The rains came around mid-January and by the end of the season we had about 400 mm all in all. What is interesting is the seemingly persistent shift towards late summer rains. The rains brought growth of vegetation and alleviated the drought conditions for the herbivores. The buffaloes especially have made a remarkable recovery and even towards the end of the season we started to see new calves coming through. The impalas did well as always although I’m sure statistically the last few years have not been their best. The remarkable thing about the bush recovering is that it went and is going through a universal emergence of pioneers, some of which might not have been seen for decades. All the pioneer grasses have made walking safaris a challenge as they use us to spread their seeds on their behalf. A pioneer species is a plant that grows in a disturbed area, it is characterized by small leaves and lots of seeds. Pioneers tend to lack nutrition as their function is bush recovery, so even though the bush looks good the biomass and species indicators might suggest another harsh winter up ahead.
This is good news for the lions as the Madjingilane Male coalition lost the fourth member to long term injuries and age. The other three males are starting to show signs of aging now. Most have lost teeth and canines that are turning black with age. Their spines are becoming visible when they haven’t eaten for a few days. What is working in their favour is that there is a lack of competition coming from the east. The harsh winter will hopefully keep these guys around another 5 or 6 months to help the young othawa female come of age before new males come into the area, if she makes it to adulthood she will be a miracle. The young Othawa male should be ousted soon and he will be displaced or killed, being on his own is not in his favour. This time is really important because the Othawas as a pride can’t really afford to start again to many times as the females are getting on in age. The three young cubs have an outside chance but they require the remaining three males to stick around for a few a couple of years which I can’t see happening.
The Mhangene Pride have been following our herds of buffalo of late and have been keeping in the south for extended periods of time. What is cool about this pride is that the core is four adult females and they have nine male cubs of varying ages. The oldest looks to be about 18-20 months and the youngest looks close to 9 or 10 months. The more time these young males get the stronger they will get. It will be hard to displace 9 males and they might be the next big coalition. A lot has to go right for them though and we can expect some of the males to die on the way to adulthood. So when the herbivores take strain then the predators do better, by this statement then the lions seem to be set for slow steady growth, this could always change at any moment as a new coalition could arrive from the heart of kruger at any time!
Xhikavi is still looking after Mondzo and their relationship is starting to imitate that of cuckoos and its host, whereby the cuckoo chick is often much larger its host parent. Mondzo has been seen making kills but he prefers to take the offerings of his mother. We even had a sighting where Basile had happened upon him and was bullying him a bit. His position will change when he starts to find females attractive and Dewane will ask him to go. It has become apparent though that Dewane wants to mate with Xhikavi again. This is the beginning of the end for Mondzo, it will be nice to see where he ends up when he eventually settles, realistically though we should lose contact with him. It’s a real pity because it isn’t every day you have a leopard with blue eyes.
Both Schotia and Boulders have cubs. Schotia has a little female and no one has seen boulders cubs just her suckle marks. We are sure Boulder’s is denning in Bruce’s Koppie which is inaccessible to vehicles. Basile and Khokovela are both doing well as is Tlangisa and her female cub. Dewane has still been the primary male but he has often given way to Ravenscourt and Nyeleti has been seen more and more. I haven’t heard from or seen Torchwood in a while either.
With winter approaching these predators should do better, the cubs have more food and surviving is easier. The increased lions might mean we do not get the wild dogs denning this year, despite them being around quite frequently hunting all our impala. They tend to choose areas that have low lion density areas, with the lions being their main predator in the wild. Everything works in cycles, the more lions you have the less other predators and vice versa. So it has been really nice having cheetahs and wild dogs but as the lions get more prolific we can be sure our other predators numbers will drop. The viewing will be amazing this winter and we should see loads of predator activity, so if you are thinking of safari then now is the time!
Regards, THE INYATI TEAM
Keith & Francis – Managers
George , Solly, Matthew , Darren , Omega, Nelson , Joel & Rodger
This month’s bush tales is compiled by Matthew Brennan. *Photographs by Keith and Matthew