Buffalo: Towards the beginning of the month we were seeing a herd of buffalo moving in the northern areas of the concession. Because of the lack of rain in the area this large herd moved out of the area and headed towards more permanent water on our western boundary. A brief shower in the hills allowed for puddles to form in the rocks and some of the bachelor herds remained in the area of the Lebombo Range. Muddy puddles in the valleys formed some great mud-wallows which these ‘dagga’ boys made full use of. The prides of lions soon realised that the buffalos were frequenting these muddy wallows and they took full advantage of this.
Leopards: Quite a few different leopards were seen this last month. One particular male (the N’wanetsi male) was seen on a few occasions in the hills close to camp. We saw him briefly on a few occasions when taking walks along the granophyre ridge. The Xhikelengane female was also seen on a few occasions. She prefers the central area of the concession. She is easily recognised by the scar on her upper lip. She has provided some great viewing. She is a very relaxed female and has no concerns regarding the presence of the game-drive vehicles. One morning we came across her lying up in a leadwood tree near the road with a young kudu kill. She fed on the carcass for a few days and then headed further north in the concession. We did not have any sightings of the Mahlangulene female and assume that she is hiding her cubs in the rocky valleys in the far north, where we do not have access with vehicles. We also had a few sightings of an unidentified male leopard in the vicinity of Gudzane Dam.
Cheetahs: We did not have many sightings of cheetah this month. They were conspicuous by their absence. However, we were lucky enough to see a female cheetah and two cubs on one of the public roads to the west of the concession on two or three occasions.
Elephants: Although many of the herds moved out of the area for a while the last remaining waterholes near the camp have attracted elephants and we have had some good viewing. After the brief shower in the northern parts of the concession quite a few of these magnificent animals returned to the Xhikelengane drainage line. On a few occasions we were lucky enough to see herds with tiny babies. On one occasion we came across a herd with a young calf that must have been born that same morning. All the adult females were standing around the youngster and it was amazing to watch as they helped it to stand and guided it between them as they moved off. It is always special to see young animals and now is the season for baby animal viewing. Elephants, however, do not give birth seasonally and we therefore see young elephant calves throughout the year.
Lions: Both groups of the Shish Pride were seen on a few occasions this month. The portion with the smaller youngsters were hunting to the west of the concession near one of the public roads and we saw them there on a few occasions. They managed to bring down a buffalo fairly close to the road. The three Mountain Pride lionesses were also seen on a few occasions in the central and northern parts of the concession. We also saw them feeding on a buffalo. At least two of the lionesses seem to be lactating and we hope that we will start seeing their cubs in a month or two. Lions have a gestation period of just over three months and then hide their babies in secluded areas for a few weeks before they start moving them around. The Xhirombe Pride was also seen on a few occasions this month, particularly in the area along the N’wanetsi River east of camp towards the Mozambique border. They managed to kill a male buffalo at a spring where the water seeps out of the hills, and later on in the month we saw them feeding on a waterbuck very close to the Mozambique border. We also managed to see the Shish Pride with the older cubs on a few occasions. The male white lion always attracts a lot of interest from the guests. He is leucistic (has a partial lack of pigmentation). This is as a result of recessive genes and it is very rare to see a white lion in the wild. We are very lucky to have this white lion in our area. The five Shish males have also been seen on a few occasions this last month, particularly in the central areas of the concession.
Hyenas: We have seen hyenas at both of the dens on the tar road near the entrance to the lodge. It appears that the Nyokene clan have moved to the culvert close to the Boom Gate and the H6 Clan is still using the den further west along the road. A large group of hyenas were seen feeding on a young giraffe right at the northern border of the concession.