After the hustle and bustle of the migration we actually experienced quite a lull in the resident game populations. It took the local wildlife some time to figure out it was okay to come back. We tend to see a large return of zebra once the wildebeest have moved on, and this time even the zebra were slow to come home.
July is normally considered to be the driest month of year in the Serengeti and this year, being an El Niño year, exacerbated the drying process. Things got dry very quickly and eventually most of the ground water pools had dried up leaving the various waterholes and river pools as the only available water. This was what seemed to bring all the game back to Grumeti. Eventually by the end of July, the areas near Faru, and the plains out to the west of Sabora and Explore became havens for the plains game. So, what we initially thought was going to be a tough month turned out very well in the end.
Lions: We seem to be going through another spate of lion births across the property. Some of you will remember that we experienced a very similar situation in 2013. This makes a lot of sense, because all of the lions that were born in that period in 2013 are now fully independent.
The mothers of those cubs would have come into season again, fallen pregnant and after having given birth, are now starting to move their cubs out and about to areas where the guides are encountering them.
The Grumeti River and the length of the Raho Drainage are both hotspots for lion cubs at the moment. We also suspect that the Sasakwa Hill has cubs hidden due to the fact that on a number of occasions single female lions of the Butamtam Pride are seen moving around, not only at night but during the day as well. History tells us that shortly after having these hilltop lion visits we are a short time away from seeing new cubs again.
Towards the end of the month the Singita Grumeti Fund conducted and aerial riparian survey, counting among other things, bushbuck, colobus monkey and vulture nesting sites. During this survey they also had a number of lion sightings across the complex, so our monthly total for lion sightings was a little unlikely in a normal month. We recorded 127 lion sightings in total for July.
Cheetah: Our cheetah sightings have been really stable with both mother cheetahs playing a good part in this process. The female with the three younger cubs had a short time away from us in the earlier portion of the month, they decided to go and spend some quality time in the western Ikorongo before returning to the Faru area.
The mother with the older single sub-adult cub was a regular throughout the month though. Both of them put on spectacular shows for guests visiting on more than just a few occasions.
In the area of Sabora we had a large, strong male cheetah frequenting the plains as well as two young males that were clearly recently emancipated from their mother were seen slinking around in the same area.
Leopards: We had a truly bumper month’s leopard viewing again. Within a fairly small area along the Raho Drainage on our southern boundary with the Serengeti National Park we had two different female leopards, both with two sub-adult offspring in tow.
One of the females is the Tulia female who we have regularly reported on in the past. She has a male and a female youngster of around sixteen month in age. The other female who we haven’t really seen very much has two male cubs. On more than one occasion we had two sightings on the go with three leopards each. And, like I mentioned before, they were sometimes seen with less than a kilometre separating them.
All in all there were fifty-two leopard sighting across the Grumeti complex. There was a bit of cheating involved though it has to be said. Just like the lions, the riparian survey managed to rack up 17 leopard sightings in just a few days.
Wild dogs: The regular sightings from June didn’t continue through to July unfortunately. We did manage to have eight viewings of them. We also got some more great news from the TAWIRI staff that another female has had puppies in a new den.
One of the six three-month-old puppies that were reported on last month hasn’t made it, so that leaves that litter with five. The mortality rate of animals that have multiple births is usually pretty high. This is among others, one evolutionary tactic that allows for the successful rearing of at least some healthy and strong individuals in the pack or litter.
Elephants: As the month progressed and things continued to get drier, we noticed how our elephant sightings increased. Not only did the frequency of sightings improve but also the herd sizes. This is a pretty typical situation here in Grumeti. Water becomes more and more of a commodity and is found in fewer places as the dry season continues.
The ephemeral river that runs to the north of the airstrip becomes a hotspot of elephant activity and on occasions the various herds that frequent the length of the watercourse will come together and form groups that can number well over a hundred animals.
Along with Juma and Mtui, they also unwittingly became part of the guest welcoming committee at the airstrip.
From a pretty poor June figure, we finished the month with a respectable 57 sightings for the month of July.