This month has closed the year with some good rainfall and lots of new life… to be seen out on the central plains, at this time of writing, are lots of baby impalas, baby zebras, baby wildebeest as well as baby black-backed jackals. But before we dive into 2018 let’s take a look at what the wild closing chapters of 2017 had to offer:
Lions: On Christmas day three kings gave our guests a gift to remember… One lion and two lionesses were on the side of the road, close to the safari vehicles, and roared in chorus. Then, for the encore, the male and one of the females surprised us all by mating, with an array of growls, hissing and spitting that accompany the act.
Elephants: There have been many bull elephants to be seen. Harder to find are the breeding herds, but what a delight when we do! One of the herds seen was of about 60 elephants, and they were feeding with their babies.
Rhinos: Awesome rhino sightings as always. On a couple of occasions white rhinos and their young calves have joined guests on their sundowner stops. One afternoon drive tallied up sightings of 22 white rhinos, two black rhinos, three elephant bulls, a leopard, a breeding herd of elephants all around the vehicle, and many common mammal species.
The highlight sighting of black rhinos was when Japhet Diza and his guests saw a pair mating at Nduna Dam.
Buffalos: Again, Nduna Dam was the scene for high drama, when lions found a sick buffalo there. Guests watched the lions trying to catch the buffalo, but it was a stalemate as the buffalo retreated into the water and stayed there, where the lions were reluctant to pursue it. Later in the night another small breeding herd of buffalo came to drink, and the lions hunted them instead, finally killing a female from the herd.
Wild dogs: Fortunately, there have been a few sightings of a pack. One was when they were relaxing on the riverbed of the Chiredzi and guests were able to enjoy their sundowners while watching them.
Cheetah: We’ve had good sightings of the two males this month. The highlight was when Bulisani Mathe got a call of two male cheetahs lying close to the airstrip; “We quickly made our way there and found them resting. After viewing them for a while we left and saw three wildebeest females, each with babies. We stopped and viewed them as they were posing perfectly for pictures. While watching them they took off in high speed as if they had seen predators. Watching them run we saw the cheetahs also taking off in a chase towards the wildebeest. They all disappeared in the thickets, but we searched and found the cheetahs already feeding on one of the wildebeest babies. We sat at the sighting as we had a good view of the kill until it got dark.”
Leopards: Most of the leopard sightings have been at night, as you’d expect for these nocturnal cats, when they have been hunting or going to drink. But, there was also a sighting of a lovely relaxed female leopard seen resting in the open at the junction of Pipeline and Orphan roads.
Christmas day really delivered because a hyena was seen lying waiting in the road, which led us to spotting the source of its interest being a male leopard with a baby wildebeest kill, up a tree.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report December 2017
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.