Savanna Blog - August 2016

The relief from the unseasonal rains which fell in July was short-lived but very timely, and brought some respite from the drought that continues to grip this part of the country. But we all know that Africa is a tough continent, and where one species struggles, so another thrives!

Although there is still some water in a few of our waterholes, the green flush from July disappeared very quickly, and the buffalo seem to be the most affected. They have lost condition rapidly and the young Mhangene males have targeted many of the weaker individuals. This month they have made five buffalo kills, with three in one night!

Unfortunately for them, although strong enough to take down large buffalo, they are not yet confident enough to take on some of the other predators, such as the dominant Majingilane males! They have lost their kills on every occasion, either to them or to the thriving hyena population in the south. At times there have been as many as 30 hyena overwhelming the three young males!

The Majingilane males, however, continue to dominate the area and are still looking very good. They are spending most of their time along the river, where the prey density is the greatest, as well as being the core territory of the Ottawa pride, with which they are spending a large amount of time.

The breakaway group from the Tsalala pride remained along the Sand River as well for the first half of August, and looked very comfortable and relaxed out of their territory. They eventually returned back east and we are unsure of what awaited them in their regular territory.

As mentioned, the hyena population has boomed over the past year, and it is a strong possibility that they are keeping the lion prides out of this area. Both den sites have been very active, with many cubs still doing well and looking healthy!

Other predators are also taking some strain under pressure from the hyena. We found the male cheetah with a fresh impala kill recently. He had not managed to eat very much before one of the ever-present hyena came rushing in, chasing him off the kill and finishing it himself!

When not being harassed by the scavengers, the male cheetah would find perfect vantage points from which to scan the area for prey or foe, and at the same time give our guests fantastic views of these endangered cats.

From a leopard point of view, Ravenscourt has once again dominated August. He has been the most viewed leopard by far, and continues to be the flavour of the month with the female leopards! As with the previous month, he was again seen mating with the Mobeni female, as well as Boulders earlier in the month.

When not entertaining the females, he displays the confidence and authority that his father, Kashane, is so famous for. He truly is a magnificent animal!

Kashane himself has made a few more trips into our concession and seems to have gained some condition. In some of the previous views of him, we had been a little concerned that he had lost condition for some reason, but he is looking very good at the moment!

Xikavi and her sub-adult male cub have also been seen fairly regularly, and he has calmed down significantly around the vehicles. He is gaining in confidence and it will not be too long before he is independent.

As expected, the more permanent water still attracts a lot of activity from many different species. The Sand River at the causeway is particularly busy, and is always a great place to visit during the warmer hours of the drive. This is one of the few remaining deeper pools where the hippo can find some respite, and the bird life along the river is fantastic!

The elephant population continues to grow, with new calves being born despite the serious drought. Their ability to adapt, to feed on various plant types and parts, as well as their ability to walk long distances to and from water, makes them exceptionally hardened against the effect of the drought.

With Spring around the corner, and the possibility of rain hopefully coming soon, we look forward to bringing you news of the trials and tribulations of life in Africa at the end of September…

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