It’s been hot, cool, windy and calm, but our summer rains have arrived spurring on a charge of fresh green growth. The brilliantly bright new leaves of the mopane look like clouds of shimmering butterflies when backlit by the sun. It’s a generous time of year with lilies and other flowers displaying their advertisements to the pollinators, and the first impala lamb of the season arrived a little earlier than usual, on 7 November.
Here’s a sightings snapshot for November:
- Without a doubt the lion sighting of the month went to the Nduna Pride that managed, somehow, to massacre five Cape buffalo near Nduna Dam! The pride of 12 (two males, four lionesses and six subadults/cubs) feasted on the three buffalo calves and two cows for several days. After that they were seen sleeping on top of some sunny rocks, while the cubs still had some energy to play.
- The Nduna Pride also managed to kill a zebra in the early hours one morning, north east of Mapanzani weir.
- There have been several sightings of the River Pride doing what lions do best, including feeding on a buffalo carcass.
- Guests enjoyed spending over two hours watching a lone male lion stalk a herd of buffalo. At sunset he closed in and caught a calf.
- A male lion was also spotted at Simbiri Dam early one morning, just about to start feeding on a young buffalo bull he had brought down.
- It would appear that the best way to see leopards this month was to not look for them at all… One was sauntering along the Pamushana Access Road, one was sitting on the shoreline as guests departed on an afternoon safari cruise, and one was seen sleeping in a tree, right next to the road, near to the lodge.
African wild dogs
- It’s hard to tell what’s happening with the dog dynamics this month. Last month a pack of six adults and six pups were seen, but this month a pack was seen twice with 13 members, and then the last sighting of them has been of seven members – six adults and one pup.
- They’ve been seen feeding, chasing off hyenas and regurgitating food for the pups. At the last sighting they were clearly full and happily playing around in a muddy puddle.
- There seems to have been some political dispute between the hyena clans of late.
- Individuals have been seen scouring the plains, loping along and looking for baby impalas.
As is always the case the sightings of white rhinos at Singita Pamushana have been extraordinary, and there have also been great sightings of black rhinos, from vehicles and on foot.
There was a sad loss however, an old cow with a particularly long, straight, front horn has died. She was known as Njakeni, and was one of the very few rhinos who made it through the 1992 drought, before The Malilangwe Trust was formed. Since then the Trust has been monitoring her (from 1994) and she has had seven calves (four females and three males), and following only the maternal lines, we find that to date, she has 17 grandcalves, and 1 great-grandcalf. So she contributed 25 calves through herself, her daughters and her granddaughters.
She died of natural, age-related causes, at the old age of over 30 years. (We don’t know when she was born, but we do know that she was at least six years old in 1996 because she had a calf at this time.) She had both horns intact when she died, and she was accompanied by her grandson until her last breath.
She was an icon who made an especially significant contribution to rhino conservation, and will be sorely missed by us all.
- Elephants have been a little harder to find this month, and on some game drives we have set out with the main aim of finding some. This often means finding tracks on the roads and then disembarking the vehicle to track them on foot when they are far away from any roads or viewpoints.
- On one walk it took two hours to find them, and they were feeding in a thicket and were very spread out. On another occasion elephants were found resting in the shade of a tree. Guide and guests spent some quality time watching these massive animals and it quickly became evident that there were more elephants than initially thought. They ended up having a memorable view of 11 bull elephants, moving on from their rest, slowly walking right past the group causing everyone to feel their hearts beating hard with the excitement of the experience.
- There was a splendid sighting of a breeding herd of about 30 elephants drinking and swimming in the Nyamasikana River.
- Great herds of buffalo have been seen drinking at some of the pans. Some herds are in excess of 500 buffalo.
- Fifteen dead buffalo were seen in the river, with hundreds of vultures feeding on the carcasses. We do not know the cause of these multiple deaths.
- Excellent sightings of plains game, especially of those that have youngsters afoot at this time.
- We have had particularly good sightings of sable and hartebeest at the pans.
- Guide Tyme Mutema had a fantastic sighting of a caracal crossing the airstrip, heading south.
- A group of guests enjoyed sundowners and a bush dinner at this pan while watching wildlife coming down to drink. It was an epic experience, with the following animals seen: 15 hyenas, 11 white rhinos, 2 black rhinos, 2 buffalo bulls and some plains game.
- Fishing has been great with many bream and a few tigers caught by those trying their luck.
- We’ve taken some wonderful meanders into Gonarezhou National Park – it is always a pleasure viewing this wilderness and the impressive striated Chilojo Cliffs.