Rangers Report August 2014

Matimba the male lion by Morné Fouché

Matimba the male lion by Morné Fouché

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

Baby elephant by Jonathan Vogel

Baby elephant by Jonathan Vogel

Leopards

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

Lions

Kurula, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

Kurula, the female leopard by Louis Liversage

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

Wild dog puppies by Jonathan Vogel

Wild dog puppies by Jonathan Vogel

Buffaloes

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

Elephants

Wild dog female by Morné Fouché

Wild dog female by Morné Fouché

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

Special sighting

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

Did you know?

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

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

Morné Fouché

 

Rangers Report July 2014

Hyena by Morné Fouché

Hyena by Morné Fouché

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

Leopards

Bahuti, the young male leopard by Morné Fouché

Bahuti, the young male leopard by Morné Fouché

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

Lions

Majingi male lion by Morné Fouché

Majingi male lion by Morné Fouché

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

Buffaloes

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

Elephants

Elephant cow and calf by Morné Fouché

Elephant cow and calf by Morné Fouché

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

Special sighting

Wild dog looking back at the den by Morné Fouché

Wild dog looking back at the den by Morné Fouché

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

Did you know?

The giant eagle owl is the biggest owl we have.

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

Morné Fouché

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

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

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

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