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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kwando Sightings Report


 
 


KWARA CONCESSION

 

 

The cheetahs from last month are still being seen often, including the mother with three daughters, and an adult male cheetah.


A lovely sighting of 2 sable antelope near Motswiri pan, and then we followed that off with meeting the pack of 18 wild dogs on an impala kill. Later that morning, we came across the lioness with two cubs. A couple of days later, the same lioness was seen resting with her cubs next to a wildebeest that she had killed. They were alternating feeding on the meat with a bit of a snooze. They spend two days around the kill, until everything was picked clean, leaving a few scraps for the hyenas, jackals, and ultimately, the vultures.


Three lionesses were seen regularly in the start of the month, with a male lion always in the vicinity, perhaps sensing one of the females is about to come into heat. Whilst they seemed to spend a few days lounging around, a solitary lioness caught a baby kudu. Two male lions spent much of one day sleeping, building up their energy levels for the forthcoming night… after sunset, they set off stalking hippos that had come out of the water to feed on the grass. They made several attempts, but were ultimately unsuccessful.


Every day during this month there appears to have been a variety of cat that made an appearance. Whether it had a fluffy mane, spots or speed, the animals looked to be healthy and having luck at catching their prey. Warthog were not having a good time of it, when a cheetah caught one on the Kwara flood plain, and two days later, a lion and her cubs were found feeding on another in the same area. The remaining warthogs are sticking close to the camp now, with one youngster sporting a missing tail.

Cheetah were seen regularly, either solitary males or the mother with three young. One adult cheetah we found obviously in hunting and stalking mood – but no one could see what he was actually aiming for. No impala, no young antelope, nothing in the area that could be spotted! Perhaps he was just practicing his technique?

The pack of 18 dogs were seen several times, and had good luck hunting – managing to catch three impalas at the same time. The dogs were usually being followed at a short distance, by a spotted hyena or two, hoping to grab a snack from their leftovers.


Lots of giraffes around, and a special sighting of two males, fighting for about half an hour. It looks like a slow motion ballet, due to the length of the neck swinging down and hitting the side or back of the opponent giraffe, but it is done with such force, that such fights can easily badly injure the animal. At the end of the battle, the winner was obvious, and the opponent moved away to more peaceful grounds.

A lovely and unusual sighting of an aardwolf, resting next to the opening of a burrow. We also had a sighting of a serval, hunting in the tall grass.

One thing was noticeable towards the end of March…an increasing number of hippos in the lagoon in front of camp. The lack of rain that replenishes moisture lost as the flood waters evaporate, have caused waterholes to shrink in size, and not provide sufficient cover during the day for the sensitive hippo’s skin. This forces them to move to areas of more water, such as the lagoon. However, the water here has also reduced in area, and with less water, and more hippos, comfort levels are reduced somewhat, placing more stress on the animals. So that we humans don’t place any more unnecessary stress on these large but sensitive animals, by the end of the month, we chose to suspend mokoro activities. This way, the hippos won’t feel we are encroaching on their territory, and create any incidents that either species will later regret! As soon as the flood waters return, which should be in the next few weeks, humans and hippos will be able to luxuriate together in more roomy conditions.

And the most spectacular sightings of the month: wild dogs mobbing three cheetah, and leopards mating at night!

 

LAGOON



The Lagoon pride of lions moved into the mopane woodland in the first week of the month, making it difficult for us to track and follow them. However, two young males – intruders from the north-western section of the concession – moved through the area in the prides absence. The next week, the lionesses were back with three cubs, and were seen feeding on a zebra. They look healthy and relaxed. Six hyenas were standing off to the side, waiting for a chance to get into the remains of the zebra.


A few leopards around, with a shy male seen after dark, and a female spotted out in the late afternoon, along Mokhuthsuro road. The tall grass is providing wonderful hiding grounds for the leopards, but we know they are there as there are tracks seen on the roads most days.


The two packs of dogs – the Lagoon pack of 19, and a pack of 7 dogs from the northern pars of the concession – were seen in the Lagoon camp area early on this month. In the second week of the month, the two packs clashed and had a small fight – none appeared the worse for wear after their altercation. One morning, we tracked the pack of seven dogs for 2.5 hours before we were able to locate them.


Small breeding herds of buffalo are starting to come into the area, slowly increasing in number. Big herds of elephants in the area, as the daily temperatures refuse to drop to the more usual pleasant March temperatures – the elephants are coming down to the river for a refreshing swim.


Although the grass is still long, we are seeing excellent general game – including herds of eland, roan, sable, and the more common wildebeest and giraffes. There are a huge number of zebras in the area in particular, having moved in from drier areas. We also saw one herd of eland that numbered over 300!

Kwena Lagoon provided a lovely sighting of hippos – with quite a few very young babies. The little hippos were resting on top of the adult’s backs, with their head bobbing up and down above the water.

A wonderful sighting of an amazingly relaxed caracal, sitting at her den, with her young! Sightings or caracals are usually very quick, so this was truly a special event. We also saw two honey badgers jogging along the road together, before they ducked off into the bush.


LEBALA

 

 


The pride of lions – four adults and five young – are doing very well in the area around Lebala. We followed them one afternoon when they were attempting to hunt. They had come upon a group of wildebeest, who were unaware of the approach of the predators, and carried on grazing whilst the lions began to stalk. The lions slowly approached, working as a team, and focussing on one individual. Suddenly, everything happened at once, and it was hard to tell what was going on, with animals moving in all directions. When the movements stopped, the lions had been successful, and had managed to catch one of the wildebeest, and suffocate it. It was an amazing sighting, and we were able to watch it from beginning to end!


Three leopards were seen in one week, with a female resting in a tree in Kanawe Park. She was very relaxed, and looked in excellent condition. We also found a different female feeding on a warthog she had killed, and a shy male walking along Kubu road.


We also have excellent general game at the moment, with lots of eland, zebra and wildebeest (minus the one that the lions ate). Also special sightings of roan and sable – both are getting more and more relaxed with seeing the vehicles, and not all of them run away!


Breeding herds of elephants and the bulls are moving around the area and seen several times on each drive.

When you buy furniture for a camp that is open to the elements, there are a few factors that have to be taken into account: how will it last in the sun? Will the wood get damaged too easily if it gets rained on? Are there gaps in the construction that will allow squirrels to use it as a nice nesting area? And most importantly – is there any leather on it? Leather furniture in a lounge that is open-sided and on ground level is the equivalent of an immobile wildebeest sitting patiently with a sign around its neck saying "eat me”. For a hyena, it’s a dream come true.

So, when selecting new dining chairs for Lebala – again open to the ground level – we carefully ensured that the lovely looking seat cushion was a high-quality synthetic material, not leather. For several months, they stayed unmolested. But one night in March, guests in the closest room to the dining area could hear something moving furniture around. The next morning, three chairs had little nibbles out of one corner. Too small and not enough destruction involved for it to be a hyena, we thought. Maybe a honey badger? No defining tracks could be seen. So in an attempt to reduce further damage, all chairs were put on top of the tables every night. And so began the war. It soon became apparent, that if a honey badger started the proceedings, a hyena (or two or three) took up the torch… Either pulling the chairs off the tables with his jaws, or standing up and knocking them off, no chair was safe….

Ultimate proof that fabric production is now at such a high level that not even hyenas can tell the difference between the real stuff and the fake.


NXAI PAN

 

 


Little baby lion cubs – about six weeks old – were seen with their mother a few times this month. The lioness has three young, and she moved the cubs carefully to try and keep them safe. We saw the big pride of lions (16 of them) all together a few times this month – such an impressive sight!


Leopards are tough to see in Nxai, but we managed to come up with a couple this month – one female that was seen briefly crossing the West Road heading into the pan at dusk. Also a male, whose tracks had been seen around the camp for several days, was finally found in bushes close to the camp waterhole. He rested up there all day.

The mother and two sub adult cheetah cubs are doing well and were seen often, mostly in the area to the south of the main pan. And we were lucky again with the wild dogs – the pack of six were seen hunting and chasing springboks across the area.


Elephant breeding herds with young calves are increasing in number – frequenting the two waterholes. Great numbers of giraffe are seen on the pan, and alongside the wooded areas. Zebras, wildebeest, and springboks spend their days on the pan, and then move to the waterholes in the morning and afternoons.


And love was in the air this month for the ostrich – males were seen courting the female – strutting his stuff, fluffing his feathers, and showing off legs that were a lovely shade of pink to impress her!


TAU PAN

 

 


A special daytime sighting of a brown hyena – close to the camp, so that everyone could see it from the deck.

Two lionesses and four young managed to kill a big male kudu to the eastern part of the camp. One of the male lions also killed a large adult giraffe – probably by chasing the giraffe at night, and causing it to stumble, so that the lion could reach the neck and suffocate the animal. The lion spent five days sitting next to the kill, gorging himself.

The cheetah and her daughters were also seen regularly in the area around the pan.


The predators were probably the only animals that were doing well in the beginning of the month, with the area so dry, herbivores were pushed to their limits, looking for food, and travelling further distances away from the water. Deception Valley itself was parched brown and dusty – an exceptionally harsh environment for the few animals that were remaining there.


In the absence of vegetation, mice and other small rodents were more visible, and had to become more daring in their search for food. In their rush to find something to eat, they would not always notice the beautifully camouflaged puff adders that lay in wait. It’s highly unusual to see snakes when you are on safari, but the unusual conditions have allowed the odd one or two to be seen.


Towards the end of the month, thunder clouds and lightning began dotting the horizon, then approached the camp, but it seemed to skirt around the area at the last minute. At least somewhere was getting rain!


And then, on the last couple of days of the month, something happened: the clouds thickened, and the rain began to fall… Six months of almost unbearable conditions, with every day the same heat as the next, had suddenly, unpredictably, broken. As the fat raindrops hit the ground, the smell that rose up was wonderful, and for each staff member, a sense of relief: the late rain brought promise of greenery and food for the animals if enough was to fall…



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