Sightings report for June 2013 – read on to see what was in store for our guests last month
Luckily, after last month’s incident of a lion eating an aardvark, the aardvark numbers still seem to be survivable, as there was another sighting this month, this time of two together!
The end of May saw three male lions close to our boundary with Shindi, feeding on a hippo. A large kill (unclear whether the lions killed it, or it died of other natural causes), this provided good sightings of lions feeding into early June. A fourth male also joined them after a day.
On the first of June, three cheetah cubs were found near Bat Eared Fox Den, hunkered down under a small bush. The mother could not be seen anywhere, but she had probably gone hunting and left her cubs, instinctively knowing they must not move around, and to hide at any sign of danger. Later the same day, and the next, the three adult cheetah were found in the Tsum Tsum area, hunting – unsuccessfully as far as we could see. In fact, cheetahs were seen almost every day from the middle of the month.
The wild dogs decided to den in roughly the same area as last year, and in the last few days of June, we were able to count a total of 11 puppies. The puppies are only coming out briefly from the den when the alpha female calls them to suckle, but they will become more and more adventurous as time progresses and they learn about their environment. The adult dogs decided to use their environment and ease with humans to their advantage one day, and continued a hunt right through the Kwara camps!
Viewing from the boat was excellent this month, with one boat trip having sightings of sitatunga and two otters – both rare events!
June got off to a nice beginning for the pride of six lions who managed to kill a buffalo. However, in an unusual twist, the hyenas rose dramatically in number to approximately 30 individuals and converged on the spot, daringly stealing the kill from the lions. A day or so later, the lions had more success with a tsessebe, which they killed and managed to keep this time around.
In the middle of the month, it was lions everywhere, with two males feeding on a buffalo carcass in the mopane area. Further away, a male and female lion were found on an elephant carcass, and the pride of six was also seen attempting to hunt on several occasions.
Excellent sightings of the male and female leopard cubs that have been seen over the last few months – they are continuing to grow well, and were regularly seen both on their own, and playing with their mother. Another male leopard took on a thorny prey, but successfully managed to kill a porcupine, without getting impaled by too many quills. Overall, leopard sightings in Lagoon in June were numerous, sightings occurred on 21 separate days.
With both lions and leopards making their presence felt, little has been seen of cheetahs in June other than tracks.
The Lagoon pack of wild dogs in now presided over by the new alpha male – one of the four intruders that fought with the pack in the preceding months. The timing of this takeover, has upset the whole denning season… The Alpha female was obviously not pregnant from the original Alpha male and if she only mates with the new male now, she will only begin denning in two months or so. It has been known for dogs to have dens much later than the normal June breeding season, but all depends now on when or if, the new Alpha male mates with the female.
The Lagoon pack size is now 14 in total, 12 adults (including four of the new males) and 2 yearlings. The other individuals have either died or dispersed (something that commonly happens, to prevent a pack size from becoming too big, and to ensure that the gene pool is diversified).
Lots of breeding herds of elephants are moving in and around the concession – feeding, mud bathing, and coming down to the river to drink. Two bull elephants have pretty much set up home in the camp, sleeping behind the bathrooms located just off the main area.
The buffalo breeding herds are also increasing in number and size. Unusually, there have been several male buffalos seen around the staff village area – they normally avoid human presence – so everyone is keeping a watchful eye when moving to and fro. The breeding herds out in the open areas now have quite a number of new-born calves as well.
General game has also been great, with good viewings of sable, roan and eland herds.
Most of our camps have outdoor showers, so that guests can experience showering under the sky, and if lucky, perhaps enjoy an animal sighting at the same time. At Lebala, one couple got a little more viewing, and a lot less shower than anyone had anticipated… Early evening in the mid June, attempting to shower before dinner, the guests noticed an elephant near the back of their room. For some reason, the elephant got a little “tangled up” in the solar panel and geyser, and totally dismantled it. I mean, completely: geyser, timber frame, solar panel and all the fittings. This was not because the elephant wanted water to drink – the Lebala rooms are located on an island with permanent water surrounding – but simply because he was a little clumsy, or curious. So, the guests got a great view of elephant activity up close and personal, but didn’t get a full length shower. And the insurance assessors received an interesting claim….
A leopard and her sub-adult daughter were seen every day from the 27th – 30th June, not far from camp. The mother had killed a reedbuck, and she and her daughter stuck close to the kill until it was completely finished.
At the end of May both the Southern pack and the Northern (aka Lagoon) Pack of wild dogs were seen in Lebala area. The southern pack currently comprises of six adults and three yearlings. They were seen on several days, and hunted successfully, but have had to fend off both hyenas and lions at their kill – successful when it came to the hyenas, but not so lucky when the lion arrived and claimed the young kudu they had killed. In early June, they spent a couple of days close to – or in – the camp and scuffled with the hyenas there as well.
There is another pack of five dogs, that has also been seen several times in this area – possibly a splinter group of the Lagoon pack. Interestingly, a male and a female were seen mating in mid June, so if the female becomes pregnant, there could be another denning season in September/October!
A Lovely sighting of a herd of elephants, they were crossing the marsh in front of camp with lots of baby elephants. The babies were too small to cross without the help of the adults, who kept them supported with their heads and trunk above the water. It was a nicer scene than early on in the month where five hyenas had attacked a baby elephant and killed it. The hyenas were soon thrown off by a lion, who managed to secure the kill for himself. Not to be outdone, the hyenas moved off and then scuffled with a pack of wild dogs, and successfully forced the dogs off their kill and ate everything.
An interesting late afternoon in camp as the staff noticed a male lion resting up in the open area next to the camp. Soon, the pack of five wild dogs arrived in the same place, looking pretty shocked to see a large cat lying around. They gave a sharp alarm bark, and kept a safe distance, whilst the lion ignored them completely. The next day, both the lion and the pack of dogs were still in close proximity to the camp: the lion probably having picked up the scent of a few individual buffalo. A male lion was also found feeding on a dead elephant close to Steve’s Pan.
A leopard arrived at the camp waterhole, looking for a drink of water, and found a group of unhappy elephants not keen to let him do so. Luckily for us, he stayed around long enough for everyone to get good photos of him, before moving off into the bush to the south of the camp.
Lions were seen two days in a row, approaching the main water hole with more interest in the animals around the area than the water it self. With such little shade available, it’s hard to hide, and they were easily seen by the zebras and antelope, so did not have a chance to catch anything on these occassions. They must have got lucky somewhere, as the next day a lioness was seen approaching the waterhole with blood on her fur, so they were presumably feeding on a kill in a more secluded area.
Although the weather in June is turning cold, the days are still warm (mid to high 20s) and in the open area around the main waterhole, there is not a lot of shade. What better then, than after a nice cooling drink of water, to rest up a little in the shade cast by the game drive vehicle? This was the decision reached by three lionesses, who provided a great photo opportunity for the guests on board the car – as long as they had a camera that didn’t have a zoom lens on it…
Two honey badgers were seen digging in the hard ground, obviously intent on getting something out of the ground. Apparently successful, one picked something up in its mouth, and then trotted down the track towards the car. It was carrying a perfectly rolled dung ball, made by a dung beetle. This is probably the honey badger equivalent of a Kinder Egg, as when he breaks open the ball of hardened dung, in the centre he will find the larvae of the dung beetle, growing fat and supposedly safe, in its protective food casing.
The 1st of June, and romance is in the air: two steenboks, on the northern side of the camp, spent the day courting. The male was using his front leg to delicately tap the hindquarters of the female. However, she seemed a little unimpressed, so he obviously has to work on his charm a little more.
The two male lions were seen fat and fit, resting at the camp waterhole for several days in June. If they wish to maintain their territory – and the only permanent sources of water in an area tens of square kilometres, then they will need to be careful they do not leave it undefended for too long. Many nights they were heard roaring and calling – with females responding in the distance. Later on in the month they were seen with a female companion – not one of the two adult females from the original Tau Pan pride of eight. Perhaps this female will stay with the male lions, and use their strength for protection, and access to the valuable resource of the waterhole.
Lovely herds of kudu (34 in total) and a journey of 15 giraffe parade around the Tau Pan area each day, they come down to drink at the water hole very carefully, with a keen eye out for the two lions they know frequent the area.
Naturally, now that everything is so dry, there’s a better chance of seeing one of those mythical creatures – brown hyena. Slim, but still a chance. One was seen moving along the fire break not far from camp.
Deception Valley is now a harsh environment compared to the beautiful green plain with plenty of food for the herbivores that it becomes in the rainy season. But life goes on in this environment for many animals, and we were lucky enough to have a great viewing of a leopard attempting to hunt on one of our day drives to this area.