Rangers Report May 2016

The winter has finally arrived with suitcases full of cool, crisp mornings and evenings. The day temperature is still very pleasant until the sun disappears behind the Drakensberg mountains to the west. Jackets, scarfs and beanies are essential items for safaris this time of the year. The average maximum temperature for the month was 25°C, with 2mm of rain. Although the winter mornings are really cold it did not have a major impact on the game viewing this month. We were fortunate to see a male cheetah moving through the area in search of new hunting grounds. The majority of the cheetahs that move through our area are youngsters in search of a territory. We have been blessed with the wild dog sightings this month. We saw them hunting and playing in our area a few times. The nightlife was also great. Now that the sun is setting a few minutes earlier every day, nocturnal animals are getting active earlier.

Flap-necked chameleon by Louis Liversage

Flap-necked chameleon by Louis Liversage

Leopards

The leopard sightings this month was again out of this world. Kurula’s two cubs are doing great and they are getting more relaxed with the vehicles moving around them. Kurula is moving them around a lot as she brings them to kills. It is such a great sight to see two little cubs following their mother down the road. Let’s hope that she will raise both these little cubs to adulthood. Shadow was also seen this month as she scent-marked her boundaries again. She moved the cubs to a new den, which is out of our traversing. Hopefully the little ones are still doing well in their new home. We can not wait for Shadow to bring them across to our area again. She will start to move them around a lot more now as they are old enough to eat meat and they will be brought to the kills. Salayexe and her cub are also looking great and the cub is now almost 13 months old. This is now the time that we will think of a suitable name for the little one. There is definitely tension between these two ladies. Salayexe is leaving her alone for longer periods of time to force her to go and hunt something for herself. The young female surprised us all the one evening when she performed a very loud territorial call. She continued with this during the night and the next morning we found her together with a very upset mother. It is not common for a one-year-old female to perform a full-on territorial call. Salayexe is also moving all over and expanding her territory to an enormous empire. A lot of this behaviour might be because she is looking for a male. This comes to show that there are big changes about to happen in the next few months. Nsele and her cub is doing really good. The little cub is still a bit shy, but we are full of hope that he/she will come around and become as relaxed as Nsele. This is the oldest cub that we have in the area and he/she was born in beginning of January 2016. Nsele and the cub was seen a lot more than in previous months. This is really good news for us as we can continue with the habituation process. Moya was also seen a few times this month. It is always great to see this beautiful female and it is good to see that she is expanding her territory more north east again. Moya was seen mating with the older Airstrip male for a few days this month. After mating with the Airstrip male she started mating with Anderson for a few days. Last month we saw her with suckle marks, which gave us the indication that she had cubs. It might be that she lost the cubs or she mated with the males to give them the impression that the cubs are their own, ensuring their safety. Only time will tell to say for sure if the cubs are still alive or dead. Tingana is keeping a very low profile as he was only seen a few times this month. It looks like he successfully kicked out Mvula and took over his territory. Anderson has his hands full with the Airstrip male moving in and out of his territory and mating with his females. Anderson was in a big fight as he has new gashes and scars on his face. It is unclear who he had a fight with, but I think it was a big one when I look at the scars on him.

Lions

Anderson male leopard Morné Fouché

Anderson male leopard Morné Fouché

This month we had such a blast with the lion sightings. The Styx pride stole the limelight again this month with the small cubs within the pride. There are four cubs that is old enough for us to view and then there are four cubs that is maybe a month old that we do not view yet. All three the females were seen with suckle marks but strangely enough the oldest female was seen mating with one of the Birmingham male lions again this month. We all feared that she maybe lost her cubs but a few days later we saw her, a Birmingham male lion and one cub resting in the dry river bed. It will be great if all 9 the little cubs can survive. It will be great to see the pride grow in numbers. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that for the next few years the cubs will stay safe and reach adulthood. We have seen the tailless female and her four sub adult cubs of the Tsalala pride in and out of our area the last month. At a stage the 5 were split up and two young males were separated from the rest of the group. For this small group it is difficult to defend themselves against a bigger pride or dominant males. For this 14-year-old lioness it is tough to raise these three boys and one girl to adulthood all by herself. Hopefully she can take them through the year – then the young males should go off by themselves and she and her daughter can return back to the pride again. The young sub adults of the Breakaway pride have moved all over our area the last month. These six girls and tree boys killed a big buffalo bull the one evening and fed on it for a few days. This just showed us that they are already great hunters. It is not just any lion that can kill a big buffalo bull, it takes skill and determination. It is great to see these youngsters growing up and finally having the confidence to explore on their own and hunt for themselves. Once again we had the ladies of the Nkuhuma pride moving through our area. It is always nice to see them as they are great looking females. We got word that the pregnant female of the Nkuhuma gave birth. We do not know how many cubs there are at this stage, but let’s hope they are very healthy. This will be the Birmingham male’s first cubs with this pride. The Birmingham males was all over their territory this month to ensure that no new males moved into the area. It looks like they are good fathers as we have seen them a few times with the Styx pride females and their cubs on and off kills. Hopefully these males can bring stability to the two prides, as this is what they need. We had a very big surprise this month as we saw the two big Matimba males scent marking deep into Birmingham male territory. These two males are very familiar to the area as this was part of their old territory. The big question is: what were they doing so far up and also scent marking? We saw them again a few times after that, close to our lodge. This might be due to the Majingi males putting more pressure on the Matimba males.

Buffalos

Nsele the female leopard and cub by Louis Liversage

Nsele the female leopard and cub by Louis Liversage

The buffalo sightings were really great with big herds of buffalo moving through our area. With food getting a bit more in demand the big buffalo herds are almost constantly on the move. The majority of the waterholes are now mainly mud wallows and this also plays a big role in the movement of the herds. The limitation of food and water supplies force the herds to move through very quickly. Within these herds there are a few small babies who were born just before the winter. It is crucial for the mothers of these little ones to get enough food for her and the little ones, as the calves still drink milk. So far the members in the herds are still in good condition and there is enough food. We have seen a nice bachelor herd of dominant males moving around in the area. They have left the herds to get back in shape after the mating season. We also noticed a few of the old dagga boys that have re-joined the big herds. This is quite common to happen this time of the year as the herds move through and the old males just join for protection.

Elephants

Tsalala male lions by Louis Liversage

Tsalala male lions by Louis Liversage

Elephants and more elephants almost around every corner. The elephant sightings were spectacular and we did not have any shortage of these big heavyweights. At times we had massive herds of over fifty individuals in the herd. The trees in the area are taking a beating at this stage as the elephants have mainly changed their diet to trees. In the winter a good 90% of their diet will be trees and in the summer 98% of their diet will consist of grass. The only areas where there are still grass left is along the banks of the dry riverbeds. One of the best elephant sightings that we had was at our biggest waterhole in our traversing. One herd made their way down to the water to quench their thirst after the long travel. After a few minutes we noticed they stopped drinking and we heard the low rumbling sound coming from the elephants at the water. Suddenly there was movement on the other side of the dam. Another herd also made their way down to the water for a drink. Both herds vocalized as they moved closer to one another. Then more elephants moved onto the scene and soon after a fourth herd appeared and all these elephants were so vocal you could hear it from kilometres away. After all the excitement died down and order was restored, some of the younger males went for a swim to cool down. It was great to see all these different herds interacting with each other. But more interesting was to see them communicating with each other before they get to the water. Each herd waited for the other to finish at the water before moving to the water to drink. We can only hear about 5% of the noises they make, the rest is below our frequency and we can’t hear it.

Special sighting

This month the nine cubs of the Styx lion pride was definitely the highlight. It is great to see them moving around and being relaxed with the vehicles. The best part is that the Birmingham males, who are first time fathers, are doing a great job so far in protecting of the pride. What a treat it is to have all these cubs in the area.

Did you know?

A male lion’s mane will only be fully grown when he reaches the age of six to seven years.

See you out on the game drive soon.

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report April 2016

Hyenas feeding on a wildebeest by Dawie Jacobs

Hyenas feeding on a wildebeest by Dawie Jacobs

As expected we picked up where we left off last month. The sightings were just awesome and ridiculously great at times. This month we were spoiled by wonderful sightings and I must say it was such a joy to spend quality time with the animals. There is a big change happening in the bush and there are such exciting times coming up. It is again that time of the year when the impala males are busy with the big fight for mating rights. The rutting season has started. The changing season is now really in full swing as it gets darker earlier in the evening and lighter later in the morning. The temperatures are also dropping a little bit and we have pulled our jackets out of storage. The average maximum temperature for the month was 30 ⁰C with no rain. Once again we had a few wonderful wild dog sightings this month. The alpha female is heavily pregnant and we have seen them digging around in a few termite mounds. We all know what that means; she is looking for a suitable den somewhere. Their preferred dens are around a thicket or thick drainage areas. Every time we see this pack we hope that she will get a suitable den and have her pups here. All we can do at this stage is wait and see what will happen. Our resident hyena clan is still growing in numbers. This month we saw there is yet another new baby of a few weeks old at the den. The little one is still a little shy but when mum is there she calls him out of the den to play outside.

Leopards

Karula the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Karula the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

The leopard sightings were such a treat this month. We had a wonderful time with all the tiny babies around. Kurula and her two cubs are doing really well and she is so relaxed with us being around them. She has moved her den into a nice thick donga with a lot of hiding place for the little ones. One of the little ones are a bit skittish but getting better with the vehicles. The other one is fine with the vehicles. Shadow surprised us all as she is much more relaxed than previous years. It is wonderful because both her cubs are much more relaxed than her mother’s two cubs. Although one of Shadows cubs are more shy than the other one they still provide us with a good show when playing around the den. This next few months will be very crucial in the habituation stage of these little cubs. Shadow has moved the cubs to a great area where it is very thick but still great for the cubs. The only problem with the new den is that it is very close to Anderson’s territory. A very good sign is that both mothers are so relaxed with the vehicles at the den. If they had enough of you they will let you know with a quick snarl. Salayexe and her daughter is also doing really good. Salayexe has been snarling and hissing at her daughter a lot this month. This looks like Salayexe will be breaking the mother – daughter bond between them. For the young cub this new behaviour of her mother came as a shock to her. Salayexe hissed at her before but never to the extent that it looks like she wants to bite her. Salayexe also expanded her territory further south and that is where the little one spends more of her time. So it looks like it is sorted, the daughter will set up her territory to the south of Salayexe’s territory. Tsakani was also seen a lot again this month and she is moving all over her absent mother’s territory. This is going to be such a beautiful female leopard and we can’t wait for her to set up her territory and have young of her own. We have started seeing Nsele’s older daughter also a few times this month. She is also such a great leopard female. Mvula is spending a lot of his time back in the western part of his old territory. It looks like the leopard dynamics are starting to change again, concerning the male leopards. Now that Mvula has moved more west it is clear that he is under enormous pressure from the other male leopards like Tingana. With him being here it puts tremendous pressure on Kurula and Shadow as they have tiny babies and he is not the father. When he stumbles onto one of the dens he will kill the cubs and there is nothing these ladies can do. Tingana is pushing more north and further east expanding his own territory and does not have the faintest idea that Mvula is in his territory. Tingana is really looking great but still getting pressured from Anderson. Anderson does not stay very long in one area as he has such a big territory that he needs to check. This male most definitely has the biggest territory of all the males in the area. Anderson spends a lot more time with Salayexe and her almost one-year-old cub. This might be a sign that Salayexe might come into season in the next few months.

Lions

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

We had great lion sightings this last month. The three Styx pride lionesses are still looking great and very healthy. There is still no sign of more cubs from the other females but let’s hope it is not going to be too much longer. The old female moved all over and in and out of thick drainage lines, which means that she might be looking for a den. This will be great news for us and for the pride. Although the young female has a den already two females do not normally share the same den. The young Styx female has also moved her cubs again to a new location this month. One of the Birmingham males moved into the area of the den and the young female just lashed out and gave him a good hiding. Let’s just hope that these young boys won’t kill their brother’s cubs like the Mapogo’s did. It is unclear what the male’s intention was but the female did not want him around that day. We do not know how many cubs there is as we have not seen them yet. I think I speak for everyone here when I say we cannot wait for the little ones to start moving around with their mother. The Nkuhuma females were also out and about this month and it is great to see them spending more time in our area. They are still some of the best looking lionesses in the area and are in top condition. It looks like one of the females are pregnant as her milk glands are swollen. This will be great for the pride to also grow in numbers. The Nkuhuma pride was once the biggest pride in the area and was so successful in hunting, raising cubs and defending their territory. The Birmingham males have started again to move more west. These males did spend a lot of their time in the eastern part of their territory as this is where all their females are.

Buffalo

Anderson the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Anderson the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

There was no change with the buffalo sightings again this month. We were fortunate to have seen two and at times even three big herds on one game drive. We all know too well that it can happen at any time where food gets scarcer and the herds move on to greener pastures. But for now we are enjoying every moment with these wonderful animals. The majority of the females that were pregnant last month gave birth and the herds are full of newborn babies. The poor youngsters need to move when the herd moves and can rest when the herd settles to rest or stop to feed. When you find a big herd you must take the time to watch them closely as they do their day to day things. You will actually see that they are very unique animals in their own way. When you look at the buffalo calves, they have to drink on the move. Due to buffalo herds always being on the move the babies walk behind their mothers and drink from the back while mum is feeding. With the last of the big males back with the herds there is a bit of pushing and shoving going on between the males. We have not yet seen a full on fight with these big boys this month but it is bound to happen sooner or later.

Elephant

Salayexe`s cub and an elephant by Dawie Jacobs

Salayexe`s cub and an elephant by Dawie Jacobs

If there was one thing where there was no shortage of then it was elephants. It was wonderful again to spend some time with these big heavyweights. We were so fortunate to see two males in full musth having a standoff. There was so many big males in the area this month and we saw a group of males together with a herd of females. Sometimes it might happen where you see an old male that is close to 50 years old with a few young males. These young males are called askaris bulls, they will follow the big male and he will teach them everything they need to know. When a young bull comes into musth for the very first time he will be about 25 years old. The body will undergo a massive change with high testosterone levels and the young bull might get very aggressive. With this high testosterone levels shooting through the body, the young male wants to fight with everything that stands in his way. That is when the old big male comes into play to show the young male who the boss is and to put him on his place. The herds of females moved through the whole area again this month. We had such great times with these beautiful animals. Herds came from far to drink the fresh water from the waterhole in front of the lodge. It was such a treat to see the females and their babies coming to drink water while we are having breakfast or lunch. These big animals drink water twice a day and will drink between 100L – 200L of water per day.

Special sighting

The sighting that stood out above the rest was Shadow and her cubs. It is a treat to spend quality time with this little family and the cubs are very relaxed with the vehicles, jumping and playing.

Did you know?

A giraffe’s tongue is outside of its mouth for about 10-14 hours a day while eating.

See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report February 2016

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

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

African wild dog by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

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

Lions

Salayexe and her cub by Neil Coetzer

Salayexe and her cub by Neil Coetzer

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

Buffaloes

Hyena pup by Neil Coetzer

Hyena pup by Neil Coetzer

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

Elephants

Elephant bull by Neil Coetzer

Elephant bull by Neil Coetzer

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

Special sighting

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

Did you know?

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

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report January 2016

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

Male giraffe drinking water by Neil Coetzer

Male giraffe drinking water by Neil Coetzer

Leopards

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

Lions

Karula the female leopard by Neil Coetzer

Karula the female leopard by Neil Coetzer

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

Buffaloes

European roller by Morné Fouché

European roller by Morné Fouché

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

Elephants

Impala babies by Morné Fouché

Impala babies by Morné Fouché

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

Special sighting

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

Did you know?

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

Morné Fouché

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

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