Rangers Report March 2015

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

Lamula the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Lamula the male leopard by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard

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

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

Lion

Tingana and sunset by Dawie Jacobs

Tingana and sunset by Dawie Jacobs

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

Buffalo

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

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

Elephant

Elephants and Jonathan at Big Dam by Dawie Jacobs

Elephants and Jonathan at Big Dam by Dawie Jacobs

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

Special sighting

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

Did you know?

Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest cat.

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

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report February 2015

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

African sunset by Jonathan Vogel

African sunset by Jonathan Vogel

Leopard

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

Lion

Elephant calfs by Morné Fouché

Elephant calfs by Morné Fouché

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

Buffalo

African wild dog by Louis Liversage

African wild dog by Louis Liversage

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

Elephant

Monitor lizzard by Morné Fouché

Monitor lizzard by Morné Fouché

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

Special sighting

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

Did you know?

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

Hope to see you all out on game drive soon!

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report January 2015

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

Elephant bull and hippo by Dawie Jacobs

Elephant bull and hippo by Dawie Jacobs

Leopards

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

Lions

Hyena pups by Morné Fouché

Hyena pups by Morné Fouché

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

Buffaloes

Elephant Bull by Dawie Jacobs

Elephant Bull by Dawie Jacobs

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

Elephants

Kudu bull by Dawie Jacobs

Kudu bull by Dawie Jacobs

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

Special Sighting

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

Did you know?

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

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

Morné Fouché

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

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

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