The silly season is in full swing – as you can see by this baby giraffe that’s jumping for joy! We’ve enjoyed some pouring rain which most of us relish, except the big cats – a lion can look really woebegone when its wet! Putting the predators in high spirits however are the abundance of baby impala and wildebeest – wild dogs, lions, leopards and cheetah have all been seen making the most of this seasonal feast. Despite the thick green vegetation that abounds at this time of year we’ve clocked up quite a few “Big Five Drives” this month – single drives in which lion, leopard, elephant rhino and buffalo are seen.
Christmas morning held much in store for Brad Fouché and his guests. They watched an amazing sunrise at the lodge while enjoying their coffee, then set off on drive and saw seven white rhinos, 800 buffalo, a single male lion and then a pride of nine lions, and rounded the morning off with three different elephant bulls.
• Most of the sightings have been of the River Pride of 11 lions (when the territorial males are with them), and all members are looking healthy. The River Pride and the Northern Pride crossed paths at Sosiji Dam and a brawl ensued. Hyenas heard the commotion and crashed the scene thinking there might be a free meal on offer. The whole valley was echoing like thunder with the roars and calls!
• Far more peaceful a sighting was when some giraffe gave away the whereabouts of a resting male lion. We watched as a herd of buffalo walked passed the lion, some no more than 20 metres away, but the lion was just too hot to engage with them, and the buffalo seemed oblivious of his presence.
• A fascinating sightings was of a young lion playing with a less-than-happy-about-the-situation tortoise. Fortunately, the tortoise’s patience, wisdom and excellent outer armour won the day.
• Most of the sightings have been of a beautiful female leopard right at the base of Pamushana hill. It has been such a treat for guests spotting her as they begin or end their game drives.
• We’ve enjoyed sightings of the two males sleeping, showing interest in impala and, rather embarrassingly, being chased by five zebras.
• Hyenas tried to steal a zebra kill from lions. It was quite an evenly matched contest but the lions kept their kill.
• It was amazing to find 13 hyenas around a pan – some lying in the shade, some walking about and some in the water, but the highlight was listening to the sounds they made. Such eerie whoops, calls, cries and giggles! They were a few metres from us and their audio echoed all around. Bone chilling stuff!
• A rather funny sighting was watching a hyena absent-mindedly ambling down a road. He bumped into a big warthog who took it personally and chased him away!
• Elephants are becoming tricky to find in the dense vegetation but hard work pays off. Several encounters with bull elephants have been had, especially at the pans where they’ve been cooling down by throwing mud on their backs. There are also some large tuskers about.
• An extraordinary sighting was of a breeding herd of more than 100 elephants!
• One epic sighting was of a male white rhino walking towards a pan for a drink, while two elephant bulls had a mud bath and a lioness slept in the shade of a thorn tree.
• We came across a male white rhino with fresh marks on the front of his face from fighting with another bull. He promptly started scraping and scent marking when he saw us, before realising we were no threat.
• A wonderful find was of seven white rhino curled up under the shade of some mopane bushes. The heat was so intense that all the wildlife had sought out the precious shade.
• Brief sightings of black rhinos have been had. On one lucky occasion three were seen together. On another, a mother and calf were seen in an open area and the mother charged the vehicle twice before cantering off to the thickets with her calf.
• Buffalo need to drink water every day, so it is best to look for them at the permanent pans. Over 400 had congregated at our central pan one late afternoon.
• The pack of 13 have been seen this month, and they are certainly making the most of the impala lambs. On one hunting excursion they quickly finished off four baby impala, leaving no scraps at all.
• The plains game sightings are always good, and a highlight for the month was seeing a breeding herd of sable antelope.
Read the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report December 2018
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.