There is a strange feeling in the air this month. What I’m talking about? The weather, of course. This month couldn’t quite be classified as autumn, winter or spring. It was a mix of all three seasons together. It has been a strange winter thus far, with last month being cold and this month actually quite pleasant. We also had some late rains which really confused the vegetation, which have now started to sprout greenery already. It is definitely crazy weather we are experiencing. There are still frogs calling at night and just the other day I saw a red crested cuckoo calling in a tree. There was also a striped cuckoo flying around camp. Normally these birds should be way north and only again seen from November onwards. As I mentioned, we received a bit of rain this month which added up to 9 millimetres and the average maximum temperature for July was 27 °C.
We have been seeing a lot of ellies during the past month. There are some days that we see more elephant than impala! All the breeding herds have established themselves in and around our traversing area and during some days we are seeing no less than a hundred elephants moving around. Their movements show that they prefer feeding in the lower lying areas by day and out in the higher thickets at night and during the early mornings. The reason is that there is a drastic difference in temperature on the higher areas as opposed to the colder, lower lying areas. As the days heat up, the elephants move down into the lower areas, which bring them closer to our camp. If you spend a bit of time on the web cam, you will see herd upon herd coming to drink water from about 09h30 or 10h00 in the mornings. If you have stayed at Elephant Plains during winter time, you will also know that whilst enjoying your lunch you can see elephants feeding in the dry riverbed and drinking at the water hole on an almost daily basis. Because these gentle giants need to at least drink three times a day, they provide us with fantastic elephant sightings throughout the day.
Stix Pride at the Rocks
The rhinos are still running around, chasing each other, as well as some of the ladies! Shorthorn is not too interested in the females at the moment as there is a particular male that is giving him problems. This male is still moving around with his mother, but he is already posing a threat to Shorthorn. The two of them have chased Shorthorn into the bush on more than one occasion. The other day I realised once again how bad a rhino’s eyesight really is. Londoz was fresh on the scent of a group of females and was following them meticulously. We were watching the females feeding in a meandering form. Londoz came along and walked fifteen meters past them, following their scent to about eighty meters away from us and then back right up to the females. He came right up to them and seemed very frustrated! He rammed his horn into the one female’s leg, causing them to run into the thick bush. If I was a tree and Londoz got his estimated 2400 kilogram body into motion at 40km/h, I would uproot myself to get out of his path! A lot of people make the mistake of getting too close to a rhino, as they are assumed to be heavy and slow. But that is a very wrong assumption. A rhino will outrun a human any day, as we might run up to 30km/h and they can run around 40km/h. I will let you decide who will win that race!
We had great buffalo sightings this month. We had a very eventful game drive one morning when the Styx pride followed a breeding herd. As soon as it looked like the lions were getting close enough to pounce on the buffalo, the wind changed and the buffalo stampeded away. The lions then tried coming in from different angles, but with no success. They messed this up horribly and the herd eventually chased the lions away. As the grass is thinning out, the herds are splitting up as they normally do during winter time. Once the grass is long and lush later on in the year, they will form bigger herds again. On most TV shows, it always seems that lions get the upper hand in killing buffalo, but this is not always the case. Many a time I have seen buffalo getting chased by lions. If buffaloes sense a fraction’s hesitation from the lions, they will turn on the lions and literally chase them away. Occasionally, when a buffalo gets caught and the herd is running away, they would come to realize that they are bigger in numbers and go back to chase the lions off of the buffalo that they are trying to kill. This brings me back to the law of the bush: the only thing that is predictable is nothing! At the moment we also have the regular dagga boys lying around in the sun by the waterholes. Some days when the breeding herds of elephants come to drink, the young elephants would try and chase the old buffaloes away, creating quite a stand-off between two members of Africa’s Big 5.
Stix Pride at the Rocks
At the moment, it is still a sad topic as the take-over by the Majingi’s seems to be well underway. I think it is safe to say that the Mapogo’s are no longer the dominant lions in our area, but I might still be surprised during the coming months. The western sector is where they are at and it seems that that is where they are going to stay. Why do I say this? During a cold morning drive this month, two of the Majingi’s picked up on the scent of the Tsalala’s and found them. We just had to sit and wait as the terrifying sound of their roaring came closer and closer. Some of the Tsalalas knew what was going on and ran off. But as always B.B stood her ground and did not run. The males saw her and started to run after her. Thankfully they gave up on her and let them get away. We sighed with relief when everything was over. Then it dawned on me: there was all this noise and commotion that went on and yet there was still no sign of the Mapogo’s arriving to save the day. To this day, we have not seen the Mapogo’s again. Time will tell if my predictions are correct. The Styx pride is all safe, except for the young male. The reason I reckon that they are safe is because the females have already mated with the new males, so they won’t kill them as they are awaiting the arrival of their new offspring. What you need to do is to keep watching this space, as well as our Face Book group, or Twitter updates for news on the new lion dynamics. As far as we know the Mapogo’s have re-established their territories to the west and they seemed to have lost all interest in the northern sector. But as I said, nothing is predictable!
We’ve had another fantastic month of leopard sightings. I have lived and worked in the bush for twelve years now and have never seen a leopard catch and kill a warthog. That was until a couple of weeks ago... When I finally saw it happening, it was an amazing sighting. Mufufunyana made my wish come true. Mafufunyana has been pressurised by a new male and the one day they had a bit of a growling session with each other, but no blows where exchanged. We will soon see who gets to stay and who needs to leave. I guess it will soon become a case of out with the old and in with the new. Tyson took a while to be convinced that the young male that he had had a fight with, was in fact dead. He stayed around the Rampan area for the whole month, patrolling and marking his territory. It is great to see Salayexe’s cubs playing with each other, but I would go as far as to say that next month would signal the end of their stay with her. The time has come to go on their own and they now need to feed themselves and also establish their own territories. They are both constantly running around their mom, scent marking and she will not tolerate this behaviour for very long. We saw Safari catch and kill an impala female and she is still, yes, looking great. Shadow and the Jordaan male were seen for three days, but then they left the area. Nyeleti also made a bit of an appearance, but we didn’t get to see her cubs very often during the month. We would see the one male the one day and the little female the next day, but never all of them simultaneously. Mbilo is still staying around Big Dam and every kill she makes is getting bigger and bigger. Most of her kills are impala. All in all, the leopards around our traversing area are all doing great!
Mafufunyana made my day when he brought down a big warthog. We first found him sniffing around Safari airstrip when he made his way to an old termite mound. We sat and watched the mound for about twenty minutes when all hell broke loose. Two young warthogs came running out of the hole, followed by a big male. Mafufunyana let the youngsters pass, but pounced on the big warthog in a flash. The amazing part was that he did not try to asphyxiate the warthog, as they would normally do. He instead pinned the warthog on his back and pulled open his chest. This was a sighting that I will never, ever forget.
Did you know?
Some female lions, if not part of a pride, will grab their pray around the mouth and nose. They do this in order to suffocate the animal and also to prevent the animal from sending out a distress call that might attract the attention of other predators.
Well, that’s all from my side, the wild side at Elephant Plains. Hope to see you out on game drive soon!