Rangers Report December 2014

I cannot believe that 2014 came to an end so soon. It feels like just yesterday that we greeted it with open arms. The year was full of excitement, challenges and great surprises! It was such a treat to be out in the bush during this past year. Always remember, when you come on safari, that there are more to the bush than just the big animals. Take the time to stop and look at the frogs, beetles and flowers. Learn more about the smaller wonders of nature. We had 210mm of rain during December and the average maximum temperature was 28°C.   The rain did not only cool us down after a few extremely hot days, it also supplied water to all the waterholes and marsh areas on our property. All kinds of frogs are all over the show, singing in chorus with crickets and other small critters. After a long wait, we at last welcomed the new wildebeest calves, with the first one being spotted on the 2nd of December. We were very fortunate to see the pack of wild dogs which denned close to our lodge in the beginning of this year. The pups are almost as big as the adult dogs and still growing stronger by the day. Again fortune was upon us, as we saw the two cheetah brothers moving around, marking their territory.

Birmingham male lion by Dawie Jacobs

Birmingham male lion by Dawie Jacobs

Leopards

It was just awesome with regards to our spotted friends. Thandi is doing well for herself and hunting on a regular basis, as the little cubs are also eating meat. The cubs are so relaxed with the vehicles moving around them. It looks like the two cubs are one female and one male cub. It is not definitely confirmed yet. The little cubs run up and down, chasing each other and we have not seen clearly, but it looks like the one is a little bigger than the other. Shadow was also seen on a regular basis this month. It looks like she and the cubs are also doing very well and looking very healthy.We have seen her a few times with only one cub moving around with her. It would be bad if she loses one of her cubs again, or even both for that matter. We will keep a close eye on her to see if the other cub joins up. Nsele is a beautiful female leopard and now also a fantastic mother. Her two cubs are nice and big now and in superb condition, because Nsele is taking such good care of them. These cubs are still not the best when it comes to viewing them with the vehicles, but they are at least getting better. Kwatile was seen mating with Mvula again this month. This might mean that her young cub is almost old enough to take on the wilderness on its own. Bahuti, the young male leopard was also out and about doing what he does best, entertaining the vehicles. Time is running out for this wonderful young leopard as Mvula will not tolerate him for too much longer. Bahuti is getting bigger and as soon as he gets interested in the females he will need to go. Moya’s young male cub is still moving around in the area, but he needs to watch out for Anderson, as he might kill him if he finds him. Quarantine is becoming a beautiful male and he is getting nice and big – you can clearly see who his father is. Then it brings us to the big males in the area. Lamula was seen once this month and it is as if the pressure from both Tingana and Anderson is getting to him and he is moving more south. The time we saw him he was looking good,but he didn’t stay long before moving south again. Anderson is expanding a lot now, but more into Lamula’s area. We saw him far into Lamula’s territory stalking a big herd of buffaloes. Anderson is in the prime of his life and getting very bulky now. He also sports an impressive duel lap. Tingana is still holding on to his territory around our lodge, but Anderson is still trying his luck. It is almost like they came to an agreement that both males will use the area. Tingana is also looking great and is in great shape.

Lions

Elephants feeding by Dawie Jacobs

Elephants feeding by Dawie Jacobs

We had unbelievably great lion sightings this month. We nearly had lions around every corner of our traversing area. The two sub adult lionesses of the Styx pride left the rest of the pride and came to mate again with the big Matimba male lion. They are looking great and at almost four years of age they will be going into oestrus soon. Females will sometimes leave the pride in search of a suitable male to mate with if they do not have a dominant male in the pride. That is what is happening with the young Styx females, as they do not have a pride male except for their brothers. Although their fathers are the dominant males in the area they move around a lot and don’t stay with one pride, they have multiple prides under them. The Breakaway pride is still all together and fortunately has not lost one cub yet. The Majingilane male lions are spending a lot of their time with these young females and that is why they still have all nine cubs. One of the females is leaving the group on a regular basis and then she starts to contact call. One of the Majingi males has followed her around for a few days, but we did not see them mating yet. It might be that this young lady is coming into oestrus again and that is why the male is shadowing her. The cubs of the Breakaway pride are already over a year and a half old, so it might be that the females will go into oestrus. We have been fortunate to see the Nkuhuma pride again this month. This particular pride is now slowly claiming parts of the territory of the absent Styx pride that has moved more south about four months ago. The Nkuhuma pride is a medium sized group but with a few young females and a few adult females. If all the young females make it to adulthood this will be a great looking pride. We also saw the Tsalala pride that came in and killed a buffalo at Big Dam and they fed off it for a few days. The little Tsalala cubs are now beautiful sub adults and looking very healthy. The five young Birmingham male lions were also seen this month still moving around in our area. These five males are growing in confidence but they have to be careful that they are not over confident as this might be a problem for them. At this stage they are moving further and further south into the Majingi male lion’s territory but then they return to the north. The Four Majingi male lions were seen a lot more this month than in previous months. This might be because of the presence of the Birmingham males that are scent marking and roaring in Majingi territory. The Nkuhuma male lion was also seen this month, just saying hello as he passed through the area.

Buffaloes

Thandi's cub by Dawie Jacobs

Thandi’s cub by Dawie Jacobs

We were so blessed by their presence in the area this month. There were herds literary everywhere and there were quite a few times during game drive when you had to decide which herd you wanted to go and see. It is always great to see them moving through the area as a big herd. As with most herbivores, buffaloes also have their calves during this time of the year, as there is enough water and food supplies for them. We were so lucky to see a female with a newborn calve and I think there will be more females with newborns quite soon. The herds are still moving around on the areas that burnt down in September, as these areas have wonderful new growth. The old dagga boys are having a field day at this stage as there are so many mud wallows to choose from. These old boys can be found at the waterholes around the lodge and that makes our bush walks a bit more challenging.

Elephants

Hippo returning from a graze by Dawie Jacobs

Hippo returning from a graze by Dawie Jacobs

Elephant sightings were quiet at times, but we still had a few incredible sightings with the herds we saw in our area. The herds are slowly returning to our side after they had a visit to the Kruger National Park, where they enjoyed the nice green Mopani tree forests. Now that we are approaching the Marula season, the herds are heading back in our direction and it won’t be too long before we are once again spoiled with their presence. There was a lot more young males scattered all over than in previous months. With all the young males we had two or three big males in musth moving around. There was one bull in particular that was in a fight with another bull, as he had a nasty wound under his eye. Big bulls can and will sometimes fight to establish the dominance hierarchy between them. The presence of these big bulls within the herd makes the females and youngsters very anxious. A herd of elephants are made up of closely related females and their youngsters and all the males have to leave by the age of 14-17 years.

Special sighting

We have been following the four females of the Styx pride for a while now and what a surprise it was to see them mating with the Matimba males.If all goes well after the mating and both the females conceive, their pride will grow and we will have amazing sightings of lion cubs.

Did you know?

The bonds formed amongst male lions are much stronger than those between males and females within a lion pride.

I hope you enjoyed the last report for 2014. See you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report November 2014

This was one of the best months, full of laughter, entertainment and loads of excitement. We were really on the edges of our seats at times, as the bush and all of its inhabitants did not stop to amaze us with everything they did. Finally the long wait is over as the bush suddenly came alive with newborn impalas, zebras and warthogs. We are still awaiting the wildebeest calves, but it won’t be too long before we see the first one. We also welcomed back our noisy friends, the woodland kingfishers, with their well known krit-trrrrrrrr sound. The veld is looking gorgeous and the burnt areas have really recovered well,as the ground floor is covered with bright green grass. Some of the trees that were damaged during the fire have also recovered well, as they have a lot of new green leaves.We had awesome sightings of general game and buffaloes that couldn’t get enough of the new green grass. We are not yet going off-road onto the burnt areas,because we want it to fully recover before we drive on it. We had some really hot days during the past month that pushed up well into the high thirties. With the high temperatures, we experienced days with very high humidity as well. We also had some incredible lightning storms with 47mm of rain. The average maximum temperature was 30°C. All the lovely rain gave new life and hope to some of the smaller creatures. Some of the wetland areas have a little bit of water in them and that makes the perfect place for frogs to mate and lay their eggs. Luck was on our side again this month as we had some great wild dog and cheetah sightings as well.

Female cheetah by Morné Fouché

Female cheetah by Morné Fouché

Leopards

The leopard sightings were just great! They were out and about, causing a lot of excitement for us and guest alike. Salayexe, our no. 1 lady has cubs once again and we know that her den is very close to our lodge. It is still early days, so we can’t say for sure how many cubs she’s got, but we saw that she’s got suckle marks. We went back to our sightings archives to see who the father might be and to our surprise the father seems to be Anderson. He mated with Salayexe on the 30th of July 2014. If you go and count 100-110 days from the 30th of July it corresponds to the time when we first saw suckle marks on her. She also mated with Tingana on the 16th of July,but it can’t be his cubs. We can’t wait to see the little bundles of joy for the first time when Salayexe brings them out to explore. We can only wonder if this will be the litter that will survive… Salayexe has had very bad luck when it comes to raising cubs. Kurula was very low on the radar and we did not see her often. Thandi is looking great and her cubs are doing great. They are very relaxed with the vehicles moving around them. Shadow on the other hand is the total opposite of her twin sister, Thandi. She was hiding a lot, so we did not get to see the cubs very often. Shadow likes to hide more in the thickets and she likes to moves the cubs around on a regular basis, to avoid getting any unwanted visitors. Kwatile is looking great at the moment and was seen moving around. Her young male cub is getting big now and is much more relaxed than a few months ago. Kwatile and Thandi were seen having a stand-off the one evening. This was bound to happen as their territories are right next to each other. To make matters worse, they are the same age, but Kwatile is a little bigger in size than what Thandi is. It will be interesting to know what will happen in the near future as both ladies are looking to expand their areas. Moya’s independent young male cub is looking fabulous and he is getting more relaxed with the vehicles. He has grown a lot in confidence, but is still small in size. Although this little legend eats very well every week or so, he can’t seem to pick up a lot of weight. Kurula’s two boys were seen a few times while moving around by themselves. It looks like she has broken all bonds with them. Nowdifficult times lie ahead when these young males have to look after themselves and try to stay alive. Bahuti is growing into a great leopard, still moving around in his father’s territory, but for how long we will have to wait and see. We had a surprise visit from Xivambalana and what a treat it was to see him. He is looking stunning and he grew up a lot since we last saw him. By the looks of things,this young male is still going to get bigger and stronger in the near future. Lamula was not seen a lot this month. He is spending a lot of his time south of our southern boundary. This was no surprise to us as Lamula was pressurized by both Anderson and Tingana, who’s also expanding and pushing Lamula more south. Surprisingly Anderson was truly like a ghost this month and he kept a very low profile. We got word that Anderson is also going further and further south, expanding his territory there. This might be why we did not see him more regularly.Tingana is looking great as always and he is spending a lot of his time in the western part of Mvula’s territory. It looks like Tingana is taunting Mvula at this stage, moving around and scent marking as he goes along. Mvula is still a magnificent animal and still a force to be reckoned with. Although he is getting older, he will still not back down from a fight.

Lions

Dwarf mongoose

Dwarf mongoose

Lion sightings were unbelievable this month, as we saw lions almost every day. With all the lions that moved through the area, we could clearly see that there were some changes happening with all the prides and coalitions. The name on everyone’s lips this month was definitely the Birmingham males. These young males have really caused a big uproar in the northern Sabi Sand Wildtuin when they moved into our area. These young guns are looking great and they are full of confidence, killing four young buffaloes in just three days. Even the elephants would be running when these young males come down the road. They are scent marking all over and to make everything even more interesting, they are roaring their territorial call. Birmingham is the name to be remembered, as it looks like these young males are here to stay. Who knows? Maybe they will be the next dominant coalition in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. The Breakaway pride is in really good shape and looking very healthy. The four adult females are great hunters, so the cubs are eating well and growing up very fast. The young sub adult male cubs are looking great with their facial hair that is coming through. We can clearly see that one of the young males will have a very dark mane when he grows up, as the dark hair is already pushing through the blond hair. We had a few great sightings of the Nkuhuma pride, moving in and out of the area. We have been seeing more and more of the Nkuhuma pride these last few months, as they are moving further south than normal. After the Styx pride moved further south a few months ago, the Nkuhuma pride and the Talamati pride started moving into the Styx pride’s territory. We were also very fortunate to see the Talamati pride for the first time. The Talamati pride looks like a very strong pride and they are also very healthy. The two Matimba males are also looking great as always. These two big boys are spending a lot of their time with the Nkuhuma pride. The Nkuhuma females are really good buffalo hunters, so this might be the reason why they are sticking with this pride. The Majingi males are in fantastic shape and still looking majestically when they walk down the road. Both the Majingi and Matimba males need to be very wary of the new kids on the block that have their sights set on this area.

Buffaloes

Impala baby by Morné Fouché

Impala baby by Morné Fouché

This month it was buffaloes around every corner!We had a very big herd of about two hundred buffaloes moving through our area. The big herds just love the new growth on the burnt areas and we have seen the herds moving around our area for most of the month. These herds had a lot to do with the fact that we saw so many lions,as they were trailing them. With all this new growth, the buffaloes don’t have to move very far to find food and water. There are still some of the old buffalo cows that are still a bit skinny, but the rest of the younger animals are looking great and healthy. We also saw a few younger males hanging around some of the water holes. There were a few old dagga boys out and about as usual and we also had a few males that were hanging around our lodge. Our guests were spoiled with buffaloes on the open area, just lazing around in the water during the hot days.

Elephant

Kudu males by Morné Fouché

Kudu males by Morné Fouché

November was exceptionally good as far as elephant sightings go. We had a few stunning breeding herds of elephants, which moved around in our traversing area. There was one of the herds that went for a swim in one of the big waterholes to break the heat and to cool down. There were also a few little ones that did not want to get out of the water when the rest of the herd was ready to move on. One of the females was very vocal and caused a chain reaction through the rest of the adult females. Only then did the little ones get out of the water. It is fascinating to watch a herd of elephants feeding and socializing. The elephant is a very social animal and a close knit family. There is so much food around at the moment that the big herds have split up into smaller units again. We had a few big males that came through and moved between the female groups. Two of the males we saw were huge, with big tusks. It is always such a pleasure to see these big tuskers in the flesh and not only on a picture in a coffee table book.

Special sighting

How great it was to see the five young Birmingham male lions hunting and scent marking around our area. These 5 young beasts are big for their age and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the near future. If they manage to stay together for the next year or so, they might be the rulers of the northern part of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin.

Did you know?

The lappet-faced vultureis the biggest vulture you get in South Africa.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report, see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report October 2014

Summer has officially arrived and we welcomed more birds of prey and other migrants. We also saw our first dung beetles rolling their dung balls down the road, sometimes even fighting over a pile of dung. Our first rain arrived when a massive thunder storm with strong winds came raging through the area. The wind was so strong that it even uprooted some big trees with ease. The average maximum temperature for October was 27°C, with 44mm of rain. The area that burned last month seems to be covered with a bright green blanket, as the new grass shoots are pushing through. The animals can’t get enough of this new green grass and it came just at the right time, as the majority of the herbivores are pregnant. Game viewing was just awesome and we can’t complain about what was seen this month. We were so lucky to see two different packs of wild dogs that moved around in our traversing area. The pack of wild dogs that had their den here also came into the area a few times, causing havoc. The six pups are growing up very fast and it makes me so happy to see them being relaxed with the vehicles. They would play around the vehicles, sniffing the tires and sometimes even crawl under the vehicles for a bit of shade.

 Mvula by Louis Liversage


Mvula by Louis Liversage

Leopards

Our leopard sightings were brilliant, full of excitement and crazy at times. Salayexe, our lovely lady, was very elusive this month, but we did see loads of her tracks all over. She is still expanding her territory into Moya’s and Nsele’s territories. The reason for this new territorial development might be due to the arrival of a new litter of cubs. We will have to keep close tabs on her to see how this story unfolds. Shadow was all over the show and she was seen more often than during last month, which was great. Her two cubs are just too sweet and adorable. One of the cubs is more relaxed with the vehicles than its sibling. This is quite common – one will be very adventurous and the other one very shy. In Shadow’s case, she was the shy and grumpy one while Thandi, her sister, was the adventurous one. With all the cubs, the habituation process is well underway to try and get them as relaxed as possible with the vehicles. Thandi was also seen a lot this past month and she is also looking great and in good shape. Thandi’s two little ones are doing really well and they are getting more relaxed with the vehicles. The cubs are big enough to move around with mom and she now takes them to kills. She will also move their location on a regular basis, to prevent any predators locating her cubs. Kwatile surprised us all when she was seen mating with Mvula and then the next day with Tingana. After she finished mating with these two big males, she went back to her cub and made a kill for him to eat. This shows that time is running out for him before he has to face the African wilderness on his own. Nsele and her two cubs were also seen this month, but not as often as we would like. Nsele’s cubs are still a bit shy, but already much better than when we first saw them. If you keep your distance, they will relax more and come a bit closer, or even move more into the open. The core of Nsele’s territory is to the west of our traversing and because it is private land they do not come into contact with a lot of vehicles. Inkanyeni and her cubs were also seen. This was a welcome treat as she does not come into our area very often. Lamula was a bit under the radar, which is understandable because of the pressure that he gets from Anderson and Tingana. Anderson is looking fantastic and being in the prime of his life, he is a formidable force to reckon with. He has grown a lot in size, but more in confidence and he is much more relaxed with the vehicles than in previous months. Tingana is still his old self as he is always on the move, patrolling his territory while looking for intruders. Tingana is also in excellent condition and in the prime of his life. It will be very interesting to see who will be the top dog between him and Anderson. Mvula was seen quite a few times and once again he ensured that we got wonderful sightings and some stunning pictures.

Lions

Nkuhuma male lion by Morné Fouché

Nkuhuma male lion by Morné Fouché

The lion sightings were exceptionally good this month. We were really spoiled with the Breakaway pride, as they spend a lot of their time in our area. These four ladies are phenomenal hunters and excellent mothers to their cubs. It is just incredible to see that all nine cubs are still alive and well. I can’t wait for the six sub-adult females to join in during the hunts, as this would be a wonderful asset to the pride. The three young “Mohawk” males are looking awesome with small beards on their chests and chins. Unfortunately for them, their fate was sealed the day they were born. One day these three musketeers will have to leave their family and start looking after themselves. The Majingilane male lions also paid us a visit, when they accompanied the Breakaway pride as usual. These four males are still in their prime and it feels like yesterday when they came into the area and defeated the two Mapogo’s. It would be great if they could hold on to their territory for another two years, as this would give their cubs a better chance of survival. As we all know too well, there are always changes unfolding in the African bush, so this will be no exception. Two big male lions of the Matimba coalition were found deep inside the Majingilane territory, feasting on a hippo that was killed by the Breakaway pride. I have never seen them this far west and they looked so full of confidence. To make matters more interesting, these two big boys were scent marking the area. As we sat there watching and enjoying this wonderful sighting, they started calling right next to the vehicle. What an amazing sound to hear! These two big males are really taking expanding-their-territory to a whole new level. They are really looking great and in good condition, but to take on four big males on their own turf can be a dangerous game. We were also spoiled seeing the Nkuhuma pride a few times this month and the one day they were feasting on a big buffalo bull kill. We also saw the Nkuhuma male lion on a different buffalo kill for four days. The Nkuhuma male is looking good and he is really doing well for himself. I did not expect him to be in such good shape at the moment. He has loads of scars on his back and face, which shows that he had a few fights. He is a warrior in the making.

Buffaloes

Millipede and scorpion by Louis Liversage

Millipede and scorpion by Louis Liversage

The buffalo sightings are just getting better and better. We had some nice, large herds that moved through our area in search of food and water. The one day we had two different herds of between three and four hundred buffaloes in our traversing area simultaneously. Being bulk grazers, they are spending a lot of their time on the burned sections with the new green shoots. The only downside to this is that such a big herd also tramples the new green shoots. We did not see the big bachelor herds this month, but we did see smaller units instead. We also saw some young and dominant males moving around the watering holes, but the rest might have rejoined the herds that moved through. These young guns are seriously putting on some weight, as it is almost time for them to fight for mating rights. We also saw a lot of old boys, rolling in the mud wallows that were filled by the recent rains.

Elephants

Spotted hyena by Jonathan Vogel

Spotted hyena by Jonathan Vogel

We were fortunate to have great elephant sightings. We had three massive tuskers that moved around in the area, causing havoc as they moved along. We followed one of the big males around for the entire drive and he uprooted close to six trees that morning! A big male on the trail of a breeding herd containing females in oestrous, will try anything to impress the ladies. When another big male shows up on the scene, these two males might end up fighting over the females. We also had wonderful sightings of the females and their youngsters. Elephants don’t have a specific mating season, but they choose to have babies more during the rainy season, when food is plentiful. Being at the start of the rainy season we are seeing lots of small babies, estimated at only a week or two old. It is so wonderful to see how protective the whole herd is over these small bundles of joy. It is amazing to watch how gentle these giants can be, not stepping on their babies while they are sleeping under their mothers, or standing behind them.

Special Sighting

The special sighting this month was when we saw Shadow’s small cubs for the first time. Shadow also had a kill which was a bonus, as this kept the two babies from running away. One of the youngsters is quite relaxed, but the other one still needs a bit of habituation. Shadow, on the other hand, is much more relaxed these days than before she gave birth.

Did you know?

The grey duiker is the only antelope that sometimes eats meat.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report, see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report September 2014

At last spring has arrived and all the trees are getting beautiful and colourful flowers and new, green leaves. This month really felt like we were in heaven with the incredible and mind blowing sightings that we experienced. It was really like a beautiful puzzle, each piece just fitting perfectly together. This month a lot of the migrating birds like Yellow billed kites, Steppe eagles, Wahlberg’s eagles, Purple rollers and many more came back for the summer. We were very fortunate with the wildlife, as we had great cheetah sightings once again. The mother cheetah that we see regularly has two sub adult cubs with her. As the cubs get bigger, mum has to hunt more to feed them all. They should be close to 18 months now and it will not be long before she kicks them out to fend for themselves. We also had very nice hyena sightings around the lodge and at night we went to sleep with the distinctive call of the hyena, accompanying us into dreamland. The weather has definitely taken on the feel of summer. Our average temperature for this month was 32°C and we are now just waiting patiently for the first drop of summer rains.

Salayexe drinking water by Morné Fouché

Salayexe drinking water by Morné Fouché

Leopards

We had a fantastic time with the different leopards and they had a few surprises in store for us as well. Salayexe is still looking great and she is expanding her territory further to the west and more to the south. To the west lies the territory of her daughter Nsele. To the south is her niece Moya’s territory. Both these young females know not to take on Salayexe at this stage, as she is still in her prime. Now that Salayexe is expanding her territory, it makes me wonder if she’s not maybe pregnant again. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that all will go well this time. We followed Salayexe one whole morning, as she was stalking a little steenbuck. It took her a long time to get into the right spot, where she had the wind in her favour. It all happened so fast and without warning, as she ran in with lightning speed. It was amazing to witness her skill in making a kill. Thandi gave us a pleasant surprise when she moved her cubs to a new den. It was really nice to see how she moves the cubs, by carrying them so gently in her mouth. She will move them again and again, until she feels satisfied that the cubs are safe. Thandi’s little cubs are so relaxed with us being around them, but we are still keeping it to a one vehicle sighting, as we do not want to put any unnecessary strain on the cubs. Kwatile and her cub were also out and about and they are really looking great. Kwatile’s cub is still very skittish, but we can see some improvement. It will take time, but I hope he will come around. Moya was seen a few times, but only for a day or so, before moving south again. She still comes in to mark the northern boundary of her territory, but she gets a lot of pressure from her aunt, Salayexe. Moya’s sub adult son is an epic little leopard and his hunting skills are remarkable, as he kills male impalas that are much bigger than him. When he makes a kill, it is not long before his father, Lamula, shows up and steels it from him. Although he loses a lot of his kills to hyenas or his father, it does not stop him from making another one. We saw him the one day with two grey duiker kills in one tree. Maybe he thought that dad could take one and then he would be able to keep the other one! He is not a very big leopard yet, but keep an eye on this little guy, as he is a legend in the making! Bahuti, the young male leopard, is growing up very fast and we saw him smelling branches and scent marking on them. Unfortunately the young male leopard can’t stay in the area and has to move on, as his father will push him out. Lamula is still as relaxed and laidback as always and every time we see him he has a huge belly, compliments of his son. We do see Anderson more and more in our area and around the lodge, which is good. At night he is much more relaxed than what he is during the day. I can still remember the time when he came into the area for the first time; he was not comfortable with the vehicles at all. Tingana is still looking good and there is still bad blood between Tingana and Anderson, both males are still not giving way. Tingana is also staying more around the lodge to try and keep the persistent Anderson at bay. At this stage only time will tell what will happen in the near future with these two heavyweights. Tingana is also pushing more south into Lamula’s territory and Lamula is also not backing off.

Lions

Tsalala female lion by Louis Liversage

Tsalala female lion by Louis Liversage

What a treat we had with the old familiar lions and also the not so familiar. There were three young male lions that came through our area and then decided to stay for a few days, before leaving again. We found out that these guys were pushed out by two big males after a pride takeover. They are really beautiful young males and it would be nice to see them again. Three of the four big Majingi male lions also came in and killed an old buffalo bull, they feasted on and off for three days. The morning of the fourth day we were quite surprised to see that the Majingi males are gone and the Tsalala females are feasting on the remains. The Tsalala pride is always a welcome site and it was so nice to see that the sub adult lioness is still with the pride and really looking good. The four cubs had a ball on and around the carcass, playing more than eating. There is one little female and three males born out of the litter. The young female was continuously bullied by her brothers. The Styx pride is spending a lot more time in the south of the reserve, but do come into our area from time to time. They had a run-in with one of the other prides in the area and the one sub adult male was beaten up badly and separated from the rest of the pride. These two young males need each other if they want to become dominant pride males and successfully sire cubs. The three cubs are also looking good and I know it is too early to say, but things are looking really good for their future. We were very fortunate to see the Nkuhuma lion pride, accompanied by one of the powerful Matimba male lions. The Nkuhuma pride made sure that we we entertained in all aspects of the game. We saw the Nkuhuma male again after he disappeared for so long. We found out that he was exploring through the whole Sabi Sand Wildtuin, which is understandable as he is also looking for his own females and territory. We also saw the Breakaway pride along with one Majingi male lion on a buffalo kill. The bride is in top shape and the cubs are really getting big now. The manes on the male cubs are getting bigger and with their mohawks they are looking like rock stars.

Elephants

Elephants drinking water by Louis Liversage

Elephants drinking water by Louis Liversage

We had some unbelievable elephant sightings this month. We saw nice big herds and we were very lucky to see a baby elephant that was only a few days old, at most. This little guy was not only struggling to keep up over the rough terrain, but also had a hard time learning to use his trunk. At a stage he was so frustrated with his trunk that he stepped on it, then hit mom on the leg with it and finally he thought it would be a good idea to drown it… Well, I think all of you know that the drowning part did not go down as he had planned, but in the end this little rascal kept us entertained for quite some time. There was also a lot of action around the waterhole in front of the lodge. We had elephant sightings on the webcam on most days. The big bulls also came out to play and we saw some spectacular males. There were no real big tuskers, but they were quite big in body size. Sometimes you would find a few young males walking with the big boys. The big males will teach them and keep them in line.

Buffaloes

Buffalo cows by Morné Fouché

Buffalo cows by Morné Fouché

We were so spoiled with all the great buffalo sightings this last month. There was also lots of interaction between buffaloes and lions this month. We had a few big herds that moved in and out of our area, but these herds never stay very long, as food is scarce. Besides the big breeding herds, we also had several great sightings of a bachelor herd of twenty bulls, walking together. Normally the lions would target the bachelor herds or the old dagga boys, before taking on a big herd. This month we saw the Styx pride and the Nkuhuma pride each hunting and killing young buffaloes from a big herd. We followed the Nkuhuma pride around the one afternoon when they came across an old male buffalo. It did not take very long for the lions to get into position and then the hunt was on. After almost an hour of being constantly attacked by the lions, the buffalo summoned his last bit of strength for one last fight. The buffalo shook the lions off his back, swung around and charged with every last ounce of strength that was left in him. The old male managed to get himself into a small waterhole, where he stayed for a few minutes. During the fight, the old boy lost his tail – a small price to pay in the end. To our astonishment we saw the buffalo bull again the following morning, bloody and bruised, but grazing as if nothing ever happened. The buffalo is the most dangerous prey species for lions and it takes a lot for a pride to bring down a big male buffalo. This one lived to tell the tale.

Special sighting

The special sighting of the month was Thandi and her small cubs. It is always nice to see small bundles of fur and what is even more amazing, is to see how gentle she is with the little ones.

Did you know?

Due to undeveloped eyes, termite workers and soldiers are blind.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report, see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report August 2014

Matimba the male lion by Morné Fouché

Matimba the male lion by Morné Fouché

August is the month where we start seeing changes in the bush and the weather. There is a definite change in the weather, as we had a few very hot days that went up into the mid thirties. This month was full of excitement, new adventures and so much more. We are sad to report that the wild dog pack that denned in our area has moved the little pups to a new den site, out of our traversing area. We still see the adults on a regular basis when they come and hunt in our area, though. After a successful hunt and a good meal, the adults retreat to the den before dark to feed the hungry pups. It will not be too long now before the pups start running and hunting with the pack. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that somewhere in the near future, we will see the little pups again and that the pack decides to make this area their home once more. We were also very fortunate to see four different cheetahs this month. It really looks good for the cheetah population and we do see more cheetahs coming through our area. This month proved to be the beginning of summer, with an average maximum temperature of 26 °C. We also had our first millimeter of rain.

Baby elephant by Jonathan Vogel

Baby elephant by Jonathan Vogel

Leopards

The leopard sightings were any photographers dream! Salayexe, the female leopard, was seen patrolling her territory and also mating with Anderson again. Kurula’s two boys were also seen a lot this month. I don’t think it will be too long before they will be completely on their own. The two boys almost never stay together when mum leaves them in a certain place. Each one will go his own way. I think when the time comes, they will hang around in their mother and father’s territory, for the first few months or so. Mvula reminds me of two leopards that I loved dearly: Mafufunyane and the big boy, Tyson. The thing that these three awesome male leopards have in common is that they were all very family orientated. I think that is why Mvula does not mind his sons moving around in his territory, for now at least. Nsele was seen a lot this month and she is looking really good and healthy. One thing that I saw this month was that Nsele is expanding her territory more east, straight into her mother, Salayexe’s, territory. It might be that she feels she is ready to take on her mother in a battle for territory. Nsele is just over 5 years old now, which puts her in her prime compared to the older, but more experienced Salayexe who is now over 9 and a half years. Kwatile was also seen a few times this month and the best thing was when her little cub was also seen moving around. The cub is not that relaxed, as the core of Kwatile’s territory is out of our traversing area and we do not see her that often. Moya, the beautiful female leopard, was also seen once or twice this month. She is really looking good and healthy, yet, there is still no sign of her new cubs that should only be a few months old now. Lamula is doing very well and he is looking really good, although he is still losing bits and pieces of his territory. Anderson and Tingana are expanding more and more. Anderson is expanding more east and Tingana more south. We had the battle of the titans at Elephant Plains as Tingana and Anderson met for an epic battle of territorial dispute. These two met the one day, not too far from the lodge in the ultimate standoff. It was very difficult for us to determine who dominated who, as both males did not want to give in. Anderson really grew in confidence and in size, day by day he reminds me more of his father. His father was Emsagwem, who was a brut of a male that unfortunately passed away in 2012/2013. Tingana might be a little shorter on the legs, but he is really bulky, where Anderson is longer on the legs. It is unclear who won this epic battle as both males went their separate ways that same afternoon. Tingana stalked and killed a big aardvark the one afternoon, but before he could hoist it, a few hyenas showed up and stole the kill. The next morning the kill was in a big marula tree with the four hyenas under the tree and Tingana feeding on the kill. The big question on all our minds was how he got his kill back and chased off four hyenas?!

Lions

Kurula, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

Kurula, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

The lion sightings were a bit of a roller coaster ride this month. We were very fortunate to see the Breakaway pride and the Majingi male lions with a kill this month. These four females are killing machines and this is why they are so healthy and in a magnificent condition. The young cubs are looking fabulous too and all nine cubs are still alive and kicking. I think that these four ladies will have a great success rate raising their cubs, because the Majingilane male coalition loves to move around with this pride. With the presence of their fathers, the cubs will be protected against other prides and males. It was so nice to see these four females, nine cubs and the Majingi males moving in and out of our area. I think we can all get used to seeing this massive pride moving through and bringing down a buffalo or two. The Styx pride was also out and about, but not like the previous months. This might be because the Majingi males were spending a lot of time with the Breakaway pride in this area. The Majingi male lions are a threat to the small cubs of the Styx pride, as they will kill them if they can find them. The two sub adult males are looking great and getting bigger by the day. They are not just growing in size, but in confidence as well. These two males are scent marking and roaring from time to time. The two sub adult females are also looking great and should also be coming into estrous not too long from now. The young males are trying their luck with the big females and their sisters, but have not accomplished anything yet. The two adult lionesses of the Styx pride are also in good shape and still looking very healthy. The little cubs are also growing fast and are not so little anymore, but still playful as always with no worry in the world. Two male lions of the Matimba coalition are pushing further west and also south into Majingi lion territory, scent marking and roaring. So far the Majingi males are kept quite busy in the western part of their territory, as they are busy mating with females there. With all that going on, their northern and eastern parts are left unattended. Let’s wait and see how this scene will unfold.

Wild dog puppies by Jonathan Vogel

Wild dog puppies by Jonathan Vogel

Buffaloes

We were blessed with a few very nice buffalo sightings this month. We had a big herd of about 300-400 individuals that moved around in the eastern parts of our traversing area. The big herds will be moving more and more and also much further than normal, as their food sources are getting scarcer. The herd that we saw had some old females amongst them, who were not in the best of shape. These females have small calves which are still nursing and most of the food they consume goes to the calves. There were also a few youngsters that were born last month and then a few older calves as well. Then it brings us to our trusty old dagga boys. We still had a few great sighting of these old warriors, which are moving around between waterholes. All the natural pans and mud wallows have dried up and these bulls need to move to the smaller waterholes to cool down from the harsh African sun.

Elephants

Wild dog female by Morné Fouché

Wild dog female by Morné Fouché

We had a few unbelievably great elephant sightings this month. We had some spectacular bulls that came through our area, following some of the bigger herds. With these enormous heavy weights moving through, they made sure we know they were here by pushing over a few trees and breaking branches, leaving it scattered over the roads. There were one or two big males that were in musth. Musth means that there is an increase in the testosterone levels of the male. When an elephant bull is around 25 years of age, he will go through this stage for the first time. Some of the young males are very aggressive when this happens and they turn their anger towards everything in sight. Luckily for us we did not have any aggressive ones, but we had the older, bigger males who push over trees to impress the ladies. We also had a lot of elephants coming to drink at the waterhole in front of the lodge. You can sit there and watch them for hours as they quench their thirst, before moving towards the river bed to feed on the wild date palms. It is always wonderful to view these majestic animals from the comfort of the pool deck, while enjoying the sun.

Special sighting

This month it was to see the epic battle between two spectacular male leopards. Tingana and Anderson were locked in a typical age old territorial dispute, where both males did not want to back down. They did not get physical with each other as both of them know that they can’t afford a serious injury at this stage. Although there was no bloodshed, it was still amazing to watch how these two big boys attempted to settle their dispute, by growling and hissing at each other.

Did you know?

The stomach acids found in a snake’s stomach can digest bones and teeth, but not fur or hair.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report, see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

 

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Rangers Report July 2014

Hyena by Morné Fouché

Hyena by Morné Fouché

Those of you, who joined us on safari this month, will certainly agree when I say that the game viewing was phenomenal! Just having passed the halfway mark for 2014, the big question on all our minds are: what other great sightings will be waiting for us as the year moves forward? We opened the wild dog den this month for the first time and what a treat this turned out to be. The little pups started coming out of the den and explored more and more, playing with the rest of the pack members. The pack has to work extra hard at the moment to feed themselves, as well as the Alfa female and the pups, as they also started eating meat. Other great sightings included cheetah, honey badger, civets and so much more. The weather was very strange once again, as we had a few nice warm days, followed by yet another cold front. There was one morning, where we had a very light drizzle at the lodge that came out of nowhere, only to have blue skies again that afternoon. The average maximum temperature for this month was 24°C.

Leopards

Bahuti, the young male leopard by Morné Fouché

Bahuti, the young male leopard by Morné Fouché

The leopard sightings were just plain unbelievable and full of surprises. It is confirmed that Salayexe lost both her cubs yet again, so for now it is not looking great for this beautiful cat. At this stage we do not know for certain which male leopard killed the cubs, but we think it might be Tingana, as the den was in his territory. It sometimes happens that male leopards kill their own cubs when they are still very small. If the mother of the cubs goes out hunting and the male sees them for the first time without their mother being present, he won’t know that the cubs belong to him and he might kill them. On the bright side, Salayexe is looking healthy and stunning as always and she was seen mating with both Anderson and Tingana. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she will have better luck with her next litter. Shadow was under the radar this month, but we did see her following her mother the one day. Shadow was doing her territorial calling, whilst following Kurula, making sure that she left her territory. Shadow is also looking great and feeding very well. That is one thing I can say about her – she is a really good hunter in her own right. Moya was also seen a few times this month and we got word that her two new cubs are doing well and looking healthy. Moya’s older cub was seen a lot this month and he is also doing well for himself. It is quite impressive that he started killing big male impalas. This young male has firsthand experience with walking into danger. The one afternoon he had a narrow escape from death, as he came face to face with our resident pack of wild dogs at one of the waterholes. He held his own with the first wild dog, but ran for the nearest tree when the rest of the pack came in to help. After the wild dogs left, he came down the tree and sat down on a termite mound close by, just scanning the area, trying to make sense of it all. Kurula is also doing fine and she was seen mating with Tingana around our lodge for four days. This is definitely the most south that I have ever seen her venture. She went through her daughter, Shadow’s, territory deep into the territory of Salayexe. Kurula was really like a fish out of water. She was so uncomfortable and for four days she was on extra high alert. After Kurula and Tingana went their separate ways, she met up with Mvula for another four days of mating. Lamula is also looking great and he and Tingana had yet another standoff. It looks like Lamula is not standing down to Tingana anymore. Lamula was also seen in our area, mating with an unknown female who followed him into our area from our southern boundary. Tingana was very busy this month and was really the ladies man as he mated with Salayexe and right after that with Kurula as well. Anderson was also busy as he was seen mating with an unknown female in our area and then also with Salayexe. Mvula, the big male, was also mating with Kurula. If everything goes well in the next 105 days, we might be blessed with the arrival of new leopard cubs.

Lions

Majingi male lion by Morné Fouché

Majingi male lion by Morné Fouché

The lion sightings were just unbelievable and full of excitement. The four sub adults of the Styx pride are looking fabulous and they are getting bigger and better with hunting and everything else. It appears that these four youngsters have mastered the technique of hunting their most dangerous prey, which is the buffalo. The four of them brought down a big buffalo bull the one day with no help from the two big females. After they finished their kill, they went after more buffaloes and succeeded in bringing down another buffalo bull. It shows you that the two big females have been successful in teaching them the art of hunting buffaloes. The two adult lionesses of the Styx pride are also looking good, as they killed an adult kudu female and also a wildebeest male. The three young cubs are eating well and also looking very healthy, getting bigger and prettier day by day. The Breakaway pride is definitely my favourite lion pride in the Sabi Sand. The four young ladies are looking great and very healthy and so does the “not so small anymore cubs” as well. We were very fortunate to have them in our area, making kills. The best sighting of this pride that we had this month was when we saw them the one morning, accompanied by all four of the Majingi male lions. It was so impressive to see seventeen lions walking down the road towards us. We watched them feasting on an old dagga boy, which they finished in one day! We were also very lucky to see the Fourways pride of lions that came through our area after they had a run-in with two of the Matimba male lions. The two young males of the Fourways pride are looking gorgeous and I hope that they will get the opportunity to take over their own territory one day.

Buffaloes

This month, the buffalo sightings were great. We had a large herd in our area that stayed up here for a week or two. This nice herd had a few calves and yearlings as well. There were a few of the females with older calves that seem to be pregnant again. Every time that the buffalo herds come into our area and we start tracking them, we can also see the clear tracks of lions, following the herds. With the herds moving around, they attract a lot of attention to themselves as they make a lot of noise when moving through the area. The old dagga boys were also out in their numbers again, in and around the watering holes. We saw a few male groups this month that had between six and fifteen buffalo bulls in a group. There were a few really old males that were joined by a few fairly younger males, who left the herds to fatten up again. For the old dagga boys this was a welcoming sight to add a few more companions – to them it is all about safety in numbers.

Elephants

Elephant cow and calf by Morné Fouché

Elephant cow and calf by Morné Fouché

This month the elephant sightings really started on the slow side, but then ended with an enormous bang! We were very fortunate to see the young leucism elephant calf and its mother that came into our area this month. The last time that I saw him, he was about three years old and now he is around five. His mother also has a new calf of under a year old. The age difference between one mother’s babies should be between four to six years. Leucism is the term used when a defect in pigment cells occur during development, where the entire surface, or patches over the body or hair, has a lack of cells capable of forming the correct colour pigment. This young elephant does not stand out between the others because of his body colour. Upon closer inspection, however, you clearly notice his blue eyes and white hair, where elephants normally have brown eyes and black hair. Quite an interesting sight! Once again we had some great elephant sightings at the water hole in front of the lodge. It is almost as if the elephants know when breakfast or lunch will be served as they then promptly arrive on our open area and quench their thirst. We also enjoyed seeing a few nice looking elephant bulls, but this was short lived as they moved off again. We were also welcomed by some big breeding herds, some with almost sixty individuals and it is truly amazing to sit amongst them, just soaking up the different personalities. When you go on safari and drive around the water holes and river areas, you will see the impact that the elephants have on the area. With all the destruction going on when the elephants push over trees, it can also help the smaller browsing animals to get to some of the higher leaves on the trees.

Special sighting

Wild dog looking back at the den by Morné Fouché

Wild dog looking back at the den by Morné Fouché

There were so many awesome sightings this month that it was really hard to pick one. But here’s my favourite… We followed the wild dog pack one day as they set out on an afternoon hunt. We followed them onto our open area and it looked like they wanted to go and rest in the shade of the Tamboti thickets. Little did we know there was prey close by. Two of the dogs suddenly pulled away, leaving all of us, including the other dogs, in a dust cloud as they chased after a grey duiker. We eventually caught up with them as they were busy feeding on the little grey duiker on our open area. While sitting and enjoying the sighting, we had a surprise visit from a big hyena that came to investigate. When the wild dogs saw the intruder they went all out in biting his hind quarters and sent him running for the hills. Then out of nowhere, Salayexe, the female leopard showed up on the scene. One of the dogs saw her moving around not too far from them and quickly chased her up into a tree. That couldn’t have happened at a better time, as the rest of the hyena clan suddenly stormed in and caused chaos. Suddenly a full-blown wild dog vs. hyena warfare started to unfold right there in front of us. All this noise attracted a breeding herd of angry elephants that chased the wild dogs around, and then turned on the hyenas before focusing on poor Salayexe that was stuck in the tree. These big heavyweights were extremely vocal as they tried to get rid of all the predators. The action lasted only half an hour, but those thirty minutes were definitely my best sighting at Elephant Plains up to date!

Did you know?

The giant eagle owl is the biggest owl we have.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s report, see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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