Auch im Jahr 2014 bekommen wir jeden Monat von KWANDO, unserem Premiumpartner in Botswana, die aktuellen Sichtungen direkt aus den Camps übermittelt.
Ein Blick auf die Übersichtskarte lohnt sich, denn diese verdeutlicht die ausgezeichnete Lage bzw. Verteilung der Camps in Botswana. Diese Camps stehen auf unserer Empfehlungsliste ganz oben und werden sehr häufig auf den von uns konzipierten Afrika Reisen nach Botswana berücksichtigt.
Im folgenden Text können Sie die Sichtungen für die Monate Januar bis Juni 2014 nachlesen:
Sightings report for June 2014
Wie immer ein großartiger Monat im Busch…viele Gepardenmuetter mit ihren Jungen. Wildhunde bei Kwara, Lebala, Lagoon und Tau Pan! Hyaenen jagen erfolgreich einen Bueffel in der Naehe vom Lagoon Camp! Eine Guerteltiersichtung – Pangolin und viele weitere interessante Begebenheiten.
Kwara Concession – A lovely start to the month with sightings of the cheetah mother with three cubs, in the area around Bat Eared Fox Den. We saw the family feeding on an impala carcass one day, and the next day they were all relaxing in the shade near the remains of the impala. The two adult males were also seen shortly after that, trying to catch an impala in the Splash Hippo area, but with no success. The following week, the mother and cub cheetahs were still in the same region, and this time the mother was doing some training for the cubs. Although she hunted and brought down a sub-adult female impala, she gave the impala over to her cubs to try and kill. Not a very nice experience for on-lookers, and definitely not for the impala, as it took quite some time for the cubs to finish the process. Another female cheetah was seen at the end of the month in the Splash area… mating with one of the two males. So the chance – in about three months – of seeing another set of cheetah cubs in the area.
The lions were seen almost every day – in almost every location – boat station, camp, air strip, as well as the less heavily human-populated areas! The three young cubs are still going strong, and following their mum in the hunts – though not very successfully. There are likely to be more cubs on the way, too, as a male and female lion were seen mating close to Wild Dog Pan, whilst the other two females relaxed. Sometimes don’t do a lot other than sleep or relax, but it gives us a great opportunity then to get some good photographs. Two male lions were particularly photogenic, when they choose a nice termite mound to relax on, in perfect setting sun-light.
A male lion close to camp found a chance and grabbed a warthog for a meal. A perfect size meal for one lion, he set about enjoying his catch, and savouring each morsel, allowing the game drive vehicles plenty of time to look on. A few days after that, being the fastest antelope in Africa was no help to the tsessebe that got caught by the two female lions with three cubs.
Early on in the month we discovered that the wild dogs had denned quite a distance from the camp. We saw the pack of fifteen hunting through the concession from time-to-time, but finding the actual den-site took quite a bit of tracking. After a den is located, the next thing to wait for is the puppies to come out. They normally start to appear when they are three or four weeks old, playing about in the warm sun for a few minutes before tumbling down into the safety of the den again. The Kwara pack puppies finally emerged in late June, and the numbers of them have kept us a little confused! There are either 15 or 16 of them, but getting them to hold still long enough to count properly is not high on their list of priorities. At this stage, their individual markings are only faintly visible – it will take a few weeks before the shapes and colours of their coats start to become more distinct, making them more easily identifiable.
As the weather cools and the grasses begin to get shorter and die off, the elephants forage more towards the permanent waters, on the sweeter grasses and tall trees that edge the area. Small herds will rest in the shade of the trees, with the little ones lying down for a proper sleep, mum and aunt dangling their trunks over protectively, and ready to push the baby up at the slightest chance of danger.
The rarity from last month made another appearance – a bush pig was spotted drinking water at Double Crossing!
Lagoon – Several groups of lions seen often this month, with the most common sightings being of the two lionesses with three cubs that are 5.5 months old, and another lioness with two cubs that are around five months as well. Both mothers were seen with their cubs on kills – feeding on warthog, and kudu. The two resident males are still in charge, with no threats from incoming males, meaning that all cubs are safe for the time being.
We also saw three sub-adult males that broke from the pride last year, spotted north of of the camp, close to the rest of the pride. We had a wonderful sighting of a young male lion, who we found feeding on a buffalo. That same night, a clan of 20 hyenas approached the lion, and tried to attack it, forcing it off the carcass!
A great sighting of a leopardess with her 2-3 month old cub this month. Although she has not been seen often, she is relaxing with the vehicles now, and we have every hope that she and her cub will provide great viewing in the future, as the cub grows up. We also had a brief visit from the three brother cheetahs, before they marched on by to investigate the rest of this very large concession!
Although we have not been lucky enough to find a wild dog den site in the area so far, we are still having the odd sighting of four dogs, which make up the pack of five. With only four being seen, we suspect that the fifth has denned somewhere, and the rest of the pack are out hunting in order to support her. With them favouring the thick mopane area, following and tracking them back to one site is proving difficult, but we continue to hope.
Lots of breeding herds of elephants visiting the river, which makes the boat cruises more interesting! All herds come to the Lagoon in front of camp all day, and there are lots of solitary bulls in the area. The buffalo herds are still congregating – with sizes of herds ranging from 150-500 individuals. Wonderful herds of elands as well were found moving along with groups of zebra and tsessebe.
Great vulture viewing when we came across them feeding on a buffalo. There was no sign of what had killed the buffalo in the first place, but a lot was left for the various types of vultures to feed on and fight over.
An unusual sighting this month, with a big clan of hyenas working together to attack a buffalo. They managed to kill the buffalo, and this provided food and excitement for the hyenas for some time. An even rarer sighting was of a pangolin seen in the late afternoon, about 15 minutes from camp!
Another rarity – a large python – about 3metres long, was found lying on one of the game drive paths. Surprising enough to see, but it wasn’t going anywhere in a rush, as it had just killed a steenbok and was busy consuming it!
Lebala – June is the beginning of wild dog season – and what a strange way to begin! The pack of eight dogs, found a den about 30 minutes drive from Lebala, and set up two dens in termite mounds less than 50m from each other. One female occupied one den and the other two occupied the remaining den. All females gave birth, though one was harassed considerably by the other dogs, so it was impossible to tell if her puppies were killed straight away on birth. Either way, it was going to be a real struggle for the remaining five dogs to hunt and continue to feed the three females that stay at the den site, until the puppies are old enough to stay with one care-taker. On the last days of the month, eight puppies timidly emerged from the den site with the single female – we still wait to see what happens with the other females, and if any other puppies will survive.
A pride of nine lions (three adult females, three sub adult cubs and three four-month old cubs) were seen several times hunting warthog. This seems to be their speciality, but with this number of mouths to feed, they need to catch them often, or diversify from time to time with other prey species – they went to the other extreme on one occasion, when we found them feeding on a giraffe! Also this month were two new male lions to the area – we saw them following in the tracks a big male that was formerly resident in the area, who now seems to be moving away.
Also this month, excellent sightings of a female leopard with her cub not far from the camp. Other males and females were also seen during the month, continuing the good sightings from May.
The hyena den is active as ever, with three mothers with different aged cubs coming in and out, playing with each other. Another hyena was taking an opportunity to see what luck would bring by following a leopard on its way hunting…. Hoping either for some scraps, or if it was very lucky, then robbing the leopard of any kill that it would make.
Wonderful sighting of a large herd of buffalos with a big elephant herd at Twin Pools, drinking. They came out of the south, and moved together through to the north, looking like a migration.
Another day, and another pan and an exciting combination of animals all together! Dogs coming by to drink, buffalo doing the same, and a leopard running between the buffalos, much to their surprise, and disgust! The big bull buffalos chased the leopard out of the way, who high-tailed it out!
A lucky day for a leopard, when he managed to hunt successfully – but unlucky, when the kill was snatched away by the pack of dogs! Dogs have a reputation of being superb killers – but they are not averse to snatching a free meal when one is available!
Nxai Pan – There’s a kids joke about how do you know if an elephant has been in your fridge? – footprints in the butter – that brings to mind what is happening at Nxai Pan this month. We have actually closed the camp for routine maintenance, but the majority of that routine maintenance has to do with elephants, their rather large feet, and their water consumption.
Take 1 x elephant. Place in smallish puddle of water. Check resulting effect. Now multiply by a few thousand and multiply by five years. Resulting effect = one large Olympic-size mud bath.
When you build a camp, there are always things you can learn. One of them is how to better design a waterhole so that all animals can drink, and not just the big grey water bullies who are only second to humans in their talent at adapting their environment on a grand scale. Five years down the track, and its time for a re-design: a shallower, concrete bowl that will allow all access, and no major mud baths or excavations. Naturally, we can’t shut off the water supply in the driest time of the year, so a temporary waterhole was constructed whilst work continued to rehabilitate the original one. The first few days required a lot of looking over the shoulder until word got around about the temporary drinking spot….But by the end of the month, there was a lovely, large, flattish pan, allowing access to all, and christened with its first elephant dropping…
Tau Pan – A very lucky sighting of wild dogs at Tau Pan as well this month! Just three dogs, were seen running around the Tau Pan open area, attempting to hunt. This is probably part of the same pack we see from time to time, and hopefully the remaining individuals were at a den sight somewhere!
It was definitely a great month for cheetahs, with several females being seen with off spring – one with one cub, one with three cubs, and one with two cubs! They were seen in different areas of our game drives, so it’s good to see that the cheetah population of this area of the Kalahari is in good condition!
And naturally, lions around and about with the Tau Pan pride patrolling the area, and others being seen in the Deception Valley region.
Sightings report for May 2014
Raubkatzen, Raubkatzen und nochmals Raubkatzen…
Kwara concession – The lioness mother started the month well, by catching a baby giraffe. Her three young cubs spent time feeding on the giraffe, together with mother and aunt. The next day the mum was not so lucky in her hunting techniques – possibly hindered by the tag-along youngsters – and spent some time stalking impala, without success. Still full from the giraffe meat, the cubs didn’t seem too bothered.
The end of the month, and the male lions were trying to assert their territorial dominance: two male ‘Wanderers” now spend much of their time on the westerly part of their huge territory, with two young males establishing themselves more to the north. These two young males are successful hunters of zebra, and event the two big Wanderers have been known to scavenge from them.
The large pack of 15 dogs had much better luck though, and were found having just hunted an impala. For dogs, the choice meal, and the one that they successfully catch more than any other. We saw them hunting a few times this month, as well as a small pack of 4 dogs close to home, running around the airstrip. At the end of the month, the alpha male and female were missing, leading us all to believe that they may have been establishing a den, but we are struggling to locate this.
The two male cheetahs were seen regularly this month as well as the female with three sub-adult cubs. They favour the Splash area for its open plains, where game congregates to feed, and the cheetahs benefit from the surrounding bush to allow stalking. For cheetahs, it’s all about the stalk and the sprint, so you have to be exceptionally lucky to catch them hunting. Most of the sightings this month were of the cheetahs relaxing in the shade, sleeping off the hard work of the hunts. We did, however, have one run of good luck, with the mother cheetah trying again for an impala, chasing and killing it right in front of the game drive cars.
In the middle of the month, game sightings of cats were getting quite ridiculous, with game drives regularly seeing a few lions (with cubs) then moving on to a cheetah (with cubs) and then on to another couple of male cheetahs, and then possibly a hyena to finish off with. Hard to imagine sometimes, that we do not live in a zoo.
Leopard sightings, though a little more sporadic, were also very good. When sighted, they were generally found feeding on a recent kill, which provides excellent viewing for hours – if not days!
Sitatunga were also spotting this month again from the boat. Most unusual sighting however, was of something that is only spotted maybe once a year or so, if you are very lucky: bush pig. Kind of like an overgrown warthog, with more hair, these are very shy animals. How they manage to meet up and mate to produce more bush pigs, is beyond me.
Lagoon – The lions are firmly established, with four adults (two males and the two females) and three young of around 4months at Grass Pan, feeding on a zebra. The two males fought with two nomadic younger males, and these have been pushed out of the territory, not to be seen again. The young cubs are slowly growing up, enjoying each day as it brings new adventure and the every present curiosity of cats. The cubs have been introduced to the rest of the pride, with no animosity from the males. The mother still has to be careful of intruder males, as if they find the cubs, they will be killed. There is another female in the area with two five month old cubs that are doing well. The pride males, on the last day of May, killed a calf buffalo near Zebra Pan and consumed it in its entirety in one morning. They were rather full and sloth-like afterward!
The pack of eight dogs were seen along Pan road in early May – reading emails (as one of the guides termed it) from the rarely seen pack of twenty from the North. Essentially, picking up on the scent marks that larger pack had left behind. 500m away from this investigation, a female leopard was spotted hunting. We could see from her shape that she is a nursing cubs hidden somewhere.
Later in the month, it became obvious that three females of the pack of 8 dogs were pregnant. This is highly unusual, and has been caused due to there being no female being clearly dominant, so the alpha male has been mating with all females possible. We hope that we are able to get one healthy litter out of the three dogs, for there is little chance of all there sets of pups surviving – even with the best intentions, the remaining five adults would not be able to hunt enough to provide for three mothers.
The two shy young male cheetahs we saw for the first time last year arrived back this month, having grown and matured. No longer shy, they are totally relaxed around the cars, and seem confident in their manner.
Regular sighting of several leopards – including an unusual one of a female feeding on a side-striped jackal. Killed as competition for food, predators rarely feed on other predators. As it was, she eats only a small portion of the jackal, and then abandoned the kill. Closer to camp, a male leopard killed a reedbuck, but the leopard was forced to give up his kill to a group of hyenas. Other hyenas were also ‘spotted’ – with the best sighting being of ten individuals clamouring over the remains of a baby elephant carcass.
The breeding herds of elephants are back in full force, with all and sundry crossing the river in front of camp. Little ellies are dipping their feet in the chilly water, and then forcefully plunging in after their mothers, trunks raised for breath. Aunty pushes them along from behind, helping them up the bank as they tire. For the big males, a water crossing is often a good excuse for a tussle in the water, diving and plunging and knocking about with friends, to see who is the big boy at the pool.
Buffalo herds are in the area as well, but we have yet to see the large amalgamation of herds that we saw last year, which reached over 2000 individuals. This will hopefully occur in the next few months, and will be a sight to behold.
Lots of wonderful general game continues through this month, with zebras, giraffe, sable, kudu, assorted mongoose species and the night active animals such as civet, large spotted genets and servals.
Lebala – Leopards were on show this month, with them being seen 13 times. One relaxed female was found hunting on Vlei Road, and she managed to catch a guinea fowl for her meal. It requires a fair amount of plucking, but is a good sized bird for a light meal. In the middle of the month we saw several leopards in one day – a male heading towards Kubu Pan, who proved a little shy, and a female that was found feeding on an impala that she had managed to kill. Also a lovely sighting at the end of the month: a female leopard with her cub eating red lechwe. Hyenas were circling the area, so there was a chance that she would also be pushed off the kill if they discovered her.
The pack of 8 dogs spent a lot of time in the area around Lebala this moth, hunting, and looking around for a suitable den site. This pack includes members that had dispersed from other areas, so it’s likely that these individuals feel more comfortable in this section of the concession. By the end of the month, several prime den sites had been investigated, ready for the alpha female to den. As mentioned above, the pack is unusual this year in that three females are visibly pregnant. Time will tell what happens to this strange combination.
In the middle of the month, the pack of five dogs were also moving in and out of the concession around Twin Pools, before moving further north towards Lagoon camp, also in search of safe and secure den sites.
We also had sightings of two different lionesses with three cubs each –the ones that three months old, and another female with cubs aged about ten months. All in all, the lion population is doing very well in the Kwando concession! Later in the month, we saw three adults with six young in the area around Nari Pan. We found them hunting warthogs, but only one lioness was successful, in catching one young piglet – a bit of a stretch to feed nine hungry lions!
Two brother cheetahs doing their tour of the concession, looking well fed and relaxed. They are covering very large territory, which is why we do not see them vey often.
Wonderful general game sightings and the ever-present elephants building up their numbers as well!
Nxai Pan – A little quieter this month in terms of guests but still plenty of sightings for those that do visit us in Nxai Pan!
The large zebra herds have moved off, and the shorter grass allows good visibility for us to see the smaller animals that move across the pans. Jackals abound everywhere, with the beige and silver coats blending in well as the grass dries. Bat eared foxes flatten their ears and camouflage into the dusky surrounds. A slight movement and their ears spring up like radar antennas, searching for the rustling sounds of potential prey.
Great sightings of general game, with oryx, small zebra herds, spring bok, impalas, and plenty of giraffes. Kori bustards stalk the ground, and hundreds of guinea fowl chirp along towards the waterhole. The cooler days and nights meant that the summer migratory birds have left, but we still have the resident raptors and larks. The queleas are building up in numbers, and in a few months it will be time to put the net on the pool again to stop them dive-bombing and drowing.
The predators still around the area, with one male lion found along Baobab loop, walking along and calling for the rest of the pride that he had become temporarily separated from. A wonderful arrival of a female cheetah with three young cubs spotted at the main waterhole. They were seen several times in the following days, with the cubs bounding along and following their mother, interrupting occasionally to play-fight amongst themselves. They even interrupted our early breakfast at camp one morning as they strolled over the plain in front of camp to the waterhole, so that mother could drink. Luckily it was still too early in the day for the elephants to be hogging the waterhole, and they were able to drink in peace.
The best news this month though, was the discovery on the 18th May at the main waterhole, the lioness with cubs. Last month we had not seen the female with cubs, and feared the worst, but it seems all is well, and the male lions looked after the cubs well enough, just waiting for the female to return!
Tau Pan – Lots of lions seen this month – and not just the Tau Pan pride. Further afield, in Deception Valley, two males that are resident in the area were found moving along the Valley. They also frequent Piper Pan, so have quite a distance to cover regularly, to ensure that their territory remains safe from intruders.
The Tau Pride, naturally, were seen around Tau Pan, and the camp waterhole. Resting a lot to save their strength for the hunts that mostly occur at night. They do take small prey, even birds, whenever the opportunity arises, but a large oryx or giraffe would be the best use of their energy when they are hunting.
The Eastern firebreak road was a productive area this month, with several sightings of leopards, and more lions. A lovely male leopard was relaxing up in a tree, scanning the area for suitable prey. The wind was strong, and changing direction rapidly, so the animals were confused, being able to smell something dangerous, but not being able to ascertain exactly where the scent was emanating from.
Next to the northern firebreak, and yet another leopard, this time a young female. Looking carefully around, she squatted and then pounced, catching a bundle of feathers. It proved to be kurrichane button quail – a little bird that took the edge off the little leopardess’s hunger.
Cheetahs also were seen this month, including the female with young sub-adult, hunting around Tau Pan. When we arrived on the edge of the pan, all the different species of game were staring off into one particular area, alerting us to the presence of a threat. On closer inspection, we found the two cheetahs, gamely trying to hunt, even though most of the prey had spotted them!
Sightings report for April 2014
Abermals gab es hervorragende Wildhund-Sichtungen um Kwara.
KWARA – The pack of 14 wild dogs made a tour of the Splash Area, on a chase for some prey. An exciting hunt, led to them quickly catching a reed buck. A few days later we saw the same pack hunting and killing impala.
Two male cheetahs were found several times during the month, and although we did not witness them hunting, they appeared well-fed and relaxed. A female cheetah was found feeding on a young kudu. Not content with waiting its turn, a hyena approached the cheetah and successful chased her away, taking over the kill for himself. The next day, three lionesses with a subadult didn’t have as much success when they attempted to hunt tsessebes. The speedy antelope took off at pace. Four male lions had better luck with an adult kudu, and were found feeding on the remains.
The area near Wild Dog Pan gave us some lovely sightings of three lion cubs playing around while two lionesses rested. They were spotted again a few days later at Sable Island, resting.
The last week of the month really turned out to be cat week, with lions being sighted every day – often, several times a day – cheetahs making regular appearances, and the odd leopard or two. The lionesses with three cubs provided excellent viewing, with the youngsters suckling, and playing with their mother. Guests landing at the airstrip for the start of their African Safari, began it rather sooner than they had anticipated, as the cats lay in the shade of a tree just off the side of the runway. The 26th of the month provided a showing of cats in many different shapes and sizes, with six lions being found – including the three suckling cubs and a big male lion, as well as a leopard sneaking off into the bush, and a smaller cat – the beautiful serval, off on his own hunting frogs in a marshy area.
On the 28th, two male lions were located close to One Hippo area, after sun set, heading toward the floodplains. Eventually, the males changed direction and started heading east after picking up the scent of a female. The two boys kept on calling until the two females with the three cubs finally recognised the roar of the males, and responded. The happy family soon met up with each other, with lots of head-rubbing and sniffing.
The next day, setting out toward Splash in hopes of finding the two male cheetahs, we found tracks near a marking post that they have used before. Soon after, we heard animals alarm calling, and a few minutes later we found a female cheetah with three cubs, roughly six months old. She was very relaxed, and allowed us to follow her, and watch as she killed a young impala for her cubs.
A wonderful boat trip along the main channel into the Moremi Game Reserve produced a spectacular sighting of four adult sitatunga and one calf feeding along the banks. These exceptionally shy antelope spend their whole lives in the water ways, and are extremely rare to see anything more than fleeting glimpse of them.
LAGOON – The resident male lions are being found in the area almost every day now. In addition, the pride with the three young cubs are also seen often, but now that the cubs are a little older, the mother is moving them more regularly, still trying to avoid the risk of running in to the males. Towards the end of the month, the two males were resting closer to the pride, but spent time courting a sub-adult lioness in the area.
A wonderful day where we found a leopardess on a kill. Unbothered by our attention, she left the kill after a while, and went into the nearby clump of trees. Small mewing sounds could be heard, and a tiny leopard cub appeared under her watchful eye! The cub is probably only around four weeks old, but the mother is exceptionally relaxed around the vehicle, and is unconcerned about our presence. She has been seen several times with her cub, and also off alone hunting impala.
Elephant activity has increased, particularly in the camp, where some regular neighbourly bulls come in to the camp to feed on the marula fruits and camel thorn pods. Breeding herds concentrate near the water, mudbathing, drinking, and swimming in the deeper water. Bulls in musth follow some of the herds, in the hope of finding a female that is ready for mating.
And now the elephants are settling in, the first forays of the buffalo herds have been seen this month. Two herds of around 300 and 200 animals respectively, have been seen several times along the floodplains, but the numbers will increase as the out-lying areas dry up, and animals are forced closer to the river for water and good grazing.
The pack of 8 wild dogs were found several times in the southern part of the concession. They were also seen close to the river, resting up from their travels. Two dens of hyenas have been ‘reactivated’ with both clans having cubs.
More unusual sightings this month have been of a caracal, two young porcupines, and a second sighting of caracal killing a korhaan. The migrant birds that also visited us for the summer are about to depart… the call of the woodland kingfisher has quietened, and by mid month, they left us, to return only in late October.
The sky seems to be teeming with vultures, as they soar over areas looking for carrion, and diving down into areas that are flooded, and thus inaccessible by car. One wonders what they are have found, and what predator had good luck hunting in the days past.
LEBALA – Two male lions took on a fairly formidable foe in the form of a herd of eland. The largest antelope in Africa, these huge animals could easily kill a lion with one well-placed aim of a hoof. Luckily for both parties, the prey proved too alert, as the wind blew the scent of the lions towards the eland, they departed at speed.
A very interesting interaction with leopard, hyenas and wild dogs. With the female leopard doing all the hard work, she managed to kill an adult male impala. Too big for her to carry it up into the safety of a tree, she could not protect her meal against the arrival of a pack of wild dogs, and two hyenas. Losing the kill, she sprinted off to safety, whilst the dogs and the hyenas tussled over the remains.
Two female wild dogs were seen running through the camp, looking for the rest of the pack. A group of five adult dogs had been seen in the area the day prior. This smaller pack was seen twice this month, with the bigger pack of 8 found ten times.
When guests arrive on safari, many of them say that they want to see a kill. Managers and guides nod knowingly, and say things like ‘Well, we’ll see. It’s quite rare to see.” The reason that they are nodding knowingly, is not because they know how rare it is to see, but that they know how most people, when a kill is put in front of them, really don’t want to see it. Or, more to the point, hear it. Many are the times when those guests most keen to see it, have been left in tears, and asked to leave. What you see on National Geographic documentaries, is highly edited. It is tamed down, sounds stripped away, and trimmed down to usually a couple of minutes. Real life, is not like that. Some guests discovered that when the pack of eight dogs came upon a warthog and proceeded to kill it. Bearing in mind that an animal being killed by wild dogs is actually one of the fastest processes, compared to say, lions killing something, it is still exceptionally distressing. And the screams of a warthog, are amongst the most bone-chilling on the planet. So, just bear that in mind when you ask to see a kill…you might not like what you see/hear/smell.
And speaking of kills, a big male lion spent several days feasting on a buffalo that it had killed. About three days after the kill, the lion left, satiated, and eight hyenas moved in to giggle and fuss and crunch over the remaining bones. Two lionesses and three cubs were also seen in the Twin Pools area, cubs playing whilst the mothers relaxed. A little later, they managed to kill a giraffe, providing a huge amount of food for the two lionesses, and little cubs.
Sadly, no sign of the cheetahs in the concession this month – off on their far reaching travels yet again.
An unusual sighting this month was of an aardwolf – an animal that looks somewhat like a hyena, but eats only termites!
NXAI PAN – The lion pride was seen around Middle Road on the first day of the month, with the female moving her cubs to a new den site and the rest of the pride relaxing at the waterhole. A few days later the lioness was seen again moving the three cubs in the direction of Baines.
The next day, two lionesses were seen at the camp waterhole, and then spent the whole day in the shade of bush near the waterhole. Another time, lying up at the main waterhole, two lionesses seemed to be snoozing whilst a large male giraffe approached the waterhole to drink. Suddenly alert to this new arrival, the lionesses crouched down, and went into hunting mode. Luckily, the giraffe spotted them just in time, before he dipped down to drink, but the lioness still made an attempt and chased the giraffe off, as he ran ungainly away.
A morning drive out and we found two male lions. Stopping the car to watch them, the lions continued on their way, and suddenly we found ourselves with one big male in front of the car, and one behind! Completely unconcerned by our presence, they moved on in their own time. A great sighting! We continued on a little further and found another male at the waterhole ‘baby sitting’ three cubs, whilst the rest of the pride were presumably out on a hunt.
Lion cubs were not the only cub we saw this month – a lovely leopard was found feeding on a zebra she had killed, and feeding with her was her little cub!
The main waterhole can get a little sticky at times, as one honey badger found out when he went to drink. The mud in the surrounding area was a little thick for his short fat legs, and it took him quite a time to get out of his sticky predicament. A better day for another honey badger, when we watched one hunting and catching a small feast. Although we couldn’t make out exactly what he had caught, it appeared to be quite an enjoyable meal!
Now the majority of the zebras have left – with the normal herds that reside here all year round remaining, another migration appears to have moved in. Wherever you look, there are giraffe. In amongst the trees, standing in the middle of the flat open plains, approaching the waterholes. Game drives are seeing 80-100 individuals on a morning drive – an unusual number, and where they have appeared from is anyone’s guess!
TAU PAN – There’s a rule in the safari business – the ten metre rule. This means that you should not get closer than ten metres to the animal you are viewing in a vehicle. This is for the animal’s comfort, and so they do not feel threatened in any way. In Tau Pan, since we are in a Game Reserve, we also cannot go off road, but it is still amazing to see how many times in this huge open area, we have to use the 10 metre rule as animals happily snooze – by chance? – just under the tree next to the road. Sometimes, it’s too late to use the 10m rule – as happened this month when a bend in the road around a low bush resulted in us finding 7 lions on the other side of the bush. Being part of the Tau Pride, they did not even blink an eyelid at the sudden appearance of a car. They were, however, less than happy about an intruder male lion who appeared a few days later, and the speed at which seven lions can move when something really interests them is quite amazing.
What is also amazing is how many times the animals have not read of, or appear to have even heard of the ’10 metre rule’. Their complete disregard for our comfort zone, and nonchalance in the presence of our vehicles, is a little disconcerting. A wonderful example of a regular flouter of the 10 metre rule, is a female leopard that has a territory near the eastern fire break. Having been seen ever since the camp opened over five years ago, we have become part of the furniture as far as she is concerned. Spotting her on game drive will often result in a ‘stroll by’ – at a distance of around 1m from the stationary vehicle!
Three different cheetah sightings in four days was a good record for the end of the month. One of the males that was seen is a regular visitor to Tau Pan waterhole, but moves exceptionally cautiously as he moves through the area, always on the lookout for the resident lions that chase him out. Two days later, we saw a female with her cub in the same area, fairly relaxed in spite of the potential for a lion to happen upon them.
Like hyenas, vultures have been given a bit of a bad rap from the Disney marketing executives. Admittedly, their looks and the sound effects they make – not to mention their rather dubious dietary choices – have not done them any favours. However, without them, our land would be disease-ridden, covered in noxious animal waste and a few extra flies. They help the environment return all the right nutrients to the system, and allow for something else to make use of it. So it is alarming to realise how endangered these birds are. Subject to poisoning by poachers and farmers alike, their numbers in Botswana could reach critical levels soon. So it was a delight to see on the 18th April, one special vulture: he had been tagged. A tagged vulture helps researchers and conservationists track the movements of individuals, and by the number of reports that come in for each individual tag, extrapolate the movement and numbers of the different species. So, on that day, the number was excitedly recorded and forwarded on to the research team, as the relaxed vulture looked on from his post.
Sightings report for March 2014
Die Sichtungen auf den Reisen nach Botswana waren super – viele viele Raubkatzen, die Jungtiere der Afrikanischen Wildhunde entwickeln sich prächtig und große Elefantenherde sind im Lebala- und Lagoon Gebiet unterwegs!
KWARA CONCESSION – The beginning of the month and it was lions every day, with adults feeding on an assortment of prey including zebra and tsessebe, whilst cubs played on the side. In fact, the ‘lions every day’ continued for the rest of the month, with only two days where lions were not found – or possibly no one wanted to look for them on those two days!
Cheetah sightings were also good, with a lovely sighting of a male walking in the Splash area, and then a couple of days later two males and a female in the same region. We also found a female early on in the month stalking impala with all the skill she could muster. Unfortunately, her hunting attempt was unsuccessful, and the impala escaped her grasp. Later in the month, the two male cheetahs were seen for several days at Splash, and we were lucky enough to witness them hunt a young impala.
A young group of lions had better luck when they stalked and managed to catch a fully grown zebra, as all in the game drive cars looked on in amazement. The next day, the two females and three cubs were found finishing off an ostrich kill – with a lot of feather dusters freely available in the surrounding area. Hippo also featured on the lion menu this month, with four males managing to kill a sub-adult hippo near Second Bridge. This provided food for the big males for several days – but the hunt is a very risky process, with the size of the animal involved.
The wild dogs made several appearances this month, with a pack of fifteen being found near Impala Pan in the middle of the month. All dogs participated in a fast-paced hunt, and successfully brought down two impalas – enough to divide amongst the big pack.
Elephants, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, tsessebe all provided good sightings, feeding on the still luxurious grass. With the grass so high this year, walking was quite restricted, but even a walk through the camp could provide enough excitement for most people, with elephants making surprise appearances at inopportune times. Guests are never on their most alert status at 530 in the morning, as they stumble towards the first tea or coffee of the day at fireplace. Luckily, the guides and managers are, and noticing an elephant was approaching the rooms one morning, the guides stationed themselves along the pathway between the rooms and shouted warnings to the guests to stay where they were for the moment. Either lost in translation, or lost in sleep, one guest stumbled out of their room and started along the pathway, oblivious of the rather large grey object next to his tent, nor the shouting and arm-waving guides. Luckily, the elephant was as surprised by this behaviour as the guides, and turned tail and left for more peaceful surrounds.
LAGOON – The cubs are still going strong, and growing into three healthy bundles of energy. For most of the month they were still kept at the latest den, however on the 29th March they were moved to a new location, as the scent in the area becomes too strong, and harder to hide from intruding males. One lioness was also seen mating with the two resident males – although both males tried to win her over, she chose the large blonde maned lion, rather than the black maned one.
Other sightings in the first week of the month included a very relaxed female leopard, that was seen in the morning and afternoon drives relaxing up a tree in the Water Cut area. Later in the month she was seen again hunting a male warthog, without success. We also found a shy male on an ostrich carcass – a difficult kill for a leopard!
The Lagoon pack of dogs continue to move through the concession, favouring the area between Lebala and Lagoon. They managed to bring down two warthogs at once – an achievement for 8 dogs – and that provided a good meal for the whole place. One morning was spent tracking the dogs without success, but they were then located in the afternoon. The dogs came across a herd of roan antelope, and spent some time chasing them around, although these large antelope are quite a formidable prey! The Roan ended up with the last laugh, as the dogs gave up and moved on in search of an easier target.
The large herds of elephants that are in the Lebala area have not made as big an impact on the Lagoon area, but we are still seeing lots of small breeding herds. Several huge herds of eland have been seen – numbering around 100 individuals – as well as the roan, and occasional sable sighting. Zebras, wildebeest, giraffes and kudus are continue to inhabit the areas where the grass is a little shorter – safer territory for them to see if someone is stalking them!
Hyenas benefitted from the lions this month, when the lionesses had eaten their fill of wildebeest they had killed, and a single hyena moved in to consume the rest of the carcass. A little over excited to have so much to himself, the hyena crunched and attempted to swallow a large piece of bone, which was just too big. It took some time for the hyena to cough the bone back out, and having gone through such a traumatic experience, he gave up on the rest of the carcass and left.
We also had great raptor sightings, with Brown Snake eagles, Tawny eagles, and lots of vultures (including white backed, and hooded) in the area due to the good number of kills that the lions have been bringing down.
LEBALA – The beginning of the month at Lebala, and excellent predator sightings with wild dog, leopard, hyena and cheetah being spotted. Two leopards were seen in the Sebokoboko, in excellent condition, hunting warthog. Very unusual to see leopards together. Another day we found a female leopard relaxing in the boughs of a sausage tree. She soon clambered down and began hunting the guinea fowl who were clucking around the nearby bushes. And it was not even necessary to leave the camp to see leopards – another relaxed female spent a day in the trees at the staff village, hunting the vervet monkeys that were around the camp.
We also had great wild dog sightings – the pack of eight managed to kill a warthog, which we witnessed from the beginning to the – very fast – end. All dogs fed together on the kill, free of the bickering that occurs when other species attempt hunt and then eat together. On the 21st March, we tracked and located the pack of 8 dogs resting at Twin Pools. Shortly after locating that pack, we found another pack of four males in the same area! Perhaps following the first pack in the hope of good hunting, or the chance of joining them? The good news is that the alpha pair of the pack of 8 have been seen mating several days during the month, so we are hoping for a successful litter of pups this year.
The second week of March had rain on most days, and all animals looked for drier spots, bringing their young ones with. It was a good bonding time, as well as play time, for the baby giraffes, wildebeest, zebra and even hippos.
In spite of the rains, we still had some lovely sightings, including that of a male leopard, who in the early evening was found in a tree, scanning and scenting the area. He then dropped to the ground to pose for pictures, leaving guests speechless with admiration.
We are lucky to have an active hyena den at the moment, and have had good views of a hyena with her two young cubs that are homed there until they become big and fast enough to elude predators themselves.
The breeding herds of elephants continue to dot the landscape, moving through the grasses which are as tall as their young in some areas. Junior rushes to keep up, occasionally losing sight of mum’s tail, and trumpeting in alarm as he quickens his pace. Even the roads to the camp are sometimes ‘covered’ in elephants, and before you know it, you are in the middle of a quiet elephant herd, that is spending the time feeding. Unbothered adults look on, as youngsters display their bravado and mock charge a vehicle that is four times as big as them. In other groups, concerned aunts shoo the youngsters away from the vehicle, and herd the family off into the deeper grasses.
One thing that is noticeable with elephants, is their love of baobab trees. One particular tree – always referred to in capitals! – has been a landmark in the area for longer than can be remembered. In recent months, however, its large three-branched trunks have slowly been chewed away, and now only one main trunk remains. The trunk has been completely ring-barked – not necessarily a fatal problem in a baobab – but the elephants have chewed deep into the trunk – leaving it looking rather like a corn cob that has been gnawed by a giant mouse. It is now in danger of toppling over, probably in the next few months, if not weeks. And soon after that, there will be nothing to indicate that The Baobab that has stood for hundreds of years was ever in existence – just a road that takes an unusual bend around a seemingly open space.
Any visitor to Lebala will have seen the lesser striped swallow nests that line our thatched roofs in the main area. Even if they have not been in the right season to see the birds themselves making the nests, the mud nest usually remains. Even if the empty nests fall down during the year, the returning swallows will build them in exactly the same place a few months later, so the camp staff try to leave them where they are. Perhaps word has got around in the avian world, that nest building is not interfered with at Lebala camp, for another species has recently decided to make the bar home for the next generation. Brown waxbills have made a lovely, if somewhat ‘sunny’ nest, in the lamp shade that overhangs the bar. Perhaps the extra hours of light act as an incubator for the eggs and encourage growth? It will be interesting to see if we end up with chicks twice the size of the parents….
NXAI PAN – The national animal of Botswana – the zebra – still abound in Nxai Pan. Every where you look, every which way you turn, the herds are there. Towards the end of the month, they began moving off, but there were such large numbers this year, that it will take some time for the majority to leave the area. In the meant time, they are providing a plentiful food supply to the lions in the area.
Early in the month, and the lions and their three cubs – now around 3.5 months old – were seen every other day. The cubs would always provide plenty of entertainment, chasing each other around, and when bored with that, chasing their mother’s tail. One morning, we came across the whole pride, feeding on a zebra they had killed during the night. One male was mating with one of the lionesses. The cubs continued to play on and the other male, obviously sick of all the fuss, chose to drag the heavy zebra carcass off under the shade of a bush, where he could feed more peacefully.
Lions sightings continued to be excellent throughout the month, with them being sighted for 24 days out of 31. The males continued to hunt for zebra – not always successful in spite of the large number of them. Vultures watched their every move, in the hope that they will be successful and provide a second hand meal for them as well.
Another wonderful visit by the uncommon predator – three wild dogs made an appearance on the 20th March. We found them near West road, chasing springboks out in the open. Unfortunately for them, they did not manage to catch one, and so they moved off across the plains.
A special trip to KgamaKgama – some distance from the main area of the park – was rewarded with a herd of eland – around 40 individuals. Very rare to see in Nxai Pan, it was with this specific intent that the car had set off to KgamaKgama, so wonderful that it all paid off.
With so many lions around, the cheetahs were needing to be careful, so we did not see as many this month as hoped for. However, we did find a female that was stalking through the bushes, in the hope of catching her dinner.
Still great general game around, with lots of the smaller predators – the jackals that trot around the open areas constantly, and the wonderful bat eared foxes that hunker down under the shade of low bushes, and come out to play in the early morning or late afternoon.
TAU PAN – A lovely start to the month with a female cheetah found in Phukwe Pan with three cubs. They have been lucky to avoid the lions that have been frequenting the area, and the mother cheetah has her work cut out for her to raise all three offspring to adulthood.
Speaking of lions, it is likely that there are going to be even more on the way – the Tau Pan pride adults were seen mating early in the month, as well as the two male “intruders” who were seen mating with the younger females from the original pride. This could lead to a lot of offspring, and a lot of territorial disputes as to who controls which area, and which cubs get to survive. The mating continued on and off for around two weeks – an unusually long time!
One of the younger males of the pride has quite a reputation for being rather lazy. Not only is he not being permitted (or perhaps it is simply not being bothered?) to mate, but whenever a car arrives to admire his wonderful looks, he does not even raise his head or open an eye at the intrusion. Obviously, sleep is very important for conservation of energy for lions, yet other individuals seem a little more active than this one. He managed to stagger awake and over to feed on an oryx carcass when the rest of the pride pulled one down, however.
Sightings report for February 2014
In diesem Monat waren die Sichtungen auf den Safaris in Botswana für die Afrikanischen Wildhunde, Löwen und Leoparden hervorragend!
KWARA CONCESSION – A very busy month, and the long grass that is typical of February is not halting the sightings, though we may have to peer a little further through the green.
The pack of 18 wild dogs were seen several times, and we were lucky enough to witness them hunt an impala, from the beginning of the hunt to the very quick end.
Another day, we saw them catch a baby kudu, and two days later they were hunting impala again, this time, unsuccessfully.
Witnessing great animal sightings sometimes combines knowledge and skill from the guide and tracking team, with a little bit of luck. Sundowners are a traditional time for taking a break from the safari, stretching your legs, and enjoying the wonderful scenery and sunset. Other than some general game or a few hippos lounging in a nearby pool, they are not normally intended to include great game viewing. However, sometimes, knowledge of animal movement patterns, and a lot of help from Lady Luck, and a sundowner becomes a game-stopper. Knowing wild dogs had been sighted in an area not too far away, the guide suggested they stop for a sundowner, in a picturesque open area, hoping that they would pass by. As everything was set up, guests enjoying their snacks and drinks as the sun dipped in the sky, the dogs arrived, playing with each other sometimes only 10m from the onlookers, and then drinking at the pan. As is normally the case with wild dogs, they were completely unconcerned by the humans, and continued enjoying what they were doing, whilst several people stood, drinks in hand, looking on with mouths hanging open. Wild dogs seem to be the only animal that consider standing humans to be just part of the background. Why this is, no one is quite sure, but on the rare occasions that they do happen upon us, it is a magical experience.
Lions were seen almost every day. We had great sightings, including the Shindi females with the two young cubs, aged about 3 months old, and providing great photo opportunities by playing with each other on a fallen log. We also had a lovely sighting of the four Marsh boys, who we watched for an hour or so, before they moved off into the shade of a nearby tree. Two young males spent one morning watching a group of zebra and wildebeest close to Wild Dog pan, in the hope that an individual made a bad move. Eventually, a female wildebeest panicked, and broke away from the herd – one male lion went after the female, whilst the second lion attacked a calf left behind.
It was interesting times on the 18th of February, when two lionesses and two sub-adult males were located between Little Kwara staff quarters and Kwara, feeding on a young male kudu. On that same evening, the lionesses, young males and two little cubs wanted to cross the channel to the marsh. Three crocodiles were waiting at the edge of the water, and this was sufficient to put the lions off the crossing, and they spent the night relaxing on Kwara island.
One morning, mid month, we came upon a cheetah who was contact calling to either a mate, or the brother that he is normally seen with. There was lots of general game in the area that we found the cheetah, but he did not attempt to hunt.
Plenty of kills amongst the smaller cats too, with an african wildcat being seen with a small rodent in it’s mouth, and on the same drive, a serval stalking frogs around one of the water holes.
Although it’s not so common to see buffalo at this time of the year, a solitary male buffalo was found in the Splash area. Another bit of fauna not so common to a wet area are ostriches. However, a male and a female ostrich pair have decided to bring up their rather extensive family in the Kwara concession. With a total of 15 youngsters, they make it somewhat easy to spot. Now several months old, they are about half the height of their parents, and seeing them move through the open areas is reminiscent of tour leaders guiding a bunch of gawky school kids on a days outing. 15 is an exceptionally large number of offspring to make it to this age, so full credit goes to the parenting – and defensive skills – of the adults.
With the long grass around, and plenty of water to go with it, it’s sometimes hard to find a nice comfy and dry place to rest up for the night. If you have a nice camp, where the grass tends to be shorter, or a deck to sit under, this is a much better option. And so, during most nights, the herds of impala are setting up shop in the safety of the camps. Occasionally, their comfort and sleep (and that of the people that happen to be in the camp) is disturbed by the wanderings of the lions, who also prefer to stay dry and not have to walk through such long grass. Usually, there is enough time for everyone to move out of the way, as the lions use the still of the night to roar and claim their territory, but occasionally an unannounced ‘walk through’ causes mayhem as impalas scatter between rooms to get out of the way.
LAGOON – Early Feb and the lion cubs are about 5 or 6 weeks old. They still only go about a metre or so from their hiding place, as their legs are still wobbly and they spend a lot of time falling over each other, or just falling over their large milk-filled stomachs which do appear to get in the way a lot! A conveniently placed tree provides a good place to exercise their front legs, and they try to put their claws in the trunk and pull themselves off. They show signs of perhaps growing up vegetarian, by trying to chew on the trunk as well, as their teeth grow. They don’t really have the curiousness as yet that will soon be upon them, content with their own small play area. Another couple of weeks, and curiousity will kick in, making life for mother lion a little more tiring as everything becomes a plaything.
In mid Feb, the lioness moved the den, in order to safeguard her offspring from intruder males. She was located about 2km away from her original den, and was seen hunting zebra. By now, we were also able to make a clearer identification on the sexes of the cubs – one female and two males.
Leopards are normally hard to come by in the green season, with longer grass, it’s tricky to see them unless they are in a tree, or on the road. So it was a great afternoon drive when not one but two leopards were found in close proximity to each other. As luck would have it, each time a leopard has been found recently, some of the guests were out on the boat. The guides with the leopards always radio to see if the boating guests would like to return to see it, but the boat itself is such a wonderful activity, that the two times this occurred, the guests opted to stay and miss the sighting. However, returning to the camp, the boating guests managed to spot a third leopard of the evening, resting in a tree not far from room number 9! This was actually done due to a little bit of magic that one guest had brought with him: a thermal imaging camera. From 500m out, in the night, a large colourful blob could be seen on the camera screen, the guide quickly identified that this was in a tree, and by the size, would have to be a leopard. So the boat was full steam ahead, until the spotlight could pick up the leopard so that it could be seen by all! As the guest said, he doubts this is the way forward with safaris, as his equipment is highly specialised, and that the guides seem to know where everything is anyway! Still, I suspect we might be seeing some interesting entries this year in our Photo Competition – there are not many cameras that are able to photograph the chicks inside a weavers nest without getting anywhere near it!
Later in the month, leopards were still around, and we managed to see seven individuals in one week. This included two sub adults feeding on an impala carcass, and a shy adult male feeding on a zebra foal.
Storm clouds had been building up day after day, but it had been rain free for some time. Other camps were getting heavy falls, but Lagoon had received nothing other than a light shower. Then, one late afternoon, about 6pm, the rain started, and began to blow sideways… As the camp tried its best to batten down the hatches, (most camps are designed for vertical rain, and architects rarely consider horizontal rain for some reason), several thoughts were spared for the three vehicles that were out on game drive in the middle of this. They were surprisingly silent… no calls advising that they were three minutes out, and heading back to camp. An hour later, as night fell with a thump and the rain continued to pour down, three vehicles came streaming into the camp, with lots of hysterical laughter from all on board. It’s rare to see such happy and excited guests that are 100% soaked through, but they’d witnessed some great game with wild dogs hunting and killing an impala, and then a speed chase home as the rain came pelting down. A few warming sherries and hot showers, and dinner was a slightly drier affair.
Later in the month the pack of 20 dogs from the north of the concession came upon the Lagoon pack of 8 dogs, and suddenly there was a fight. In the process, all dogs scattered, and although the pack of 20 was not seen again, the Lagoon pack of 8 and the five dogs from the West were seen again several times.
The overcast conditions seemed to encourage the rarer antelope to get out and about, as game drives were regularly seeing sable, roan and eland, singly, and in small herds. Leopards also took advantage of the shady times, and some good tracking provided good sightings.
The three cheetah brothers made an appearance this month on the 13th Feb, along old lebala Road. They were marking their territory and attempting to hunt – sadly not successfully. They remained in the area for the following week – good to see them after such a long absence.
Other interesting sightings this month included regular sightings of bat eared foxes (mostly of two families – one of four and one of three), hyenas finishing off a kudu carcass that lions had abandoned the day prior, and a porcupine wandering through the camp.
LEBALA – A wildebeest carcass was discovered, still intact, near Normans Pan. The only
predator at the sight was a single hyena, who was acting restlessly. It was assumed the predator that killed the wildebeest was pushed off the carcass by this big female, but no evidence was found relating to the hunter.
Yet another hyena proved that they are able to hunt for themselves, and with great success. She determinedly pushed the limits of a mother elephant until she was able to separate the baby elephant (aged about 3-4 weeks) from the mother, and managed to kill it. The strength, and courage of the hyena to take on such an animal on its own, is mind-boggling.
Although the grass is twice as high as the magnificent wild dogs, sightings remained frequent. We did not see so many kills, but the interaction of the dogs was wonderful to witness. Both the pack of 8 (5 adult females and 3 adult males) and the pack of 5 (four males, one female) were seen with individuals mating – the promise of new life in a few months time. Last year, with the large Lagoon pack splitting, and the Southern pack losing it’s Alpha male and female, none of the packs had any offspring. This should be an interesting year for the new combination of dogs!
A relaxed female leopard was seen several times this month, once resting on a dead tree after we stopped for sundowners. She then began to hunt for prey along the marshes. Later in the month, leopards were making regular sightings, and one male was found feeding on an ostrich. One can only imagine the hunt and chase that must have occurred to bring down this unwieldy bird!
Huge numbers of elephants are now in the area – some herds which combine to form larger groupings are in their hundreds, moving through with their young, feasting on the wide variety of vegetation and plentiful water. The numbers will only increase as we move towards the drier winter section.
Speaking of water, at this stage, the plentiful rain fall has created pans and channels where none existed before. Going out on game drive one morning, the road passed a small pan which holds a variety of small wildlife such a frogs and water birds. The next day, heading along the same road, the pan had eased over the road itself, and the pan had enlarged so much, that the game drive vehicle had to drive along the road through nearly a metre of water, with 7 disgruntled hippos and a crocodile floating alongside! Some of the water is collecting in areas our most experienced trackers and guides who have been in the area for over a decade, have never seen. Other areas remain obstinately dry, so there is always a good variety of routes to choose from.
NXAI PAN – We drove off from the camp to see what the day would bring – hoping to see a predator somewhere amongst the large number of preys species that are in the area at the moment. As we were driving on the western edge of the pan, we saw one cheetah that was hunting. We drove closer to see what it was stalking. The cheetah trotted slowly towards a group of three impalas when something spooked the antelope and they bolted away, raising clouds of dust. When the dust settled, we saw that there were now two cats in front of impala. The cheetahs wheeled around, running into the path of the impala. One of the cheetah picked his target and at full speed launched himself at the running animal, and with his right claws hooked into the shoulder. He struck its rump whit his other paw to try to bring it down, but the impala was not about to give up. The other cheetah now attacked it from behind, using both front paws on the impala’s rump in an effort to overpower it’s prey. Wrested to the ground, the finally managed to kill the impala by throttling it for about ten to fifteen minutes.
Tails, however, were literally turned on another morning drive, when we came upon a chase happening across the Middle Road Loop – a large male lion was chasing a cheetah! With little hope of actually catching the cheetah, the lion was probably just hoping to chase him out of the immediate area, as he is viewed as a competitor for the same prey species.
The peak of the zebra migration in February, and they are surely exceeding the 10,000 mark. Far outnumbering the usually more prolific springbok, the zebras are at almost every corner you turn, moving too and fro from the open plains to the shelter of the trees, and the many watering holes that are collecting the rain water. Soon, it will be time for them to move on, with still several hundred choosing to ‘winter-over’ in Nxai Pan, the vast majority moving closer to the Delta, or down into the Makgadigadi region.
If you have ever felt the need to get near enough to a some raptors to tell the difference between a Steppe buzzard and a yellow billed kite, this is the time of year! The yellow-billed kites, in their hundreds, far out number the buzzards, and both species are sharing the feast of insects and frogs with the Abdims storks. The kites again and again swoop close to the termite mounds to snatch a meal on the wing as the termites fly out of their homes on a once a year flight to try and find mates. The kites target a termite, make a few quick adjustments of ‘flaps and rudders’, seize the prey in its talons and the passes it to its beak. At these times, you hear only the occasional chirp of a cicada, and the constant swishing of wing beats through the air. Now and then there is a louder swish as two kites go for the same termite and their wings touch – but never a collision.
We also had a surprise visit at the end of the month, with three wild dogs being seen along Middle Road, chasing springbok. We were able to watch them for some time, but they did not make a kill, and eventually moved away.
TAU PAN – After the odd beginning to January of several days of rain, the rain in the Kalahari has returned to its more normal behaviour of large thunderclouds building up in the afternoon, and the hint of rain falling somewhere. The cloudbursts are extremely localised, so its very hit and miss as to whether any falls nearby, but they make for spectacular visual effects.
The odd rainfall continues to keep some of the pans with enough water to sustain animals in a variety of the areas, without them needing to come to the camp waterhole to drink. This has not cut down on the predator sightings, however, and our regular lion sightings still abound – with the Tau Pan pride members forming the core of the viewing. The pride ‘youngsters’ – the equivalent of rowdy teenagers – have been witnessed on attempted hunts several times, but have still not developed all the skill and strategy that comes with age. They are having some successes – they always look well-fed and healthy after all! – and were found one morning in early Feb feeding on an oryx.
Several leopard sightings were recorded this month, with a relaxed male that is known to frequent the area being found close to Tau Pan drinking water, and then resting on the road, providing excellent viewing to all in the car. A couple of days later the same leopard was found resting under a bush. Two Kori bustards were walking towards the leopard, and as he went to attack them, they took off as fast as they could, battling against their weight. The heaviest flying bird in Africa, they did well to escape the agile leopard!
With the lions around Tau Pan, the cheetahs that frequent the area have to keep a watchful eye out for them, to ensure that they keep a safe distance. One cheetah cub had to learn fast that its not just lions that he needs to look out for, when he and his mother were walking from the Pan through to the woodlands. The cub began chasing oryx that were standing watching them, perhaps for a bit of practice, probably for a bit of fun. The tables were quickly turned, when the oryx decided they had had enough of this cheeky upstart, and began chasing the cub. The cub was forced up a tree for safety, whilst the mother looked on!
Even with the rain fall, and the additional pans with water, Tau Pan water hole itself appears to be a popular choice for drinking, with one morning a lion, a cheetah and a leopard being seen in its close vicinity – naturally, not all a the same time!
Sightings report for January 2014
Löwen und Afrikanische Wildhunde wurden in diesem Monat von unseren Kunden immer auf ihren Botswana Reisen gesichtet.
KWARA CONCESSION – Early January and we came upon a lone lioness as she walked along the Shindi main road, heading towards the marshes. As she walked, she made low contact calls, as she has obviously hidden her cubs in the marsh area, and wanted to let them know that she is on her way. Although we were unable to locate the cubs that day, two days later, we were able to see two lionesses along the same road, this time, with all seven of their cubs (of varying ages) with them.
Two cheetah brothers were found in the hippo pool area of Splash, quietly watching a herd of zebra and wildebeest, each with young. Although they spent some time and watching and eventually stalking, they were not successful this time, and the zebra and wildebeest moved away.
On the 7th, a pack of 17 wild dogs (including 7 sub-adults) were seen in the area with blood on their faces, having just eaten. They were moving at speed, heading north, and being followed by hyenas, who were obviously hoping such a large pack would soon need to hunt again.
Four male lions attempted to bring down a hippo, but even four of these big males were unable to achieve this, and the hippo, although injured, fought back and managed to get back to the safety of the water. Elsewhere, two lionesses and two lions had better luck and brought down a zebra, and were able to feed on it for two days, being joined by their two cubs.
One game drive we came upon an elephant that was trumpeting and “stomping” up and down as only a very unhappy elephant can. It was only by watching him carefully, that we realised he was upset about something that was in the bushes, as he kept charging to and fro… On closer investigation, we discovered there was a large male lion lying under the feverberry tree! Thanks to the elephant, we got a lovely sighting of a relaxing lion – and presumably relaxing even more when the elephant gave up and left. The next day it was the other animals that indicated to us where a lioness was: three giraffes standing still and staring, and others running away. We were then able to spot a lioness moving through the marshes until she reached a den with a tiny cub waiting.
It’s not just the lions that have the cubs this time around: a very lovely sighting this month of one genet cat with three kittens. The genet was unusually relaxed, sitting in a sausage tree, with her young, and feeding on a tree mouse which the kittens were fighting over.
A relaxed serval cat was found hunting. We were lucky enough to see the kill being successful, and she caught a baby scrub hare. And as with last month, another rare sighting of a water mongoose.
There was plenty of general game in the area this month, with the region around the airstrip and towards the third bridge providing particularly good sightings, with lots of relaxed animals, and the young impala being suckled.
LAGOON – In early January two of the three females of Lagoon Pride were seen often near Watercut, looking in good health. They were seen moving from Watercut to the grass pan and cutline, as the prey disperses. At the end of January, we realised why they were spending a lot of time in the Watercut area…. Tiny mewing sounds could be heard from a clump of bushes a short distance off the road. Another two or three days later, and one of the lionesses felt comfortable enough to encourage her new cubs out of their den, aged only about 4 or 5 weeks old. The three lion cubs suckled happily, whilst mum relaxed in the shade, everyone totally oblivious of the vehicle watching.
For several years, the Lagoon area lions have led a fairly nomadic existence, with no dominant male able to hold the territory for any length of time. The birth of cubs indicates a healthy, stable lion population. The risk is, of course, that any of the nomadic lions that still pass through will take any opportunity to kill the cubs. We hope that this does not occur, and the three cubs have a chance to grow up and add another generation to the lion family.
The lionesses managed to kill an adult kudu, but were forced off the kill by a large pack of hyenas that we found feeding on the carcass. With small cubs in the area of the kill, the lionesses needed to be careful not to let the hyenas anywhere near their den site, so would have retreated quickly rather than stand and face off over the kill.
The pack of 8 wild dogs (3 males and 5 females) were seen at John’s pan, hunting from a pack of impala. They were not successful however, after a few attempts, and then sat down to relax. Later in the month the same pack were seen hunting a warthog, but again no luck as it escaped down a burrow. They then moved on to a herd of wildebeest, but the herd defended it’s young, and the wild dogs lost out again! There were also tracks of the large pack of 20 dogs seen in the north of the concession, but this pack remains very shy, and although we did extensive tracking, we were not able to catch up with the pack.
An absence of the large buffalos this month, as they have moved into the mopane areas. It will not be long before they return, but the lions are having to choose other prey whilst they are away. The elephants have made their return, however, and lovely breeding herds are coming down to the river to drink and are also seen crossing near the camp – some having a little swim as they go. It’s lovely to have them back in good numbers – apart from, of course, when they set up camp during the day IN the camp, and then it’s a little less lovely once they have left not so little packages along the pathways!
Although Secretary birds are present in the area the whole year around, it is always exciting to see some new behaviour and in January we located a nesting bird, that we will be keeping an eye on in the coming weeks. At this stage, we can only imagine how ungainly the chicks will look with their exceedingly long legs!
It’s definitely baby season for most species, with lots of little giraffes, zebras, impalas and tssessebe running around. Warthog have a reputation for looking a little on the ugly side, but one mother was seen with four tiny piglets – probably born in the past day or two at the most – and nothing could be cuter than these little miniatures trotting after their mum.
This month, great sightings of eland! Herds were found around Grass pan and John’s pan – unusual to see so many – and with lots of young calves. And the rarest sighting of the month – a mole rat on a night drive! It’s exceptionally unusual to see one of these animals as they live almost entirely underground. Only the little mounds of fresh dirt that appear in the mornings indicate where they have been!
LEBALA – The first was a lucky day for a leopard that managed to catch a young tsessebe and take it up a tree to feed on. Sadly for the mother, she wandered around the area calling to her baby, but with no answer.
The pack of eight dogs meant business when they came across an adult warthog in their travels. Intent on hunting it, they chased the warthog, who quickly made his escape down a hole in the ground. Backing in, and then facing out to meet the dogs, the warthog made a successfully ferocious stand, and the dogs realised he was too aggressive a prey to deal with that day!
A most unusual sighting on the night drive one evening, with an even more surprising out come: for some reason, a honey badger and an aardwolf (an animal that looks a little like a small hyena, but eats only ants and termites!) took a dislike to each other and began to fight. What is even stranger, is that the honey badger – one of the most aggressive smaller animals that will happily face off with a leopard – appeared to be the loser of the party, but not before leaving a very pungent stink in the vicinity!
And hundreds of elands were also seen in Lebala area! This phenomenally shy antelope is occasionally seen in small herds, but the summer rains have brought them out in large numbers, gathering together to feed on the grass. Still shy, we have to keep a large distance between us, in order to view them.
The large amounts of rain that began the month, although life-giving to many animals, created an unfortunate situation for a herd of elephants. We came across a large pack of hyenas that were feeding on a baby elephant, that had died some time before, as a result of being stuck in the mud. No doubt that its herd had tried their utmost to free the baby, but it had tired and died. The adult elephants would have remained in the area after the baby died, and the hyenas would not have been able to feast until they had moved off.
NXAI PAN – The second day of the month looked dark and stormy, but we headed out on drive that morning anyway, to see what we could find. Soon we came upon a male cheetah, that was very relaxed, and patrolled around the pan. That morning we also saw three lioness with three young, and lots of general game, including some of the hundreds of zebras that have moved into the Nxai area, bringing their young with them.
The very next day, we were lucky enough to see two cheetahs mating – quite a rare event to behold. After mating, the male tried to leap out of the way of the snarling female, but was not quite fast enough and received a cut to the nose as she slashed her paw across his face!
January is definitely all about zebra – as they come in Nxai Pan for the fresh green grass that is growing. This provides sufficient nutrition – and plentiful water – to ensure the health of their young, before moving into other areas as it starts to dry out in a few months. It’s a little it and miss – we never know when they are going to arrive, and how many, as it is totally dependent on the rain fall. But this year, they came en masse, and were prolific in January. Hundreds and hundreds, more likely several thousand, have made their way to Nxai this year, with zebra roaming on every plain, and resting under each shady tree. After the rains, there are several natural waterholes with enough available for them to drink, without having to rely on the two pumped pans in the park. But with so many zebra, all watering places have a steady stream of animals moving in and out to drink. Each herd clears out of the way quickly should a dusty grey elephant arrive, as they are liable to throw their weight around in a rather rough manner when it comes to water access …
And its not just the antelope and zebra that are having babies – a lioness was seen walking from tree island to tree island, calling to her little cubs, and moving them from one location to another, after finding a safer hiding place. And when you are a lion, everyone is looking at you – not just the tourists. Another lioness was found lying down trying to relax, but totally surrounded by zebras, wildebeest, springboks and impalas, who were all alarm calling and trying to get her to move out of the area for their own safety!
Cheetahs were also seen several times this month, often around the water hole, stalking the many antelope that are still coming there to drink. Lions were also resting in the area nearby, so the waterhole is still a focus of action in spite of the several pans having water. The cheetah did manage to bring down a springbok, although we did not see the actual kill, we found the cheetah feeding. We were lucky enough to see leopard on the same day.
TAU PAN – The last days of December had a little surprise in store for Tau Pan – a sighting of two wild dogs at Makgoa Pan! The two males were very relaxed, and we were able to get some good photos of them. We are not sure whether they are from the pack of seven that we have seen a few times in 2013, or they are two individuals that have come from even further afield.
The first of January, a new year, and a new tactic from a lone black back jackal – hunting on his own, he managed to catch and kill a young springbok lamb – something that is not far off his own size.
A couple of days later, a lion and lioness were seen around Tau pan, calling to the rest of their pride. They have not managed to find their relatives in a couple of weeks, as the pride has moved out on a patrol of its territory now that the game is plentiful and there is sufficient water available for them to travel longer distances. In the absence of the pride, a female cheetah is having an easier time of things, and snuck down to the water hole to drink.
We were lucky enough to see another four cheetahs walking along Aardwolf road – this coalition we have not seen before, as we normally see a group of three brothers in the area. It will be interesting if the four are just passing through, or if they are intending to make a base in the area.
January, in many parts of Botswana, is regarded as the ‘quiet’ season – historically it was the time when camps were closed, often remaining closed until May or June. Those days are long gone, as visitors realise that the green season is a wonderful time to visit Botswana, and for the Kalahari, this is definitely the case. Deserts are officially classified as such depending on the amount of rainfall they receive annually. The Central Kalahari receives a little more rainfall than some of the other famous deserts, and as such, the early months of the year burst out in green, as the worlds largest biomass takes over the sand: grass. Not growing as tall as in other parts of the country, January is the prime time to see it in its lushness, with multitude of types that are the first things the hungry antelope are waiting for. giant crows foot, cats tail, finger grass, buffalo grass, saw-tooth love grass, turpentine grass… even the wonderfully named Panicum maximum, which sounds as if it’s walked straight out of the pages of an Asterix comic book, but has a rather duller English name of Guinea grass…
And with this grass arrives all the counterparts: springbok and oryx in large numbers, congregate on the pan during the day, huddling in the shade of the newly leaved trees when it all gets too hot. Bright green young armoured crickets – looking somewhat like extras in a B-grade sci-fi movie – hop from stem to stem, munching anything in their path (including each other if need be). Following them, and other insects or frogs that the rain might encourage, come hundreds and hundreds of marabou storks, and for a short period, thousands of white storks seem to be tottering through each patch of grass, looking slightly confused as to what they are doing there. For them, the Kalahari is a transit route on their travels, and such insects provide a good protein boost on their journey. An even more confused solitary flamingo arrived at Tau Pan as well at the end of the month – staying just a day before continuing on to the salt pans around Nata, where most of his colleagues were already waiting.
It was a rather exciting, but slightly alarming, end to the month of January in Tau Pan, when the ‘youngsters’ from the Tau Pan pride set up camp at the waterhole. They are at an age where it’s a point of contention whether to call them adult, or still sub-adult, but to the average eye, they are certainly large enough that you wouldn’t want to meet them face to face at ground level. They still retain a youthful character however, and in the absence of more sedate lions, they don’t pass up an opportunity to play. The young males (already with substantial manes) wrestled and tagged each other, whilst their sister looked on. Finding her own source of amusement, she decided to climb a tree. Lions are not well known for their tree climbing abilities, but they can all do it. They are actually very good at climbing trees, and can quickly clamber up a trunk and onto a branch. The problem they have is getting down again, as they can never seem to figure out if they should go down forwards, backwards, sideways, or a combination of all three, usually with a bit of hissing and a very clumsy landing. So it was to the surprise of the guests, guide and tracker that suddenly there was a lioness sitting ‘comfortably’ in the tree.
The biggest surprise – and what made everyone slightly anxious – is that the tree the lioness had chosen to climb was hanging right over where the vehicle was parked. The lioness herself appeared unbothered by the people seated below her, and after a few minutes of perusing the horizon, clambered back down, thankfully somewhat more elegantly than most of her relatives could manage. Everyone finally remembered to breath, and the guide moved the vehicle off to an area that didn’t have any overhanging branches.