Green season is finally upon us, with steady rain falling throughout the month of March, the plains are a sea of green. We seem to be going into our long rains, which typically fall from March through to May, and this year they were very well received. Much of Tanzania has experienced a drought as the rain patterns have varied from previous years, as we said in previous reports. November, December and January were particularly dry, making life tough for all our grazers and browsers. But with the onset of our rainy season the animals are experiencing some relief as the plains are now lush and green, with and abundance of water.
With the rainy season we do experience a slight drop in animal numbers, this is due to the animals now being able to spread out over the concession and not having to be concentrated in areas where there is suitable grazing and water. That is not to say we have not had some incredible sightings this month. As per usual our predator sightings have been spectacular, with several successful hunts being witnessed. The wild dogs have also been seen regularly towards the end of the month and, by the looks of it, the alpha female is pregnant so hopefully we can expect a litter of pups in the near future.
With it being the rainy season we have seen a drop in guests visiting the property, which is a shame but those guest willing to travel during this time are spoiled for choice as to which sightings to go and see, due to the lack of vehicle movement across the reserve.
Lion: All our lions are doing very well, with the general game having spread out during the month, lion sightings have dropped compared to previous months but this also due to the grass being extremely tall. In saying that guests have had some incredible sightings. Particularly of the Butamtam and Nyasarori prides.
The Butamtam pride’s eight cubs are growing rapidly, thanks to the lionesses successful hunting. Their main prey species at the moment are zebra and topi, as these are the most abundant grazers around at this time. They are spending a great deal of time along the Malinga drainage as this provides the cubs with good cover while the females are off hunting.
The Nyasarori pride has made up for a great deal of the sightings this month. They are currently spending a great deal of their time along the Raho drainage and the Nyasarori plains which have much shorter grass than that of the Sasakwa plains, making finding and viewing them much easier.
Once again, on several occasions, more than 21 members of the pride have been seen regularly together, they can afford to do this due to the large number of herbivores which have congregated on the short grass plains.
Braya and his guests managed to witness an unsuccessful warthog hunt by the Nyasarori pride. Three females spotted the warthog feeding out on the plains, as they started stalking the warthog they got within 20 meters before the warthog noticed them and made a break for it. It managed to find the safety of its burrow. This though did not stop the lions from attempting to dig it out, but after 30 minutes of digging the lions lost interest and then began to lie around again near the burrow. Suddenly the warthog made a mad dash from its burrow across the plains, catching the lions completely unaware and they did not even attempt a chase!
Leopard: Our leopard sightings continue to be very consistent, with the Mkombre female and her single cub, as well as the Mbogo female and her 2 cubs making up the majority of the sightings.
The Mkombre female and her cub and doing well. The cub is approximately five months old now and starting to become more and more adventurous each day. As leopards live a solitary life the time the cub spends on its own aid in preparing it for its solitary adult life. Cubs will generally spend two years with their mother before they are pushed out and forced to find their own territory. The female will allow her female cub to occupy a piece of her territory but male leopards are always pushed out by either their mother or the dominant male in the area. This cub is a female so we know that she will then occupy a piece of her mother’s territory allowing all the hard work in habituating her to vehicles to continue.
The female with the two cubs along the ridge hill area has not been seen for some time, this is due to the area in which her territory falls. There are several hills and rocky outcrops as well as dense areas of vegetation, making finding her quite a challenge. The guides have spent a great deal of time and effort in the area trying to locate her, but to no avail.
The female along Mbogo drainage and her two cubs continue to give our guests some great sightings. With her territory being along the drainage and the Grumeti River, locating them is often relatively simple. The cubs are now 18 months old so they are reaching that point in their lives were they are going to have to start fending for themselves. As mentioned before the young male will have it tougher than the female as she is guaranteed a territory, whereas he will have to go out and find his own.
There were a total of 33 leopard sightings throughout the month.
Cheetah: This month followed on from last month with a total of 55 cheetah sightings, with an incredible 11 cheetah seen on one day!
Most of these sightings have been in and around the short grass plains of Sabora and Nyasarori, as this is where there are large herds of Thompson gazelle and impala, a stable prey item for cheetah.
The mother and single cub have been seen consistently throughout the month and as you can see from Adas’s pictures, the cub is growing up quickly and this is due to mom’s great hunting skills.
We have had several males moving within the concession and on the day when 11 different cheetah where seen four of these were males, no doubt looking for females in estrous and also looking at expanding their home ranges.
Adas Anthony managed to witness two males competing for the same area. The bigger of the two would continuously chase the smaller less dominant male, trying to get him out of the area. This took place over several kilometres and eventually the smaller male retreated into a watering hole to try and avoid the bigger male but also to try and cool down as he had been chased for some distance.
Elephants: With March being a wet and rainy month elephant sightings defiantly took a dip, the reason being with an abundance of water and food around they are not forced to spend their time around Sasakwa Hill and the Grumeti River.
That being said we did see elephants almost every day, the guides just had to work slightly harder in finding them. There were a total of 116 sightings of elephant during March.
Wild dogs: After a long period of not seeing the dogs, they made a welcome return towards the end of the month. Since coming back into our concession we are seeing them on a daily basis. When they are around they certainly provide the guides and guest with some spectacular viewing. They are the most successful hunters of all the larger predators, with a success rate of 90%. If you put in the hours and are willing to sit patiently and wait, you can be rewarded with a successful hunt.
As I mentioned before the alpha female looks very pregnant which is great news for us as we can then expect a litter of new pups in the near future, and let’s hope this time they den within our concession, which would make for some amazing viewing.