The month of April is one of my favorite months as it celebrates the start of the cooler months ahead.
The colours of the bush are so vibrant when the morning dew finds a spot on the vegetation which enhances the colour of trees and grasses. The bush is still very green and the grass quality and quantity is still in abundance is making winter feeding for the grazers and browser good.
April also signals the start of the mating (rutting) season for impala antelope and Vervet monkeys.
The rutting season started earlier than usual. This could be due to the lengthy rainy season we had with unexpected volumes of rain water still around. This sparked mating behavior a bit earlier as conditions are conducive for impala. Normally the rutting season starts towards the end of May. The entire affair lasts approximately 6 weeks. When giving birth, a female impala will isolate herself from the herd whiles the young are usually born after 6 and a half months gestation period. The impala mother will keep the fawn in a hidden spot for a few days or weeks before returning to the herd. The fawn will then join a nursery group and will go to its mother only to nurse. The young impala will suckle for four to six months.
You might have heard that female impala have the ability to delay giving birth for an additional month if conditions are harsh. This is however not true as no animal can increase their gestation period so that it could coincide with the rainy season.
The male impala that are immature or too old or simply not up to standard to compete will join bachelor herds during the rutting season.
For the last 10 years I watched the behavior of our resident troop of Vervet monkeys at Kings Camp. Most recently the socially interacting of a new adult male and a sub-adult male got my interest. I have seen this kind of behavior on several occasions but never photographed it until now. The older and mature male approached the younger male with his tail raised high over his back signaling to the younger male his dominance. In a respectful and submissive manner the younger male made soft and funny noises indicating that he means no harm or aggression to the older one. With immediate effect the younger male started grooming the older monkey. It was great to watch the younger male cleaning and grooming the older male for more than 10 minutes. The expression on the dominant males face clearly indicating his contentment. I nearly could feel him smiling. The younger suddenly stopped and turned his back to the older male which I assume that he wanted the same treatment for himself. In typically primate language the older male turned his back and walked away leaving the younger male unsatisfied.
The Vervet Monkey is not usually able to reproduce until they are about five years old, although their age of sexual maturity is known to vary slightly and may be dependent on how much food they have access to. In our case one of the young males occasionally make a habit of visiting guests at their room for a snack that has been left outside making your safari an even more special experience.
Mfana the offspring from Ntombi leopardess is frequenting the eastern side of our property. At the moment he is benefiting from the absence of a male being far into the east. This gives him free roaming at his leisure to hunt and live in this sector. However I have to admit that it is only a matter of time for an adult male leopard to find him and aggressively informing him of his territory. Aggressive interactions are often turning violent as dominant male leopards vigorously defend their territories. Mfana was seen hunting on a few occasions during morning drive. This young male leopard is very enthusiastic when he hunts and often will approach his prey right in the open without making any effort of concealing himself. In fact watching him hunt is sometimes very funny as so entertaining as he still tries to catch his prey even though his cover is blown.
Our resident Machattan pride was seen only a handful of times during April. It still concerns me. Why is the pride not making its way closer to our area of traversing… There are a few factors that might have an impact on the pride not spending time in the north which I will mention in more detail in my next report. But in the mean time I have a great image to share with you. The image of the oldest lioness of the pride was captured during an afternoon drive. To date she is over 19 years old! I have the privilege of knowing this lioness since 1998 and when I saw her for the first time she was already an adult. As old as she is she is still a stunning female. Large shoulders and muscular neck indicates that she is still strong. However I have watched her carefully for the last 3 months and I have noticed her intolerance towards the cubs getting more serious. I am hoping that she is going to be with us for at least till the end of the year but I am not sure if this will be the case.
The newly born rhino calf that is making Kings Camp her home still excites me every time I find her during drive. Albert and I have it waxed now as we know the route and the whereabouts we she lives. The mother is super relaxed and so is her new calf. Females reach sexual maturity at 6-7 years of age while males reach sexual maturity between 10-12 years of age.
Gestation occurs around 16 months. A single calf is born and usually weighs between 40 and 65 kg. Calves are unsteady for their first 3 days of life and when threatened the calf will run in front of the mother, who is very protective of her calf and will fight for it vigorously. Weaning starts sometimes as early as 2 months, but most calves continue suckling for over 12 months. The birth interval for the white rhino is between 2 and 3 years. Before giving birth the mother will chase off her current calf. So I am hoping and I am almost certain that this little wonder will remain one of the most spectacular animals to see in the next 2 years.
Anyway that is all for this month‘s report. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did compiling the report.
Game report by: Patrick O’Brien Head Guide of Kings Camp.
My Website: www.mandevowildlifephotography.zenfolio.com