At last autumn has arrived here and the landscape is finally turning tan. The vegetation is thinning and the temporary pans are drying up, drawing the wildlife to the more permanent water sources on the reserve.
Let’s cut straight to the chase – here’s our wildlife overview for June:
Lions: We’ve had the most sightings of the River Pride this month, up to 12 members at a time. They swam/dashed across the Chiredzi River, albeit apprehensively, and have been hunting along the banks. We watched them feeding on a buffalo carcass, and, on another occasion, found them lolling around with full bellies and the wisp of a zebra’s tail lying nearby.
Leopards: Leopard sightings have been elusive. On one lucky occasion when driving back to the lodge we found a leopard sitting on the boundary of the Banyini open area as we proceeded towards the airstrip. He didn’t stay to pose but we watched in awe as he walked down the road and then off into the bush.
Rhinos: The rhino sightings have increased significantly. We’ve seen white rhinos grazing, wallowing in mud, suckling their newborn calves and displaying to each other to compete for territory. This mother and calf were standing in a classic defensive position with their rears touching, looking out for any possible danger. There’ve been good sightings of black rhinos too – sometimes these end in mock charges which certainly leaves one fuelled by adrenalin! One group of guests were eager to see a black rhino on foot, and their dreams were realised when a three-hour tracking exercise resulted in an excellent sighting of a bull black rhino that we refer to as “Chilonga”.
Cheetahs: We were fortunate to have an excellent sighting of two territorial cheetah males, out in a clearing late one afternoon.
Hyenas: Every morning we see hyena tracks and often catch them returning from their nightly forays. They cover vast distances at night as they go in search of prey animals to hunt, or leftovers to scavenge from other predators.
Elephants: There have been many delightful elephant sightings this month. A highlight with the bachelor bulls was watching seven of them taking a mud bath together. As far as the breeding herds of cows and calves go a real spectacle was when we were sitting on the banks of the Chiredzi River with 50 elephants below us, and while sitting there we were twice approached by small cow herds and had to make a hasty retreat to the vehicle as they were walking right up to where we were sitting.
Buffalo: There are literally tons of buffalo all over the reserve. One evening about 700 of them converged at the main pan on Banyini, churning the ground into clouds of ‘bellowing’ dust.
Wild dogs: This is possibly the strangest wild dog photo you will ever see, and indeed it is not of wild dogs. It is of a drowned impala being fed upon by terrapins. But the only reason the impala would have drowned is because the pack of wild dogs that is somewhere in the northern sector of the reserve had chased the impala into the dam. The dogs would have been too nervous to swim after it or fish it out because of crocodiles. As it happened there weren’t any crocodiles in this dam, and the terrapins were feasting on the carrion. Two days later I saw the same sight at another nearby dam in the north, but this time the drowned impala was being fed on by a large crocodile. The only other evidence the dogs left of their failed hunts was of their muddy paw prints at the water’s edge.