Rangers Report June 2014

Magical! This is the only word to describe this great month! On game drive, we had another jam packed month, full of action from start to finish. Let’s start with the game viewing first. I will go as far to say that this month’s game viewing was the best this year. The night life was just great as we saw loads of honey badgers, porcupine, civet, genet, jackals and also had great hyena sightings. It looks like our resident hyena clan has moved their den to a new location; this was no surprise to us as the Styx lion pride spent a lot of time in that area. We also had a great cheetah sighting with a male feasting on a juvenile waterbuck the one afternoon in an open clearing. It looked like a young male moving through the area exploring what the area has to offer and who knows maybe he decides to stay. Now it brings us to the best part of the month, like they say, the cherry on the cake. We had some phenomenal wild dog sightings this month as the pack of twelve wild dogs moved around in our area with the alpha female very far pregnant. Not even a week later the pack decided to make this their home as the alpha female decided to den in our area this year. We are all so exited and can’t wait to see the little pups! This is something that we waited for a very long time. The pups should be almost a month old now so we will start viewing them on 6-8 weeks, giving them time to bond with their mother and the rest of the pack. The weather was up and down as we experienced a few cold days due to the cold fronts that came through the area. One thing that really helped keeping us warm during the winter morning chill was the warmth of the hot water bottles and blankets on the vehicles. The average maximum temperature this month was 24°C with no rain, but we also had a few hot days, almost resembling a summers day.

Salayexe, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

Salayexe, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

Leopards

Leopard sightings were really good as always. We had a great sighting of Salayexe and her two cubs the one morning while they were playing and climbing up small trees and then settling down for some milk. Later that month one of the rangers followed a male leopard’s tracks into the den where they discovered a jaw bone that might belong to one of the little cubs. They also saw tracks for just one cub moving around the den area. Almost at the end of the month we were all dumbstruck when we saw Salayexe mating with Tingana. It is unsure what happened and why she’s mating again and if both cubs are dead or just one, or if both are still alive or did she just move the cub/s to a new den so we can’t say for sure but things are not looking good for her. Shadow, the female leopard, was also out and about moving around, patrolling her boundaries but like always she loves dragging you through the thickets and then disappears in the blink of an eye. Kurula and her two sons were also seen a few times this month. The two sons are really growing up fast and mum leaves them for longer periods to their own devices. The two boys don’t even stay together when mum leaves them when she goes out hunting. It will not be too long before they will be kicked out by mum and then start their nomadic life. Talking about nomadic life, we have seen Moya’s little male cub again this month and by the looks of things he is doing really well for himself and he is looking good. Moya was also seen this month and she also looks great. Nsele, the young female was also seen a few times and she is also expanding her territory. We haven’t seen her cubs again this month but we hope that they are still alive and healthy. Lamula was seen a lot this month and a few times with a fat belly. Lamula is looking great now as he is quite bulky and now in his prime. Anderson who also is in the prime of his life, is still expanding his territory more and more into the western boundary of Tingana’s territory. This brut of a male was also seen the one evening with an aardvark kill in a tree. Tingana, the male leopard, is looking impressive and in the best shape I’ve ever seen him. Tingana is venturing more north and east into the area of Mvula where he is expanding his territory bit by bit. If it ever happens that Tingana and Mvula must meet that will be the epic battle of the titans, it will be the fight of the year. Mvula is still looking great but a bit older than Tingana and might be a tiny bit bigger if not the same size as his rival, Tingana.

Lions

Waterbuck grazing by Jonathan Vogel

Waterbuck grazing by Jonathan Vogel

This was a fabulous month full of excitement on the lion’s side. We saw old and new friends in our area. We had the Breakaway pride in our area again for a few days still with all nine cubs. This is going to be a beautiful pride if all the cubs can survive. The Styx pride is really looking good and they are eating well as they killed a big buffalo bull and a few impalas this month, only to name a few. The luck was really on the side of this pride as they had a run-in with the fathers of their small cubs, the Matimba males, one morning. Two of the Matimba males came through the area and caught the Styx pride of-guard and started chasing them around. Luckily all three cubs survived and none of the adults had serious injuries apart from just a few scratches. Short after this terrifying ordeal it was not long before they had a serious run-in with the four Majingi male lions. This time they really had to stand their ground and fight to try and fend off these big males to protect their vulnerable cubs. A few days after the incident we were astonished to see that all three cubs are still alive. We were also very fortunate to see the Tsalala pride again with their four cubs as they also came through our area the one day. The little cubs are not that little anymore and they are looking great and growing fast since the last time we saw them. We had the remaining two Selati male lions in our area for a few days after the Majingi male lions have taken control over their females and their territory. Unfortunately it is not looking good for these two males as they are not strong enough to fend off four big males. The only thing that is left to do is to leave and try somewhere else to take over through an old male and take over that pride. The Matimba male lions are pushing more and more south into the territory of the Majingi male lions. The Majingi male lions very seldom go into that part of their territory anymore and that is why the Matimba’s are slowly but surely moving in to claim it. Like I mentioned, the Majingi male lions have pushed out the Selati males in the western part of the Sabi Sand and caused havoc. For all dominant male lions they always think of expanding their existing territory to get more female prides as that will mean there will be more females to mate with and more of their genes will be thrown back into the gene pool.

Hippo out the water by Louis Liversage

Hippo out the water by Louis Liversage

Buffaloes

After a long wait, the big breeding herds have returned to our area and what a treat it was to see them. We had a nice big breeding herd moving in and out of our area for a few days as they tried to fill their stomachs and quench their thirst. With this big breeding herd moving through we also had the Styx lion pride following the herd for a day or so, just learning their routine to see which one is the weakest. When the herd moved out of the area again it was back to the old dagga boys and we also saw a lot of dominant and sub dominant bulls spending more time around the waterholes. At this stage, there is no mating taking place within the herds as the majority of the females have small calves with them at the moment. This time of the year, you will find that big males will leave the herds to fatten up as there is not a lot of food for everyone in the herd due to the food getting scarcer now in the winter months.

Pearl spotted owlet by Jonathan Vogel

Pearl spotted owlet by Jonathan Vogel

Elephants

What a wonderful and also exciting time with all the great elephant sightings we had this month. We had a few big herds of about fifty to sixty elephants strong in our area this last month. It really felt like you can’t turn the corner without bumping into a herd of elephants feeding next to the road or even in the road. We had a few herds that came to quench their thirst at the waterhole on the open area in front of the lodge while all the guests are busy having breakfast or lunch. With all the elephant activity in our area at the moment, they cause a lot of destruction to the trees. The elephants will target more trees now due to the shortage of grass. They push over trees to get to the root system or the last leaves on top of the trees or strip the bark to get to the cambium layer. The big elephant bulls that goes into musth stages, makes life very difficult for us when they push trees into the roads or break off branches, leaving them in the roads for us to clear. Elephant bulls push over trees or break branches, not really to eat but to show off their strength to the females.

Special sighting

The special sighting for this month was to see a big breeding herd of about 500 buffaloes that moved into our area for a few days. It is always great to see a big herd with bulls, cows and small calves moving through the area as this only happens during certain times of the year.

Did you know?

The giant bullfrog can get over 20 years old.

I trust that you enjoyed this month’s report. Hope to see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report May 2014

The bush has totally transformed in some areas as they changed from the lush green color to the pale yellow of the winter. As soon as the sun disappears behind the mountains to the west the temperatures drop in such a way that you are aware of the fact that it is winter in the bush. The morning drives are really chilly and the wind chill factor is not helping much. With me saying that, we also have the blankets and the hot water bottles to help keep us warm in that early morning before the sun comes up. We were very fortunate this month to have seen the pack of wild dogs again that came through our area for a few days. The night life also picked up a lot as aardvark, serval, civet, genet, honey badger, porcupine and the bush babies are out and about, entertaining us with their night activities. We did not have any rain this month and the average temperature was 26°C.

Kwatile, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

Kwatile, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

Leopards

Leopard sightings were just awesome and out of this world! We had yet another sad time concerning the leopard population. Shadow lost her last cub as the Styx pride killed her cub the one morning on drive. Shadow made a kill the night before and went to fetch the little one; the next morning, without warning, the Styx pride got the scent of the kill and chased the two leopards up in different trees. Shadow sat up in a tree and watched how her little cub lost its footing and fell out of the tree and landed in the middle of the big cats. Shadow was stuck up the tree for almost the whole day as the lions were resting under the tree in the shade. A few weeks after the incident, Shadow mated with Tingana and right after that she mated with Mvula as well. Shadow’s twin sister, Thandi, also mated with Mvula this month. If all went well, we might see new cubs in the next 110 days! With all this sadness there were some good times with leopard females and their cubs. At last Salayexe’s den was found with two little cubs that is now almost three months old. Salayexe has already moved her den three times and we can expect her to move it a few more times, to ensure that no unwanted attention is drawn to the den and cubs. I can’t wait for the cubs to get bigger and start moving around more with Salayexe, they are still a bit hesitant but that is understandable for small cubs. There is a saying “good things happens to those who wait” Well that is true as we saw Moya’s little male cub a few times after it felt like ages of waiting for the little one to appear. We also had a quick glimpse of Nsele’s cub. It is going to be a challenge to get Nsele’s cub or cubs relaxed with the vehicles as this is the first time in months that they see vehicles but we will give it our best. Kwatile was also out and about this month and she really provided us with some stunning sightings. She also came to show off her little cub that should also be about three months old this month. Kwatile’s little one is also not too relaxed with the vehicles and needs a lot of time and space to realize we will not harm them. Lamula is looking great and he is in good shape and with that he has gained a lot of confidence. Last month, I mentioned that Tingana is pushing more south into Lamula’s territory. It was just a matter of time before these two heavyweights will meet. It was not too long before they had yet another standoff and the question was; who will dominate who? Lamula surprised all of us and I think Tingana was the most surprised of all when Lamula started dominating the standoff. Mvula was also seen a few times this last month and he is still looking like a beast.

Lions

Nile crocodile by Dawie Jacobs

Nile crocodile by Dawie Jacobs

The lion sightings were very special and what a privilege to have seen all three different prides of lions in this month, it was just out of this world! We saw a few old familiar faces that came to say hallo. The Styx pride is looking great and the little cubs are growing fast and becoming really adventurous. The two young sub adult males are still enjoying the company of their mother and sisters as there are no intention from their side to leave the pride any time soon. We were again spoiled with the Breakaway pride that came into our area for a few days. These four lionesses are just so beautiful and they are also getting bigger and bulkier just like their mothers. They have such good genes as they are half BB and Tsalala lionesses and the other half belongs to the Mapogo males. It is so nice to see that all nine cubs are still accounted for and that tells you a lot about the female’s motherly instinct and it shows that BB did a great job and she can be proud of herself. We were very fortunate this month as the three Tsalala pride females gave us a surprise visit. Although the visit was short lived and we did not get to see the cubs it was still very nice to see the old ladies. I’m so glad to see that the young sub adult lioness is still with her mother and aunt and it looks like they have accepted her into the pride. Having this young and free spirit lioness with them can only be a big asset for these two elderly ladies. These two sisters are now twelve years old and by having a three year old lioness in the pride will help them.

Tingana by Morné Fouché

Tingana by Morné Fouché

Buffaloes

We are still eagerly waiting on the arrival of the big breeding herds. The grass is really drying out fast and it is not going to be very long before hunger and thirst will push the herd into this direction. The old dagga boys are still very reliable as always and we see these old boys almost every drive resting close to the water holes around our lodge. With all these old warriors around the lodge minding their own business, bushwalks are very interesting for us. We have also seen a small group of eleven dominant bulls that is hanging around in our area. This might be due to the fact that mating is finished in the herds.

Elephants

African wild dog by Louis Liversage

African wild dog by Louis Liversage

We had wonderful elephant sightings this month. There were a few days where the elephants came and visited us at the lodge, almost coming up to reception! The breeding herds also entertained the guest when they came and quench their thirst on the open area while the guests were having breakfast or lunch. We are seeing bigger herds these days as the smaller herds are joining forces to form a bigger herd. There were also a few mature males that moved through our area not staying for too long before disappearing again. This month we also saw a young female with the end of her trunk missing. Now this can be that a crocodile got hold of her trunk or she might have lost it in a snare. For that female it will be difficult to feed herself for the first few weeks but elephants have the ability to adapt and I am sure that she will live for many more years, short trunk and all.

Special sighting

The special sighting of this month was to see one of Salayexe’s cubs. Although we only got a brief glimpse of the one cub, we now know for sure that she has 2 new bundles of fluff and we are hoping that she will raise these cubs to adulthood!

Did you know?

A pangolin walks on its hind legs and their front feet rarely touch the ground.

Hope to see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report April 2014

Salayexe the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Salayexe the female leopard by Dawie Jacobs

During April we once again had some amazing sightings, including wild dogs hunting in our area and so much more! With the seasons changing, we’ve reached that special time of the year when all the male antelope, like the impala, show off their strength. Yes, believe it or not, it is the rutting season again. As the rutting season is almost in full swing, the air is filled with fiery tempers and bodies pumped full of testosterone. The impala males will all compete in this epic battle to win over as many females as possible, before the mating season. For these males, all that matters is eliminating or out-whiting their opponents with strength, agility and speed. This time of the year, you will find that predators kill a lot more males than females, as they are so focused on fighting that they let their guard down, not concentrating on their surroundings. The weather was also up and down, as the day temperatures were sometimes cool and then hot again. Some mornings and evenings were very cold and we decided to get the blankets out of storage, as this will be an early winter with all the water in the veld. So guests would be treated to blankets and hot water bottles during the cold morning start. The average maximum temperature was 27 ?C with no rain this month. As the sun rises later in the morning and sets earlier in the evening, we also changed our morning and afternoon game drive times. Guest will now have an extra 30 minutes in the morning to snuggle up in bed, as the morning game drive now departs at 06:00 and the afternoon game drives start at 15:30.

Leopard

Elephant bull by Morné Fouché

Elephant bull by Morné Fouché

Overall the leopard sightings were really good this month and we could clearly see that there are big changes happening. With all the good sightings we had, there was also a very sad incident with one of the leopards in our area. Wabayiza, the young sub-adult male, was attacked by the Styx lion pride the one morning during game drive and suffered severe injuries, resulting in him passing away that same evening. This young leopard will be missed and it is sad that his life was cut short, because I think he would have achieved great things in the years to come. This is nature though and we don’t always understand how it works, but in a bizarre way you come to accept the brutality between these animals. In their world there is a motto of kill, or be killed. This is a battle that has been going on between predators since the dawn of time and this rivalry will always go on… Salayexe was seen a few times this last month and she still has suckle marks to show that the little ones are alive. We are still not too sure how many babies she’s got and where her den site is. She might regularly move the cubs to another den site, to avoid attracting unwanted attention to the helpless cubs. All that we know is that it can’t be too far away from camp as she is regularly spotted in the vicinity. Shadow was very shy this month and we just saw tracks of her and the cubs moving all over the area. Thandi was also seen a few times this month. She was also seen mating with Mvula, the big male leopard. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that she conceived and that we will see more baby leopards in the next few months. Kurula and her two boys were also seen this month and it is really strange to see the size difference between the two brothers, no wonder everyone thought it was a male and female cub. Xivambalana, the young male leopard, is still looking good and still has no plans of moving out of his father’s territory. It will not be long from now before Mvula will step in and make sure that his son gets the message that he is no longer welcome in his territory. Mvula is still looking as impressive as ever, but don’t really venture into Tingana’s territory anymore, so it is unclear if they had another encounter, or are just respecting each other’s boundaries. Talking about respecting boundaries, the young Robson’s male is moving around and making kills within Tingana and Lamula’s territories. Everything looks to be changing now, as Anderson and Tingana are also expanding their territories. With these new changes that are happening, it is now putting Lamula between a rock and a hard place, forcing him more south. It will be really interesting to follow their movements these next few months and see how these three males will sort each other out.

Kurula's male cub by Louis Liversage

Kurula’s male cub by Louis Liversage

Lions

We were really spoiled with all the lion sightings that we had. The Styx pride is still looking good and very healthy. They are also eating well. We are getting used to the idea of the Styx pride settling down in our area, as they very seldom move south over our southern boundary. This change has to do with the cubs, as they do not belong to the Manjingi male lions and these males will kill them the moment they get hold of them. The sub adult males are also benefiting. This gives them more time with the pride as their fathers rarely move this far north and will therefore not kick them out of the pride for now. This pride had a rude awakening when they walked into all four Manjingi males one night and it resulted in the entire pride splitting up for a few days. The four Manjingi males did not stay for very long after chasing the Styx pride around, they just scent marked their area and then moved back south. The four lionesses and nine cubs of the Breakaway pride were also seen around our camp and on our airstrip. One morning we saw them finishing their aardvark kill, which they caught the previous night. They are really growing fast and looking healthy and the cubs appear to be five females and four males. If all five females survive, this will be an enormous pride and a force to reckon with. We also saw Solo, the male, but only for a short period as he moved out of our area again to meet up with his partner. We were also very fortunate to see the big male of the Matimba coalition, who came in and marked his territory. The Nkuhuma male is also back in our area and it looks like he is here to stay. One evening, we heard a lion’s roar echoing through the night. The next morning on closer inspection we found male lion tracks close to our lodge. We eventually found the man behind the voice and tracks and to our surprise, it was the Nkuhuma male, scent marking all over, accompanied by one of the Styx females.

Buffalo

Buffalo bull by Dawie Jacobs

Buffalo bull by Dawie Jacobs

The big herds of buffaloes are still nowhere to be found, but we still had good buffalo sightings. The buffalo bulls are still out and about and they are still hanging out around the waterholes. It is not going to be too long before the big herds make their way through our area as the grass is slowly drying out. We are also getting ready for the dagga boys and maybe also some breeding herds to visit the water hole on our open area in front of the lodge. There is nothing to describe the excitement when a big breeding herd arrives on the open area to have a drink, while guest are sitting around the pool, or having lunch!

Elephants

Once again, an amazing month for elephant sightings! From the word go, we had some of the best sightings we’ve had this year! There are still a lot of water puddles everywhere in the bush after the March rains, so the herds do not have to walk long distances to one specific water source to drink. Although there is still a lot of water, the seasons are changing and therefore the grass is slowly losing their bright green colour to a paler yellow. The smaller breeding herds are also joining the bigger herds to form big breeding herds, as they normally do during the winter months. When food get scarcer, elephant herds merge to follow the matriarch, who will lead the herd to food, water and mineral supplies.

Kurula's male cub by Louis Liversage

Kurula’s male cub by Louis Liversage

Special Sighting

What a treat it was to see the four Majingi male lions together, resting in the open plains. It is always great to see these big worriers with their scarred faces, a proven result of all the fights they’ve been in! Every scar tells a unique story, the fight for territory and dominance!

Did you know?

Did you know that an adult male baboon has longer canine teeth than an adult male lion?

I hope to see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report March 2014

This month was once again full of surprises, action and so much more! We really had a lot of rain, 365mm in total, which resulted in some massive flooding that was quite uncommon for this time of the year. All this water made driving both on and off the roads somewhat of a challenge, but that did not stop us from going out and enjoying some very good sightings. The average maximum temperature was 30 °C. The game viewing was very good overall, as we were once again fortunate to see the wild dogs and have them hunting in our area for a few days.

African wild dogs by Louis Liversage

African wild dogs by Louis Liversage

Leopards

Mvula by Morné Fouché

Mvula by Morné Fouché

With regards to the leopards, sightings were very good, but there was also a twist that shocked all of us. Let’s first start off with our resident female leopard, Salayexe. Last month I mentioned that she was looking for a safe den site for her little ones. Well, when we saw her this month it looked like she had become a mother again, as we could see that she has suckle marks. Now we need to keep our fingers crossed that this will be the litter of cubs that Salayexe raises to adulthood. Shadow, the female leopard, shocked all of us after she started mating with Mvula again. We all immediately feared the worse and we were unsure if the little cubs were still alive or dead, but it really did not look good for this little female. Weeks later the guys followed her tracks again and then suddenly there it was on the ground: two sets of tiny cub tracks, together with Shadow’s tracks! It’s now confirmed that both cubs are still alive. More good news is that it looks like Nsele, daughter of Salayexe, also has cubs. After being really under the radar the last month or two, she decided that it was time for a visit. We could clearly see her suckle marks. We are so excited and can’t wait to see the cubs! We are not sure how old her cubs are, as she gave us the slip for a few months. Moya also came out to say hello and we were lucky enough to see her a few times this month. Although we did not see her as often as we would have liked, she still looks very healthy and is still as beautiful as always. We also saw Thandi and Bahuti a few times this last month. I must say that these two are really looking good and healthy. Kurula and her two youngsters are also going strong and it really looks like she will continue with her 100% record in raising all her cubs to adulthood. Kurula is a really good mother and she is slowly starting with the weaning process as she leaves her cubs alone for longer periods than usual. The young Robson’s male leopard is still trying his luck in getting a piece of Lamula’s territory, as he is still in the area, marking his territory. Lamula is really looking good and it looks like he is now at the top of his game as he is growing more and more each day. It is just a matter of time before these two males will meet somewhere along the road. The Anderson’s male was also out and about. He still looks very impressive and healthy. He still moves more east, as he is slowly but surely creeping into Tingana’s territory, just staying on the outskirts of the area. Tingana was once again the star as we saw him a lot this last month, moving all over and marking his territory from back to front. Mvula was also seen a few times, moving through the area and also mating with Shadow. He is still a magnificent leopard.

Majingi male lion by Dawie Jacobs

Majingi male lion by Dawie Jacobs

Lions

What an awesome month! As far as lion sightings goes, we could not ask for better! We were really spoiled with the four lionesses of the Breakaway pride and their nine cubs, as they had two kills on our airstrip and they stayed there for a few days. These four ladies need to hunt on a regular basis, as they have a lot of mouths to feed with the growing youngsters. It is wonderful to see that this pride is still together and this just shows that these four females are extremely good mothers. The little cubs are growing up very fast and they are really looking gorgeous and very healthy. Then it brings us to the Styx pride, which had more misfortune this month, as they lost the younger cubs. We think they got killed by another pride. After the loss of the youngest cubs, they brought the three older cubs more in a westerly direction, away from the danger. The little cubs are so cute and don’t have a care in the world. All they want to do is play with anything that they can find. I really hope and keep my fingers crossed that these three little cubs will one day grow up and reach adulthood so that the pride can grow in numbers. With all the lion sightings this month, there was still room for more, as we also had the Fourway pride in our area for a few days. We also had a few wonderful sightings of three of the Majingi male lions, as they had a young buffalo kill in the area. It was so nice to see these big boys doing their thing as dominant males of this area. It is always nice to see a familiar face that you haven’t seen for some time and what a treat it was to see the familiar face of Solo, the male lion. Solo is the son of the late BB, the tailless lioness of the Tsalala pride. It was really nice to see him and I still can’t believe that he changed into this beautiful full maned king of the bush. For this nomad, it is not the best area to be in, as it is occupied by a very strong coalition of males. Solo had a companion, but no one has seen him for some time now. It might be that these two males were pressured by other males and that made them move north to our area.

Squirrels by Morné Fouché

Squirrels by Morné Fouché

Buffaloes

We were very fortunate with the buffalo sightings this month as we saw a very nice herd of about 150-200 animals that gracefully moved through our area. The herd had quite a number of small, as well as bigger calves. With all this rain that we had during the month, there is an abundance of food and water available for these nice big breeding herds. Being bulk grazers, the buffalo herds needs a lot of food to feed all of the herd members. The big herds will not stay in one specific area for very long, as they get driven by food and water. In doing so, the big herds can be very destructive when moving through a specific area as there can be up to 2000 animals in a very large herd. This can cause them to trample the majority of the grass in a specific area. With all this water everywhere in the bush, our old dagga boys did not need to frequent the waterholes as much as they normally would, but we still got to see a few of them around.

Elephants

African wild dogs by Louis Liversage

African wild dogs by Louis Liversage

This month was absolutely great for elephant sightings. The majority of the herds that we saw had a few small babies and youngsters in them. This is a good sign and it shows that the herd is doing well. It is normally the small elephants that make for a spectacular sighting, as they always mock charge the vehicles and also try to be as fearless as their parents, although this never quite works… An elephant has a very long childhood and they have a lot to learn during this period. That is normally why they think they can take on the world. From the time that the little ones are born, they are the center of all the attention. These little ones will also be completely dependent on their mothers or older sisters, aunties or grandmothers to teach them everything they would need to know, while growing up to being an adult.

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was definitely the surprise visit of Solo, the male lion. The last time we saw him, he was a young sub adult, walking around with his mother BB, the legendary tailless lioness of the Tsalala pride… That was around six years ago. It was great to see him all grown up, into an impressive, big maned lion! Well done, Solo.

Did you know?

A male lion will stay with the pride till around the age of three years, before he will be kicked out by his own father.

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

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report February 2013

This month started on a high, with a few surprises in store for us. The day temperatures were not too bad as it was in the high twenties to low thirties, with an average maximum of 30°C. We also had a few spells of very welcomed rain, 73mm in total. We were very fortunate to have the pack of wild dogs stay in our area for a while. One day we followed the tracks of a big crocodile coming into our area, straight to one of the waterholes where we found him waiting for his first meal! It’s very nice to have gained a nice sized crocodile in one of our waterholes, but that can change at any time, as crocodiles prefer flowing to standing water.

Wild dog by Devon Becker

Wild dog by Devon Becker

Leopards

The leopard sightings were really unbelievable this month. Salayexe was a bit quiet, though. We still saw her a few times, but not as often as we normally do. We heard her a lot, as she was very vocal but then her tracks would lead us into the thickets, this tells me only one thing: she’s looking for a den site. At this stage it is very difficult to say who the father of the unborn cubs is, as she mated with a few different males. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that Salayexe will raise this litter to adulthood. Shadow and her two cubs were also out and about and they had a big male impala kill that they enjoyed feeding on for a few days. The two little ones are not the most relaxed cubs I’ve seen, but they will get there, as all they need is time and patience from our side. With these little ones it might take a little longer that normal, as the mother leopard plays a massive roll in the habituation process of the cubs. If she is a relaxed leopard, her cubs would follow suit and vice versa. As you know, she isn’t called Shadow for nothing! Kwatile was seen a few times this month and she still has suckle marks, so her cub or cubs are still alive. One good thing is that she comes into our area more and more to hunt, which is a good sign. If she makes a kill, she might bring the cubs for us to see. Moya was also seen a few times close to our Southern boundary. It is still unclear if her cub is still alive or not. The power shifts with both the Anderson’s and Robson’s males, looking to expand more into Lamula’s area, might be the reason why she keeps them hidden. The young male, Xivambalana, still has no plans of leaving his father’s territory as he still hunts and feeds well in the area that is familiar to him. The young Robson’s male is still moving over the whole area and has no respect for any boundary as he was seen scent marking in Lamula and Tingana’s territories. By the looks of things, this young male wants to set up his area right between these two heavyweights’ territories. This young male does not lack confidence, but to be over eager can cost you your life in the bush! Let’s wait and see how this unfolds. Lamula is becoming my favourite male leopard and he is so relaxed with the vehicles. When I look back to how far he’s come and what it took to get there, you have to admire him as it was a tough stretch for him. The first time I saw him he had had a run-in with the legend, Mafufunyana. Although Mafufunyana was the dominant male, the youngster showed a lot of character and courage to stand up against this big warrior. Then it was Mvula that stood in his way and look at him now, he is a force to be reckoned with! Anderson still has his sights set on Tingana’s prime real-estate, with good hunting grounds and a few ladies. They had another stand-off, but with no fighting this time around. I think that Anderson is waiting for the right moment to strike. Tingana is still looking good and eating very well as he even killed a wildebeest female that was most probably around 240 kilograms in weight! This shows that Tingana is now in the prime of his life.

Lions

Styx lion pride by Louis Liversage

Styx lion pride by Louis Liversage

The lion sightings this month were magical! The Styx pride had a few ups and downs over these last few years and things did not go their way at all, but let’s just hope that that stays in the past. The Styx pride is yet another few babies richer, as the other adult lioness also gave birth this month. It is still unclear how many little ones she has, as we just heard the little rascals calling for mum from the safety of their den site. We will leave them at peace for the next two months, so that mother and babies can bond before we will open it up, start with the habituation process and make it an active sighting for the world to see. The female with the three older cubs is also looking good and the cubs are already active and very adventurous. When mum and her babies are found, only one vehicle may view them for a period of 10-15 minutes at a time. The four sub adult lions of the Styx pride are really looking good and still eating well. At this stage they still join up with the two adult lionesses, but leave them again when they go hunting. The two sub adult male’s future still looks rosy. With the absence of their fathers from the area, they will stay with the pride for as long as possible. Normally they would have been pushed out already, but the Majingi male lions have not been with the pride for a very long time. We also got a very nice surprise the one morning when we followed the tracks of a few lions. We eventually found them late that morning. It was what looked like three adult lioness and two sub adult cubs and these tracks belonged to the Nkuhuma pride. It was very nice to have them in our area for a while, as we do not see this pride too often. I must say, they are really looking good and very healthy. The Majingi male lions have kept a very low profile and we haven’t seen them this past month.

Tingana, the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Tingana, the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Buffalo

Although we had nice buffalo sightings this last month, there is still no sign on the big breeding herds. The breeding herds will return in a few months, when food sources get scarcer and this is normally around May. For now these bulk grazers will take their time to get here as there is a lot of water and food for them along the way. We had some great sightings with the lazy old men or “Dagga boys” as they are also called. They spend a lot of their time soaking up the sun, rolling in the mud, or resting inside the waterholes to try and get some relief from the hot days. The biggest group of males we saw was close to ten, but you normally only find between one and four males travelling together. It’s also these smaller groups that the lions would target, as there are fewer horns to watch out for.

Elephant

Summer sunset in the lowveld by Dawie Jacobs

Summer sunset in the lowveld by Dawie Jacobs

There was no shortage of elephant sightings during February! As we are slowly reaching the end of the marula fruiting season, it forces the elephants to move around a lot more, in search of the last fruits. Another tree that had fruit which the elephants love was the Milkberry tree, but that also came to an end. There are no more big herds as they have split up into smaller units, because there is enough food and water for them almost everywhere. We also saw a few newborn babies this month, trying to keep up with the herd or trying to work out how their trunks work. We also had a few really big male elephants working their way through the area, following the herds or even joining up with some of the herds. One big male in musth can push over about ten trees per day, not necessarily to eat it, but just to impress the ladies and show off his strength. The females on the other hand, will always go for the biggest or strongest males, as they would have stronger genes. Survival of the fittest and nature’s way of making sure the best genes possible go forward. How amazing is this world we live in?

Special sighting

The special sighting this month was Tingana with his adult female wildebeest kill. It is not uncommon for a big male leopard to go after bigger pray like kudu females, waterbuck females or wildebeest females. What made this sighting very special was that the next morning after he made the kill, four hyenas pulled in and had a feast. The hyenas were really gorging themselves on this wildebeest kill and all that poor Tingana could do was to keep an eye on them from a safe distance. Suddenly out of nowhere, five adult wild dogs came running towards the hyenas. The standoff between the wild dogs and the hyenas only took five minutes, as the hyenas ran for the hills as fast as they could. After the wild dogs had their fill, they moved away to go and fetch the pups. Tingana had his kill back. It does not happen often that you see three different predators eating from one kill.

Did you know?

A Wildebeest or Gnu falls into the antelope family, same as the impala.

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

Morné Fouché

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Rangers Report January 2013

Hippo bull by Louis Liversage

Hippo bull by Louis Liversage

We started the year with some great sightings, similar to 2013. We had a few wonderful sightings of a male cheetah and then a few days later a female cheetah with two cubs blessed us with their presence for a number of days. We were also very fortunate to spend time with the wild dogs again this month. The weather was really unpredictable, though. We would start the drive with sunshine all around, only to have rain in the middle and end off with clear, open skies again. We experienced some extremely hot and humid days, with an average maximum temperature of 31°C. We also had 81 mm of rain.

Leopard

Xivambalana by Morné Fouché

Xivambalana by Morné Fouché

Like usually, the leopard sightings were great this month. As far as territories go, there seems to be some major changes emerging on the horizon. Salayexe is still looking good and we saw a lot of her this past month. The core of her territory stretches over our property. As far as we can tell, it looks like this beautiful cat has developed a belly over the last month or so. It would be so wonderful if she is indeed pregnant once again. Hopefully in the next few months, I can report that we have new cubs. Kurula came to visit us. She also made a kill while being here and brought the cubs over. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the “not so little anymore” cubs after we haven’t seen them for a while. They are almost old enough to be pushed out by their mother. There is a male and a female cub. Now, out of any litter of cubs, you will find a skittish one and one that is very relaxed. In this case it looks like the female is the shy one, with her brother being the adventurous one. Everything still looks promising for Kurula and she still has her 100% cubs raising record, thus far. Thandi was also out and about, still making kills for her son Bawuti. He will also have to leave mom’s side not long from now and then her focus will return to mating again and raising a new litter of cubs. Thandi has expanded her territory further west and she and her mother Kurula have the two biggest areas of all the female leopards in our traversing area. Kwatile was also seen once or twice this month and the last time we saw her she was lactating and had suckle marks. That is really good news for us. All we can now do is sit and wait. When the cubs are big enough, she will bring them out from their den site to show them off to the world. Moya was also out and about and she killed a juvenile kudu. Although she did give birth, we haven’t seen the cub/s yet. The young male leopards Wabayiza and Xivambalana are looking good and growing up fast. They are also getting bulkier by the day. These two young males are really pushing the boundaries, as they are still roaming inside Mvula’s territory. For how long he would allow this, remains a mystery. Lamula is in really good shape and it looks like he could take on the world. Lamula might get a challenger very soon as the Anderson’s male and the young Robson’s male are both moving more into Lamula’s territory. To make matters even worse, Tingana is pushing more south as well, putting even more pressure on Lamula. While Tingana wants to expand more to the south and east, Anderson wants to expand more east into Tingana’s territory. Out of all the male leopards, Mvula is the biggest and oldest, with the biggest territory and with only one potential challenger, Tingana. The young Robson’s male is growing in confidence and he is buying time getting bigger and stronger, while waiting for the opportunity to challenge one of the males for a territory.

Lion

Elephant by Morné Fouché

Elephant by Morné Fouché

What a wonderful time we had with all the lion sightings this month. We were really spoiled and we couldn’t ask for more, or better. The four Breakaway pride lionesses and their nine cubs came to visit us again. They stayed in our area for a long time. The females managed to bring down a big zebra just off of our airstrip and they were feasting on it for days. The cubs are looking stunning and they are growing up fast. The eldest ones are estimated to be between 8-9 months of age and the youngest should be around 6-7 months of age. I really hope that all nine cubs will make it to adulthood. So far, so good! You can see that these four ladies are really good mothers, as they learned from the best. The Styx pride is also looking really good and very healthy. The female with the tiny new cubs is moving the little ones in and out of our traversing area the whole time. They are now older that two months and will start moving around with mum and the rest of the pride. More good news is that the other big female is also pregnant and it’s not going to be too long before we will have more cubs. Both these females have mated with both the Matimba and Nkuhuma males, but not with the Majingilane males. I just hope that these females don’t walk into the Majingilane males, as they will definitely kill the cubs because they are not the fathers. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that great things will happen to the Styx pride this year, as the last couple of years were not the best for this pride. The Majingilane male lions really kept a low profile this month, as we only saw them once when they came into our area to scent mark and left again the next day.

Buffaloes

Male cheetah by Morné Fouché

Male cheetah by Morné Fouché

We did not see any of the big breeding herds this month. As buffaloes are really bulk feeders, it is crucial for them to be moving all the time, in their continuous quest for enough food and water supplies. The old buffalo bulls are still out and about, spending their days lying in the water or mud wallows, or just relaxing somewhere in the shade. The dominant males that have left the herds last year to fatten up have all returned to the herds and started challenging the last of the older dominant males for mating rights. These big and strong males will have between ten and fifteen females that they will mate with in this coming mating season. A female coming into heat will be closely guarded by a dominant bull, to keep the other bulls away. Females are often evasive, thereby attracting the attention of other bulls and this would then lead to the bulls fighting for mating rights. Females will have their first calve at the age of about 5 years, whereas the males will become dominant only around the age of between 7 – 8 years.

Elephant

Wow, there was really no shortage of elephants this past month. The reason why we have so many elephants is because it is the start of the marula fruiting season. When you find a herd, they are sure to be under, or next to a few marula trees, having a field day with all these little fruits. The marula fruit is very high in vitamin C, at least six times more than oranges. When the fruiting season starts, the elephants can be very destructive when it comes to getting the fruits. We also had a few big male elephants in musth, following the females groups around. We were also very fortunate to witness two of these heavy weights having a standoff, complete with heads up high and ears open. After the standoff they started displaying their strength by pushing over a few trees each, in order to impress the ladies. With all these big male elephants around, the breeding herds are getting a little more stressed out with their presence. We also came across a small bachelor herd of young male elephants moving around in the area. They were obviously kicked out of the herd as they were becoming too old to stay with the family unit.

Special Sighting

The special sighting was to have the whole Breakaway pride, with all nine of their cubs, feasting on a full-grown zebra on our airstrip.

Did you know?

The gestation period of an elephant is 22 months.

I trust that you enjoyed this first report for 2014. Hope to see you out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

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