The month of April has come and gone, what is left is an unforgettable memories and life experiences. Autumn is in full swing here in Sabi Sand Reserve and winter is closing in very quickly indeed. Morning and evening temperatures are getting cooler and cooler by the day we can feel the early morning chill is creeping in the back door and the days are getting shorter. The last of the rains has fallen and the leaves are starting to change to beautiful shades of orange and red and covering the ground below them. With a good rainy season behind us, there is lots of food out there to keep the animals well fed during this coming winter. Wildlife did not disappoint, predators activities were at its peak and there were also lots of general game around.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
The leopard is regarded as the most elusive of all of Africa‘s large cat species and quite often hard to see on safari, an element of luck is involved in encountering this fascinating feline. In the Sabi Sand Game reserve however we are blessed with frequent and fairly regular sightings of these solitary cats. One of the commonly asked questions is: how can one identify individual leopard? Leopards can be uniquely identified by looking at their distinctive facial markings, such as their whisker spot pattern, forehead patterns and eye markings. The most accepted means of leopard identification is by using spot patterns. A spot pattern refers to the upper most row of spots on the leopard’s cheeks. These are the spots above the upper line of whiskers. Other useful methods used are noting notches or tears in their ears and other distinctive marks like scars.
Shangwa and cub
The leopard mother, Shangwa is doing just great her 2years cub is growing fast and have gain some confident in his hunting capabilities. She does however still feed him, tipical of elderly mother leopards they find it hard to let go of their grown young male. She did killed a common duiker on one night; with the help of her son they devoured the whole antelope in just few hours. And late in the month she was seen with him feeding on an Impala carcass in the marula tree. There were five spotted hyenas hanging around the base of the tree waiting for their share.
Some of our guests and guides we privileged to watch Shangwa young male on one morning tormenting a group of buffalo. The confidence in his agility bordered arrogance as he darted between the buffalo with total ease. The buffalo did manage to tree the pestering cat on a few occasions. But the leopard was adamant and continued returning. It was extraordinary that on each approach he managed to get closer before the buffalo noticed him, in an hour we noticed his ability to use cover and the wind improving. It’s truly a privilege to witness a future master honing his skills. We can only hope that his choice of training partners will not be the end of him in future. We left the area with six spitting mad buffalo and one leopard relaxing in a tree, looking very proud of himself.
This male is looking great, everything is going his way at the moment no male is threatening his territory and there are lots of female in it. During the month of this report he rejected at least two females that came for him showing sign of mating. Tlangisa and Dam 3 female followed him for days displaying sign of being in oestrous but the male got just got aggressive and kept walking away.
Perseverance is a mother of success. After long time trying Hlabankunzi finally get Dayone to mate with her. Even better is that few days later she was seen mating with Khashane male. This means could mean that her new coming cubs will be protected from both male as they will both think they fathered the cubs.
This female has provided some great viewing of late with her been found with more regularity around centre of our traversing area. The young female leopard continues to prosper and stay in excellent health. She has been her usual self, playful and entertaining as she poses for pictures.
The new coalition is settling in well in their new territory, they paroling and marking every corner of the territory, their roar can be heard from miles away almost every night. On one morning we had a magnificent start to the day as we woke up to the Selati males calling in camp. We set out at dawn and to track them down, with combing fine work of ranger and trackers they were found just east of camp. They seemed to be moving with intent. A short while after we found them they flushed a group of buffalo bulls and the chaos started. They separated one bull, working as a team one teased on the front as the others attacked from behind. The buffalo fought hard but the four strong lions wear determent to pull him down, at one stage one of the male was riding on his back to add some weight in attempt to weaken him.
The new dominate males made few attempts to kill the cubs and the lioness fought hard to protect the cubs and they are the run. We didn’t see much of them this month because they have run east across our boundaries. Only one lioness stay behind, it’s easier for her since she has no cubs and she has interacted with these males before they took over the territory. The pride is doing exceptionally well, the youngsters are growing well and have sufficient energy to play and tackle each other and the rest of the pride, especially on cool afternoons and early evenings. They have begun to help their mothers with the hunting even though they are mostly just getting in the way other than anything, but they will soon learn the tricks of the trade.
Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
They were few large parade of elephants spread around the reserve with lots of new young babies. Keith and his guests got up-close and personal with large elephant bull in musth, elephant in this condition is normally aggressive as level of testosterone increases by about 50 percent but this bull was surprisingly relax.
There were few small herds of buffalo bulls scattered around our traversing area. While the large obstinancy has been seen constantly going in and out of our section, it’s always great to see the return of these big herds and some days we have seen over 600 buffalos in our in one herds.
More than the big five…..
April is the month of the impala rut. The full-grown males have become ferociously territorial and form temporary territories. Those that win the battle get to spend most of their time herding females into their territories and chasing the loser and the subordinate males out of their territory. The excitement is palpable as they rush to attract mates, letting out loud roaring sounds and splaying their white-tipped tails in display. These distracted bachelors are vulnerable to attack by predators, and those that survive this season will be weak, sporting gashes on their necks that are the scars of fierce battles with their competitors. The dominant rams put all their energy into the rut and spend little time eating. Thus resulting in loosing physical condition and get defeated by the next strong male. Quite a few of these battles do result in one been stabbed to death.
African hawk eagle is one of furious hunter of the African sky. They one of the only bird species that hunt cooperatively; one bird flushes prey which the other strikes, then they both feed on the carcass. They mainly eat birds, using its large feet to tackle and kill animals weighing up to about 4 kg. The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes, consisting of a large platform of sticks and twigs, lined with green leaves and are about 3 meters in diameter. It is typically placed just below the canopy of a tall tree, especially a knob thorn (Acacia nigrescens) about 6-19 metres above ground. The average clutch consists of one or two but normally only one chick is raised to adult as the stronger chick will always kill the weaker to eliminate competition for food.
In and around camp
Our lodge sits on the bank of the mighty Sand river and riverine is the most favourable habitat for leopards and we get see them frequent as they their wonder past through the lodge. This month even Kashane male who normally occupied the southern area of the reserve decided to drop in for an unexpected visit.
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.