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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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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