Summer is definitely here in the lowveld of Mpumalanga as daytime temperatures climb into the low 40s (Celsius). Dark and ominous rainclouds have filled the afternoon sky on the odd occasion, but we only had few showers so far just enough to transform the bush into brilliant green, the big rains are yet to come. The bush is still thin, In light of this, game viewing is amazing and guests don’t have to drive far from camp to see large herds of buffalo, waterbuck, wildebeest and elephant; obviously with predators taking full advantage of this situation. October is a spectacular month to visit, with the wildlife concentration along the river the game viewing is at its peak.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Leopard viewing have been phenomenon during the month of this report, On 22 October morning there were total of 6 leopards seen in four different sightings, Metsi female, Tlangisa trailing behind Xindzele, Hlabankunzi arguing with Metsi’s young male and unknown young male at northwest corner.
The playful Tlangisa female have been entertaining throughout the month. On one morning we watched her stalk and caught a scrub hare, she played with it for a while before killing it and hoisted it in a jackal berry tree. She doesn’t move around the entire western sector like she uses to do she seems to have settled down in the territory near the western firebreak and south of the Machimbiri donga.
Hlabankunzi female appear to be pregnant and have been seen checking out some of her previous den sites. On one late morning we located her perched high up a knob thorn tree with carcass of an impala lamb. She was also seen in area with three other adult leopard, Tlangisa killed an impala, the aging Ndlevane stole the carcass it was not long before Xindzele knew about it , come growling at the old Ndlevane male who was in the tree finishing the remain of impala carcass. The old and wise, Ndlevane male came down the tree and run off avoiding the fight. Hlabankuzi sat on a termite mound a good distance away watching the whole commotion before venturing off in a patrol of her territory. From One drama to another! She was chased up a tree by a lioness. Luckily she saw the lion in time so this only gave her the opportunity to show off her climbing skills as the lioness looked on from terra firma.
Shangwa and her one year old male cub have also been seen a few times near the eastern boundary of our traversing area. We were treated with some great interaction between Shangwa and her two young of different generation. Shangwa killed an impala and was soon joined by her one year old male cub. Out of nowhere came out her 6-year old daughter, Xikhavi. There was a lot of resentment shown in growling between the young male cub and Xikhavi, but eventually the tension deteriorated and all three leopards fed at different times.
Xindzele continues to be the most viewed male leopard in our area he is always on the move patrolling and marking his territory. The growing numbers of male in the area are keeping him on his toes. He has been in a fight and is sporting some impressive bite marks. The injuries are not serious and he will recover well. The tension between himself and Mashiyabanci seems to have subsided as we haven’t seen Mashiyabanci for a while now. Consequently, we have seen Xindzele crossing the sand river going deeper into Mashiyabanci’s territory.
Lion (Panthera leo)
Our lions have been exceedingly active this month. The Ximungwe pride is still quite fragmented, although the older lioness and her 13-month old cubs are seen regularly she seem to be happy away from the rest of the pride. The one female with two new cubs is often seen alone probably because the cubs are still too young to keep up with the pride. The rest of the pride has been staying mostly along the Sand River. The three lionesses have four cubs from three different litters, ranging in age from three months to eight months. Kudus, nyalas and bushbucks is what they been feeding on mostly but they did manage to kill a giraffe this month.
We were fortunate to have the less seen Ottawa pride’s three lionesses staying on our property for few days.
The notorious Mapogo boys have been venturing across to the eastern sections lately; they are possibly concern about the growing numbers of lion coalitions like Machingelane, Matimbas and others. On return of one their trip they killed a large buffalo bull, few days later they killed a young buffalo, the buffalo herd attempted to fight for about twenty minutes but they had to move on at some point. In less than 24 hours after the buffalo calf they manage to kill a ten months old hippo calf.
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
Large breeding herds, bachelor herds and some single bull elephants are a common sighting in, along and around the river. We have enjoyed numerous herds of these gently beasts and their young ones continuously parading through camp and along the sand river. A calf of two years old charged us on one morning; he was determined to see us drive off he put on such a show by flapping the ears, shaking of trunk and even trumpeting. He got disappointed when I didn’t move he then ran back to the shelter of his mum who was totally ignoring his antics.
Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
We are living up to our name Inyati, buffalo bulls were seen all around the property and in the lodge area. Big herds of buffalo are still visiting the area. Some new big herds of buffalo, some ranging between two hundred and five hundred animals were found along various plains and the river. The lions have been taking advantage of the situation sneaking in catching unsuspecting young and old individual.
More than the big five…..
We were privilege to see this night time creature in the daytime, a porcupine. This is Africa’s largest rodent; they are prickly creatures with more than 30,000 needle-like quills on their back, sides and tail. On contrarily to a popular belief, Porcupines do not shoot their quills. They do not have this capability. Physical contact with a porcupine is needed in order to be stuck with its quills. A peculiar mating ritual particular to porcupines is that the male will douse the female with urine prior to mating. Did you know that porcupine is one of the only few animals that mate for pleasure.
Yet another pangolin in daylight! These strange creatures are normally late night active, yet on two occasions in a two weeks period we have seen them in daylight ,we have been really spoilt with three pangolin sightings in the past two weeks period.
Our regular pack of wild dogs is still intact and in good condition, they are keeping themselves well fed on pregnant impala that are battling to run fast as their bellies swell. We have also seen two males that came into our traversing area.
The Camp has also been wonderfully productive, with a steady supply of elephants moving through to drink and play in the river. At this time of the year elephants are at their highest concentrations along the water and so sightings of these magnificent beasts have been especially frequent and rewarding. We also had a herd of over hundred buffalo coming to graze on our lawn on few occasions.
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, and we are committed to keep you updated.
This month’s sightings report compiled by Khimbini Hlongwane