Rangers Report February 2013

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

Wild dog by Devon Becker

Wild dog by Devon Becker

Leopards

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

Lions

Styx lion pride by Louis Liversage

Styx lion pride by Louis Liversage

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

Tingana, the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Tingana, the male leopard by Dawie Jacobs

Buffalo

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

Elephant

Summer sunset in the lowveld by Dawie Jacobs

Summer sunset in the lowveld by Dawie Jacobs

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

Special sighting

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

Did you know?

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

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

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report January 2013

Hippo bull by Louis Liversage

Hippo bull by Louis Liversage

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

Leopard

Xivambalana by Morné Fouché

Xivambalana by Morné Fouché

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

Lion

Elephant by Morné Fouché

Elephant by Morné Fouché

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

Buffaloes

Male cheetah by Morné Fouché

Male cheetah by Morné Fouché

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

Elephant

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

Special Sighting

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

Did you know?

The gestation period of an elephant is 22 months.

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

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report December 2013

I can’t believe that this is the last month of the year and it is time to say goodbye to a wonderful 2013. It feels like the year started just yesterday, but we are welcoming 2014 with open arms! By leaving 2013 behind, we are left with wonderful memories of all the awesome adventures we had in the bush… This past month, we had a lot of very hot days where temperatures pushed up into the high thirties so the immense amount of 227mm rain we had during December, was a huge welcome. The average maximum temperature this month was 30°C, which was accompanied by some very humid days. The game viewing was really good and we couldn’t ask for a better way to end the year. We were very fortunate to see the illusive pangolin foraging the one evening and we had some of the best wild dog and cheetah sightings ever. It just shows you, when you think you have seen it all, think again. The bush always has something new and exciting to offer!

Giraffe and elephants by Morné Fouché

Giraffe and elephants by Morné Fouché

Leopard

We had unbelievable leopard sightings this last month and we can once again call it a “spotted” month. Salayexe is still looking great and she surprised us all when we saw her mating with the young Robson’s male this month. If she was pregnant at the time she mated with this particular male, it would help a bit with the survival of the cubs as he would be under the impression that the cubs are his own. We will have to wait and see. Talking about cubs, one of the rangers followed Shadow one afternoon when she took him straight to her den site. Upon approach, she started calling softly to the cubs and out of the thickets came two little bundles of fluff. It is therefore now confirmed that she gave birth to two cubs and we estimate them to have been between 5-6 weeks old around 22 December. If all goes well, we will start viewing them in January, thereby giving them some more alone time as a new family. Thandi and her son, Bawuti, are also looking good and they were seen quite a lot this past month. It is also not going to be too long before he needs to start looking after himself when his mother pushes him out of her territory. Kwatile was also seen a few times, although not as often as normally. Nsele was also seen and every time we see her she is prettier; looking more and more like her father, Tyson. We also saw Moya mating with Lamula. After seeing her mating, a few red lights went off in our heads, as she is supposed to still have cubs, unless she lost them. Only time will tell what happened here. Lamula was seen on a regular basis. He is in the best shape of his life thus far and still expanding his territory more north. Tingana is getting much more relaxed with the vehicles around him, but sometimes he really lives up to his name, which means “the shy one”. With Mvula we could see a definite change in his behaviour, as he does not go into Tingana’s territory to expand any further.

Female cheetah by Dawie Jacobs

Female cheetah by Dawie Jacobs

Lion

The lion sightings this month were once again out of this world. The Styx pride is still healthy and looking good. The two boys are getting bigger and looking gorgeous with their manes, which is getting fuller by the day. The lioness with the new little cubs is also looking very healthy, although she needs to eat twice as much to provide her cubs with much needed milk. She spends a lot of her time with the pride and then once a day she leaves the pride to go to the cubs, which are safely hidden in the den site, only to return to the pride again. We also had a great sighting of the Fourway pride. We saw two sub adult males and what looked like two adult lionesses. This pride is coming in more west than normally, straight into the Styx pride’s territory, but so far they are avoiding each other as far as they can. Saying this, the time will come when these two prides will have to face each other as they are starting to use parts of the same area. We did not see the Nkuhuma male a lot this last month, but the sightings that we had of him were just awesome. Some days I wonder how different things would have been if his brother was still alive. They would have been two impressive males. Being a solitary male between two territories that are guarded by big coalitions of males makes it very difficult. You will never have a pride of your own. The four Majingi male lions came into the area the one evening and stayed for a while before moving on. This was the first sighting of all four males walking together and scent marking their boundaries in a very long time. The first thing I noticed, whilst spending time with them, was that there has been a shift in dominance between the males. Black Mane was always the more dominant male of the Majingilane coalition as he also mated with the majority of the females. Well, the new dominant male seems to be Pretty Boy. We could see this in his behavior and also his posture. When they drank water, Black Mane waited for Pretty Boy to quench his thirst, before he came to drink. We also saw Black Mane approaching Pretty Boy, lying down next to him. Pretty Boy stood up and mounted Black Mane as a sign of dominance. The other two males, Smudge and Hip Scar, are also looking very good.

Mvula the male leopard by Devon Becker

Mvula the male leopard by Devon Becker

Buffalo

We did not have the big herds in our area this month as they already moved on to greener pastures somewhere else. The big herds move to areas with enough food and also water supplies that can sustain the whole herd. When food and water is plentiful in the rainy season, it also becomes baby season for the buffaloes, with lots of little calves running around. With all the hot summers days that we had this month, you did not really have to go far to look for the dagga boys, as they would be resting in a waterhole or mud wallow to seek refuge against the harsh African sun. We have noticed a lot of older bulls this month, compared to last month. I think what might have happened was that the dominant males that have returned to the breeding herds, pushed out the older competition.

Elephant

We were so fortunate with all the wonderful elephant sightings that we had over this past month. Some days it was so good that you were spoiled for choice as to which elephant herd to respond to, as they were around every corner. We also had a lot of entertaining sightings with the babies playing around in the mud puddles and water pools. Now that there is an abundance of food and water supplies everywhere, the elephant herds do not stay in the same area to feed and drink from one source over a long period of time. They move around quite a bit between all the different water pools which have formed with the rain and the obvious lush, green grass that comes with that. We also saw about eight different adult bulls moving through our area, following the breeding herds. The young bulls kept us entertained with their play-fighting. When two young bulls play-fight, they actually test each other’s strength and therefore, if they meet again as adults, they will not have any urge to fight as they will already know which one is the stronger and more superior male.

Special Sighting

The special sighting this month was to see a pangolin foraging out in the open. This shy animal did not have a care in the world and it was a treat to see this very illusive animal being so relaxed with us around him.

Pangolin by Dawie Jacobs

Pangolin by Dawie Jacobs

Did you know?

Although it has the appearance of a reptile, a pangolin is actually a mammal.

I hope you enjoyed the last report for 2013 and hope to see you out on game drive during the New Year!

Morné Fouché

Rangers Report November 2013

There is not a pale piece of grass in sight as the bush is very lush; green and dense as far as the eye can see! November is one of the best months for us, as this is the time of year when we welcome the majority of all the new babies. The very first juvenile impalas, warthogs and wildebeest were born a little later than last year, but with the arrival of all these babies the bush feels more alive than ever! These little ones keep us entertained by running and jumping all over the show. With the wonderful rain and the warmer temperatures, we also welcomed the return of the Woodland Kingfishers. Game viewing was just brilliant this month and we also had awesome night time animal sightings like porcupine, bush baby, genet, civet and white tailed mongoose, just to name a few. Another surprise this month was the cheetah sightings we had. It was really amazing to spend time with them! For November, we had 53mm rain and the average maximum temperature was 30°C.

Female cheetah and cub by Louis Liversage

Female cheetah and cub by Louis Liversage

Leopard

We are so fortunate and spoiled with the leopard sightings in our area. The leopard that stole the limelight this month was Shadow, the female. She was also making life very difficult because she went into hiding a lot, but for good reason on her part. The one afternoon drive she was seen drinking water at one of the waterholes in her territory and after quenching her thirst she rested in the shade of a nearby tree. The rangers noticed that she was very skinny and that her milk glands were swollen a lot. On closer inspection with binoculars they could see that she had suckle marks, so somewhere safe in a den is a few bundles of fluff. We don’t know where the den is, or how many cubs she’s got as she will keep them hidden for the next two months. We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well with the little ones and that Shadow will raise them to adulthood. Salayexe is moving around a lot while scent marking all over her territory. She is also expanding her area a little bit. She is still looking very good and we all hope that she is pregnant. We also had some awesome sightings of Thandi and her male cub, Bahuti, who is so relaxed with the vehicles around him. He is such a lovely leopard to watch and he can keep you entertained for hours as he stalks everything that moves on land and in the water. Lamula was very active this month as we saw him quite a few times patrolling his borders and marking his territory. There is also a young, but smaller male leopard in his territory, but it doesn’t look as if this bothers him too much. Anderson, the male leopard, is also expanding his territory and by doing that he is expanding into both Tingana and Lamula’s territories. Tingana has got his hands full with Anderson on the one side and Lamula on the other side. The last thing that we need now is another male taking over from Tingana, as there are new cubs and more on the way that will be killed by any new male. Mvula is also expanding his territory from the east more west into Lamula and Tingana’s areas and he is still a big force to be reckoned with.

Nkuhuma male lion by Louis Liversage

Nkuhuma male lion by Louis Liversage

Lion

We had some very nice lion sightings this month! We saw a lot of the Styx pride, joined by the Nkuhuma male from time to time. During the last fight between the Nkuhuma male and the sub adult males of the Styx pride, one of the young males sustained an injury on his right front leg. You can see the puncture wounds that were made by the canines of the Nkuhuma male. Luckily the leg is not broken as he still puts pressure on it when he walks. Although it is swollen quite badly, I am sure it would heal. This just shows you that the Nkuhuma male means business and that he wants to take over the Styx pride. When two male lions fight, they will try to immobilize their opponent and the only way of doing this is to bite the legs and joints, or to get hold of the spine. One of the older lionesses in the pride also gave birth around the 15th of this month as she was seen with suckle marks. Now there is a twist in this fairytale as to who the father is… She mated with one of the Matimba males and also with the Nkuhuma male. Luckily we all know that the cubs are safe with the Matimba and Nkuhuma males, as both think it is their cubs. We haven’t seen any of the Tsalala or Breakaway prides this month, but we heard that the tailless female of the Tsalala pride has new cubs. We can’t wait for them to come to our area and show them off. The Majingi male lions were nowhere to be seen this month and all we had was a few distant calls echoing through the night. What a beautiful sound that is!

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffalo bull by Morné Fouché

Buffalo

This month we had a breeding herd with many small calves that moved through our area and for the majority of the females, the 11 month pregnancy is now over. Now that the bush is so green and there is enough food and water for a few big herds, the buffaloes will stay in a certain area longer than when there is not an abundance of food. We still keep our fingers crossed that they will also bless us with their presence next month. All the bachelors that we had wandering around the last few months have now moved on, surely back to the big breeding herds. Our trusted old Dagga boys are still around, always close to a waterhole or mud wallow to keep them cool in the harsh African sun.

Male giraffe by Morné Fouché

Male giraffe by Morné Fouché

Elephant

This month we had some scattered elephant sightings all over the reserve, as the majority of the breeding herds have moved more east, out of our traversing area. The sightings that we had were still really good with medium and small breeding herds. We were once again spoiled with the presence of a big male or two that moved around in our area. We also had a female group that suddenly became very vocal while their temporal glands on the side of their heads became wet. At that time it was unclear why they were so unhappy, until the branches started breaking! A young male elephant came bursting out of the thickets, with a big female hot in pursuit. Females will do that to let the young males know when they’ve overstayed their welcome. It was time for this young bull to leave the herd. One thing that is very noticeable during game drive is that the destruction on the trees is a lot less than in previous months.

Special sighting

The special sighting was to see a big male leopard and a hyena chasing the same baby impala, but from different angles. These two heavyweights did not know that they were stalking the same juvenile impala. With a burst of speed the leopard was off and so was the hyena. As both came around the corner the leopard saw the hyena and turned to the opposite direction. In the end the hyena walked away with the prize, as he had the stamina to outrun his prey. The leopard lived to hunt another day.

Did you know?

A bush baby is able to cover a distance of 10m in less than 5 seconds.

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

Morné Fouché

 

Rangers Report October 2013

What a wonderful month it has been! We had our first official summer rain and the bush is looking lovely! The days were pleasant overall, with some reaching temperatures of up to 42°C. We also had a few thunder showers. The total rainfall for the month was 108mm, with an average maximum temperature of 28 °C. With all the nice rain that we had this month, the bush transformed from being a pale, dull colour to bright-green overnight. After the first rains, the bushveld suddenly came alive with all kinds of little critters in different shapes and sizes. All the upcoming king and queen termites of the different colonies left their original colonies to start new ones. We also welcomed back the dung beetles. This is the time of year that they are out and about, doing what they do best – which is rolling dung balls, of course. All the different frog species have also reappeared. We have been seeing a number of foam nesting frog nests at some of the waterholes. We were once again blessed with the presence of wild dogs that came in and out of our traversing area and even stayed here for a few days. After the one wild dog pack moved out of the area, we had a few days and then to our surprise, a different pack of wild dogs moved into our area and also stayed here for a number of days. It was lovely to spend time with these amazing animals.

One of the Tsalala cubs by Dawie Jacobs

One of the Tsalala cubs by Dawie Jacobs

Leopards

Leopard sightings were unbelievable and full of excitement. Nzele, the young female leopard, was seen regularly during the past month and we were privileged to watch her mate with the Anderson male. We are unsure whether Nzele lost her cubs and if she did, what exactly happened to the little ones. Although all the evidence points in that direction, it might still be that she learnt a few lessons from her mother. Salayexe once mated with Tingana whilst she had cubs safely in the den site, in order to throw him off. Maybe this is the same in Nzele’s case, but only time will tell. Talking about Salayexe, she was once again seen mating with Tingana. It might be that she did not conceive the first time around. When a female loses her cubs, it sometimes happen that she first goes into a false oestrus cycle in order to establish which males are moving around in the area. Kwatile was seen mating with Mvula, the big male leopard from the east. This female leopard has failed to raise a single cub to adulthood thus far. We are keeping our fingers crossed that, if she falls pregnant now, she would have more luck raising her next litter. We also had a few days with Thandi and her little cub, which by the way is not so little anymore! The cub is really getting big and is very relaxed with the vehicles. There was a lot of excitement with Tingana, our resident male, as the Anderson male came looking for him. Anderson is the big, young male that had a standoff with Tingana a few months ago. Tingana dominated him then. His return shows that Anderson grew in confidence, as he came into Tingana’s territory, scent marking over his scent and even making kills in his area. On one occasion these two heavyweights moved around in close proximity, without knowing each other’s whereabouts. At this stage I think that Tingana is still the dominant male. We saw both males again later on, a mere 80 meters from each other. Tingana started his territorial calling, not aware that the Anderson male was close by. After this, Anderson kept a very low profile and quickly moved away. Lamula is doing very well, looking healthy and well fed.

Dark maned Majingi male by Dawie Jacobs

Dark maned Majingi male by Dawie Jacobs

Lion

Our lion sightings were just out of this world! At last, the long wait is over and we saw the two Tsalala pride females and their four small cubs! The cubs are just too cute. They are little busy bodies, being very adventurous and moving around, all over the show. We were also very fortunate to have the four Breakaway females and their nine cubs in our area. They made two kills; a zebra and waterbuck. These four females have become really good hunters and mothers as they were taught by the best, namely BB. The Styx pride is also looking healthy and doing great. The Nkuhuma male is spending a lot more time with the Styx pride these days. He also had a fight with the young sub-adult males of the pride. This fight caused the older lionesses and the sub-adults to split up. At this stage the two older lionesses and the Nkuhuma male are joined up and the four siblings are on their own. It’s just a matter of time before the Nkuhuma male lion will have a run-in, either with the Majingi, or the Matimba males. The four Majingi male lions are still doing their rounds through their big territory. They are in pristine condition. We had a lovely sighting of two of the Majingi males and the four Breakaway lionesses on our southern boundary. It might be that the one female with no cubs is coming into oestrus. These four males have big competition from both the western and northern sides of their area. We also saw two of the Selati male lions on our western boundary. They actually came into our area and started scent marking in the Majingi males’ territory. The Matimba males are also pushing more south, straight into the northern part of the Majingi male lions’ territory. The stage is set and this might be the fight of the century, if these big boys were to meet. We’ll have to wait and see.

Buffaloes

It is difficult to describe how magnificent the buffalo sightings were this month! After the last big herd left our area, we thought that it would be a while before seeing them again. But hey, the best was yet to come! We saw a few splinter groups after the big herd moved away. The herds are basically starting to split up into smaller groups, as there is abundant food at the moment. The majority of the females in the herds are now pregnant. We had a big herd of about 300 buffaloes that came to drink water on our open area. After almost all of the buffaloes quenched their thirst, we got a glimpse of the very first newborn buffalo calf. This little one must have been a few days old and really struggled to keep up with its mother and the rest of the herd. The last thing that a female with a small newborn wants to do is lag behind, as this will make them easy targets for hungry lions. It will not be much longer before more females start giving birth. Cows will normally try and give birth during the rainy season, when food and water sources are abundant. We also saw various bachelor herds that stayed behind in the area after the breeding herds moved through.

Giant plated lizzard by Dawie Jacobs

Giant plated lizzard by Dawie Jacobs

Elephants

Elephant sightings were down from the drastic spike during the last few months, during which herd after herd were seen, almost around every corner during game drive. But the sightings we had were still very good. The reason why the elephant sightings went down a little bit might be because of the good rains. The fact that we are approaching that time of the year when the elephants are slowly moving towards the Mopani forests situated in the Kruger Park, might also be a contributing factor. Still, we had some very good sightings of smaller family units ranging between ten to fifteen elephants per herd. With all the food and water available, the bigger herds have started splitting up into smaller units, much the same as with the buffalo herds. We also had a few nice sized bulls moving through the area, following the scent of the female herds. There were also a lot of young males moving around on their own. This is not uncommon, as they are pushed out of the herds from the age of between 12-17 years.

Wild dog by Dawie Jacobs

Wild dog by Dawie Jacobs

Special sighting

This would have to be seeing the two Tsalala lionesses and their four little cubs. It was really lovely to see these newest additions. They were joined by one of the Majingi male lions, just to complete the pride.

Did you know?

The heart of an elephant weighs between 20-30 kilograms and beats an estimated 25-30 times per minute.

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

Morné Fouché

 

Rangers Report September 2013

Summer is here to stay! Even though the first of September officially signals the start of spring, the past few weeks made me think that we skipped that season and jumped right into summer. We had a lot of hot days, with temperatures that went into the high thirties! The average maximum temperature for September was 30°C and we had our first summer rains, with 19 millimetres measured. With all these hot days, we also experienced a few cool, windy, cloudy days in between. We can also see the bush changing, as there are new green leaves and flowers appearing on some of the trees. When driving on the higher areas of the reserve, you can see the bright green colours of the leaves and also some beautiful, yellow flowers of the Knobthorn trees. It’s not going to be long before the pale, yellow grass is replaced by the beautiful green, luscious grass of summer. The game viewing did not hold back this month and we were spoiled once again. We were very fortunate to spend some time with a male cheetah and the hyena den entertained us for hours on end. There are five pups from three different litters and it was such a treat to see them all playing around the den.

Catching a lift - Hippo and terrapin by Dawie Jacobs

Catching a lift – Hippo and terrapin by Dawie Jacobs

Leopard

There was a lot of excitement with our spotted friends during the past month. Salayexe is still doing well and looking very healthy. I was fortunate to follow her while hunting; from stalking, to where she killed the bushbuck right next to our vehicle. What a sighting! If everything goes accordingly to plan, both Salayexe and Shadow should be giving birth during the next month or two. We can’t wait to see these little furry bundles. Shadow was seen more often during the month, but she still avoids us if she does not want to be seen, living up to her name. We’ve noticed that Shadow is looking at expanding her territory a little bit more east, into her mother’s most western boundary. We saw Moya a few times, but without the cubs, which is understandable as the little ones are very young. We still have our fingers crossed that she will come and show them to us, which should now only be a matter of time. Kwatile was also out and about this last month, but was not seen that often. She is still scent marking a lot and she was very vocal during the times we did see her. Nsele was also seen a few times. She is a beautiful cat and as she is getting older, she is starting to look more and more like her father, Tyson. It was good to see that she is still lactating. As she has suckle marks, it proves that she still has her cubs. Xivambalana and Wabayiza, the two young males in the east, are getting bigger and bolder as they are starting to scent mark in their father’s territory. I think their time is slowly coming to an end before Mvula chases them out to go and look for their own territories. Mvula was really quiet this month. He spent most of his time in the northern parts of his territory, which is out of our traversing area. Lamula was once again all over the show and is also looking to expand his territory more north and also west into Tingana’s territory. These two big males have met a few times in the past and believe me, there are more battles on the way. Tingana lived up to his name this last month. He was very shy and whenever he was spotted, he’d move out of the open and into the thickets. This big brut was in another fight. We are still unsure who his opponent was, as we only saw a few new cuts and scars on his face.

Golden brown baboon spider by Dawie Jacobs

Golden brown baboon spider by Dawie Jacobs

Lion

It was a very sad time for the Styx pride as the old lady, Gogi, which means grandmother, passed away. She had a good run these past 17 years, but we could see that her age was catching up with her this past month. She started leaving the pride on a regular basis. She most probably knew her time was near and that she was holding the rest of the pride back. She was a great legend and a worrier and will be dearly missed. The rest of the Styx pride is still looking good and feeding well. The two young males are growing up very fast and they are looking gorgeous, with their manes growing larger by the day. They are almost three years old now. Time is running out before they would have to leave the pride. We also had the older Tsalala lionesses around our lodge this month, together with one of the Majingi male lions. To our surprise, the sub-adult Tsalala lioness joined up with her mother and aunt and the Majingi male did nothing to her. We are keeping our fingers crossed that they will now accept her. If she could stay with the pride, the two older ladies would only benefit as the youngster could take her grandmother’s place and help with hunting etc. This just shows how the circle of life continues. When BB was still around, they did not want to accept her and now all of a sudden she seems to have found a safe haven. We have not seen the new members of the Tsalala pride, but we know there are four cubs and we can’t wait for their first visit. As for the four Breakaway Tsalala lionesses and the nine cubs, we haven’t seen them very often this month. Hopefully, during the next few months, this young pride will grace us with their presence more often. The Nkuhuma male lion was also seen a few times this month, moving around a lot. We also saw him feasting on a wildebeest kill. Being a young male, nomadic and alone, he has to try and avoid the big Matimba male lions of the north and also the big Majingi male lions of the south. Speaking of which, we were very fortunate to see some of the Majingi males, although we never saw all four of them together. Each time we saw them, it was one male with females, or two of them walking together. This might be due to the size of their territory. With such a big territory, they need to scent mark regularly, making sure that there are no intruders. Therefore splitting up becomes necessary.

Lamula the male leopard by Devon Bekker

Lamula the male leopard by Devon Bekker

Buffalo

The buffalo sightings were great and it was very special to have another big breeding herd move through our area. We were very fortunate to spend time with these big herds during the last few months. Bulk grazers, like the buffalo, are always on the move to get enough food for the entire herd. There were a few small calves in the herd and a lot of the females have very round bellies, which indicate that they are heavily pregnant. The gestation period for the buffaloes is 11 months. They will always try and give birth during the wet season, when food sources are generous. In my last report I mentioned that the big dominant and sub-dominant buffalo bulls left the breeding herds to fatten up and get ready for the next mating season. Well, we started seeing less bachelor herds this month, so chances are good that they are busy making their way back to the breeding herds. We still saw a big male group, but it only consisted of the old dagga boys.

Elephant

We once again had the privilege of spending time with quite a few breeding herds. Some were big and some were small, but all of them were feasting on the newly sprouted growth on the trees. One of the breeding herds we saw had a tiny baby, estimated to be a couple of weeks old. This particular herd stayed in our area for a number of days. When there is a very small elephant calf, the herd will not travel long distances, as the baby would not be able to keep up with them. At this young age he would still tire easily. It was so special to spend some time with them, especially watching the little one trying to figure out how to use its trunk and what it is really designed for. Watching mom, he would try to mimic her in everything she does. This is also how they learn what to eat and how to get it. There were a few times when mom had to gently use her trunk and move the little one out of the way, so that she could carry on feeding. The little calf was all over the show, enjoying the attention he got from all the herd members and trying to play with everyone. After running around and playing with the other herd members, he would always return to mom to quench his thirst. When a breeding herd has a few small babies, everyone looks after them. The older siblings would take turns with babysitting duty until mom has finished eating.

Zebra by Dawie Jacobs

Zebra by Dawie Jacobs

Special sighting

Tingana, our dominant male leopard, killed a female impala and hoisted it into a big marula tree next to the road, to keep it safe from other predators. At least, that’s what he thought… After having a good feast, he left the kill in the tree and came down to rest on the ground. After a while one of the Majingi male lions came walking down the road, straight towards Tingana and his kill. Luckily for Tingana, the wind changed direction and he got the scent of the male lion sneaking closer. Like a rocket he ran for cover before the big male lion could get hold of him. The Majingi male did not even attempt to run after him as he was too preoccupied with the kill in the tree. He circled the tree a few times and then, without warning, took a massive jump and started climbing towards the kill. The funniest part was watching him, inching forward on his belly on an extremely thin branch, while pushing himself forward with his hind legs. He looked very unsure of himself. After getting the kill he had to do this process all over again, but this time backwards and with the impala in his mouth. He made it three quarters down the tree when he suddenly lost his footing and came crashing down head first, burying his nose in the ground. We could not contain ourselves after this sight and were laughing so much! This whole process took about 25-30 minutes and it must be one of my highlights at Elephant Plains thus far. It just shows that where there is a will, there is a way! Now that is what I call working hard for your food, even if you did not catch it yourself.

Did you know?

The Cape porcupine is the largest rodent in the Southern African sub-region.

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

Morné Fouché