This is the driest time of the year, with the anticipating wait for the rains to start. Temperatures soar by midday, where most species take the recourse of resting in shaded, cooled thickets and drainage areas in the bush. The dry season allows guests to experience wildlife in congregations along the Sand River and around permanent water sources throughout the reserve. The river has stopped flowing, leaving pools where hippos compete for bathing rights throughout the day and the herons raid the existing fish of their lives. The slowly changing seasons have seen a few of our migrant bird species making a return and whilst new life gravitates toward the area, the harsh environmental conditions have also shown some distress in both the flora and fauna.
It is that time of the year where we pack away the winter blankets from the game viewing vehicles and make way for shirts and sunglasses!
Here’s a highlights package of the month’s sightings
Lions: The dynamics of lions have shifted dramatically. Not only with the new offspring that have been seen with the Mhangene pride. The Othawa male has been viewed moving far south and east and has been reportedly seen with one of the young Mhangene lionesses. The two aging Matimba male lions spend most of their time far north and west, often interacting with the Othawa pride – exceptionally with their existing cubs fathered by the Majingilane males. The movements of the Mhangene sub-adults have also been quite interesting to observe. The two remaining sub-adult females have now been completely welcomed back into the pride which is excellent for the growth of the pride, however the remaining males are still struggling on their own out there. Two of the young males have recently been seen trailing the Mhangene pride in the hope that they too will be accepted, however with four new little additions, the mother is not letting them spend their time nearby.
Leopards: There has been some unfortunate news regarding the loss of one of Schotia’s cubs this month. The young female was witnessed being killed by a hyena whilst they were all feeding on the remains of an impala carcass. The young female was nervous and rarely moved boldly with her brother. The remaining male cub continues to do well and is already showing signs of growth past the 6-month period. With further unfortunate news regarding leopards, the Hukumuri female has also been viewed with only one remaining cub. It is not unusual for leopards to have a high mortality rate with their cubs in the wild. On the brighter side of things, the young Hlaba’nkunzi male was witnessed making his first (seen) male bushbuck kill, this is a great outlook considering he has relied on many smaller mammals and reptiles to keep him going.
Wild dogs: One of the resident wild dog packs continue to move north of the river. As the young wild dog puppies no longer need to stay at a den-site for safety, they are moving with the adults whilst on hunts. As the pack has doubled in size due to the puppies now moving with the adults, there is a prominent need for more prey being hunted within a day. On one occasion this month three impala were killed within a matter of minutes of each carcass being devoured. We are currently standing with eight adult dogs and eight puppies with the hope that they may survive into adulthood.
Elephants: Sporadic smaller herds have been seen, however the larger groups have been scarce as the larger groups continue to move further distances in search of suitable feeding areas, along with prominent water sources.