April 2023

Singita Kruger National Park: April 2023

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Singita Kruger National Park: April 2023

The second month of autumn brought with it an unpredicted storm that swept in from the south east over the Lebombo mountains. Ominous looking thunder clouds darkened the southern sky and rumbling thunder echoed across the dry western grasslands. A single flash of bright light brought with it an expansive crack as the charged particles within the air created an electrical discharge seeking the path of least resistance towards the ground. The bolt of tremendous heat and energy ignited the dry grass and parched earth thus ensuing the beginnings of the first wild “veld” fire of the winter season. The fire burnt for five days aided by the south westerly winds that fuelled the inferno as it devoured moribund vegetation in its path. Creatures great and small fled the conflagrated area with many bird species such as the lilac-breasted rollers, fork-tailed drongos and many species of starlings gathering to take advantage of the updrafts of the fire forcing all flying insects into the insectivorous flying hunters’ killing zone.

The fire eventually died out due to the cooler temperatures and the remaining lush vegetation that starved it for fuel. The desolate, barren earth has now had a flush of green shoots emerge from the ash-strewn earth, enticing large herds of zebras to these blackened areas in search of nutrition and sustenance that is now in abundance.

A Sightings Snapshot for April follows:

Lions

The Shish Pride has been seen on a regular basis in the granophyre ridges. The five young cubs are from two different litters, the split being three and two. The cubs were seen getting their first taste of meat in the early days of April as their mothers managed to take down an impala. A few days later they were seen feeding on a kudu at the bush dinner site, appropriately. We have deduced that another female has given birth but we have yet to confirm where the den-site is, although most likely in a concealed cave or rocky outcrop in the granophyre ridge. Two of the younger females have kept the Trichardt coalition busy as they have been in oestrus simultaneously leaving the males competing for mating rights and lengthy mating sessions. At the end of the month, we heard at least one cub and so can finally confirm that another Shish female has introduced her cubs to the rest of the pride. This brings the total number of confirmed mothers to four.

The Trichardt male coalition has laid claim to the southern and central region following the death of Xihamham. They have been seen consistently with the Shish Pride and patrolling the Lebombo Mountains. Their territorial calls can be heard most early mornings echoing down the N’wanetsi River.

Following the demise of his brother, the lone Shish male has rarely been seen. Sighted on only a few occasions with the larger portion of the Mananga Pride as they venture further north. Should he be able to maintain his association with the pride, there should be no cause for concern. However, being a lone male lion in this area, having one of the highest densities of lions in the park, it is uncommon to have the opportunity to lay claim to a whole pride by himself. Rival coalitions will be impending on his shrinking territory as he will be unable to patrol and seek the advantages of the security and hunting escapades of the Mananga Pride.

The Maputo male has been spotted stalking a herd of large buffalo in the northern region. The Maputo male is an experienced hunter and known for his stealthy approach to prey. He has been seen trailing the buffalo herd for several days now, studying their movements and waiting for the opportune moment to strike. The Maputo male is a dominant force in the area, known for his impressive size and strength. The buffalo are aware of his presence and are on high alert, staying close together for protection. It remains to be seen whether he will be successful in his hunt or if the buffalo will manage to evade him.

The Mananga Pride had always called the savannahs of the central depression their home and the heart of their territory, but when their dominant male lion, Xihamham was killed by the rival Trichardt coalition, everything changed. The loss of the dominant male has left the pride vulnerable and exposed, and with the sub-adults to protect, the pride has acted fast. The adult lionesses have moved further north, away from their old territory and into new and unknown territory that may be infringed upon by neighbouring prides.

Leopards

Two of the large male leopards that we view were named this month. One male, which holds territory from the sticky-thorns northwards to Double Crossing and then from Basalt and further west, was named the ‘Pelajambu male’ which roughly means ‘where the sun sets’ owing to this male’s territory being in the west. The other male is a very relaxed individual who has been viewed on the concession for some time but was never named for recording purposes. This male’s territory is large and stretches from west of the concession to as far east as Nyokene. He has been called the ‘Monzo male’, the Xitsonga word for leadwood tree as he has been seen resting in leadwood trees on a few occasions and has been sighted moving along Monzo Road.

The Nhlanguleni female is doing an incredible job at providing meals for her two cubs, and the trio were located on three separate kills throughout the month. The cubs are becoming more habituated to vehicles and are extremely relaxed when mom is around.

The Dumbana young males are continuing to spend time within their natal area and are still often found along Ntsibitsane and Ostrich-link. The Dumbana 3:3 young male was seen more than his paler brother, and he was even seen as far north as Ingwe/Two-tegwaan where he spent a few days moving along the Xinkelengane drainage before returning back south. The brothers were seen together one day where they lay in close proximity to each other around a small pan of water. Their mother was seen once this month and is looking heavily pregnant. She was seen exploring the ridgeline to the north of Madagha Crossing, potentially looking for a den-site.

An unknown skittish female and her cub were seen on Park Road south of James Road. Tracks of these two have been seen on the concession and this was the first sighting of the pair.

Wild dogs

  • The floppy ear pack of nine has been seen ten times this month. At the beginning of the month, two of the adult males were successfully collared. One of the older males has been following a female very closely, and we believe she is likely in oestrus and there is a chance they are looking for a den-site around Nyokene Ridge.
  • The pack of three was seen on one occasion near our eastern boundary.

Spotted hyenas

The three clans have been seen this month with the majority of sightings being of the clan around Xinenene Poort.

There has been increased activity around the Xinkelegane fly camp with two adults spotted near the old den-site at the end of this month.

Elephants

Several herds of elephants have been spotted in two locations recently - the Xinkelengane drainage line and the Dumbana pools. These sightings have been fairly regular as the diminishing surface water starts to recede in the north and elephants look to congregate towards the perpetual waterholes. The Xinkelengane drainage line is known for its rich vegetation and is a popular grazing spot for elephants. The Dumbana pools, on the other hand, are a series of waterholes that attract a variety of wildlife to quench their thirst.

Buffalos

Several herds of Cape buffalo have been recently spotted in the northern parts of the Singita concession. These majestic animals are on a quest for grazing areas and available surface water, as the dry season sets in.

As the herd moves through the concession, they leave a trail of dust and create a truly remarkable sight.

Solitary old bulls have been seen moving along the N’wanetsi River, since the temporary pans have now almost all dried up.

Plains game

Vast herds of zebra, wildebeest and giraffe gather in the central depression area and the old game paths are being worn in once again as animals need to move further in search of water, returning to more permanent water sources such as the N’wanetsi River and Gudzane Dam.

Rare animals and other sightings

On 9th April a cheetah female with two young cubs was seen in our central grasslands, near an area known as Impala Lily. We estimate the cubs to be around two to three months old and look forward to more sightings of the new family.

A beautiful African wild cat that appears to be very relaxed around our vehicles has gifted us with many long sightings around Dave’s Crossing and Ostrich-Link open area. During one of which we were fortunate enough to see her stalk and pounce on what we assumed to be an unsuspecting rodent in the long grass right next to the road.

Multiple sets of tracks of the elusive pangolin were seen this month. We tracked two individuals from Dumbana pools towards a rocky ridge north of Monzo and Ma4pounds junction, and another set of tracks were seen along Central Road to Nhlanguleni. We are hoping this may lead to actual sightings of this small rare animal as the grass is cropped and thinned out by hungry grazers.

Birds

Most of the migrant birds have officially left for warmer climates, the call of the Woodland Kingfisher gone with the long hot days.

Red-billed queleas are however still present in the Sticky Thorn thickets on our eastern boundary, perhaps some having had enough resources for a second brood thanks to the abundance of grass seeds after a very wet rainy season.

A long-crested eagle was seen for a few days perched near the Ostrich-link fly camp and a melanistic Gabar goshawk was spotted near Border-fourways.

A European honey buzzard was spotted near Gudzane Dam.

The vultures have begun preparing their large canopy nests on the tops of the tallest knobthorn trees. At least three different flocks of southern ground hornbills have been sighted around our concession this month.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
Author / Guest Guide