Wildlife Journal November 2011 by Khimbini Hlongwane
In a bountiful explosion, the region has burst back to life! One of the greatest pleasures of living in South Africa’s remarkable Sabi Sand Game Reserve is being able to follow the changing seasons and smell the rain in the air in summer. Scattered clouds dot the sky and light up the sunrise and sunsets with the most unbelievable shades of soft pinks and gold. If you haven’t been to the Sabi sand in October/November then this is definitely something to put on your to do list. The abundance of wildlife is incredible; Game drives are intense and full of action as lots of antelope grazing in the plains with their new babies unperturbed by thousands of birds making their daily breeding activities and songs. With all these new helpless creatures around the predators are taking advantage and herds of elephants meander in, around and along the sand river.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Tlangisa female has been covering a large area again. She is been intruding into Metsi and Hlabankunzi’s territory. On few occasions we have seen her in the lodge area which is Xikhavi female’s territory.
Hlabankunzi doesn’t seem to mind Tlangisa presence in her territory but this may change when one of them gives birth as they will become more protective and will be looking for more hunting grounds to feed their young.
The generally illusive Xikhavi also abandoned her usual riverine and reeded haunts and climbed a tree to enjoy the breeze. She was spotted resting in a sausage tree just across the sand river opposite the lodge
Our leopard queen, Hlabankunzi is heavily pregnant she was seen mating with our resident dominant male in the past months, the gestation period is 100 days so hopefully in the next couple weeks she will give birth, exciting times await and we are sure to keep you updated.
Shangwa and her one year old male have graced us with her presence again this month. This 13 years old leopardess is one of the oldest and most experienced mother leopards I’ve lived with, a great hunter and successful mother. They young male is growing fast and becoming more confident hunting on his own. We witnessed him stalking a hyena just for the fun of it. He managed to get within 10 meters and the hyena still didn’t see him but he wasn’t brave enough to touch the hyena.
Dam 3 female also added to the boom of offspring at Inyati, she has two cubs, we got to see them feeding on a shrub hare, unfortunately this female is not relaxed with vehicles so she asked us to leave in rather harsh manner before we could get a decent picture to share with you. (Note: the anger on her face)
Lion (Panthera leo)
The Ximhungwe Pride continues to patrol and hunt in all the reserve’s corners. As life goes in the bush, every up has a down. On last couple of reports I mentioned how successful the pride have been with their hunts , with all the waterholes being full the animals have disperse, the pride have been battling to find good size meal to feed the whole pride. There are lots of young born and they get food it’s just not enough to keep young ones looking healthy. They have had to cover long distance in their hunts and this have been little hard on the youngsters but we are certain they will pull through, every litter do go through these dry run.
The lioness that had two youngest cubs that were recently lost is mating again; she was seen for four days mating with one of Mapogo boys, Bent spine. If all goes well we should see some little lion cubbies in about three months.
We waited for long time for the two nomadic Ottawa males; they came in for a visit in our traversing area this month. The two were seen for the three days on a row following the large herd of buffalo in the south, the boys are looking good. Both males are healthy and have a lot of attitude; one can easily tell they have the Mapogo’s gene in them. In one of the sighting we saw them make three attempts on the buffalo, but unfortunately, failed.
We have an abundance of elephant around at the moment and it is not infrequent to see four different breeding herds on one game drive. It’s always fascinating to watch elephant as they always doing something, from mothers helping calf to cross the river to watching a group of youngsters playing. We spent time with the elephant bull feeding in the sun set (left picture) and on another sighting we watched a mother and calf having a dust bath(right picture)
Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
Fresh green sward has covered many parts of the Mpumalanga, Sabi sand, providing fresh graze for buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. The large herd have been here in our traversing area and been entertaining for the most part of the month and small groups of old male are dotted around the reserve especially along the rivers.
More than the big five…..
The rare scaly anteater, Pangolin made an appearance on our reserve again this month. These are nocturnal and very secretive creatures and they are still somewhat mysterious, with scientists knowing relatively little about their behaviour in the wild. In China, pangolin meat is considered to be a delicacy. Most tribes in Africa believe that if a pangolin is killed there will be no rain until the area is cleansed by the Chief traditional healer.
Africa’s second most endangered carnivore – wild dog – made its appearance again. The pack ran into our traversing area few times this month, one of our morning teas was interrupted by a pack of wild dogs that came to drink at pan in front of the lodge. After a short while of following them they killed an impala ewe and devoured it couple of minutes.
In and around camp
For few days this month we didn’t have to go out the lodge to see a leopard, Tlangisa female killed an impala on our airstrip, drag it into the lodge and climb up on the roof to rest and watch us all as we enjoying our early morning tea. She stayed in camp for few days enjoying her meal.
A group of Buffalo bulls have been resting in the cool waters of the Sand River during breakfast. And a herd of Elephant has also been around Inyati camp for about five days on a row this month, and have been entertaining our guests between drives.