Savanna Blog - January 2017

This January it has continued to rain on a regular basis and we have had some very welcome showers that have kept the grass and vegetation in prime condition. The overcast conditions, when used correctly, can provide some wonderful artistic photographic opportunities.

The grass cover and recovery, as mentioned in the last newsletter, is phenomenal and one would not believe that just four months ago, our area was in dire straits because of lack of food and water for the animals. Below are two pictures of the same dam, taken from the same place, just 4 months apart!

One species that really enjoys the water season are the elephant. They have a huge variety of food to eat, whereas during the drought they were restricted to bark and tubers that they could dig up. The elephant are also enjoying the full dams and bulls are often seen swimming and playing in the water.

When they are not actually swimming, they can often be seen spraying themselves with mud and, by the look of it, really enjoying these opportunities.

It is amazing how quickly the buffalo have recovered and are now putting on weight at a rapid rate. They are merging into bigger herds, more as protection from the lion predation, but also because there is no longer the competition for grass and leaves any more. When the buffalo were at their worst, their coats changed to an insipid reddish-brown colour, but now they are darkening to black again and their coats are shining as they feed on the new nutrients that are afforded to them.

As mentioned in the last blog, the wildebeest continue to give birth, but casualties to the youngsters will probably be higher this year than last year, because of the grass cover that the predators will use to get close enough to catch these calves. It has also been interesting that the wildebeest have not moved off the western areas this year and much larger herds are being seen on a regular basis. This could be because of the grass types changing due to the drought conditions and these grass types seem to suit the wildebeest and zebra better.

Another interesting creature that we have seen after the rain is the bullfrog, which is the biggest frog that we have in Southern Africa. We have a sub-species in our area which is slightly smaller than their bigger cousins to the north. These frogs will literally eat anything from birds to insects, snakes and other frogs. They are quite a rare sight in our area, due to over-utilisation by humans who eat them. There have also been some beautiful flowers and grasses that just make this time of the year incredibly special.

Our leopard viewing continues to amaze us and the intricacies of the territorial behaviour keep us intrigued with every day that passes. Dewane continues to control the area just south of the Sand River and his constant altercations with the Ravenscourt male are an ongoing saga. Whilst Dewane does not go as far south as he used to, the Ravenscourt male gives Dewane his space when they are on each other’s boundary. So there is definitely a lot of respect from both animals there.

The Boulders female continues to court the Ravenscourt male and they have been seen together on a number of occasions this month. She seems to be increasing her territorial area further east and it will not be long before she and Scotia have an altercation to work out territorial boundaries.

Basile and Kokovela continue to stay on the fringes of their mother Tlangisa’s territory and are both regularly-viewed leopards. It is obvious that they still need to establish territorial areas for themselves and only then will they fall pregnant and start producing cubs.

We are seeing much more of Tlangisa’s cubs now that they are being brought to kills and both these youngsters seem to be as relaxed as their mother. Viewing of these cubs has definitely been a highlight this month.

The Ottawa pride has been seen on a regular basis and the three young cubs are often seen at kills and moving with the rest of the pride.

The sub-adults lions and the two adult females have been very successful of late in making a number of buffalo kills.

The Majingilane male lions have made sporadic visits to our area this month and seem to be warding off would-be adversaries in the east. There are only three males operating now, as the other male is losing a lot of condition and we feel that he may not make it for very much longer.

The other males, however, are still strong and a formidable coalition.

Wild dog have made a few visits to our concession this month. They are still in the area, so we are hoping to see much more of them in the next few weeks.

Our male cheetah has also paid us numerous visits and, on one occasion, some of the guests were very privileged to see him chase and catch a young kudu calf.

January has once again been a great month for viewing and we look forward to bringing you news of our February encounters in a few weeks’ time.

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