Thursday, January 6, 2011

2011 has begun, best wishes to all for the New Year!

December has been a fairly damp month with lots of soft soaking rain creating rapid growth in the bush, the grass is now long and the bush is thick, this means that many of the animals are choosing to walk on the roads instead of through the wet grass. The few wildebeest herds in the area now have youngsters to compliment the many impala lambs that were born in November. Carmine bee-eaters and woodland kingfishers are regularly seen (and, in the kingfishers case, heard) along with other migratory birds such as white stork and steppe buzzard

The past few weeks have seen yet another shift in the lion population dynamics in our area. Firstly it was confirmed that the two cubs of the Ximunghwe pride that we had been seeing regularly in November were now gone, most likely at the hands of the Mapogo male Mr.T. We then started seeing the two younger cubs of the same pride more regularly, these the first litter to be conceived since the return of T. These two young male cubs seem to have been accepted by all the males and were seen joining a wildebeest kill with the males in attendance recently. The Ximunghwe lioness with the tip of her tail missing also left the pride recently to give birth and we hope she will show of her new litter sometime in the next few weeks.

At the same time the Mapogo males seem to be another member short as the dread locked individual with the short tail tuft has not been seen for quite a few weeks, there have been no reports as to what could have happened to him. The three remaining males now seem content to stay in the western areas mating frequently with the Ximunghwe females which are not yet pregnant, a sensible choice as here they only have to worry about their eastern border, the other boundaries are the edges of the reserve and no incurs\ions are expected from outside the border!

The younger members of the Ottawa pride are growing in both size and confidence, with three young males in the group there is a chance that they may be the next threat to the rule of the Mapogo in the west, the two older males are already magnificent specimens with their manes growing in rapidly, the younger male, still only a year old would do well to stick with his older siblings. The pride has not suffered with the loss of the half ear female and should remain a strong presence in the area for the foreseeable future.

The leopard population has fared a lot better in the area this last year and both the Hlab’nkunzi and Metsi females are still doing a good job of raising their respective youngsters. Hlab’nkunzi seems to be coming over to Idube more frequently now and was even seen in the lodge one evening!

Mabirri’s second daughter is now independent and has been named Tlangisa (playful), she has still to establish herself in a territory but with no dominant female on Idube permanently at the moment we are hoping she moves in here! Mabirri herself has been seen mating with the Kashane male in the time around Christmas and we hope she successfully conceived – if so, cubs are expected before Easter! The Xinzele male was seen mating with the Xikavi female prior to that, so far Xikavi has mated many times with no success, perhaps this time we will get to see cubs…

The Xindlevhana male is becoming a more regular sighting around Idube, and seems to be becoming more tolerant of the vehicles in his old age! The Mashiabanj male has also been attracting the interest of a female leopard in the north – possibly Hippo Dam female, this however leads me to wonder, where is the Tegwaan male? The answer to that seems to lie with the Tai dam female who was seen being very vocal up in the North-Western corner and I would guess that Tegwaan has been spending time up there with her.

The elephant herds were scarce at the start of December but started to move back into the area towards the end of the month and should remain in place for a while as the marula trees start to drop their fruit.

The wild dog pack was seen on a number of occasions the last few weeks but not as regularly as some previous months, with the remaining pup now almost indistinguishable in size from the adults the pack covers more distance than before. Hopefully they will have another litter of pups this year, perhaps in our traversing area this time…

Cheetah sightings were reported last in early December, the long grass and frequent rain making it very hard for anybody to follow up efficiently, a couple of impala carcasses have been found after the vultures showed the way, these could have been cheetah kills but nobody is 100% sure.

Two large herds of buffalo have been frequenting the area recently, along with the regular bachelor groups seen along the river, the Mapogo male lions have been trying their luck hunting the large herds in the south but have not been particularly successful, coming off second best on more than one occasion!

The highlights videos for December and Jan will be available soon on youtube

( ) and our facebook page ( ) now features live picture updates during the drives so you can see what we see, as we see it!

That’s all for now!

Happy 2011!

Best Wishes,

Rob The Ranger