Cheetah Article by Enos Mngomezulu
The word ‘cheetah’ is derived from the Hindi word ‘chita’ meaning ‘spotted one’. The Singita concession has a good habitat for these elegant animals. They prefer to live in open grasslands, savannahs, dense vegetation and sometimes even in mountainous terrain. The openness of the grasslands and semi-desert areas better accommodate their style of hunting, which is running as opposed to stalking and pouncing. The best areas for viewing cheetahs here are Kori Clearing, which is a vast open area where we often see a large Kori bustard; around Golf Course Clearing which is another open area with short grass that resembles a golf course; Cassia Open Area which is an open area named after the sjambok pod tree – Cassia abbreviata; the N4 (named after the busiest highway in South Africa) is an open area near Gudzane Dam which, in winter, has clearly defined game trails to the water.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Kruger National Park Wildlife Report March 2014
- Average minimum 20.5°C (68.9°F)
- Average maximum 32°C (89.6°F)
- Minimum recorded 17°C (62.6°F)
- Maximum recorded 35°C (95°F)
- For the period: 92.5 mm
- For the year to date: 247 mm
It happened on 21 March after a 13-year absence. A downpour of 51 mm in two hours made our full-to-thebrim dam spill its contents in the early afternoon. There was much excitement and celebration after all the will-it or-won’t-it anticipation, and to see the cascade of white water fill the Nyamasikana riverbed below filled our hearts with awe and gratitude. This little fellow looked very grateful that I didn’t tread on him – I’d been following in the footsteps – literally of one of our scouts as we tracked a black rhino, and as I was about to place my foot down in the disturbed soil I saw this smiley face peering at me. Contrary to popular belief many frogs and toads don’t live in and around permanent water. Some complete their entire lifecycle on land, while others migrate long distances to reach water during the breeding season. Those that live in suitable soil make burrows and construct tunnels by digging backwards into the soil. Another astonishing fact is that toads can live for 40 years!
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report March 2014
- Average minimum 21,4°C (70,5°F)
- Average maximum 31,2°C (88,1°F)
- Minimum recorded 18,7°C (65,6°F)
- Maximum recorded 35,2°C (95,3°F)
- For the period: 113,0 mm
- For the year to date: 471,0 mm
It’s the month of baobabs fruiting, birds nesting, flowers advertising, insects pollinating, dung beetles rolling, frogs foaming, fungi blooming, sand grouse scuttling and woodland kingfishers whistling their piercing calls. We’ve had our best rains in decades and, as I write this, the Malilangwe Dam is 75 cm to spill. To describe the landscape as verdant would be an understatement – it looks more like a tropical rain forest of central Africa. Of course there’s nothing subtle, slight or gradual about our seasons in the Zimbabwean low veld - we’ve performed a quick wardrobe change from a bone-dry skimpy vest of vegetation to a drenched jungle green coat that ‘s resulted in herds of fat herbivores and flocks of brilliant birds. When it comes to game viewing I can assure you that the game is most certainly on! You may not see that many predators but it’s a time to slow down, look at the finer details, find peace and let it all soak in.
Download the full wildlife report here: SP Wildlife Report Jan 2014
- Average minimum 21,7°C (71,0°F)
- Average maximum 30,8°C (87,4°F))
- Minimum recorded 19,4°C (66,9°F)
- Maximum recorded 34,2°C (93,5°F)
- For the period: 231,4 mm
- For the year to date: 860,8 mm
This month’s photos and stories all seem to be about the lust for life and the persistent pursuit of it. The baby bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) in the photo above was born just below our Director’s home, on 1 November. This little calf is the product of a six-month gestation period and will spend an unusually long lying-up period of about four months, being stowed away and then nursed when its mother returns to it every few hours. It’s great to have these spiral-horned antelope living in close proximity to our staff housing because they are a favourite prey species of leopards and, although bushbuck are rather small, they make a very loud, deep resonating bark when alarmed. Interestingly enough they rely on their earthy colouration and white spots to conceal themselves, so the bark they make is ventriloquial – it lets the predator know it’s been spotted, even
though the predator may not have seen the bushbuck, and it lets us know that there’s possibly a predator too close to hom
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report November 2013
- Average minimum 20,8°C (69,4°F)
- Average maximum 34,4°C (93,9°F)
- Minimum recorded 18,2°C (64,7°F)
- Maximum recorded 43,2°C (109,7°F)
- For the period: 69,4 mm
- For the year to date: 456,8 mm
The news of the month is that the first rains have arrived, and even better news is that the forecasted weather patterns predict that we could receive more consistent rain over the next few months, rather than the ‘once-off deluge’ of last year. As part of a team-building exercise, and because all staff are ambassadors for conservation, those who work in the lodge were invited for a game drive – and what a game drive it turned out to be! One of our chefs returned with photos and stories of rock art that is so significant to see in its own context, tracks of various animals in the dust, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, waterbuck, hippos, elephants, and a sighting of the young female leopard who features in the ‘Cats and dogs’ story this month. On this occasion the staff spotted her cautiously walking through a relatively open area. Seconds later two golden bullets bore down on her – this time it was two male cheetahs who had seen her and given chase. She shimmied up a tree to outwit them, and stayed safely out of reach – even though the brothers ‘pretended’ to walk away nonchalantly in an effort to entice her down. Thank goodness this leopard is such a skilled climber – as you will see in the story that follows on page 12.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report October 2013
- Average minimum 18,0˚C (64,4˚F)
- Average maximum 31,2˚C (88,1˚F)
- Minimum recorded 12,7˚C (54,8˚F)
- Maximum recorded 39,1˚C (102,3˚F)
- For the period: 15,4 mm
- For the year to date: 387,4 mm
If you’d like to see plentiful wildlife sightings and different species interacting on your safari, call a Singita Reservations Consultant right now and board the first plane bound for Africa! The bushveld is achingly dry, and while this doesn’t fit with a conventional view of beauty, it has a spartan allure all its own. While driving through a mopane woodland with their copper-gold leaves drifting down in front of their sooty black-grey bark you can see that it is exactly this vegetation and time of year that a leopard’s rosetted coat has evolved to in order to provide near-perfect concealment. The game is concentrated around the shallow water holes, and if you spend a good couple of hours at any of these you’ll see species that tolerate each other drinking together, while others seemingly wait their turn on the peripheries. Elephants can be the playground bullies barging in and hogging all the space unsharingly, while many predators bide their time nearby, waiting for plains game to take a life-sustaining or life-ending drink.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report September 2013
- Average minimum 17,2°C (62,9°F)
- Average maximum 32,7°C (90,8°F)
- Minimum recorded 11,8°C (53,2°F)
- Maximum recorded 42,3°C (108,1°F)
- For the period: 17,4 mm
- For the year to date: 372,0 mm
Although considered quite early we’ve had our first rains for the season. More than just settling the dust after a long dry winter it’s brought to life so many species that have been dormant for months. Trees have started blooming, frogs and cicadas have started calling and the most amazing birds have begun to return for our warm and colourful spring. It is now the start of baby season! So many species synchronize their breeding for this fruitful time of year. It simply comes down to good, lush feeding, which translates to the mothers producing very nutritious milk for the newborns.
World Rhino Day – five species forever
World Rhino Day was held for the fourth time on 22 September and celebrated all five species of rhino: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhino. World Rhino Day was first announced by WWF-South Africa in 2010. The following year, World Rhino Day grew into an international event and success story, encompassing both the African and Asian rhino species.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Kruger National Park Wildlife Report September 2013
- Average minimum 16.0°C (60.8°F)
- Average maximum 30.3°C (86.5°F)
- Minimum recorded 10.0°C (50.0°F)
- Maximum recorded 38.0°C (100.4°F)
- For the period: 6 mm
- For the year to date: 415.5 mm
It’s been a month of drama and inspiration.
The drama was when we heard a ‘death cry’ from an area amid the lodge surroundings. This is a very distinctive and chilling noise an antelope makes when it is killed, and there’s no mistaking it. Staff members rushed to the area and were met on the pathway by a leopard carrying a male klipspringer in its jaws! It’s quite normal for leopards to prey on klipspringers but leopards are usually so shy of us and elusive, and this was ‘our’ klipspringer! Klipspringers are monogamous and a male and a female pair have been our lodge mascots for many years – always delighting guests and us by being in the lodge garden or perching on the rocky boulders like bronze statuettes. As the leopard’s crime was discovered it dropped the dead klipspringer and fled – it was probably so intent on a meal that it didn’t realise there were humans nearby. The female klipspringer was unharmed but she looks so bereft and will now need to go in search of a new life partner. The inspiration is art. So many scenes seem reminiscent of the works of great masters as well as modern artists, as this next story describes…Photography can be described as painting with light and I’m constantly intrigued by how light changes the mood of a scene, how it reminds me of great artworks and how it inspires me to be creative. I couldn’t help thinking of the vast canvases of the great master, the English Romantic painter, John Constable, when I saw this rhinoceros drinking. The way he captured light washing over idyllic country scenes and expansive cloudy skies in masterpieces like The Hay Wain immediately came to mind. Oh how I wish he’d seen the African landscapes we see!
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report July 2013
- Average minimum 11,6°C (52,8°F)
- Average maximum 25,7°C (78,2°F)
- Minimum recorded 08,9°C (48,2°F)
- Maximum recorded 32,2°C (89,9°F)
- For the period: 0.6 mm
- For the year to date: 354,6 mm
Roadblocks and Traffic Jams
No matter where I went this month I got stuck in some sort of snarl-up – it seemed there was an obstruction around every bend. No warnings, no detours, no signs and no explanations – just gridlock. There were even random zebra crossings that appeared out of nowhere. There was nothing I could do about it, other than just sit and wait for it to pass. On a far more serious note – if time is on your side it is always a good idea to try every lens in your camera bag for a new perspective and a different technique.
The herd of elephants in the road gave me a great opportunity for some creative photography. The last photograph in this series is a close-up of the big bull elephant’s feet. He was blocking the road and making sure he stayed between his herd and us. I had enough time to use my 400mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter, make sure it was stabilized on a beanbag, take the speed down to 1/80th of a second, hold the focus on his forefoot and wait for him to take a step closer, so as to capture some movement in his stride.
I’m very pleased with the moody result of a swirl of shadows, a dragging trunk, gnarled toenails and the intimidating movement in his massive foot.
Download the full wildlife report here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Report May 2013
- Average minimum 12.8˚C (55.0˚F)
- Average maximum 27.9˚C (82.2˚F)
- Minimum recorded 10.9˚C (51.6˚F)
- Maximum recorded 33.5˚C (92.3˚F)
- For the period: 1.4 mm
- For the year to date: 353.8 mm
My closer inspection of the photograph that follows revealed three different bird species surrounding the white rhino, which was grazing peacefully on the low grass in evidence this month. The black bird on the rhino’s withers is a fork-tailed drongo (Dicurus adsimilis). It’s waiting for the rhino to disturb insects in the grass, as it walks along, and then it’ll swoop down and catch them. The yellow-billed oxpecker (Buphagus africanus) is caught in the act of drinking blood directly from the scratch on the rhino’s side, and the little blue bird in the corner, a greater blue-eared starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus), has already achieved success from using the rhino as its hunting machine, by catching an insect trying to flee the rhino’s tread.
I can’t recall seeing an oxpecker on the ground – they’re always perched on an animal, branch or in flight. This one used the buffalo as a base to inch its way down to the water’s edge to have a sip.
From these two photographs it’s not hard to see why many people confuse the African (Cape) buffalo (Syncerus caffer) with the Asian domestic water buffalo that has the rather delightful scientific name of Bubalus bubalis. African buffalo love to wallow, but are not closely related to water buffalo.
When it comes to wallowing, hippos take the cake! These three were chilling in the shallows of the Chiredzi River. They spend about 16 hours in the water and then emerge at dusk, to graze.
Download the full journal here: Singita Pamushana Wildlife Journal April 2013
- Average minimum 16.3˚C (61.3˚F)
- Average maximum 28.7˚C (83.6˚F)
- Minimum recorded 13.1˚C (55.5˚F)
- Maximum recorded 34.4˚C (93.9˚F)
- For the month 41.2 mm
- For the year to date 352.4 mm