Monday, December 6, 2010

Rangers Newsletter

We are moving into the holiday season and it is hard to believe that 2010 is almost over! It is also the rainy season (finally) and the rains the last few weeks have transformed the landscape from the combination of dry brush and burned areas that we were seeing up until the beginning of November, into a vibrant green quilt of lush vegetation. This in turn has triggered the Impala lambing season – giving the local predators ample opportunity to feed.
Almost all the migratory bird species have returned to the reserve and the sounds of the various cuckoos and the woodland kingfishers provide the soundtrack to the beautiful sunny days.
As always, the bush has provided plenty of highlights over the past few weeks – especially now the grass is green and many of the grazers have increased in numbers, in fact the big buffalo herd spent most of the last week of November close to the lodge.
There have been plenty of elephant herds in the area feeding on all the new growth. Although elephants do not have a particular birthing season there is usually a peak in the summer months and there are now quite a few small calves to be seen in the herds.
Small herds of zebra have been found on he new grass in most of the areas that burned during the dry season, these numbers will start to dwindle as the grass gets longer so we are making the most of the sightings whilst we can!
The pack of painted hunting dogs (African wild dogs) was in and out of the area, down to 7 individuals now , only 1 of the original 8 pups is still alive. This high pup mortality is one of the reasons these beautiful predators are so rare.
The 2 male cheetah were seen regularly, the male with the fat bottom lip "Makhumisa" was seen most often and was seen feeding on kills a couple of times as well (one of which he had to leave to the vultures)
Leopards are always a favourite, both for the guests and the staff, and there was no shortage of sightings in the recent weeks:
Xikavi female leopard seems to have fallen for the young male, Xinzele, and she was seen on a couple of separate occasions trying to seduce him. Xinzele so far has resisted her advances probably because, despite his large size, he is still very young and unsure of what exactly is required of him in such a situation!
Hlab'nkunzi female leopard killed an impala under the power lines that mark the boundary of Idube and Dulini properties where she brought her two 10 month old cubs to feed. This sighting became interesting early on the second morning of the sighting when she took offence to Rob's camera and jumped off the kill to pitch a snarling hissing fit at the door of the vehicle. this goes to show that even our most relaxed leopards can have an off day and we should never take any of the wildlife here for granted! Watch what happened HERE
She was seen again in the afternoon of the same day and had returned to her normal nonchalant disposition! The two youngsters were often seen apart from their mother and are still learning to perfect their hunting skills, one afternoon drive saw them chasing banded mongoose, eventually catching and killing one. See one of the cubs with the mongoose HERE
Metsi female leopard and her cubs are seen more regularly now and the cubs are much more relaxed than they were to start with, especially when there is a kill around. The family was seen on a couple of kills and seem to be doing very well.
Mabirri and her daughter have finally separated but as yet neither have moved up towards the central territory vacated by Makubela earlier in the year. Both these female leopards are successful hunters and it seems that the younger of the two is also good at hoisting her kills out of reach of hyenas - something she did not learn from her mother!
An unidentified leopard - a young male - was found on the southern portion of Idube property. He hid from the approaching vehicle inside a termite mound the first couple of times he was seen and was later seen hurrying away from the same position. His tracks led us to Mabirri one morning and there had obviously been some animosity between the two as she was nursing a nasty gash in one of her back legs.
The other male leopards - Tegwaan, Kashane and Mashiabanj have all been spotted recently too, both Tegwaan and Kashane have been spending time on Idube property and with Xindlevhana also coming onto Idube on occasion (we think it was him who killed a nyala close to the laundry and dragged it all the way down into the Makubela donga close to the boundary) this new male has his work cut out for him...
The lion population can often be a disappointment – spending most of their time sleeping – but this last few weeks they have been the stars of the show!
The 4 Mapogo male lions killed a big bull buffalo north of the river there was plenty of interaction between these four big lions and also one instance of them roaring whilst surrounding the vehicle – Brilliant! The kill was finished in under 48 hours. See them roaring at this kill HERE
The Ximunghwe pride had a kudu kill at the same time and two of the new cubs ( 1 male + 1 female) were out in the open providing lots of entertainment. One of the Mapogo joined them to finish off the scraps after leaving the buffalo kill.
The Ottawa lions also caught a buffalo north of the river and were joined by one of the Mapogo - this sighting coincided with a large amount of rainfall! The male (Makulu) left during the rain and was seen the next morning with the Ximunghwe lionesses.
The Ximunghwe pride also killed a young giraffe and the cubs were brought out to this kill too, there was also a wildebeest kill for the pride and the cubs were there too, Mapogo male Mr. T, notorious for killing cubs (even those sired by other Mapogo) joined the pride at the wildebeest kill and the cubs were not seen the next day – the tracks suggest that their mother moved them elsewhere but at the time of writing I am unsure of exactly what may have happened to them...
The Mapogo lions were back in action after a few days of patrolling – they killed a young hippo! This kill was out in an open clearing so there were some great photo opportunities!
It seems that the hippo had tried to take refuge in a small waterhole but it was too shallow and the lions dragged him out again... View the video of them feeding HERE

The Ottawa lions were found pushing their boundaries to the limit when they turned up in the South of the reserve, usually a place we would expect to find the Ximunghwe pride! The pride came across the large herd of buffalo that morning and, after a few half-hearted attempts to chase them, retired to some shade close to Marula Dam and just watched the herd's movements throughout the day.
Returning to the area in the afternoon we found both the lions and the buffalo in the same place they had been left earlier, the lions were watching the buffalo as they moved down to the dam to drink. Suddenly something spooked the buffalo herd and they all started running straight past where the lions were waiting... Bang the lions had themselves a buffalo calf! All this took place in front of both the Idube game drives! As we watched the pride start to open up their prey, the herd returned. Charging into the lions the buffalo herd scattered the pride and we saw that the calf was still alive! The lions did not give up and returned to their prize, prompting another charge from the herd, this time the calf got up and ran with the adults with the lions in hot pursuit! This scene repeated itself a few times until the herd ran through the dam – the calf was slowed by it's injuries and left too far behind the rest and the lions eventually got their meal. All in all an awesome sighting and a good point to end this update on! View the video HERE

Until next time!

Best wishes,
Rob the Ranger