February was a month filled with loads of excitement. Not just did the rivers flow again but indeed several times making some of the area not accessible for off-road game drives. We also had to deal with a tropical rainstorm that moved from Botswana to the Limpopo province causing havoc to our area.
Now let’s look at the sightings: February was a neutral month concerning game sightings. The bush is still dense due to the abundance of rain we received. This in turn makes it difficult to track and locate leopards. The lions sighting were fairly good. The two dominant males to our area seem to have solicited most of the lioness in the area. Lionesses as far as from the east and wast moved to our area to mate with these two magnificent Kings. The two males are holding a powerful position at the moment but with this kind of power and dominance comes the responsibility to protect the boundaries of their territory. In doing so they are creating a safety zone for the resident prides in their area.
I can already see the effect that these two males have here. The once nomadic and restless Mafikizolo Pride has simply disappeared from the area. Now this to me is a good thing and it reconfirms what I have mentioned before, the importance of a strong team of males in the area. They create a safe zone by treating and vocally advertising their presence all the time. Young nomadic males and other prides therefore know to avoid this area or they might have to deal with the dominant males. Mating between the two males and several lionesses has taken place for a few months now. Now we have to wait and monitor the lionesses and we might just be lucky to have a new generation of lion cubs living here which we had last 2 years ago.
With grace and sleekness this beautiful spotted cat walks the ground of the bushveld knowing that there is no other predator here with nearly the same cunning and power that braces it. Leopards are without a doubt the most beautiful and graceful cats in the world and we at Kings Camp are extremely fortunate to witness these cats on nearly a daily basis. Two of these cats that live in the vicinity of the camp is Rockfig jnr and Ntombi. Both have cubs which are over one year of age. Sightings have been infrequent due to the denseness of the bush. I am hoping that next month we will be able to see them more often and be able to update you with more pictures.
I would also like to mention a new female leopard to our area of traversing. We named her Marula female. No one is sure about the age of the animal but I would assume that she is still a very young leopardess and possibly a young adult starting her career and a dominant female to the southern part of Kings Camp. This location is perfect as it will not be in contact with either of the other two resident female leopards. The Marula female is small with a light coloured coat. Her face bares no marks and her black and white ears bare strong contrast and show not sign of age. Her pink nose is also indicating that she is still young but not shy to show her grace, power and skill to us. In a matter of 9 days she managed to secure not less that 3 kills all up a tree much to our delight. We are hoping that she will remain in the area and we will update you on her progress in the next few months.
Elephants sighting were on the high this month not that they are ever on the low side in Timbavati. I mentioned a year ago a sick elephant calf that had some sort of skin illness or infection. I also mentioned and reported this matter to the authorities concerned and it was reported to me by several experts in the flied that it would only be a matter of weeks before it would die.
Saddened by this fact I decided to monitor this calf with the help of fellow rangers in my area of traversing. For month we watched the calf struggle with his inability to move at the pace of his herd, his mother always by his side protecting and comforting him. I was emotionally attached and gathered information whenever possible giving feedback to the Save the Elephant research team. Noticeably the calf got better more than a year later. Progress was slow but I am glad to report that the calf now is fine and shows no sign of the skin illness anymore. He is as fit as a fiddle and was seen on a few occasions with his herd. How remarkable are these animals with their ability to naturally heal, the interaction between the body and mind the way in which emotions and personality can have an impact on the functioning and health in bodies. The role of stress makes us more vulnerable to diseases. What is interesting to note is that when we stress our body’s turns on the same physiological stress response that an animal’s body does. The difference that I have learned is that we usually do not turn it off in the same way these animals do.
This brings me to another rare and exciting interaction I witness first hand on a morning game drive. I manage to capture with my camera the very rare and super predator of Africa – the African Wild Dogs. A substantial pack was resting at a water hole after an engaging hunt which secured them breakfast. A mere 100 meters away from the dam a large herd of elephants approached. In no time the matriarch alerted in silence the rest of her group which all responded visibly aggressive. One adult charged straight towards my vehicle and I decided to not move, indicating to her that we are not a threat. My tracker Albert was watching me and the fast moving cow eagerly and wanting to move. I said, no. She clearly wanted to deal with the dogs and not with us. Elephants have a remarkable sense of smell and wild dogs caring an extremely pungent scent. More than 30 meters from the vehicle the cow turned in the direction of the wild dogs and chased the pack running for cover. The action of the elephant clearly directed to the enemy. The dust soon settled and the herd carried on with their daily routine. I guess one just has to be the size of an elephant not to stress.
That’s all for this month friends.
Game report by: Patrick O’Brien Head Guide of Kings Camp.
My Website: www.mandevowildlifephotography.zenfolio.com