Wildlife Journal May 2011

May is here, the dawn chorus permeates the lowveld of Mpumalanga in the crisp air and easterly breeze that herald winter’s beginning. The daily temperatures this month were very pleasant with days rising to a balmy 26°C and dropping to 13°C at night. The days have been clear and the light for photography wonderful but the summer rains are reluctant to let the bush die down. No one is complaining of course, especially the animals, which are all enjoying this extended availability of food. The sand river is still flowing, but peacefully now, compared to the constant flooding that it had to endure through summer. The game viewing as usual has been terrific, most game drives have been richly rewarded with large buffalo herds, hippos in rafts of about twenty, big and small cats and many colorful birds.

 Leopard (Panthera pardus)

MashiyabanchiMay leopard viewing has also been good with numerous sightings of these elusive cats, often lying in trees in the morning or evening light. The new territorial male of the area, Xindzele has become very active patrolling and constantly defending his territory. This male is handsome he leaves all who see him in awe. He was discovered near Tree Tops and following as he walked along the sand river, he then picks up on scent of another leopard. Soon after, Mashiyabanchi, the male who occupies the North was spotted on the opposite of the river. The two leopards were watching one another, Xindzele tried to cross the river to force Mashiyabanchi from his territory.Hlabankunzi a female leopard continues her mission to get Xindzele male to mate with her, she was literally throwing herself at him but she failed again as he showed no interest on her. Later in the month she killed a female impala and hoisted the carcass into a marula tree.Ximhungwe pride

The lion prides in whose territories we live has once again provided many of the month’s highlights with the four male cubs providing regular entertainment. The Mapogo brothers are holding on they have been on their own for a few days. One of the Mapogo brothers was found lying up he spent two days at the dam probably as a result of a full stomach. Very entertaining on late afternoon he has been quite vocal, roaring often.

Some great news with Ximhungwe pride, it seems that the pride is slowly getting back to normal as the Mapogo who was responsible for killing the previous cubs has now accepted the new arrivals they found all together the two smaller cubs resting on the dam wall at Cutline Dam.

Ottawa pride are having such a difficult time, after the loss of their only two mothers of the pride, one was killed by a buffalo bull and the other fell in a poacher snare. The pride consist of only a sub adult and cubs and sadly one of the seventeen month cubs was killed this month by two males from the North eastern Sabi sand. The pride’s territory is very loose at moment they just seem to move in a direction where there is less activity of other lions. They are not in good terms with the father males, Mapogo because there are young males that should have left the pride still in the pride. Nevertheless they remain great hunters and are in health condition.

Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Elephant (Loxodonta africana)Elephant herds are plentiful at the moment. A herd of approximately sixty were observed between at top clearing northern section of the reserve. We constantly herd moving up and down the sand river. Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)The large herd entering our traversing area.

The large herd entered our traversing area; Buffalo herds have been seen entertaining us throughout the week. Action packed viewing included mating, play fight and wallowing at George’s dam. Many calves have been born recently.

More than the big five…..

Further great news this month is about the pack of cape hunting dogs. We mentioned on last report that the wild dogs have a den on our side, in the western sector Sabi sand. We are delighted to report the pups started to emerge from the den and that there are eight new pups from the pack. We been extremely fortunate to spend time at the den site of Africa’s second most endangered carnivore and are one of the top ten endangered mammals on the planet. Motility rate of the cubs is very high and their dangers include lion, leopard and hyenas on one after while spending time with the dog family suddenly the alpha female jumped and gave warning to the cubs to go in a hole we saw the danger slithering through the grasses, puff adder snake. (Note the top right corner of the photo on the right)

In and around camp

From their breakfast table on the veranda guests saw elephants, buffalos, kudus and many more as they came to drink at waterhole in front of the lodge. A herd of impala is forever on our lawn and a pair of pied king fisher fishing in the sand river is a regular sight.

This month’s sightings report compiled by Khimbini Hlongwane
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