It was hoped that 2021 would be a better year for all, but it seems that the chaos of 2020 has followed through into this year. In many ways, it has been slightly better and we continue to have a steady flow of local guests, with some hints at things improving for our international travellers. But time also just seems to fly by in these crazy times, and it is with some embarrassment that I realised that we missed the April and May editions. For those die-hard supporters, we apologise, but hope to make up for it with a bumper issue in June.
Many of you have been following our social media on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, as well as the updates from other lodges, and would have seen the sad and very unexpected demise of the magnificent Ottawa male. He became very confident and decided to challenge the Birmingham males to his east, in an attempt to expand his territory. Unfortunately, being on his own, he was killed in the fight, and we lost one of the most incredible males we have had for some time.
We also have some youngsters in the leopard population! Tlangisa (pictured right) has a new litter and, although we have not seen her and her cubs much in the past few months, it seems that she is doing exceptionally well. She is her usual calm self, and it reflects in the way that the two young cubs are already extremely relaxed around the vehicles.
Khokhovela (pictured below) has also been pretty scarce lately, but she was recently seen mating with Ravenscourt, so hopefully there may soon be some more cubs running around.
Ravenscourt has been maintaining his dominance well in the west and seems to have picked up a bit with his patrols to the south, presumably in response to Thamba, who is putting pressure on him from the south. He still, however, spends most of his time along the river, where the conditions are most suited to him.
He has also been getting some pressure from Euphorbia in the north, and we recently had a sighting of the two of them lying about 30 metres apart, growling at each other. What was interesting was that it was on the southern side of the river, i.e. more in Ravenscourt’s territory than Euphorbia’s and that Euphorbia did not seem to be backing down, but was holding his own.
As mentioned before, Thamba is growing in size and is expanding his territory. He is definitely becoming much more confident and has made the south his own. It has been really good having a regular, relaxed and dominant male close to Savanna, and we see and hear him regularly.
Nyelethi is still the dominant male to the east of Ravenscourt, and that boundary seems to have been settled some time ago. He is, however, getting on at 12 years old, and will be coming more and more under pressure from younger leopards. At this point, it is not clear where that pressure is going to come from, but for now he seems safe.
One possibility is Hlambela, who is the son of Boulders, and is now three years old. Nyelethi will probably hold on for another year or two, which will mean that Hlambela will be four or five, which is about the time that he will be looking for a territory of his own.
Another young male in the area is Scotia and Nyelethi’s son (pictured in the below series). At just over two, he still has the ‘teenage’ gene in him and we recently had the privilege of watching him stalk and pounce at a rodent next to the road. It is always impressive to see the patience, opportunism and agility of these cats!
Cheetah and other Predators
Some of our other predators have also been busy of late. The male cheetah has been making his usual regular rounds, coming through the clearings in the south like clockwork. It is always amazing how these cats are creatures of habit and move predictably to their usual mounds and fallen trees to scent-mark and use them as lookouts for prey.
Occasionally he is successful at spotting and catching his prey! Recently, on an afternoon drive, we found him on the edge of the clearing at Cheetah Flats with a large male impala kill. He must have made the kill late in the morning, as he had eaten much of the impala already when we found him in the afternoon. We viewed him as he squeezed as much food as possible into his stomach, for he knew that come early evening, the hyenas would be out. And sure enough, he was chased off the carcass by a single hyena who proceeded to gorge himself on the remains.
Hyena are often painted as the villains of the bush, always stealing scraps and benefitting from the work done by others. They have a sloping back, with their head held low, skulking about and always seem as if they are up to no good! It is not often that we see the more sociable, playful side of hyena, but some guests had the opportunity recently to watch a large group of eight or nine hyena vocalising and running towards a clearing. We initially thought that they were responding to a possible kill, but as they reached the clearing, they started chasing each other very playfully and rushing into a small pan for a swim. They are one of the few predators in the savannah that love water, and it was amazing to watch this more ‘likeable’ side of hyena.
The other animals who enjoy water – and this is no surprise – are the hippo. Thanks to great rainfall during our last rainy season, we still have plenty of water available to them. As we head into the middle of our winter, we also are having regular views of the large pods coming out onto the edges of the dams and rivers to bake in the sun and have a good sleep!
We have also had a number of unusual sightings these past few months as well. Dan and his guests were spoiled with a great view of a large-spotted female genet and her two kittens. These are usually very shy and skittish, particularly so when they have young. But on this occasion, they were able to watch and photograph them for nearly 15 minutes!
A large male ostrich has also been hanging out in the clearing just north of Savanna. Although the numbers have improved over the last few years, sightings of them are still few and far between and we were treated to some great viewing of him.
Africa is renowned for its skies, and more specifically the sunrises and sunsets. This is even more true during winter, when dust, smoke and mist make the early mornings and late afternoons even more spectacular. We leave you with a few of these breath-taking views, and hope that you are all able to travel sooner than later, to enjoy them for yourselves in person.
We hope that all our friends and guests have been keeping safe and healthy, and that your vaccine rollouts are going well, which in turn may help you all return to us soon to witness, in person, nature at its best.
To catch up on all the updates during our lockdown, please have a look at our YouTube Channel here.
With warm wishes
Neil, Natasha and The Savanna Team