and exciting in store for us. We had exceptional game viewing, with unbelievable interactions between different animals. The night life was also phenomenal! We had a great sighting of the very illusive pangolin one afternoon. We also had great sightings of caracal, African wild cat, honey badger, civet and genet, just to name a few. The general game was fantastic and we had some exciting times with the male impalas. The rutting season is still in full swing and we have witnessed great battles between the males. Our resident hyena clan is getting stronger. We saw another tiny pup at the den the one morning, which means that the clan is still growing. The clan left their den and moved back to their original den site on our property, close to the lodge. I can’t begin to describe how lucky we were with the wild dog sightings this month. We had more than what we could wish for. A few of the smaller water holes is totally dry and the herd animals need to move further for sustainable water holes. We can definitely feel that we are in the midst of winter, as the mornings are getting really chilly. The afternoons are still really pleasant until the sun moves in behind the mountains. The average maximum temperature for the month was 26°C and we had 16mm of rain.

Tingana the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Tingana the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Leopards

The Northern Sabi Sand sector had some exceptional leopard sightings again this month. Salayexe gave birth around 2-4 May, as we saw her soon after those dates with suckle marks. It is still too early to say how many cubs she’s got, but we can only hope that the cub/cubs are well and healthy. Salayexe will leave the den when the cubs are fast asleep to go and hunt and return a few hours later. She needs to double up on the hunting side, in order to feed herself and to produce more milk for the cub/cubs. Kurula was seen mating with Tingana for 5 days this month. It looks like she lost her cub/cubs, but it is unclear what happened. Tingana was spending a lot of his time in her territory, so let’s just hope that he is not responsible for the missing cubs. Kurula is still looking great and in good condition. Shadow and her young cub were also seen a few times this last month. The young cub is looking fantastic and it is great to see that he is so relaxed with the vehicles around him. It really looks like this might be Shadow’s first cub to make it to independence. Thandi and her cub were also seen this month and like always, both of them are looking great. Thandi’s little cub is much more wary of the vehicles and watch their every move very closely. It will take a little more time to get it totally relaxed with the vehicles, but we will get there in the end. Kwatile is looking very healthy and she is spending a lot more time away from her daughter. Her daughter already has the know-how to make a kill, but just to put it all together seems to be very challenging for her. We followed her around for more than an hour the one afternoon and she tried three times to kill an impala, but did not succeed. One good thing is that she is getting a lot of practice. Only when mum thinks she is ready, will she completely break the bond between them. Nsele was also seen a few times, but without the cubs and we hope that they are still alive and healthy. This would be her first successful litter reaching independence, so let’s keep our fingers crossed. Quarantine and Nkunyuma are both doing really great and still moving around in their father’s territory. Seeing that they are no immediate threat to Mvula, he will not mind them moving around his territory. Lamula was also out and about, calling and scent marking all over his northern boundary. Lamula is in good shape and he is a good sized leopard. He is also getting his confidence back. I think the run in with the Anderson male shook him up a little bit, but it is great to see that he did not back down. Anderson is still expanding his empire and he is going straight into Tingana’s territory. Tingana is not looking to give up without a fight, so a standoff or fight is bound to happen soon. It looks like interesting times ahead of us, concerning the leopard males…

Lions

Matimba male lion by Louis Liversage

Matimba male lion by Louis Liversage

The lion sightings were very exiting this month, but there was a tragic and sad moment as well. The two young Styx females are still doing very well and looking quite healthy. It looks like the one female’s cubs are still alive and well, as the Matimba males are always around the den. The Breakaway pride is still doing really good and after being split up last month, it is great to see them back in full force. One of the adult females was mating with one of the Majingi male lions for a few days. It will not be very long now before the other sisters will also come into oestrus and they will then mate with the dominant males. If all of the Breakaway females do fall pregnant with the Majingi male lion’s cubs, will they reach independence. What a treat to see the Tsalala females again this month. These females are still looking great and although they are 13 years old, they are still two massive females. The Nkuhuma females are literally moving all over the show and scent marking in some areas. We found them the one morning on our open area in front of the lodge, having a standoff with our resident hyena clan. This is a bold move to make, as this is very far from their original territory. Although saying that, the Majingi male lions are not that active in this area anymore and they only move through every now and again. The Breakaway pride is a little outnumbered, as they are only four adult lionesses up against five lionesses and a young male. We were very fortunate to see a few familiar faces that came into their old territory to join the party. The Styx pride came into the area the one evening and decided it was great to be back in their old territory. But this wasn’t a great move! The Styx pride suffered a great loss, as the Matimba male lions killed the young male cub the one evening. After the incident the Styx pride moved back south again, as it might be a bit safer for them there. The two young Styx males were moving with the Styx pride at times, for almost the whole month. Although they are not ready to take on the four bigger and more experienced Majingi males, they are just scouting the area. We were very surprised to see the two young Fourway male lions in the area as well. The one young male also mated with the one Breakaway lioness for a few days. With all this lion activity in the area something was bound to happen. The two young Styx males were roaring the one evening and that brought in the dominant males from different areas. The next morning it was chaos in the bush, as two of the Majingi male lions were chasing the two young Styx males around. The two Majingi males were still marching east when they were stopped dead in their tracks by two big roars from the east. The two Majingi males turned around and jogged back west, constantly looking over their shoulders, to make sure that no one was running after them. The two Matimba male lions were running from the east straight west after hearing the roars of the Majingi males. The two Matimba males left their females and their kill behind to run west and take on the Majingi males. The Matimba males pushed the Majingi males out of their own territory, which was a bit strange. The main question on everyone’s mind at this stage is for how long the Majingi male lions will remain dominant? The Matimba males also moved all the way to our open area in front of our lodge, scent marking and roaring. Usually the Majingi males would respond with a roar but there was nothing from them. Just silence…

Buffaloes

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

The buffalo sightings were a bit quiet at times but still great overall. There are two rather big bachelor herds of between 15-25 bulls that moved through our traversing area this month. A few of the younger bulls joined forces with a group of dagga boys. Safety in numbers, they say. We still had the really old dagga boys around some of the water holes and mud wallows. The massive herds of buffaloes have still eluded us, but we know it will not be too long before they do return to our area.

Elephants

Moya the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Moya the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Only one phrase comes to mind to describe the elephant sightings of this month: mind blowing! We had great sightings of a few breeding herds in the area, but one herd stood out from the crowd. There was a massive herd of more than 70 animals that moved around our lodge area. This made bushwalks a bit challenging, but we managed. This joining of herds is common and it might be due to the fact that food is getting scarcer and they need the guidance of the matriarch to find food. There must have been a female in oestrus in this massive herd, as there were two enormous elephant bulls walking with the herd. These two males kept their distance from each other and avoided conflict. The presence of these males did not go down well with the rest of the herd, as the youngsters and females alike were very vocal and stressed out. There are a few females that are far pregnant as well. With only a few months left, we might have more babies.

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was hands down the young pangolin we saw on drive the one afternoon. The pangolin was seen moving around a mere 30m from the sleeping Breakaway lion pride. This young pangolin was very small. When rolled up into a ball it was slightly bigger than a canon ball. It was so unique to see the pangolin moving around during the day, without a care in the world.

Did you know?

When a pangolin is attacked by a predator it rolls up into a tight ball, exposing the hard and horny scales on its body. The scales act like an armour suit, protecting them from a predator’s teeth and claws.

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

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report April 2015

The month of April was action packed with intense moments and full of surprises. Finally the time has arrived for the males of the different antelope species to battle it out for supremacy and hierarchy. The impala males were the first ones to announce that love is in the air, as they were snorting and grunting, followed by the familiar clash of horns. The kudu and waterbuck males showed us that size does matter and you do not always have to fight for the ladies. We also had two nyala males that did a lateral display, complete with raised hair on their backs and fluffed up tails. I must say that we had some very exciting sightings with all these males, battling it out for mating rights. We had some really great sightings of both the Half-tail and Investec wild dog packs. We also had a great time around the hyena den, with the pups getting bigger and bigger by the day. The hyenas are making life difficult for the leopards and lions around our area, because they are stealing kills wherever they go. We changed over to our winter game drive times during the last week of April. With the sun rising a bit later and setting a bit earlier, we changed our times with 30 minutes in order to keep a good balance with the first and last bits of daylight. The blankets made their way back onto the game drive vehicles and within the next few weeks we will also add the hot water bottles for extra comfort. The average maximum temperature for this month was 27°C and we had 23 millimetres of rain.

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

Hippo by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard

This month delivered some impressive leopard sightings. It is confirmed that Salayexe is definitely pregnant. We noticed that her milk glands are swollen and her belly is starting to hang. She is far pregnant and by the looks of things Tingana is the father, as she mated with him during the middle of January. Leopard females are pregnant for a period of between 15-16 weeks. If our calculations are accurate, she should give birth during the first week of May. We are all very excited and can’t wait any longer! We are keeping our fingers crossed that she will have more success in raising these cubs to independence. Nsele, Salayexe’s daughter, and her two cubs are looking great. The cubs are eventually at that stage where they no longer run away when they see the vehicles. They are beautiful cubs and it is great to see that Nsele have managed to raise them this far. Kurula was seen once this month and what a pleasant surprise it was to see that she has got suckle marks. It will be interesting to know where her new den site is. At the previous den site she lost her cub, so I guess she will not use the same one again. We will have to wait and see. Shadow and her cub are also looking great and the cub is now finally relaxed with the vehicles. The two of them gave us some great sightings, while running up and down trees or playing hide and seek. We started viewing the little cub at night with the spotlight, but only one spotlight is allowed to be on. He is very relaxed with the spotlight. In fact, he’s always trying to catch the moths that fly towards the light. Moya was also moving around in the area, following the scent of an unknown female leopard. Female leopards will sometimes leave their territory to look for a male leopard, if there are no males available in her area. After mating is finished, she will return to her area. Kwatile and her cub are also doing great and at this stage the cub is spending more and more time away from mom, as she explores around. Kwatile and Mvula were also seen mating this month. Bahuti, the young male, is still moving around in Mvula’s territory and he is growing into a spectacular, very healthy male. Quarantine, the young male, is also looking good and he is getting nice and big – even bigger than his twin brother, Nkunyuma. Mvula is still in the prime of his life and still in good shape. He is very active in his area and he hasn’t had any challengers yet. Anderson is moving far into Tingana’s territory and these two heavyweights have met up again this month. Once again there was no fighting between them, just a lot of growling and running next to each other. It looks like it doesn’t matter what Tingana has to say about Anderson moving into his territory, as Anderson definitely has his sights set on Tingana’s territory.

Lions

Hyena pup by Louis Liversage

Hyena pup by Louis Liversage

The most exciting part of all the lion sightings this month, was the new beginning for the two young Styx females. The one young Styx female had her very first litter of cubs. This was headlines in the bush and we are overwhelmed with joy and happiness for this first time mother. So far, she is doing very well in raising the cubs, without the help of her mother or aunt. She has moved the cubs three or four times since their birth. It seems that she does not want any unwanted attention, which is great. The two Matimba males were often seen with the two Styx females, very close to the den site. If the Matimba males stay with the Styx females, on and off, for the first year and a half, things can work out for the Styx ladies. It will be interesting to see when the other Styx female will give birth, as she is also far pregnant. Every time we see the Tsalala pride they are looking healthy and very well fed. These females are very good hunters and the little cubs are growing fast. We saw the Tsalala pride a few times more this month than last month. After the run-in with the Breakaway pride last month, we have not seen the Tsalala pride close to our lodge again. When they move through the area, they move around the southern part of our traversing area. We also had some great sightings of the Nkuhuma pride that moved into our area and had a kudu kill to feast on. The Breakaway pride had a real up and down rollercoaster time this month. The one evening they followed a big herd of buffaloes on one of the airstrips. What a sighting! One of the Breakaway females is definitely coming into oestrus, as she was scent marking and calling for the Majingi males. That evening the males responded, but it was not the Majingi males but the Matimba males. The next morning we had small groups of lions scattered over our area. All the members were accounted for except for one, the adult lioness who was calling for the males the night before. We found five youngsters close to our lodge, all shaken up after being chased by the big unfamiliar male lions. Just when we thought it can’t get any worse, the five youngsters had a run-in with the resident hyena clan. The clan soon saw that they had the upper hand and launched their attack. The young lions all ran up a marula tree to get away from the sharp teeth of the hyenas. That afternoon we found the missing female, she was mating with the Matimba male. The big male followed her and tried to keep up, but soon realized it is no use as she moved back into Majingi male territory. We also had the Majingi males feasting on a buffalo for three days and in the early hours of day four we heard them calling to say goodbye.

Buffaloes

Anderson the male leopard by Louis Liversage

Anderson the male leopard by Louis Liversage

We were once again very fortunate to have one of the big breeding herds of buffaloes moving through the area. With the lack of rain, food is getting scarcer for these bulk grazers, moving together in a big herd. We had a great sighting of them the one late afternoon. The Breakaway pride was resting, when suddenly the one adult lioness lifted her head and looked south. She heard the buffaloes moving towards them and she rounded up the troops and moved towards them. The big herd could smell the lions, but they did not know where they were. The buffaloes quickly regrouped and made their way to the big open airstrip, for safety as light already faded. It was great to see them regroup after a few of the members smelled the lions. True teamwork!

Elephants

Male wild dog by Dawie Jacobs

Male wild dog by Dawie Jacobs

This month we did not have loads of herds moving through our area, but the herds that moved through made it worthwhile. We also didn’t see a lot of tiny babies this month but we did see a few in the terrible two stage. We also saw an old female with really impressive tusks that moved through the area. It is always nice to see an elephant with a pair of impressive tusks and to see a female with big tusks is a big bonus. The majority of the herds have moved towards the areas where it rained a lot this year. The big bulls were really scarce as we saw just two big males moving around. The one bull had an impressive body but no big tusks. He also had about five young males that moved around with him. It does not bother the old male when the youngsters tag along with him, the only time he minds is when the youngsters invade his tree where he is feeding.

Special sighting

We had an amazing sighting with lions and hyenas which truly took first prize! The five young Breakaway pride members were minding their own business when the hyenas came running in. The poor sub-adults immediately new that they were outnumbered and the hyenas knew they had the upper hand. After the lions went up the tree, the unimaginable happened. The one young male fell out of the tree and landed right in the middle of the twelve hyenas. Before warning the hyenas attacked and the young male did not hold back. He took on the angry hyenas, grabbing one by the head and then another in quick succession. After a good ten minutes or so, the hyenas suddenly turned and ran south. This gave the young male enough time to get up the tree again. A few of the hyenas walked away with a few cuts and bruises, but the young fighter just had a bloody nose and a few scars on his tail.

Did you know?

A marabou stork is the only stork that eats rotten meat. These birds can often be seen around carcasses with vultures.

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

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report March 2015

Once again it was just outstanding and brilliant to be out in the bush this past month. The nightlife was excellent and we were very fortunate to see a lot of porcupines, genets, civets and even a few honey badgers. We also had wonderful sightings of giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and loads of general game. A pack of wild dogs were very generous to us, as we had them hunting and moving through our area for a number of days. We also had a few wonderful sightings of a cheetah that moved through the area. The day temperatures were in the mid-thirties, with an average maximum temperature of 32°C. The humidity was very high, but we had no rain this month. The trees and grass are slowly but surely changing colour from green to a pale brown and yellow. Although they are no longer green, they still contain a lot of nutrients for the animals.

Lamula the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Lamula the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard

What great sightings we had with our beautiful leopards this month. Salayexe is still looking great and moving all over her territory, even sometimes venturing further than her own territory. She is moving more eastwards into Shadow’s territory, more south through a part of Moya’s territory and also west into her daughter, Nsele’s, territory. It will be interesting to see how things will unfold in the next few months, if she is pregnant. Shadow is also moving a lot more on her western boundary, but that might be due to Salayexe, who is moving around on her western boundary. Shadow’s cub is looking great and we had a few lovely sightings of him this month when mom made kills. He is much more relaxed when she is there with him and when he is busy feeding on a kill. Things are really looking good for Shadow, as this might be the first cub that she can raise to independence. Thandi was also seen a few times this month, but this time only with one cub. It looks like she lost the other cub. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that she can raise the remaining cub. Unfortunately the cub that was killed looks to be the more adventurous one. This is normally the case with the majority of cubs that get killed. Being the adventurous one also exposes you to more danger…

Moya was also seen a few times this month, moving through the area and patrolling her boundaries. Moya is not one of the biggest female leopards around. In fact, she is just a little bigger than the twins, Thandi and Shadow. Moya’s mother, Nyaleti, was an above average female and her father, Tyson, was an enormous male leopard. Nsele was seen a few times this month and we are viewing her more and more these days. Her two cubs are getting big and it will not be too long before she needs to kick them out and have new babies. Kwatile was also seen a few times and she is looking really healthy and in good shape. She is leaving her cub alone more often and for longer periods of time. I think when she kicks her cub out the cub will be fine, because Kwatile is a great mother. We managed to see Kurula again this month and the old lady is looking great. She is also moving all over the area, whilst scent marking. It might be that she is advertising again, trying to get another male to mate with her. She could also just be expanding her empire. Lamula was seen a lot more this month than in previous months. He was seen scent marking all over and doing his territorial calling while moving through. The next day we had Tingana and Anderson close to the area where Lamula was calling and scent marking. It was only a few days later when Lamula walked straight into Anderson at one of the main water holes, Big Dam. Anderson quickly showed Lamula who the new boss in the area is, but Lamula did not back off. After the standoff Lamula was back scent marking and calling to say that he was still in the area. This territorial calling might work in his favour as it is sure to attract both Tingana and Anderson. Luring them both to the area, might cause a stand-off between the two of them. Who knows what will follow then? Anderson is pushing further east into Tingana’s territory. Tingana and Anderson are both looking great and they are in their prime. It will be a match that I do not want to miss. Mvula is also looking great and he still tolerates all the young males in his territory, but the question remains, how long before he’s had enough?

Lion

Tingana and sunset by Dawie Jacobs

Tingana and sunset by Dawie Jacobs

We had great lion sightings again this month. The two young Styx pride lionesses are still moving around in their old territory and strangely enough they are scent marking as they are going along. The big question is now, are these two young ladies looking to reclaim their old territory? If this is the case and they want to take back this area, there is only one problem: they are outnumbered. The Nkuhuma pride is a strong pride and a force to be reckoned with, so it will not be a push-over for the young females. The one thing that is great for the young Styx females is that the Nkuhuma pride is still spending the majority of their time in the northern and middle part of their own territory. The two young Styx females are spending a lot of their time with the two Big Matimba male lions. The Nkuhuma pride definitely has their eyes set on the Styx pride’s old territory, so only time will tell. The battle for supremacy has begun between the Breakaway Tsalala pride and the original Tsalala pride. There is a definite change in the lion dynamics in our area and it is so interesting to see it unfold. Although these two prides are related, there is no love lost between them. The Breakaway pride was in the shadows of their mothers for a long time. It looks like they just had enough, wanting the spotlight for themselves. We had both these prides close to our lodge one evening. That night we heard an explosion of lions roaring and growling and it sounded as if the bush came to a complete standstill as all the other night-time sounds abruptly stopped. The lions were chasing each other over our open area in front of the lodge and it was difficult to spot which lions belonged to which pride. Upon closer inspection that evening we found the Breakaway pride with three of the Majingi male lions resting close to our lodge. We soon realized that the Tsalala females were the ones that got chased south by the Breakaway pride. The Tsalala females are still looking great, but they are much older than the younger and stronger Breakaway females. Both these female prides are very healthy. The cubs are getting bigger and bigger by the day. It is always great to have them in our area. The Majingi males are still looking powerful, but their ageing bodies are full of battle scars, each telling a different story. Although they are ten years old this year, they still have enough strength in them to fend off any rival males.

Buffalo

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffaloes and more buffaloes. This was the sightings we had for the month. The herds moved in and out of our area for the entire month. With the bush taking on a wintery look, these herds do not move too far away from the big water holes and they will frequently move between favourite feeding places. When they move around a lot, it spreads the grazing impact over a wider area than if they stayed in one area. When buffaloes feed, they move around very slowly. They will normally drink water in the mornings and in the evenings and rest during the hottest time of the day. The majority of the females already gave birth and there are loads of healthy calves within the breading herds. We also had our trusty dagga boys moving to the main water holes to enjoy a cool and refreshing mud wallow. Our guests were once again entertained by these big boys in the water on the open area in front of the lodge.

Elephant

Elephants and Jonathan at Big Dam by Dawie Jacobs

Elephants and Jonathan at Big Dam by Dawie Jacobs

We had awesome elephant sightings this month, so much so that we had tears of joy in our eyes. We had such a great sighting the one morning when we came across a herd of about twenty elephants all huddled up together. When we moved closer for a better look it became clear that they did not want us that close as they were very vocal. As we got back to the road the herd calmed down and it looked like they planned to move towards the road. We knew that there was something going on in the middle of the many grey bodies, but we did not know what… So we waited for them to reveal what they were hiding. After what felt like forever, a female came out of the bush towards the road. We immediately saw the female with a piece of afterbirth still attached to her backside and then the tiny baby came stumbling out of the thicket following its mother, aunty and older siblings. The newborn calf could hardly walk, let alone keep up with the rest of the herd, but mum and the older siblings were always around making sure that the newest addition to their family felt safe. That small baby did not go ten minutes without any one of the other elephants touching and reassuring it. It was great to see how gentle these big animals can be when it comes to a small baby. They truly are gentle giants.

Special sighting

This month was filled with great sightings, but there was one that stood out from the rest. This was when a cheetah had a standoff with a female leopard. It was awesome to see how the cheetah stood its ground, although it was no match for the leopard. We do not see cheetah and leopard in the same area very often as their habitats hugely differ, therefore, watching these two cats staring each other down was truly amazing.

Did you know?

Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest cat.

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

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report February 2015

This month was jam-packed and full of action! All the animals made sure that we were really sitting on the edge of our seats. We were very lucky the one day on drive to see two massive heavyweights battling it out. Two hippo bulls were fighting for the ultimate prize: a big watering hole with loads of female hippos in it. We had a few lovely wild dog sightings again this month, as they moved through the area. Our resident hyena clan has two new pups and that brings the total pups to a staggering total of nine. If all of these pups survive, this specific clan will have close to 20 members and then the other predators will have to be on their toes. We had a few hot days with very high humidity. Other days had a massive cloud build up, only to disappear again. We did not have a lot of rain and you can notice it by looking at the grass and trees, as they are beginning to struggle in this heat. The average maximum temperature this month was 31°C, with 44mm of rain.

African sunset by Jonathan Vogel

African sunset by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard

Again the leopard sightings were just out of this world. Salayexe was out and about a few times this month, moving all over her territory to mark her boundaries. Salayexe is now ten years old, but she is still looking like a six year old female; very healthy and looking great. It would be great if Salayexe can have another litter soon. It is not that she is a bad mother – she has just experienced extremely bad luck with raising her cubs. We saw Kurula a few times as well and she was her old self again. Kwatile was seen mating with Tingana for four consecutive days. It will be interesting to see when she would mate with Mvula again, because he is the dominant male in her territory. The fact that she is mating again is a sign that she will soon break the bond with her cub. Shadow and her little cub are both looking great and very healthy. The little one looks like a little male cub as his footprints are almost the same size as his mother’s. The little one is getting bigger and more relaxed with the vehicles, moving around them in the sightings. With this little cub the habituation process is taking longer than normal, but it is understandable if you look at his mother, who is also not the most relaxed with the vehicles. Nzele is looking great and she is now really a beautiful leopard, just like her grandmother was. Her cubs are still not relaxed with the vehicles when on their own, but when mom is present it does not take long before they settle down. We were very fortunate to view Lamula again a few times this month. Although it was short lived we spent some quality time with him. He is such an awesome leopard and it is a shame that he is getting pressured by Tingana and Anderson. Anderson is looking good and more relaxed with the vehicles, but when he had enough he disappears in the absolute thickets. We struck it lucky when we found him in a tree with a newborn buffalo calve right next to him. We had him there for two days while feasting on his big prize. Tingana was seen a lot this month. He is still holding onto his territory. Anderson is scent marking well into Tingana’s territory and then Tingana will come along and return the favor. It will not be too long before these two will meet again and who knows what will happen then… Mvula is still a beast and looking great, when he walks down the road you can see the confidence in his stride.

Lion

Elephant calfs by Morné Fouché

Elephant calfs by Morné Fouché

All the lions were very generous, showering us with some unbelievable lion sightings. The Breakaway pride once again came into our area and stayed a day or two. The youngsters are getting bigger and they are almost just as big as their mothers now. It is so nice to see that all nine cubs are still alive and well. These four females have really done well and they can be proud of themselves for this achievement. I for one can’t wait for this pride to have their next litter of cubs. Can you imagine 20+ lions walking down the road towards you – our first super pride…? Saying that there are always a few things that you need to keep in mind, like a pride takeover or a run-in with another pride. But as the bush have showed us many times before, nothing is impossible. We had a wonderful surprise visit from the Tsalala pride the one day. It is great to see the young sub-adult have settled in nicely with her mother and aunt. The two older ladies are also looking great, considering that they are 13 years old this year. I think that the sub-adult is a great asset to the pride, as she has a lot to bring to the table. What she lacks in experience she makes up for in heart. The four youngsters are also looking great and growing fast. I hope that they will all survive and that the pride can further expand. We also had the Nkuhuma pride that moved through the area. Time is running out for the young male in the pride. He is starting to show interest in the females of the pride and for that his father will not tolerate him for much longer. The Birmingham males are looking stunning and their manes are slowly getting bigger and also changing color. The pale blond color is changing to a dark brown-to-black color. They were also following one of the breeding herds of buffalo around in our area and eventually the one night they killed a small calve. These boys had a run-in with other males the one evening. We are unsure who the other males were, as we did not see them. The one morning we found tracks for a few big males and then we found three of the young males. One of the three had fresh bite and claw marks on his back and fresh blood stained his tawny colored fur. Luckily there were no serious injuries. Tracks for the other males went up north again. It looks like when they get split up, they move north and regroup again. The two Matimba male lions are also looking good and going strong. They were seen walking around with the two young Styx females again this month. If the young Styx females do fall pregnant and the Matimba’s are the fathers, they would have to move back into their old territory so they can be close to the males. The Majingi’s also come through every now and again but more to make sure that the Birmingham males are not causing havoc in their territory. They have their work cut out for them as the five young guns have no interest in leaving this area.

Buffalo

African wild dog by Louis Liversage

African wild dog by Louis Liversage

We had some of the best buffalo sightings yet this month. We were so lucky to have three different buffalo herds that were moving in and out of the area at the same time. We saw a few females with newborn calves of maybe a day old at most and their mothers were very nervous with these youngsters. It was interesting to see how all the pregnant females walked at the back of the herd. One way to see if the females are pregnant is to look at their bellies. They will have very low hanging belies and would be lagging behind the rest of the herd. When pregnant females lag behind, they become easy prey to lions. The pregnant females who were walking at the back of the herd were accompanied by a few big males though. With all the buffalo herds moving through the area, the young Birmingham male lions thought it was heaven! This time of the year all the predators will be waiting for that exact opportunity to strike a herd, when they least expect. We had quite a few new dagga boys that hang around a few of the scattered mud wallows. These males were pushed out by the new dominant males within the herds.

Elephant

Monitor lizzard by Morné Fouché

Monitor lizzard by Morné Fouché

What a wonderful treat we had with our elephant sightings, being even better than last month. We had a few big groups that came through the area, followed by a big male or two. We did not see a lot of big elephant bulls this last month, but this might be due to the females that have small calves at the moment. Every herd that we saw has calves aged between six months to two years and older. The elephant herds that we saw were always moving and feeding as they went along. Elephants normally gain a lot of body reserves during the rainy season, when there is a high nutritional value in the food they consume. They will then loose body condition again during the dry season when nutritional value in the food is low. The elephant’s large body enables them to withstand nutritional stresses. Death due to starvation does sometimes occur, but elephants are capable of traveling long distances in search of food and water. Breeding herds are limited in a way, as they can only go as fast and as far as the smallest calves’ capabilities.

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was to see two hippo bulls in a battle for dominance. The fight happened between an older and younger bull, both living in the same dam. At one stage the older and more dominant male managed to lift his younger challenger out of the water with his head and neck. Battered and bruised, the two males called it a day and returned to opposite ends of the water hole. Although both males sustained deep cuts and wounds, they will live to tell the story another day. It is only when you witness such an awesome spectacle that you realize how strong and dangerous these animals really are.

Did you know?

Besides whales and dolphins, the hippo is the only African mammal that mates in the water.

Hope to see you all out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report January 2015

It’s hard to believe that the first month of the year 2015 has flown by so fast. Although I have to say, what a fantastic start to the New Year with all the great sightings and weather that we had! We had a few really hot days, where the average maximum temperature for the month was 30°C. There were many days where there was a lot of cloud build up, but then the hot sun just burned it off again. We did not have a lot of rain this month, only 12mm. Some of the grasses are changing color from a bright green to a pale green color. There is still enough food for every animal in the reserve and all the waterholes are still full of water and luckily the warm temperatures will only continue till the end of February, when the temperatures will start to change.

Elephant bull and hippo by Dawie Jacobs

Elephant bull and hippo by Dawie Jacobs

Leopards

It was a great, but also sad month for some of the leopards this month. The two old ladies, Salayexe and Kurula had the worst start to the year and a major setback as both of them lost their cubs. Salayexe lost her cub to the male leopard Tingana. We think that Tingana found the young one at the den the one evening as we saw him walking around with the cub in his mouth the next morning. It is unclear why Tingana killed the little cub. The worrying thing is that this is now the second time that Tingana kills Salayexe’s cubs. Tingana was definitely the least favorite leopard in the area this month. Almost two weeks after Salayexe’s cub was killed, she mated with Tingana for four days. Kurula’s cub was sadly taken by a hyena one evening. There was really nothing she could do and had to watch the hyena ran off with the cub. Kurula mated with Mvula, the male leopard, about two weeks after she lost her cub. Both these ladies had only one cub in their last litter. Nsele is still looking good and she still has both her cubs and it looks like she will manage to raise both to independence. The cubs are still a bit weary of the vehicles, but are already much better than a few months before. Moya was also seen a few times this month. She is an awesome cat, just as beautiful as her mother and grandmother. The twins, Thandi and Shadow, are in top form and still in the prime of their lives. Thandi still has both her cubs and they are getting quite big now. Both of them are very relaxed with the vehicles moving close to them. We saw Shadow a few times with and without kills, but still just one cub with her so it might be that she lost the other one. The remaining cub is still a bit shy of the vehicles, but getting better as we only put one or two vehicles in a sighting if Shadow is present. Kwatile and her cub were also seen a few times during the last month. I must say that the two of them are really stunning cats, full of life and energy. They look like two siblings rather than mother and cub. Lamula is still in the area holding onto the bit of his territory that is left. He is also in really good condition, but spends most of his time south of our southern boundary, as the pressure is getting too much for him. Mvula is just a stunning male leopard and he is still in great shape. Tingana is still keeping Anderson out of his territory and also expanding his territory into Mvula’s territory to the east and Lamula’s territory to the south. Anderson is still getting bigger and developing an impressive duel lap.

Lions

Hyena pups by Morné Fouché

Hyena pups by Morné Fouché

We had some great lion sightings this month! The nine cubs of the Breakaway pride are growing really fast and they are looking fantastic. The one young male cub seems to have lost his little Mohawk for some strange reason, but other than that they are looking great! The young Styx females were also seen, while mating with the Matimba male lions. We had a fantastic sighting of both young Styx females and one of the Matimba males the one afternoon. The one lioness was moving around and sniffing the air and out of nowhere she started roaring. Soon after she started with this behavior, her sister and the big male joined in, roaring as loudly as they could. This deafening sound will be done mainly by the big bosses, letting every other male lion know that they are still in charge. Females also roar sometimes, mainly to communicate with the rest of the pride and also with a male. It might just be that they tried to call the rest of the pride to come back to the area. The Nkuhuma pride is looking great at the moment and it really looks like they have successfully claimed the Styx pride’s territory. The young Birmingham males are looking very handsome and they are eating very well. We saw them trailing a big buffalo herd on a few occasions, but with no luck. It really does not look like they have any plans of moving out of the Majingi male lions’ territory soon.

Buffaloes

Elephant Bull by Dawie Jacobs

Elephant Bull by Dawie Jacobs

We had some of the best sightings of buffaloes this last month. We had a few days where we saw more than one breeding herd in our area. All of us know that a big breeding herd of buffaloes attract loads of unwanted attention from lions. This is exactly what happened with some of the breeding herds in the area. When they go north, the Birmingham male lions are waiting and when they go east, the Matimba males are waiting. When they go south the Breakaway pride and the Majingi males are waiting. All the females that were still pregnant last month had their small calves this month. Everywhere you look, you see the tiny little calves with their wobbly legs, trying to keep up with mom and the rest of the herd. We were also very fortunate to witness two dominant bulls battling it out for mating rights. This battle doesn’t always go on for too long, except if you get two stubborn males. When this happens the males can end up killing each other, as neither of them wants to back down.

Elephants

Kudu bull by Dawie Jacobs

Kudu bull by Dawie Jacobs

We had elephants almost around every corner again this month. There were a few small family units of about ten to fifteen animals in our area and also a few units that were up to thirty. One such unit was a female with her three calves moving around the lodge area on a regular basis. The two older calves were females and the small baby a male. The two older siblings had to babysit their younger sibling while mom was feeding and did they have their hands full with him! He would suddenly just run into a direction, chasing after birds and impalas, and then his sisters just had to keep up. I think mum realized that her daughters were fighting a losing battle and she moved in to help them. After a few minutes of great entertainment and laughter, mom at last came to the young girls rescue. The baby tried it once more, but quickly realized that mom was not in the mood for any games. Like a small child that got a tongue lash, he lowered his head and moved in next to mum as if he asked for forgiveness. We were also very fortunate to see a few elephants swimming in one of the big waterholes we have in the area. Elephants, like most other animals, depend on water not only to drink but also for thermoregulatory needs. During the heat of the day they often bath or play in the water when the opportunity arises. Water is a key resource and the distribution thereof will dictate their use of habitat. Consequently elephants will usually roam within close proximity to water and breeding herds seldom wander more than ten kilometers from water.

Special Sighting

This special sighting was to see Salayexe’s small cub for the first time. Although we had only one sighting of the little cub before it was killed, it was very special. The two of them gave us a memorable sighting as they played around the den.

Did you know?

Three quarters of all living species on the planet are insects.

I hope you enjoyed the first report for 2015. See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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