Here’s a highlights package of the month’s sightings:
‘The rain gauge is full’ an excited exclamation is announced on the radio as we head out on our early morning safari. The bush is green, the grass is long and the wildlife sightings have been incredible. The reserve has blossomed into a flowering paradise. The shimmers of vibrant colours are evident in the season, as are the migrant bird species, many of which are in full plumage procuring a mate and ensuring their territorial status is known with their distinctive calls.
Wild dogs: A pack of wild dogs has been sighted on a few occasions this month. With the thick vegetation, predicting their movements now requires intuitive skill by the trackers and guides to prevent having to clamber through the thickets to keep up. Deciding on alternative roads to relocate them when they are on the move has proven to be the quickest and most effective method. Fortunately, with the thick bush, comes the advantage that several game species prefer to move along the roads as they view them as natural pathways.
Lions: A recent sighting of a large number of lions in the south, belonging to different prides and coalitions, has led guides to question if we are in the midst of change amongst the male coalitions. The sighting comprised two Matimba male lions, a single Majingalane male, the Mhangene pride along with all of the cubs in tow and four female lionesses from the previous litter, now known as the Mhangene breakaway females. The Mhangene pride has remained in the central areas of the reserve and been encountered on a few occasions within the surrounding area of Singita Castleton. The cubs within the pride are growing quickly – time seems to fly by when watching a pride develop, seeing young cubs transition into adults. The cubs now move constantly with the four adult lionesses.
Leopards: The Hlab’Nkunzi female leopard has eluded us on a few occasions and it has been frustrating not knowing what has happened to her cubs. There have been a few brief sightings but any views of the cubs have all been described as a glimpse. By now the cubs are estimated at six to eight weeks and it should be any day now that she will be leading them to carcasses. Once she moves them away from the den-site, it will be inevitable that she will continue to move them on various occasions to avoid other predation. The Nyelethi male leopard continues to make his presence known within the western and northern area of Singita Ebony Lodge.
Leopard viewing north of the river has been extremely good with the female leopards that have been encountered. Two of the leopards that were seen frequently this month in the central area north of the river are unidentified leopards and were reported to be young individuals in search of a territorial stake of land. This was evident when two female leopards and one young male were encountered within a short distance of each other before a scuffle broke out between the leopards resulting in the trio moving off in different directions. The Ingrid’s Dam female leopard was found lying in a marula tree just before sunset. The Hukumuri female leopard also found refuge in a large marula tree during a rainy day watching a group of impala in the distance.
Buffaloes: The large groupings of buffaloes have been returning periodically throughout the month. Due to the rainfall and the new growth spurt within the grasslands in the south, the buffalo groups are no longer restricted to limited grazing grounds and continue to move to the most palatable fields during the peak season. This movement can also be influenced by predator movements.
Elephants: It is hard to believe that a large grey animal weighing in at approximately 5 tons could be difficult to find! Surprisingly they are quite hard to see, submerged in the green undergrowth, particularly along the rivers. With most of the water holes being filled with rain water and the seasonal depressions filled with water, elephants continue to make the most of this time wallowing in the stagnant water and quenching their thirst at the fresh water locations. Marula fruits are highly sought after and the best place to find elephants at this time of the year would be near a fruiting tree.