Die monatlich aktuellen Sichtungen für das 2. Halbjahr 2015 von KWANDO, unserem Premiumpartner in Botswana, finden Sie auf dieser Seite. Diese sind aus erster Hand und direkt an uns aus den Camps in Botswana übermittelt worden.
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Im folgenden Text können Sie schon mal die Sichtungen für die Monate Juli bis Dezember 2015 nachlesen:
Dezember 2015 Sichtungen (in Englisch)
Kwara Concession – In December, the normal rains had still not arrived…. The lagoon in front of the camp became smaller, and hippos that were not part of the main group were forced out by territorial bulls. Those that were left behind, huddled down in the water during the day, and spread far and wide at night in search of sufficient grass to eat. Thunderstorms threatened, but then strong winds blew them away without any rain falling for the first few weeks.
Although the water has drawn back from the floodplains, the boat channel is still accessible. Visits to the heronry were still possible, though it’s now towards the end of the nesting season. Marabou storks were still seen, balancing on their nests, as the young learn to fly. An afternoon out on the boat does not mean that you won’t see game – not only are there often elephants in the channel, but a trip back from the boat station after sunset can provide some fabulous sightings. Such as a female leopard nursing her two cubs that are only a few weeks old! She and her offspring were seen several times in the area, relaxed in the presence of the vehicles.
Female cheetahs had several successful hunts that we saw this month – a female with her sub-adult cubs hunted impala right in front of the vehicle, and another had no luck with a herd of impala who spotted her, but then managed to hunt and kill a reedbuck.
The two groups of four male lions were seen several times, mostly trying to avoid each other… both groups look healthy, but finding the high temperatures hard going.
The 11th was a busy day for the predators – with three different cheetahs being sighted, eight lions walking past the Kwara camps, and another two lions being seen out on game drive. Wild dogs were seen a few times this month, with two females and three males being found around the Kwara airstrip. A couple of days later, and there was a confusing hunt situation where a cheetah and sub-adults were stalking impala, only to find a lioness was also stalking from another direction. Cheetahs and impala left promptly…..
Christmas arrived early, on the 23rd, with Santa bringing a very very special gift… RHINO! One male white rhino was found in the Tsum Tsum area – our only sighting of rhino in 2015. Shy as ever, it moved off fairly quickly, heading north east.
The lions celebrated heartily on the 25th, a big Christmas dinner was had – hippo had succumbed to injuries sustained in a fight with another hippo. A very large, free meal was thus enjoyed by all! (including the several crocodiles that were waiting near by…)
Also this month, two tagged vultures were spotted – one white backed vulture and one hooded vulture. These birds are hugely important to the health of the ecosystem, and their numbers have been declining in recent years, so sightings of any tagged birds are vital to the researchers that help to safe-guard their numbers.
There was also a special sighting of five sitatunga – three adults and two young – in the Maunachira channel on the boat drive. These semi-aquatic antelope are extremely rare to see, so seeing five on one outing was amazing luck.
Lagoon – Lions were announcing their presence, and could be heard calling often from camp. Sometimes they were a little elusive to track down, slipping away into the thickly wooded areas along the waterways, for a bit of R&R – or perhaps a bite to eat. As the guests arrived for the lead up to Christmas, so too did the predators come out. Several days of game drives included multiple sightings – lions, leopard, wild dogs, and hyenas.
The pack of 23 wild dogs was seen several times, hunting, and patrolling their territory. Moving huge distances each day, we would see them in the morning and never be exactly sure that they would still be in the same area later that day! They bounced between the Lagoon and Lebala areas, seemingly apportioning out fairly their time. They also managed to tree (as in, chase up into a tree where it waits for safety!) a serval cat – not normally known for its tree climbing skills!
With several leopard sightings this month, we were also lucky enough to see a female leopard at at John’s pan, looking heavily pregnant. Perhaps we will be lucky enough to gain some more leopard cubs in a few months?
Although we have not had much rain, at the beginning of the month, the elephants had all but disappeared, having gone into the mopane where it may have rained more. The first week, just one bull elephant was seen. They soon came back when they realised there was not a lot of water over there to drink. Even late in December, there was still a good-sized herd of buffalo around – highly unusual for this time of year.
It’s great to see all the ‘big’ stuff on safari, but the highlight for many guides is when they have guests that are just as excited to see the smaller things that often get forgotten. In amongst all the sightings of lions and leopards and dogs, are the guests that mark down as their favourite sighting things like ‘coqui francolin’ (a lovely golden-shaded version of the more common drab, noisy francolins) and the ‘suicide bird’. With no bird officially named as such, this can perhaps be attributed to the northern black korhaan – a fairly large, mostly ground based bird, that likes to impress the ladies of his species by flying high up, and then plummeting to the ground like a stone. Rather like a base-jumper, pulling the cord at the very last minute, he spreads his wings to stop his fall as late as possible. For some, a much more impressive sight than a snoring lion!
And just to prove that not all heavily wished for animals have to have large teeth, Santa provided a special sighting on Christmas day: Aardvark!
Lebala – The first two weeks of the month, Lebala closed for maintenance to rebuild the airstrip, so we didn’t have much opportunity to get out and about and see what was happening in the bush. However, re-opening on the 14th of December, our first day provided a lovely sighting of five lions with two cubs, close to Baobab Pan. Wild dogs had also been through the area, though we only managed to find their tracks and the abandoned remains of a kill.
The pack of 14 wild dogs continued to be seen several times – hunting for themselves, but also scavenging from the remains of an elephant that had died after a fight with another elephant!
Plenty of breeding herds of elephants are around – unusually for December. This is due to the lack of rain. Should we get sufficient rain, for a few weeks, the large numbers of elephants head to the mopane areas to feed on the fresh leaves, knowing that there will be pools of rainwater available for them to drink.
An exciting early morning drive came across a female leopard, just as she was hunting a reedbuck. She didn’t manage to keep her kill for very long, as a group of hyenas arrived and stole her meal.
Two male lions were seen regularly throughout the month, and made several attempts to hunt whilst we watched. Although we didn’t always witness a kill, they seemed pretty well fed so were obviously managing something! We did see them take down a baby zebra – not much of a meal for two big adult males.
In general, lots of nice general game in the area, with plenty of zebra, giraffe, impala and wildebeest with their young.
Nxai Pan – A lioness with her two cubs were found on West road at the start of the month, feeding on a wildebeest. They had been seen at the main waterhole for several days prior to that, and had had better luck in their hunts once they had moved away.
The cheetah and her sub-adult cubs were seen several times during the month, looking healthy and well fed. This is an easy time of year for them, with plenty of food around.
We were also lucky enough to see the pack of wild dogs that have become more regular visitors to the area. Most of the sightings were of five, but the total pack seems to be seven, as they were seen all together twice. We also saw them hunt and kill two springboks along Middle Road. Just after they had killed the two, the lioness with the two cubs appeared from nowhere and took one of the kills from the dogs, then carried it off to the woodland where she had hidden her cubs.
The first week of the month the wildebeest began delivering their young, after the first rain that we had. The springbok had not started at that stage, but on the 16th we were lucky enough to see one of them give birth. The whole process took only one hour – from finding the springbok about to give birth, to the little baby up and standing on its new legs! A wonderful sighting!
Once the young antelope start being born, then it is easy prey for the cheetahs and lions of the area. With so many youngsters, it is hard for the herds to keep all of them together, and a charging predator will scatter the young, creating endless opportunities for a quick hunt.
Tau Pan – The area around Tau Pan is particularly green, and seems to have had more rain than the Deception Valley area. The general game is congregating, to enjoy the new grass. There were several heavy rainfalls during the month, one of 27mm and one of 20mm – all with the space of a few days. How unusual that the Kalahari seems to be greener and wetter than the rest of Botswana!
Two lionesses with six young were seen on the Deception Valley road, sleeping in the heat of the day under the trees. On the same day we also saw one cheetah in San Pan and two cheetahs in Phokoje pan. Both groups were relaxed, and resting on the edge of the road. And a very special sighting on the same day of a caracal, walking along the road.
The four intruder male lions and one lioness were seen on the western side of Tau Pan. One of the males was mating with the female.
A female cheetah was found sleeping under an acacia tree around Tau Pan, whils another male was found hunting. He then gave up his hunt, and sat down, until it got dark.
November 2015 Sichtungen
There’s an almost incessant hum in the air – ga gona pula ga gona pula…. There’s no rain! Temperatures soared, with many records beaten, regularly reaching over 40 degrees during the day, when 35 degrees is more the norm.
In and around Maun, the wildlife merges with the domestic… elephants move along with cows on the river banks, breaking fences to get to the juicier vegetation (with the cows and goats following in their trail…). A leopard is found in someone’s backyard, and crocodiles that are getting too big for their own good in the shrinking river, are relocated to areas more suitable, up to the top of the delta. Everyone, is waiting for the rain.
Kwara Concession – Lions were seen nearly every day, and cheetahs almost as regularly. The Tsum Tsum area was very productive, for both of these predators.
The cheetah with her three cubs was seen often, and once we saw them in the company of a male cheetah. They were all very relaxed together, and the male was interested to see if the female was ready to mate. It appears not, as after a while the male left them and headed north.
The pride of eight lions (3 females and 5 young) were seen most often, and regularly hunting. They were joined by the two black maned lions, and together they killed a buffalo. They spent several days together eating this. The female lion with two subadult males was also seen regularly – one of the young males has had an unfortunate interaction with a porcupine – several quills were stuck in around his neck!
We were also lucky enough to see leopards mating. They had a kill waiting for them in the branches of a nearby tree.
A hippo died – probably of natural causes – at Pelican Pan, so it became a feeding frenzy for the local carnivores. Three males lions and a lioness spent time feeding there, and several groups of hyenas joined in as well.
An unusual sighting of a large number of hyenas (over 10) feeding on a red lechwe as well as a female leopard!
Some of the summer migratory birds were a little slow to arrive this year, with the late rains. The call of the woodland kingfisher is so distinct, the first day you hear it, you realise how many months it has been since it was last here… Normally arriving in early November, they didn’t arrive in force until the end of the month. How they know the rain in Botswana is delayed, before they set off to travel here, is a mystery. It must be something like Heathrow airport grounding all flights on the first day of school holidays. Every kingfisher waiting at the departure point, fluttering their wings, frustrated, looking at the “departures board” (the sun? the moon? The stars?), and then a mad rush with everyone taking off when the all clear is announced. Well, at least they made it this year, if somewhat tardy.
Lagoon – The Northern pack of dogs seen regularly, with good sighting of hunts and feeding. One of their kills was a baby roan antelope – a rare kill for them.
Several male lions sighted in the area. This is creating problems for the females with cubs, as they face the danger of these intruder males killing their cubs if they get hold of them. On the 12th of the month, we found a female with four cubs, but within 10 days she had lost them all. On the 26th, she was seen mating again with one of the Chobe males. The resident males are still hanging around, and battling with the Chobe boys often.
Male lions, as big and impressive as they appear most of the time, can sometimes look a bit insecure and as if they are feeling sorry for themselves: following the sound of roaring, a male was found lying down, and calling to his colleagues (who weren’t answering…).
Again, good sightings of female leopards, including one that had killed a young tsessebe and was feeding on it, and another with an impala kill up a sausage tree. Male leopards are very shy and we seem to only be able to see them at a distance, or in the quiet of night.
The two male cheetahs made a quick visit to the area, staying for a day or so, before moving off again to the north west section of the concession, and then returned a week or so later to hunt. By the end of the month, they had disappeared again.
The big herds of buffalos have split up, and we currently remain with the bachelor herds and solitary males. The bulk of the numbers of buffalo have moved off in search, literally, of greener pastures: any where that there has been the possibility of rain, and new grass growth. There are, however, still lots of elephants in the area, including lots of breeding herds.
Good birding with the carmine bee eaters still at their breeding sites in the banks of Kwena Lagoon, and the other summer migratories having arrived.
Lebala – We came across the pack of 23 wild dogs at Half Way Pan, and followed the dogs for about half and hour as they moved quickly through the bush. All the dogs were on the hunt for prey, and senses were at their peak. Sadly for them, they did not manage to flush out any game, and they moved off still searching. A few days later we found them again hunting, this time managing to catch two impalas at the same time one morning. The very same day, the dogs arrived in camp in the afternoon, and killed a kudu, quickly demolishing it.
The pride of ten lions is very productive at the moment and has had great success with their hunts. One day we found them eating both a wildebeest, and a warthog as a side dish!
Even more lions are on the way, as we came across two couples mating for several days in the middle of the month. Hopefully, in another 90 days, there were more little cubs to add to the pride.
Little warthogs were not so lucky – a very newly born baby was being fed on by a female leopard and her cub. A few days later, we watched the whole hunt of another warthog by five lions – starting with the stalking process, the kill itself, and then the crunching of bones as everyone digs in..
Nxai Pan – It’s the right time of year for many to have their young – the springbok are grouping together, nearly ready to all give birth within days of each other. Ostriches already have lots of tiny fluffy chicks, following their parents around as fast as their little legs can carry them.
It was also a predator filled month: almost every day lions were seen, and often with the addition of either cheetah, or wild dogs – sometimes both, as well as hyenas! You would think with up to 19 lions roaming around, other predators would be in scarce supply, but there is plenty of space (and food) for everyone.
The normal pride of 16 lions (10 sub-adults and with six adults, was joined by the one female with her two young cubs. The main waterhole was their choice resting place. A giraffe carcass was particularly enticing for all of them, which made them move between the waterhole and the wildlife camp. With 19 lions feeding on a large, old giraffe, there was something for everyone! (including a few good photos for the guests!). Whenever they moved from the main waterhole, other animals would sneak in, including the cheetah mother and her two sub-adult cubs, finally able to quench their thirst.
The small pack of dogs – two males and three females – was also seen at the wildlife camp. They also came to the Nxai Pan camp waterhole several times to drink. They appeared for several days, just at sunrise, a perfect time for them to be able to get to the waterhole and get a drink without so many elephants.
The camp waterhole has also been attracting spotted hyenas, coming individually, and in groups of up to five at a time. It’s difficult to negotiate the way around the elephants to get a drink, so this required a lot of patience, and a long time of waiting for the right chance.
Following on from last month, the elephants continued to congregate. The pump for the park main waterhole failed for a short time, making the situation tougher still. With the camp pumping water as fast as it could, any overflow was quickly turned into a mudbath by the elephants. Still not happy with that, nor happy with the queuing system, their attention turned again to the camp. What an elephant wants, an elephant gets, and for this reason, we sadly had to close the camp to re-lay almost an entire camps-worth of water pipe, sewerage systems, and elephant-prevention systems. On the second day of closure, the rain arrived. Perhaps only a start, but it is enough of a signal that there will be water pools somewhere else, and the next morning, not an elephant was seen! They returned, of course, but not in the numbers that required a “damage to property” insurance form to be filled out.
Tau Pan – A very relaxed male leopard opened the month for us at Tau Pan waterhole, quenching his thirst.
The saga that began last month continued on, with the three young intruder male lions chasing the territorial male again. They were also seen along the eastern firebreak, marking territory in an attempt to claim it as their own. The two females with five cubs still venture down to the waterhole, but are very cautious – one was injured when they were harassed at the end of the last month by the same intruders.
Mid way through the month, things got even more confusing, when the three males were seen near the old borehole, with two lionesses. The males were mating with one of the lionesses. In the mean time, two “resident” male lions were resting not too far away at the waterhole – not looking very comfortable about the whole situation.
Several cheetah sightings, including two shy males in the Deception Valley Area, one relaxed male close to the old borehole near the camp, who was seen for several days.
A very unusual and lovely sighting of a family of spotted eagle owls… a mother owl with her two youngsters in the branch of a tree, and another adult – perhaps the father – high up in the top branches.
Lots of general game in the area, including the oryx – several of which look heavily pregnant – springboks, hartebeest and wildebeest. Green patches of land are starting to show, in spite of having hardly any rain at all. And for the first time in over five years, there has not been a fire in the area!
Oktober 2015 Sichtungen
Kwara Concession – The start of the month began with the cheetah family of mother and three cubs, witnessed on several attempted hunts. They were aiming for red lechwe and other prey, but had no luck when we were there. A few days later they were seen again attempting to hunt, and heading off towards the marshes. The next day they had had success – feasting on a male impala at Peter’s crossing. They were seen regularly throughout the rest of the month as well.
Five wild dogs headed west quickly through Mothusi’s crossing, not stopping or giving us a chance to identify which pack they belonged to! Their speed would indicate that they were not part of the normal pack, and were hesitant about being in the area in case they bumped into the residents.
A few days later we came across the pack of 9 dogs, resting up in the heat of the day. We also saw them shortly after they killed a reedbuck. Two male lions also chose reedbuck for their meal in the middle of the month, catching one close to double crossing.
Lions were also in abundance – pride of 4 adults (3 females, 1 male) and five cubs were seen resting on top of termite mounds at Marula Island, and for several other times, doing lots of sleeping! One lone male managed to snatch a baby giraffe away from the protection of its mother, and devoured it as fast as he could! On another day, six adults and six youngsters attempted feed on one warthog. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of dispute as to who got the warthog equivalent of the wish bone…
Four male lions on the 21st aimed for a slightly larger meal, harassing a breeding herd of elephants, and attempting to isolate a baby elephant from its mother. The mothers were very protective, and charged the lions off.
Two male leopards were seen on the 12th and 13th of October, one relaxed and sleeping under the shade of bushes, the other one very shy and moving along the road.
Perhaps hearing about our complaints regarding their colleagues’ destructive behaviour at Nxai Pan camp last month, elephants attempted to assist the camp staff in some clearing up efforts… A huge wind came out of nowhere on an otherwise calm day, hurling an old tree to the ground. The ground, however, included the swimming pool, making it unusable. A few bull elephants arrived to try and remedy the problem – trying to work their way through the leaves and branches of the tree that were now accessible to them. This, however, did not go down too well with the team of tree surgeons that were flown in with a very large chainsaw to remove the tree from the pool. A bit of encouragement (or rather discouragement) and the elephants moved off to another feeding ground. Once chopped and extricated from the pool, the tidbits were put over to one side of the camp so that they could be enjoyed at leisure by the elephants.
An unusual sighting this month of two civet cats together. Not often seen even singly, these are not actually cats but have their own classification along with genets. Perhaps they are not seen often as they have heard about what people use civets for… the african civet is farmed – even currently – for the secretion from its perineal gland. This is used to scent some perfumes! The same night, two porcupines were also seen together. Luckily, no one has attempted to extract perfume from these animals so far.
Another unusual sighting for the Kwara concession – just because of the sheer number – around 500 buffalo were found grazing, together with a number of sable, around Bat Eared Fox den.
Lagoon – The well established lion pride of two males and two females were seen in Watercart area, at the start of the month. This area is currently full of general game, that are focussing on the water channels and green grass that is like an oasis We witnessed a lovely moment as well the following week, when a brother and sister of the pride that have not been seen for some time, were reunited with the pride. Not all were happy members of the pride though – a dominant male fought with one of the younger males. Later, territoriality was taking over… there were several fights between the Lebala pride of four, and the Lagoon pride of seven , so very exciting action all around!
A dead elephant was found floating in the water by one of the army patrols. Investigating whether it had been poached or not, they pulled it out of the water, and discovered that it had likely died of natural causes. This was a bonus for two male lions that then happened upon it, and who then spent an extended amount of time eating away at it.
A relaxed female leopard was located not far from the lodge, walking along the edge of the water.
The big pack of 23 wild dogs were in the area, and were seen making several attempts at bringing down impala. They eventually succeeded with one, though that is not a major meal to last a pack of that size any length of time. They were also seen several times playing, a wonderful sight to see with so many puppies. And made even better, when the entire pack runs through the camp hunting!
At the end of the month, the pack appears to have split into two – one pack of 8 dogs, and one pack of 9 dogs with the six puppies. This will help reduce the pressure of finding enough food for all 23 dogs at once, and allow more territory to be covered by the two groups. It will be interesting to see if they rejoin again a little later, or remain as independent packs.
Not far away from where the pack were seen, is a bat eared fox den, currently with six little kits! The parents were present at the den, caring for their young.
A large herd of around 300 buffalo was found east of the camp, and everywhere you move, there are more and more elephants.
The hard-to-see african antelope, the sable, was not so hard to see when 35 of them grouped in front of the camp to drink. Pushed out of the woodland that they favour by thirst, they felt relaxed enough to approach the river so close to camp. One sable wasn’t so lucky and was killed by the two male lions nicknamed the “rebel leaders”.
However, there were also regular spots of groups of roan and eland as well this month.
Cheetahs that had appeared last month for a week, completely disappeared again, only returning in the last week of the month, and were found feeding on impala. Interesting that they are only favouring us for very rare visits in the last year or two, but this is probably due to the large numbers of lions that have established their territories in the area now.
The fast drying up pools of water that are left behind as main channels recede, are meeting grounds for a large variety of birdlife – storks, herons and pelicans. All of them are searching the pools for the fish that are trapped there – an easy catch compared to trying to harvest them from the free-flowing waters.
Lebala – The pack of dogs spent most of the month running up and down between Lebala and Lagoon areas. Hunting was good on all sides, and the dogs appeared healthy and active. They even came into camp, and were hunting around the staff village. We’ve also have visits from the other large pack of 24 dogs, coming in from the Selinda territory.
The Kwando pack spent several days hunting between Park road and Twin pools. They have to keep active to feed this many members of the team!
Male and female lions were mating at Halfway Pan, and were seen there for three or four days, not moving far, and resting up between ‘bouts’. A lioness and her three cubs were found just north of Twin Pools, feeding on a kudu carcass.
And five hyenas were introducing their two cubs to the delights of slightly smelly food – feeding on a dead hippo carcass that was on the edge of the pool. Yummy!
A leopard was found feeding on an impala, and the very next day, hunting again. We also saw a mother leopard and her sub-adult cub, moving along together, hunting.
Once the rains fall this month or next (though we are becoming a little concerned as to whether they will actually fall!), we will have a glut of young babies frolicking around, with many baby impalas, and other antelope. A tsessebe mother opted not to wait for the rains, and a tiny young new born was seen bouncing alongside her mother in the Park Road area.
As you can tell, Twin Pools area at the moment seems to be a highly productive area – with the waterways decreasing, this is the edge of the Selinda spillway, and draws large amounts of game to the grasses and fresh water. Add to that, around a 1000 pelicans and other birds fishing along the waterways, catching up the fish that are caught in the lower water.
Nxai Pan – Three wild dogs appeared in front of the camp, from the west. They were hunting, and moved off into the woodland. Two more dogs came to the water hole the next morning to drink. Towards the middle of the month, the pack of five again rested in front of the camp.
Lions were seen almost every day that we went out on drive. The big pride of lions (16 of them) were fit and well and spent a lot of time lounging around the main waterhole. They also came to the camp, to sample that water hole as well, but they were continually interrupted by grumpy elephants that were not keen to see them around.
The cheetah mother with two cubs was also seen, and is doing well. They had hunted and killed a springbok near the Wildlife camp, and then another one next to the main waterhole.
As the heat continues, it was elephants, elephants and more elephants making life difficult for other animals and humans alike. With up to 400 coming to the camp waterhole, crowding was at its maximum, with queuing systems thrown out the window. Breeding herds, not often seen in large numbers at Nxai were pushing their way to the front, to make sure that they had enough to drink so that they could produce milk for the youngsters. Smaller animals had to wait and wait and wait. As the larger bull elephants also got sick of waiting and bullying each other, they continued to make forays into the camp, completely ignoring the boosted up electric fence that had been erected. Everyone is constantly looking skyward, in the hope that rain will arrive and the majority of the elephants will disappear, leaving only (very large) footprints behind (and a lot of broken deckwork…)
Tau Pan – The Tau Pan pride of lions (10 adults and 5 young) spent the first week loitering at the camp waterhole, too hot to budge to anywhere else. They do disappear from time to time, roaming to protect their territory from any
Towards the end of the month, there was the beginnings of change in the lion dynamics: the three males made an attempt to push the currently dominant male, out of the area. The dominant male is also injured, so will be unable to fight against three of them. Although nothing was finalized at the time, it looks like there will be some interesting times ahead for the long stable Tau Pan pride….
An interesting observation from a guide at Tau in regards to the cheetah of the Kalahari. Having been based at Tau Pan for many years, prior to that coming from the Delta, he has noticed that the cheetahs in the Kalahari tend to favour the more wooded/vegetated areas than the open plains. In the Delta – oddly where there are less open plains – they prefer to spend their time in those areas. Perhaps this is because with a higher density of other predators in the area, it affords them more time to spot them coming if they frequent the more open areas.
A big male leopard was seen drinking at the camp waterhole. Its harder for us to see leopards in the Kalahari, but this one was very relaxed, and we enjoyed a good sighting.
On the 17th, two wildebeest came to drink at the waterhole whist guests were watching from the main area. Whilst they were drinking, three of the lionesses charged out of the bush at the wildebeest, and they picked one to aim for. Luckily for the wildebeest, he chose the right direction to run in and quickly made it to a hard surface where he could pick up speed and outpace the lions. Had he chosen the other direction, the sand ridge, the lions would have outmaneuvered him.
September 2015 Sightings report
Kwara Concession – October arrived in September, as temperatures soared into the high 30s, and night time temperatures reached 20 degrees centigrade. A sprinkle of rain in early September (unheard of!) settled the dust for a couple of hours, but then it was back to normal – and predictions for this rainy season are it will be another poor one…
The heat was not stopping us from seeing some good predator sightings – albeit they were less inclined to be up and active in the middle of the day.
The cheetah mother and her three cubs got in quite a few hunting excursions, but were unsuccessful the times that we witnessed. The middle of the month we came upon a new cheetah to the area – a female and a sub-adult cub. The cheetah population of the Kwara concession seems to be forever expanding!
Three lionesses killed a buffalo early on in the month, and were seen feeding on it with their two youngsters. They also had success at hunting impala a few days later. Four male lions were feeling the heat – and spent a lot of time lounging in the shade of the trees. After resting all day, one late afternoon they stood up and made a vague attempt at stalking a zebra, but they were soon spotted by their prey, and the zebra made a quick getaway. A single lioness also managed to kill a large male kudu on her own, and then spent the next two days devouring it. A hyena kept a close watch to see if she had a chance to get some of the meat.
Lions are not well known for their tree-climbing abilities, but they can and will do it from time to time. Generally it is to escape flies, or catch a bit of a cooling breeze. A cheetah got the surprise of his life when a lioness dropped out of a tree with her two cubs, and began chasing the cheetah! Luckily, cheetahs can out-run a lion so he managed to get away.
A male leopard was found hunting – walking around checking in different directions as to his best chance of securing a prey.
The high temperatures mean that grass is drying off everywhere, forcing animals that don’t normally congregate in large numbers into the area. This included a herd of over 100 buffalos, which came in to the area to make use of the short grasses along the edge of the waterways.
Mid way through the month we saw the pack of 13 wild dogs, again make a successful kill. The next day we found them playing around and chasing each other for fun, coming up close to the car, and finally settling down for a good drink at the pan. The next day, tables were turned, as the dogs ended up being chased by zebra! Shortly after, they went back to the more normal behaviour of dogs chasing impala, and catching and eating one.
The last day of the month, and a great game drive – leopard, lions, cheetah, wild cat and hyena!
Lagoon – Lagoon pride of lions hunted and killed one of the many buffalos that are frequenting the area. One of the lionesses was also seen mating with one of the two large male lions that were in the area. A great sighting of Lebala pride east of Halfway, with the animals stalking a family of warthog. Fortunately for the warthog, they were not successful.
An unusual sighting of seven lions lying down relaxing – that bit was not so unusual, but they were relaxing in close proximity to two male cheetahs!
Cheetahs have not been seen in the area for many months – as they spend the bulk of the year in the outlying parts of the concession, returning to the woodland and water areas around mid September. The first day we found the two brothers after so long, they hunted and killed a young female impala. They spent a week or so in the area. One morning we had to track them for around 45minutes before we managed to catch up with the two boys. They spent some time stalking, and managed to hunt an impala which they killed 100m from the vehicle.
The leopardess with young cub was also seen several times – hunting, feeding and suckling the cub. Once she was seen stalking impala, but she was not successful.A few days later, the mother and cub were seen again, this time with cub trying to participate – a little precocious! – in a hunt.
The wild dog pack of 17 adults and 8 youngsters was regularly seen in the Lagoon area. They were seen feeding on impala, and kudu.
Buffalos, buffalos and more buffalos. Large – actually huge – herds numbering over a 1000 are in the area, and grazing on the drying grass, and spending a lot of time by the water-side. There numbers are depleting somewhat, but not from disease or starvation, but simply by being picked off by the lions who’s area they have arrived into. A moving buffet, its inevitable that buffalo becomes the dish of the day at this time of year. With such huge numbers of buffalo, the survival of the species is not threatened by this.
Add to the buffalos hundreds and hundreds of elephants. They are passing through the camp and crossing the river to visit Namibia. Each day they move through they are pulling up more and more vegetation that then drifts along on top of the water, looking like a mushy swamp.
And the change in seasons to the hot summer (though technically this should be spring!) months, heralds the arrival of the first migratory birds and breeding season of others. And most noticeable, are the large numbers of carmine bee eaters, that return to their usual breeding site in the banks of the Kwena Lagoon.
The general game continues to be good, with zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, kudus, sable and roan antelope all in the area. Night drives have included sightings of hyena, jackals, and a flap necked chameleon! A special sighting this month was of a group of banded mongoose eating a snake – unlike the tales of Rudyard Kipling’s heroic mongoose, Rikki Tikki Tavi, it is most unusual to actually see mongoose and snakes interact.
Lebala – Golf, anyone?
An early season bush fire which some how managed to jump the water ways and islands across from Namibia in late August burnt back an area of dry grass almost entirely circling the camp. Within days, due to an amount of residual underground water and an out-of-character splattering of rain, the blacked ground had been replaced by sweet, short, green grass. Almost overnight, a perfect golf course was formed: broad fairways with brilliant greens, complete with ready-made holes (admittedly, some were more aardvark-sized than golf ball-sized), sandy bunkers, (termite) mounds, and several natural water hazards (complete with crocodiles and/or hippos to add that extra local hazard to the sport).
Due to luggage restrictions, and an inconsiderate lack of forward notice from Nambia that we would be having a golf course shortly, no guests came prepared with their clubs to play a round on Botswana’s newest course. However, the area was not entirely wasted. Finding the grass much more to their liking than the surrounding areas, large herds of wildebeest and zebras moved in to crop it. Although not quite the equivalent of a Serengeti migration, the numbers of beasts collecting on the open area was a wonderful sight. A green-keeper’s worst nightmare, the elephants followed along with them, pulling up any delectable shoots that were trying to push their way through.
Back in the UK in the late 15th Century, hunting, hawking and heraldry were the three main pastimes for anyone who wasn’t a peasant. One (presumably rainy) day, when hunting wasn’t possible, someone decided to jot down a list of collective nouns, which was published in the Book of St Albans in 1486. St Albans, obviously being a major safari destination at the time, included leopards on the list. Since in our times, leopards are generally solitary beings, having a collective noun for a group of them seems somewhat optimistic. However, on the 2nd of September, the Lebala guides got to pull out that official word, and probably use it for the first time – a ‘leap’ of leopards was sighted. An adult was feeding on a reedbuck, whilst another leopard lounged nearby in a tree… We also saw a female leopard on the in a branch of a sausage tree, waiting patiently for a group of impala to move under the tree so that she could pounce on it!
The pack of 25 wild dogs are bounding around the concession, juggling from Lagoon to Lebala and back again. Whilst at Lebala, they chose to dine on an appetising warthog, and enjoyed it so much, they went to the same spot the next day and caught another! At the end of the month, they spent a few days close to the camp, chasing the wildebeest that hang out in the area.
The lions, mean while, were working their way through a rather large meal of giraffe. Five lionesses and two young cubs were seen often, and caught several buffalo, as did the males on separate occasions. An elephant which was seen tussling with another bull elephant in the water one day, was found dead half in the water the next day. Around 20 hyenas took the opportunity to grab a free meal, and feasted on the carcass.
Please find our latest video from the Lebala/Lagoon area:
Nxai Pan – Re-opened again after a month’s closure for general camp maintenance, and its back into the swing of things. Unfortunately, some large grey herbivores decided that maintenance should continue for the foreseeable future.
About 18 months ago, Botswana made a decision to stop hunting in order to preserve their animals. Up until then, several very large areas of land were leased by hunting operators, who oversaw the pumping of water to artificial watering holes on the land. Now, no one is pumping, and the animals are moving out of areas that they have occupied for years, in search of water sources. And that search has led them to Nxai Pan. With only one other waterhole active in the park, the camp waterhole has been inundated with elephants. Normally, this pan is refilled by our water reticulation plant, from the grey water that the camp uses during the day. This was sufficient to allow all the animals to drink. Now, we are having to pump directly from our borehole, 24 hours a day, and there is still not enough water for them to drink. Instead, the elephants, have turned to the camp itself, and sneak through our ‘deterrent’ electric fence at night, to break the water pipes and tanks in camp and siphon there. Although we don’t begrudge them a drink, it would be a lot easier if they stopped doing this as not only is it expensive, and labour intensive, it makes it less easy for us to get the water to their ‘official’ drinking point! In the mean time, Nxai Pan is praying on the elephants behalf for a very early rainy season (highly unlikely) or that the Government manages to get the water holes in the now unoccupied concession areas up and running as quickly as possible.
There were sightings of other animals apart from elephants this month too. The female cheetah with her two cubs was fit and well, seen often, including when the mother managed to kill an impala right in front of the vehicle.! Other days they were seen flat on their backs, with very full tummies! They also spent two days ‘camping’ at the HATAB no 2 camp site – no humans camping there at the moment, so they enjoyed the peace and quiet.
Although we didn’t see the lion pride much this month (reason being they were hanging out in the village area outside the park, picking off cattle…) an adult male lion was seen close to the main waterhole several times, sometimes on his own, sometimes with another male. The pride – all 15 of them – finally returned towards the end of the month, to lounge at the main waterhole. Currently the pride consists of four lionesses, one male, and 10 sub-adults/cubs.
Unusual sightings this month included three male buffalos that were also seen near the main water hole twice, and five wild dogs that came into camp – two on the first day, and then another three the next day, looking for the first two!
Tau Pan – The two dominant male lions were found with a kudu bull close to the camp. They fed on the carcass for three days, but didn’t appear to be letting any of the females in for a bite to eat. The lionesses themselves seemed to be doing ok, as the two females with five cubs looked well fed, and were seen regularly lounging by the waterhole.
A female cheetah was found along the road to Passarge, she seemed quite nervous, and was limping on her foreleg.
An odd sighting at any time of the year in the Kalahari – four young male elephants were located along Phukwi Road – very relaxed considering they can’t have seen much in the way of vehicles in their travels.
A special sighting of a snake – Cape cobra seen whilst out on drive. This brightly coloured yellow snake is endemic to the area, but not often seen.
And something very unusual. Rain – 25mm of it fell in one day in early September! For the Kalahari, that was enough for some of the grass to come out and some happy animals to enjoy it. It does not look like the start of the rainy season – traditionally isolated areas get a light dusting of rain around the 30th of September (easy to remember, as that is when Botswana gained independence in 1966, and it bucketed down in celebration on all the dignitaries…) – and then nothing until late October or November.
August 2015 Sightings report
Kwara Concession – It’s hard not to get tied up in the events that surround the animals that we see every day. It’s human nature to ‘reflect’ our emotions and interpretations of behaviour onto the animals. Some days, it just feels like you are in the middle of a soap opera. Take the afternoon where the mother cheetah was found with only one of her three cubs. She spent the late afternoon calling and calling, for her other cubs to join… but there was no response. Even as darkness fell, as the cars moved off, she could still be heard calling. So, talk that night at the dinner table was concern – guides, guests, managers, all wondering what had happened to her other cubs? Would they find each other? Had they been attacked and killed by another predator? Will the single cub disappear as well, or stay on with the mother.
The next day, everyone was looking for the cheetah, to continue the story. And although it doesn’t happen often in the bush, there was a happy ending. When mother cheetah was found, all three cubs were with her, looking no worse for wear! Relief all round for the guests and staff alike… until the next episode of “Days of our Lives”.
In actual fact, the cheetah mother appears to be doing well at teaching her offspring good hunting techniques, and the four of them are regularly pulling down impala and other game. It’s possible that during an attempted hunt in the middle of the day, they got separated.
Other than that stressful time, we had other days of good sightings of the cheetah family, including where we watched them all attempt (unsuccessfully) to hunt. The same day, we came upon a male cheetah, and he stalked and killed a baby reedbuck right in front of us.
The pride of seven lions with three young was seen several times at the beginning of the month, looking for something to hunt. They had no luck whilst we were watching… a little later, a male and female lioness took a chance to try and hunt some warthogs, which they did manage to catch.
Male lions – the epitome of strength, bravery, fierceness. We came across four big males – the Marsh boys, calling and sounding off, roaring for dominance of their territory. Talking to other cars out, some distance away, they had located the four new males known as the Zulu boys, also roaring and sounding off, vying for dominance of this area. The two ‘teams’ slowly moved towards each other, calls getting louder and stronger. Everyone pictured the battle that was about to ensue – 8 fully grown male lions, evenly matched… what a scene! Until they reached about 1km away from each other, and both “sides” carefully turned round and walked in the opposite direction….
On the 20th August we came across the four Zulu boys, who had killed a 6-7 year old elephant. They had scars that were not there the day prior, and one of the four was limping badly, so we suspect they had finally had the fight with the Marsh boys that they put off earlier in the month… They rested up next to the elephant carcass for four days, before moving off – but not before striking dead a hyena who got too close to their meal…
A leopard was found dining on a baboon – but was very shy, so we moved off so that he could settle down properly. A few days later, we saw what was possibly the same shy male, mating with a female.
An interesting sighting of five wild dogs that were seen feeding on an impala. What was interesting about them was that they were not from a pack that we recognised! Perhaps we have a new group trying to edge their way into the old territory of the big pack…. Thirteen of the big pack of dogs were seen in the several times, on one occasion, they hunted and caught a big warthog… finishing all the meat in a matter of minutes. The pack were seen regularly through the month, and we also saw one pack of six dogs having an aggressive interaction with the big pack, before they ran away and crossed the channel by the boat station.
A slightly smaller kill was made by a honey badger – some frantic digging paid off, with a yummy rat to eat.
Lagoon – The whole Lagoon pride – four adult females and four sub adults cubs were around and about at the start of the month. We also came across a solitary male. The following week, near John pan, we came across three lionesses, with two cubs about 2 months old. During the month, we saw both prides hunting and killing buffalos – the large herds that have built up over the last months are providing a good food resource for the cats.
Two very well fed male lions were located between Lagoon camp and the immigration post, resting next to the river. The animals were very lazy, dragging their full belly. A beautiful caracal was also located along the same road and a hyena was edging along the tree line.
A female leopard was found to the west of the airstrip, and then the next day resting up on a termite mound. A male leopard new to the area has been seen twice now, appearing quite relaxed. We are hoping this gentleman stays around! We have also had several sightings of the female leopard that we saw last month with two cubs. Unfortunately she appears to have lost one of the cubs, and has only been seen with the remaining female cub.
Fourteen member of the pack of 17 wild dogs paid us a visit on the morning of the 4th August, but then sped back to Lebala area for the afternoon! Also, a new grouping of dogs – 4 males and 1 female – that we don’t recognise were seen hunting. We came across them when we were watching a lovely relaxed group of sable – suddenly the five dogs came dashing out of the bush nearby, trying to drive the huge antelope away. The sable did not budge, and stood their ground, with the dogs eventually giving up and walking away.
A little later in the month, with the big pack having abandoned the den at Lebala, the pack of 17 and 8 puppies spent some time around Lagoon. Whilst up there, they also bumped into a pack of 13 that they found in the area, and there were some clashes!
An unusual sighting of a pelican this month! Also lots of sightings of a big herd (about 35) of sable, as well as a herds of around 25 roan.
Lebala – Lots of lions in the area, including a female with three small cubs, a pride of five lionesses, and three different males. Unfortunately one of the small cubs was lost midway through the month, and lioness was seen with only two for the rest of the month.
For July, the wild dogs did well with their 8 puppies. Early on in August, they decided that their puppies were old enough to leave the den, and begin to move with the pack. Although the puppies are still little, and can’t run the distance and speed that the adults can, the pack will move them from spot to spot, with a caretaker, and do their hunts from there. Around the 14th of the month, they moved into an area where the large buffalo herds hang out, and lions are commonly seen. It’s unlikely that would choose to stay in that area for very long. By the end of the month, the puppies were growing up nicely, and all eight of them were trying to keep up with the 17 adults as much as possible.
One of the leopardesses that we haven’t seen for a while has moved back into the area again. She looks in good condition, and she had caught a jackal when we found her.
In order to differentiate between animals, regularly seen individuals are often given names. So then it comes down to the challenge of what to name them? Typically, if there is a pack or a pride, you try and have names with the group that are associated (eg members of a well-known football team, chiefs or kings and queens, even varieties of wines!) For solitary individuals, such as territorial male lions, it’s less necessary to have a name that is associated with a group, and one can select a more individual name, perhaps from a characteristic or story about that individual. Guests at Lebala were slightly alarmed to hear one very large male lion being referred to as “Drop the Pilot”. Sounding rather like an incident of lion training gone horribly wrong, an inquiry was made… Was a pilot perhaps taken to the wrong end of the airstrip and left there to meet this lion? Apparently not. This lion has a very tall mane, one side of which stands straight up, then flops down over his eye. This particular hairstyle is currently very popular with the ladies of Botswana, and is called “Drop the Pilot” (for some completely unknown reason….). And this is how the lion acquired the name…
Drop the Pilot and his buddy, Sebastian (not sure about that one either…), were seen often through the month, but were not involved in a great buffalo hunt which occurred on the 26th. Four lionesses, with two 2 month old cubs safely stashed away, spent the day hovering around a herd of buffalo – over 1000 of them. By late afternoon, the herd was very antsy, and the lionesses tried to fragment them. Initially facing five big male buffalos, the males turned and ran. One lioness pulled away from the three, and began harassing a mother and calf. She grabbed the calf and pulled it down, with the mother buffalo continuing to try and attack her. Realising that she was in jeopardy from the attacking buffalo, the lioness grabbed the calf in her mouth, lifted all four of its feet in the air, and ran off.
Soon after that, the lionesses regrouped and spooked the herd enough that it again fragmented, this time pulling down a larger sub-adult buffalo that had no chance of defending itself from the combined attack. The next day, having feasted on the buffalo during the night, they were found together with their cubs, resting up from the busy night.
Tau Pan – Now the camp is open again after a few weeks closed for standard maintenance, its time for everyone – and every animal – to get used to the way of life here. The temperature – although absolute freezing at the beginning of the month – soared to 34 degrees by the middle of August. Spring, if it was there, lasted about two days. The winds have started to pick up too, throwing dust into the sky, and creating that hazy look that we have to contend with for several months until the rain arrives.
The lions, naturally, could not care less whether we come or go. As far as they are concerned, Tau Pan (and often the camp itself) is their home. To welcome everyone back, two females set up just to the north of the camp with five cubs, feeding on an oryx. Two males sauntered in and out, grabbing a bit to eat, and the moving off to the waterhole.
The following week, the pride had caught another oryx, and all were sleeping and relaxing near by. The five cubs were hiding in the grass. One of the male lions was also seen mating with one of the pride females…. Another generation of cubs on the way?
Also adjusting to movement of humans back in the area, a male cheetah caught a young kudu on the edges of Tau Pan camp. Since kudus are often in the camp because of the thicker vegetation that is by and large, less browsed, it seems the cheetah has adapted his hunting skills accordingly!
An interesting thing this month is that it seems that the acacias and other flowering trees may bloom early. The Kalahari received a much higher than normal rainfall in April (certainly more than Maun or the Delta received at the same time) so there is still some moisture deep in the ground in some areas. It should be an interesting few months!
One of the guides, who had just spent a few weeks in our sister camp, Nxai Pan, commented on how different the behaviour of black backed jackals was in that area… Here in Tau Pan, the jackal spend their days hunting for their own food, and if there is a predator that has made a kill, waiting for a chance to dive in and grab a mouthful. In Nxai Pan, the guide noticed that every time there was a cheetah, there was a jackal a short distance away. “Jackals follow the cheetah for the whole day, asking for food!”. Perhaps Tau Pan jackals have a stronger sense of independence.
Odd sighting – tracks of elephants along the western firebreak, heading north. Interestingly, not far outside the CKGR, a herd of elephants was seen crossing the main road at Rakops! We also saw tracks of wild dogs, heading to the Passarge water hole. And the elusive brown hyena returns to the camp for more regular sightings!
A honey badger was having a rough day, being followed by a couple of goshawks. Eventually with a mouse in sight for the honey badger’s meal, the goshawks moved in in an attempt to flush the mouse out of the way and into their grasp… Lucky for the honey badger, he was quick enough to catch it!
Juli 2015 Sightings report
Kwara Concession – The dogs were seen for the first week or so, with the three little pups at the den. With only three pups sighted, this is quite a small litter. Although we had several lovely sightings of the pack and the little pups, things did not end up well for the pack:.
Around about the 12th of July, the three little pups from the wild dog den went missing – with at least one known to be dead. Lions managed to track down the den site, and dug out to get to the pups. The adults of the pack were unable to defend the site, and were forced to flee. The body of one of the pups remained at the den site, and the alpha female came back alone whilst we were watching to check if there were any other pups left there. We managed to locate the pack, without the pups, a few days later. Having lost all their pups for this year, they will not breed again until next year. The lions do not kill the pups to eat, but because they see them as competition for their food. If a wild dog pack came across an un-attended lion cub, it is likely they would also kill it.
On counting the adult pack now, there only appear to be 14 adults, as opposed to 18. It’s possible that not just the pups were killed when the lions came through… however, it may be that the pack just split for safety, and are still regrouping.
The cheetah mother with three cubs had better success at keeping her cubs out of harms way, and has had several successful hunts this month, teaching them the skills they need. With the high number of lions around, it is a little strange that the cheetahs are still regularly seen. They are cautious, and always keep an eye up for threats. They are also exceptionally patient: we watched whilst the mother cheetah one morning continually stalked a group of impala in the area near Willy’s Road. After a long time, the conditions were exactly right, and she managed to catch an impala unawares and kill it. The highlight of that day for the guests – the cheetahs lying so close to the car, that the mother and cubs could all be heard purring!
The lions themselves are doing well. The lioness with the youngest cubs has been seen often playing with them, and the cubs are slowly gaining in confidence. The four big males continue to patrol their territory, and occasionally get separated from each other when they are intent on marking or hunting. There is then a lot of vocalisation from the roaring lions, as they try to locate each other. And now the flood waters are here, there is also a lot of time taken to think about crossing the water… Lions can and do swim here, but it’s still not something that they absolutely love. But if you have to get to the other side, you have to swim… And so with a bit of hissy spitting, and curling of upper lip, they plunge into the cold water and paddle across.
A leopard was found feeding on an impala carcass fairly close to where the dogs had their den. It’s possible that this was the remains of a dog kill, but more likely that the leopard had made the kill on its own. We also had a great sighting of a leopard that was resting up in a tree when we found it. After watching for a while, the leopard dropped down to the ground, and wandered around casually, giving us a chance to photograph from all angles!
Hyenas – with a reputation of being cowardly scavengers – proved that they are a lot more than this when they caught and killed a big male warthog. Not a pleasant thing to watch or listen to, but it goes some way to expel the myths that surround these animals.
There are nice big breeding herds of elephants around the area at the moment – 30 or 40 adults with several youngsters. They are spending the time feeding on the trees and bushes now, and on the palatable vegetation by the waters edge, as the grass begins to dry quickly.
Other great general game has included large groups of giraffe, tsessebes, zebras, and wildebeest. Sundowners are generally times where we focus more on the scenery and having a relaxing drink to toast the setting sun, rather than actively game viewing. However we had a very unusual sundowner, where a honey badger decided that was the time to wander by, looking around for dinner. As he disappeared, a serval arrived to take his place!
And a surprise sequel to the wild dog catastrophe – just before the end of the month, the pack were located with 15 adults and one little pup. They had managed to save one of the pups from the den site before the lions killed it. Although the pup is small to travel far with the pack, they don’t appear to have denned again, so an adult must be staying with the pup whilst the rest of the pack hunt, and then moving the pup slowly through the bush. A hazardous journey for one so young, but still a chance at life.
Lagoon – The Lagoon pride of three adult females and four sub adult cubs were located along the airstrip. We spent some time following them, as they moved through the area towards the western side of the concession. Later in the month they reappeared, and killed a buffalo.
We also saw two male lions by Second Lagoon, sleeping under a blue bush with full tummies, lying on their backs with their legs sticking up in the air. Not much movement from them, but the rise and fall of their stomachs proved they were alive, if not active! With the two males being established residents, we are able to see them regularly – even if they appear slightly sloth-like at times!
A female leopard was found not far from camp, also on the way to the airstrip. She was hunting actively, searching for any opportunity she could catch something. A different female was located by first lagoon, stalking some impala. She was not successful on the hunt either, and after a few quick chases, she gave up and moved off. A lactating female was also found with her two cubs, on an impala kill.
Also a male leopard was seen briefly at Half Way Pan, only for a couple of minutes before he shyly moved off into the bush.
The general game – elephants, buffalo, kudu, zebra and so on, have started to come in big herds towards the permanent water, as the small waterholes deeper in the bush dry up. The herds of elephants are definitely building in number, and although it’s still cold, they are coming more regularly to the river to drink and bathe. Large herds of buffalo seen in the north and south of the concession too.
Although the big pack of wild dogs has denned down in the Lebala area, a small pack of seven dogs sprinted quickly through the camp in the middle of the month heading north. They were also seen at Kwena lagoon, before heading into the mopane.
Lots of wonderful eagles seen this month: Martial, tawny, Bateleur and both types of snake eagles, as well as plenty of vultures.
Night drives have been a little quiet, but have featured several porcupines, a civet hiding in the tall grass, several african wild cats, and lots of genets.
Lebala – The pack of 17 wild dogs have been seen on most days out hunting, whilst the alpha female stays safely at the den, to care for the pups that we suspect have been born. The pack have been hunting impala, and have had good luck. After feeding themselves, they go back to the den site, and regurgitate food for the alpha. A few days into the month, eight pups popped up their cute heads, (with tails only a few centimetres behind them!) and tumbled out of the den.
Naturally, the den has been a major draw card for the guests, and although sightings are limited to two cars at a time, guests are spending as much time as possible with the den. Lions, leopards and other interesting animal have fallen by the way-side somewhat, as the pups and parents are too special a sighting to pass up.
That’s not to say that other game has not been around! The lions have also been around, with pride of five being seen regularly, and the big males also following females that are on heat through the area. Four other lions had a more usual species interaction with a group of hyenas, and the two enemies clashed. There was no clear winner, but perhaps it was enough to expend a little bit of the aggression.
The alternate den site to the wild dogs has been the hyena den – with cubs of different ages, they are more robust – and rambunctious – than the pups. Unfortunately, two of the cubs were killed by lions close to the den area, when they ventured a bit too far from safety. There are still nine cubs remaining, of assorted sizes and ages, with the hyena clan bringing them up together.
A very unusual sighting of a pangolin – a scaly ant-eater. So unusual, in fact, that three lions were chasing after it! The pangolin escaped down into his burrow, but the lions persevered and dug it out. However, once out of the burrow, the lions appeared not to know what to do with it, as it really doesn’t resemble any kind of food they are likely to have eaten before. They left the pangolin alone, and both species moved off….
Nxai Pan – It’s not so common to see hyenas – brown or spotted – in the Nxai Pan area, but one spotted was seen drinking at the waterhole in front of the camp. Then again, later in the month, out in the middle of the day at the main waterhole, an odd assortment of creatures drinking together: 1 brown hyena, 1 bat eared fox, and 21 elephants!
Another unusual sighting – FOUR honey badgers! Usually seen in ones or maybe twos, the lack of ground cover and lack of insects had forced them to forage close to each other. They were feeding on lizards and any scorpions they could dig out of the ground.
A coalition of three cheetah was seen at Nxai Pan open area, attempting to hunt. Unfortunately, they were not sufficiently in stealth mode, as there were lots of animals surrounding them, so everyone was alarm calling. They had to give up their hunt and move off.
Cheetahs were seen most days that we were out on drive – more often than not the relaxed female with three cubs, but also other individuals, and the female with two sub-adults. They appeared to be enjoying the less stressful time, as there were not as many lions about. The mystery of the disappearing lion pride was solved towards the end of the month, when lion researchers let us know that they had seen them hanging out close to Phuduhudu village, outside the park, looking fairly fat and happy, having feasted on a mixed selection of cow and goat. Staff from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks were heading in their direction in the hope of encouraging them back to their normal stomping ground, and out of the way of the disgruntled cattle farmers.
There was not a complete absence of lions in the park however: a lioness with two small cubs was seen at the main waterhole at the end of the month as well!