Autumn is really taking her time – I usually take great delight in the golden leaves of the Kirkia trees falling like confetti on our wedding anniversary in mid-April, but they only started falling in mid-May this year.
The landscape is still washed with green, and the seasonal pans are only just beginning to dry out. We noticed movement in one muddy area and, on closer inspection, found some sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus) writhing about. Catfish are fascinating creatures – they are able to crawl on dry ground to escape drying pools; they can survive in shallow mud for long periods; they’re nocturnal and they feed on living, as well as dead, animal matter.
Here’s our wildlife overview for May
Lions: The kings of the jungle have been seen frequently this month. There does seem to be some territorial friction happening with dominant male lions chasing potential rivals out of their area.
Leopards: Leopard sightings have been fleeting but hopefully they will improve when the grass is lower in the coming winter months.
Elephants: There’ve been elephants seen every day, the highlights being breeding herds with their babies. One of these highlights was when guests and their guide were parked in some shade at a mud pan and were rewarded with about 20 elephants and their babies coming to mud bath in front of them.
Rhinos: Excellent rhino sightings, as always, of both black and white rhinos. May is the month that rhino condition is at its peak here, so it is when we perform our annual ear notching exercise enabling us to identify and monitor each rhino on the reserve.
Hyenas: The hyena clan that was so in evidence in our central areas a few months ago is only rarely seen now due to the influx of lions in that area. A pride of lions that used to stay mostly west of the Chiredzi River set up camp east of the river when the river was flowing strongly during the rainy season, and this forced the hyenas to find a more suitable area away from their arch enemies.
Buffalos: The African or Cape buffalo have been making the most of the prolonged green season and are in superb condition. There are many calves about and large herds of about three hundred have been seen this month.
Cheetah: Cheetahs are so rare and difficult to find, especially when the grass is long, but despite this we have had excellent sightings of a coalition of two males this month.
Wild dogs: The wild dog pack seemed to disappear off our reserve for a day or two, but thankfully they’ve
returned and are showing interest in one of their denning areas. The pack had 27 members but now we are seeing a core group of about 18. This is good news as it means that some members might have splintered off to form new packs. There’s a story in this journal about a single dog found alone with an impala kill…
An awesome sighting this month was when 18 wild dogs confronted two spotted hyenas and an adult bull elephant in musth was caught in the crossfire! The dogs tried hard to keep the hyenas out of their area of operation but the hyenas kept coming back to check that they were not missing out on any successful hunting attempts. Another highlight was watching the pack of 18 hunt, kill and devour an adult male impala. They always seem to be up to something – such as a few days ago when we came across them along the side of a road where they seemed to be having some ‘play time’ with a herd of buffalo by chasing them about half-heartedly in what appeared to be a game of tag.