December finally saw the rains we had all been waiting for, and during the month they turned the dry, thirsty bush a vibrant green. Drainage lines flowed for the first time, and the Mobeni tributary is now full again.
Here’s a highlights package of the month’s sightings:
Wild dogs: The pack moved throughout the reserve in December, so sightings were regular and good in number. The pups are almost adult size now and becoming difficult to tell apart from the adults. The pack shocked and awed guests during their hunting bouts, sometimes taking up to four impala lambs per session, making the most of the vulnerable prey.
Lions: The Ottawa pride has been the star of the show this month, and we have been lucky to have regular sightings of the three new Ottawa cubs. All are doing well and the adults have been taking advantage of still weak buffalo and distracted impala females. The Manghene pride have been moving greater distances, expanding their territory and trailing buffalo herds north and east.
Leopards: Exciting news this month as the Hlab n’kunzi female was seen with at least two new cubs. It will be interesting to see how her behaviour changes in relation to her previous offspring, the N’weti male, as she has her hands full feeding her two new cubs – there will be no room for extras! A battle for territories continues to rage between the male leopards in the area. The Nyelethi male is still very much dominant around the Sand River area, but the Kashane and Ravenscourt males continue to overlap in the southern sections. A new male, the Torchwood male, originating from the west, has also been seen spending more time around the Castleton area.
Buffaloes: Herds of buffalo are returning slowly following their migrations to find food. Herds of 50-200 are becoming more frequent and with the southern grasslands becoming lush and green again, we expect larger herds of 500+ to move into the area to feed. The new, fresh grass has been a huge relief for the bulk grazing animals.
Elephants: Elephants dominated the sightings in December, with 25% more sightings this month than in November. Similarly with the buffalo, fragmented herds are moving back together and we have been enjoying sightings of 50+ elephants at a time. Great mud bathing activity has been observed following the rains.