With the arrival of summer, veld conditions have not changed much over the last month.
The bush still looks very dry and forlorn with the temperatures having reached a high of 47 degrees Celsius a few weeks back. We are in desperate need of some rains.
The sparse vegetation makes for fine game viewing but the herbivores are not finding it easy with a shortage of graze and browse material. Nevertheless certain trees have started to flower and are showing signs of greening up even without rain. The deep root systems allow these trees to access any moisture deep within the soil layers.
We kick off this months report with the good news that the 4 lion cubs born from the legendary Machattan pride are doing very well. The cubs are now 12 weeks old and are being seen regularly on our game drives. The mother is unperturbed with our presence and will allow us to spend a lot of time with them. We are however still respectful and sensitive to the mother and her cubs and will not allow the cubs to be viewed without the mothers attendance. It appears that 2 of the cubs are female and the other 2 are male.
The cubs managed to get their first real carnivorous meal as mom lead them to a fresh kudu kill that she made. With meat added to their diet, their little immune systems will strengthen and they will begin to gain weight increasing their chances of survival. I have to mention that this pride generally has a poor track record when it comes to raising cubs in the past. This has been due to a number of reasons but I remain optimistic and confident that the dominance of the fathers, “The Timbavati males” in this region will ensure that these cubs survive.
These big boys were rather successful hunters this month and for those of you who visited us last month will recall and recognize some of the images I captured of them on some of the kills. They managed to down one of Africa‘s toughest animals, an old male Cape buffalo. The fight lasted several hours and he was finally brought down in the early hours of the morning. We watched these majestic males feed for 3 days before they decided to leave the last scraps of the carcass for the jackals and hyenas to finish.
Our leopard sightings were outstanding this month with no fewer than 68-recorded sightings.
“Ntombi” and her cub were seen most often during the month. In fact it is not uncommon to find her walking in the camp as the game drive vehicles return from the afternoon drive.
She is managing well to feed her demanding son having made several kills during the month. This little male can be a handful at times and as he grows so does his demand for food increase.
Our most infamous leopard in the Timbavati, “Rockfig Jnr” leopardess has the largest territory of any of the other female leopards in the area. She covers an expansive range and has no problem defending it too. Her territory lies adjacent to “Ntombi‘s” territory and up to date, both headstrong females have avoided any possible hostile contact with each other.
“Rockfig‘s” cub is now 12 months old and is doing exceptionally well. She recently attempted and succeeded with a first kill close to an area where she was born. After killing her prey, she proceeded to stash it neatly up in one of the viewing hides. Morné has taken images of her in the hide and they can be viewed in last months report. I think that she is now old enough to be officially christened with her name. This we will announce on the blog during November.
Cheetah sighting are always special for any wildlife guide due to the rare status of these magnificent animals. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the endangered conservation status of this species in Africa and it is up to us wildlife guides to make the general public aware of its vulnerable position. It would be a tragedy to see the extinction of the fastest land mammal on the planet.
Cheetahs are included on the International list of vulnerable species as well as on the US Endangered Species Act: threatened species – Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Approximately 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild in twenty-five African countries; Namibia has the most, with about 2,500. The South African Cheetah Conservation Foundation has close links and assists in training and sharing program successes with other countries where cheetahs live, including Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Iran and Algeria. The organization’s international program includes distributing materials, lending resources and support, and providing training through Africa and the rest of the world. We were fortunate to witness this rare animal on as many as 8 times during the month. Most of the sighting came for a young coalition of 3 males.
On several occasions much to the delight of the guests whilst have breakfast, several large herds have frequented the waterhole for a drink. In one herd I noticed a very young calf and I immediately got in the vehicle and manage to capture these images of the calf.
Elephants are incredibly interesting mammals. A female elephant‘s social life revolves around breeding and raising of calves. A female will usually be ready to breed at around the age of 12. When she first comes into estrus, it is only a very short period that she is receptive and it lasts only a few days. Females announce their estrus with olfactory and vocal signs to potential mates.
After a very lengthy gestation period of 22 months, the mother gives birth to a calf that weighs about 115 kg and stands over 75 cm tall. As is common with the more intellectual species on earth, they are born with limited survival instincts and instead rely on their elders to teach them what they need to know as they develop. Due to today‘s human pressure on the wild elephant populations, from poaching to habitat destruction, the elderly often die at a younger age, leaving fewer teachers for the young. The consequences of this for the next generation are not yet known.
A new calf is usually the center of attention for herd members. Adults and most of the other young will gather around the newborn, touching and caressing it with their trunks. The baby is born nearly blind and at first relies almost completely on its trunk to discover the world around it. During the next 4-5 years the mother will provide a calf with nutritious milk.
That‘s all for this month dear friends.
Take care and kind regards from the Kings Camp Rangers and Trackers