Throughout the month we have had streams of wildebeest making their way back onto the concession. They are all coming in from the north-east entering through the Ikorongo area and filing west.
Sasakwa Dam has been a hive of activity during the month, with huge herds of zebras and wildebeest coming to drink each day. Herds of elephants have also been seen drinking at the dam on a daily basis and many guests have been fortunate enough to see them swimming in the dam.
Across the concession we have been having some good rains, with several massive thunderstorms sweeping across the Sasakwa and Sabora plains. The Grumeti Fund has been continuing with their seasonal burning and these burnt areas are flush with new growth making them a magnetic for zebra and wildebeest.
Lions: The Butamtam pride have moved onto the Mkombre drainage and surrounding areas which is of some concern to us as this marks the boundary between the Grumeti reserve and the community land. We are hoping that with the arrival of the migration they move back towards the Sasakwa plains which is normally the core of their territory. The reason we are concerned is that there are huge herds of cattle which pass by this area and they are an easy target for a pride of 14 lions.
Before the arrival of the rains, the Nyasarori pride had camped themselves at the Sabora watering hole and were seen on a daily basis by the guests when they were relaxing on the decks of their rooms. In the below photo you can see how close to the rooms they were.
Since the rains, they moved back onto the Raho drainage and surrounding areas. A lioness was recently seen moving her three tiny cubs to a new den-site, just upstream from Mbuni crossing. We are unsure as to which pride she belongs, it will either be the Nyasarori or West prides.
The West Pride are still frequenting the area around our Singita Explore camps along the Raho drainage. One of the females was recently seen mating with one of the dominant males in the area, so again we can expect their pride numbers to increase.
On a recent trip into the Ikorongo we came across a new pride, which consists of four females, two males and eight cubs. Because this area is seldom driven, the females and cubs are still quite skittish of vehicles, which is interesting to see. There are not many places on our concession (or in the world) that lions are not used to vehicles.
I did not manage to get a picture of the females and the cubs but did manage to get the above and below pictures of the 2 males, who look to be around 6 years of age.
Leopards: What a month for leopard sightings with a total of 48 sightings seen! The majority of these sightings have taken place along Mbogo drainage, with five different leopards seen there. The Mbogo female and her subadult cub have been seen along the drainage towards Faru Faru. She was later seen mating with a shy male which we have not seen before.
Her daughter has been seen mating with the big male that has a very distinctive scar under his right eye, no doubt from fighting with another leopard.
On an early morning drive we had spotted both of them hunting wildebeest, no doubt starving from the mating which they had been preoccupied with over the past four days. We waited patiently on the eastern side of the drainage as they made several failed attempts, then finally the big male managed to catch a young wildebeest calf and moved off into a thicket to enjoy his meal. That afternoon we headed back to the area to see if we could get a better look at them feeding on the kill. As we approached the area we heard zebra and wildebeest giving alarm calls, alerting us that they must be close. As we rounded a bend in the drainage line we saw the big male had just taken down an adult female wildebeest and was suffocating it. It did not take him long to kill the animal, at which point he moved off to
recover and the female moved in and starting feeding on the carcass. To see a leopard make two kills in day was a first for me and I consider myself very lucky to have witnessed both of them.
Tuliea and her two sub-adult cubs are seen frequently along the Sabora drainage line. The cubs are becoming more and more independent and are not often seen with their mother anymore.
Cheetahs: A mother and her cub have been seen regularly throughout the month and I was lucky enough to see them take down a male gazelle. The mother made the kill but allowed the youngster to come in and practice suffocating the gazelle which provided invaluable training for the day she will have to make her own way in life.
On the 29th George Tolchard and I went camping out in the Ikorongo. On the way to the camping area we came across the biggest male cheetah we had ever seen on fresh wildebeest kill. We spent half an hour with him as he recovered from the hunt and started to feed on the kill.
On the same camping trip we received a call from the Grumeti Fund that there was a mother and three sub-adult cubs, of around two years of age, seen out in the Ikorongo area and one of the cubs had a snare around its waist. They had tried to locate the animals on that afternoon with no luck. On the morning of the 30th we drove out to the area where they were last seen and managed to find them. The local vet was notified and called out to the area. While we waited for the vet to arrive, we could see that the mother was very interested in hunting, so we followed them at a distance and were very lucky to watch them take down a female Bohor reedbuck (Redunca redunca). The mother made the initial stalk but allowed the cubs to make the actual kill, which was incredible to see.
Here you can see the young female with the snare. It was not too tight around her waist and had not yet started cutting into her back or belly. I am very pleased and relieved to say the vet arrived a short time after this and the snare was successfully removed.
Elephants: The majority of the many sightings were made up of breeding herds, averaging around 30 animals. On several occasions herds as big as 150 were seen.
Sasakwa Dam was the best place to view elephants this month, as on a daily basis various herds would make their way to the dam for a drink and, on the odd occasion, enjoy a swim.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Grumeti Wildlife Report October 2018
This month I witnessed how predators are so incredibly good at assessing a situation, weighing up the potential benefits of a hunt and analysing the potential costs or risks at the same time.
We set off under the cover of darkness in the early morning and on to one of my favourite drainage lines to look for lions. As it began to get light I caught site of the Butamtam lionesses and their youngsters. We gently approached the lionesses and then switched the engine off and watched. One of the more mature lionesses, the daughter of ‘Mama Scar’, was busy nursing her five youngsters. This is interesting as lionesses only possess four teats.
I was out one morning looking for elephants as my guests were still hoping for further interaction with these special creatures. What we came across that day, we could not have prepared for – it was simply magical.