The month of February was a month that I would rather want to forget quickly not because of the game viewing but rather due to the destruction that was caused by a cyclone early in January.
The damage to the network of roads in the Timbavati, mainly our game drive routes, was terrible. Game drives were almost impossible in certain areas and we felt discouraged when restrictions to access certain roads were placed on the guides to prevent further damage to the roads. This intern limited us tremendously with regards to finding the animals that we needed to show the guests.
However with all this set aside the rest of the month turned out to be good regarding game viewing. Good leopard and rhino sightings guaranteed that guests left happy even with the limitations.
There is no doubt that the award of most special sightings of the month hast to go to Ntombi. Ntombi is one of our resident female leopards and she is again a proud mother of a new cub. This is her second cub she has produced in 3 years.
No one has seen the cub until this month even though we as guides knew that the cub was born in January 2012. Due to the unanticipated cyclone we experienced in January, which caused the camp to close for several days, meant, that we lost any idea of the area she operated in or gave birth to the cub. Locating her as quickly as possible with the cub will ensure that the cub is relaxed with the game drive vehicles and not growing up scared of the landrovers.
Only until the end of February that is when my tracker Albert found her after tracking her for an hour in a riverbed. It was a very hot afternoon and Ntombi laid under a huge tree that casted a shadow over the entire riverbed. I knew that she had the cub close because Albert pointed out that he can see the cub‘s tracks in the soft sand. We waited for 30 minutes and when Ntombi got up and started to call softly I knew that the cub was somewhere around us. She walked to a huge boulder and within seconds a small leopard cub stuck its head out underneath a large rock.
Unfortunately it was skittish and moved away from us quickly. It was seen again a week later but still appears to be nervous. Now we have to start the hard work in finding the cub and mom frequently so that the cub can get habituated to the vehicles like the other female leopards. This is the only set of images that shows the cub in detail.
Rhino calf was born.
Another exciting sighting for me this month was the discovery of a very small rhino calf that was born in our area of operation during January. I have been a wildlife guide in Timbavati since 1998 and I have never seen a rhino calf being born in the reserve. Much to my surprise it was to hear one of the resident females gave birth to a calf in January. I did not know she was pregnant. An adult rhino is a huge mammal and due to the digestive system which gives one the impression that they are full from eating and this makes it impossible to see if they are pregnant.
I knew the calf was seen after the rangers told me but did not see it myself until one afternoon during drive. Much to my surprise the older female rhino had a calf with her. The adult female is extremely relaxed but the calf remained nervous for a few weeks. Last week the same group was found and the calf was a lot more relaxed. I manage to capture this image of this little female rhino calf during game drive.
It is very important to us, as an eco-tourism operation, to see a new calf in our area. During the last 3 years rhino population had to withstand poaching on a large scale. More than 500 rhinos were killed last year alone and more that 100 already this year. Luckily the rhinos in our area are protected to a certain degree simply by the presense of all the safari vehicles that operate here.
I hope that this little female will survive and we, for the first time in Timbavati, will learn more about the developing rate of this beautiful animal.
The lion sightings for February were not as good as they normally are. I am trying to get my head around this strange and sudden position we find ourselves in. At times we don‘t see any lions for a week or longer and this is not usual for Timbavati, at least not for our area. Since the Shobele pride was killed 3 years ago and the Makilizolo male coalition moved in to take over the area a vacuum was created separating the north from the south. We had a few nomadic lions move in and out of this vacuum but still no pride is taking this prime land and settling in. What will be interesting to watch is to see how the absence of a resident pride of lion will affect the general game numbers. Or even the secondary predator‘s numbers in the future. In this brief time I have already seen the leopard numbers increasing and large hyena‘s clans operating in and around the game drive areas.
The Kubasa pride was seen on two occasions much to the delight of us rangers. Both adult females are beautiful and seems to grow daily in size. They were seen moving with the Timbavati pride, also known as the original Jacaranda pride, which controls the northern part of Timbavati. They are looking healthy and seem to do just fine.
The African Barred Owlet.
This is a species of owl in the Strigidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. With a length of 21 cm and a weight of 83 to 140 grams it is a small owl. It has no ear tufts. There is some sexual dimorphism in size, with the females being larger, but no differences in plumage.
The species is most frequently found in woodland and forests, and on forest edges. It may also occur in more open savannah and along rivers. It is partly diurnal, and feeds mostly on insects, although small rodents and birds may also be eaten.
That is all for this month dear friends. Take care and keep well from the the rangers and trackers of Kings Camp.