The moment the first raindrop of the season splashes down it changes the earth, and I love being out catching these moments – when a paper-dry seed pod becomes sodden and its seeds swell and burst their skin; or when a tuft of bright green grass forces its way through the baked mud.
Wildlife overview for December:
Lions: Lions were seen almost daily in December, be they lone males or one of the prides that has four adult lionesses, two adult males, sub-adult cubs and small cubs. Our guests have watched them hunting, eating mating, grooming, playing – and, of course, doing what lions do best, sleeping.
Leopards: It’s been a fantastic month for seeing leopards! One morning we decided to follow two hyenas that, with the help of a black-backed jackal, led us to a male leopard, in an umbrella thorn tree, where he had hoisted his kill of a zebra foal. He dined on it over the course of a few days, while several hyenas circled below, silently urging the leopard to drop the carcass. Another great sighting was of a leopard descending a tree where it had stashed an impala carcass, and walking right past the game-viewing vehicle as guests clicked away with their cameras. If one leopard at a time is not enough that problem has been solved twice this month – two leopards where seen in close proximity to each other, one stalking a porcupine of all prickly subjects, and the other stalking impalas. Then there were the guests that got to see a female leopard within one minute of leaving the lodge carpark. They spent time with her, watching her trying to hunt, and then, when they left the scene, they saw a male leopard on the first road they turned onto!
Elephants: It’s great to see the fragmented herds group together again now that the grazing and browsing is green. There were about 150 in a herd that were drinking and feeding at Lojaan dam. An unusual sighting, and certainly one you don’t want to get in the way of, was coming across a breeding herd in the dark, on our way back to the lodge, that included a pair of elephants mating right in front of the vehicle.
Hyenas: The one species that dominates the sightings reports for the month is hyena. There is an extremely powerful and prosperous clan, and the core of their territory is in central lowlands area where there are many roads. Here we’ve seen hyenas kill and feed on a wildebeest, zebra and a waterbuck in December.
Rhinos: If it is your dream to see wild, free-roaming, healthy and well-protected rhinos, then it’s time you booked a safari to Singita Pamushana! Our sightings of both black and white rhinos for December have been excellent, as usual.
Buffalos: We’ve enjoyed seeing the buffalo herds feast on the flush of grass. A highlight was seeing a newly born buffalo calf learning to walk while the mother watched over it in a very defensive mood.
Wild dogs: We didn’t see the pack for a long period, but then, with relief, we found 24 of them, all in very good condition.
The pack with all the pups totalled 27, so it is possible that some have broken away and gone on their own in search of a new pack.
Cheetah: Cheetah sightings have been extremely scarce this month – it is certainly much harder to spot them in the long grass.
Plains game: There are so many impala babies everywhere! One morning our Banyini area looked more like the Serengeti! There were more than 100 zebras, 40 giraffes, 10 hyenas, several wildebeest and lots of impalas. There’ve been good sightings of eland, sable and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest too. The very next day after the zebra mare lost her foal to a leopard, her life was taken by hyenas. In some sort of possible retribution, we later saw three hyenas being chased off an old kill by a herd of zebras.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report December 2016
I hope you’ve already eaten.
While watching a pack of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) sleeping near a waterhole in the drizzling rain I noticed a few hooded vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus) skulking about on the ground. Every now and again they would peck at something and eat it, and I wondered what it was since vultures are scavengers, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals. You often see them cleaning up the scraps of meat from a kill made by wild dogs. The dogs hadn’t made a kill nearby, and so it was that my binos and big lens revealed they were eating the wild dogs’ faeces!
It is not uncommon to sit in Hwata blind and see dagga boys come to the pan and drink. Dagga boys are the old grumpy buffalo bulls who have left the ‘buzz’ of the breeding herd and often join bachelor herds of other old bulls. The name dagga boys refers to their habit of wallowing in the mud (dagga), mostly as a means of thermoregulation. These old guys are very confident in their grumpiness and often end up walking into the middle of the pan on a hot dry day.
It ended up being a remarkably fortuitous morning as we had started our drive early to look for black rhinos. I drove to all areas with the habitats that black rhinos prefer – areas with shrubs and trees and dense thickets, but with no joy.
Early one morning Jenny and I were out scouting in different vehicles to help the guests’ game drives locate key specific animals, like lions, leopards, cheetahs, black rhinos and wild dogs. At about 7 am we received a sighting update from Bravo 2, which is the main southern boundary gate that links us to Gonarezhou National Park, informing us that they had seen wild dogs frantically location calling and running backwards and forwards along the boundary area.