Wildlife Journal January 2011 – by Khimbini Hlongwane

January is one of the wettest months in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa and this year was no exception, the Sand River has risen up few times during this month. The thunderstorms have provided some spectacular shows, with the lightning from distant storms lighting up the night skies. Everywhere you look there is life, from large to small. January was a hot and humid month, with a maximum temperature of 36.1ºC and a minimum of 18.8ºC. Mean temperature for the month was 24.8ºC. With the bush being very green and lush game viewing should be difficult but no! We still had some great viewing regardless of thick bushes. Sightings have been great and rather consistent, considering the thick bush.

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Leopard sightings were great with and Xinzele male taking centre stage

Leopard sightings were great with and Xinzele male taking centre stage. Xinzele (shangaan word for Honey badger) earned his name from his fearless behaviour of teasing and tackling hyenas and large male leopards. He is about 3 years of age, a large male for is age and is becoming a true nightmare for Tegwan male, resident dominates male. After several fights Thekwane seem to be avoiding him staying northern of Sand River and this is giving Xinzele the opportunity to move into areas usually occupied by Thekwane. We are sad to announce that one of Hlubankunzi’s cubs was killed by the Xinzele male during the month of this report. For over a month now Xinzele have been searching everywhere for Hlabankunzi female and her cubs. Male leopard will more often than not kill any leopard cubs that they have not sired within their territory or as in this case prospective territory. This ensures that females within their territories come into season and allow them to mate and produce cubs sharing their genes and not that of other males.

Lion (Panthera leo)

The Ottawa pride has been seen mainly in the north and east of our area and is looking great and the two sub-adult males are growing to be big lions. The Ximhungwe pride has been fairly scattered this month, as we suspect that the short tailed female has dropped cubs, she have two cubs and others lionesses heavily pregnant. The two older cubs are now nearly seven months old are still alive and doing well.

Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

With some warm days in between all the rain we have been treated to a few top sightings of the young bull elephants playing and swimming in the pans! Always a joy to watch as these guys display dominance behaviour and mount each other as they swim. We have also had regular elephant viewing, with a sighting of two elephant bulls in hippo dam being one of the favourites.

Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

The buffalo have returned, and we are now seeing plenty of calves with the herd. Although buffalo breed all year round, there is a peak in births during the rainy season. We had some great viewing of mothers and calves interaction at waterholes.

More than the big five…..

Our herds of wildebeest and zebras are on the comeback, it’s no longer unusual to see dazzle of fifteen zebras. As usual for the time of the year there were lots of babies around, there is plenty of food for the mothers eat and feed the youngsters but the thick foliage provide cover for the predators so the mother have to be alert all the time.

In and around camp

The buffalo have returnedAmongst the few that visited us in the lodge was the small herd of old buffalo bulls who often spent their night on our lawn hoping that human activity will keep lions away.

That’s all from us this month, We thank you for spending few moments with us in the wilderness, shared our experiences and joined our adventures, we are committed to keep you updated.

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