Dezember 2012 Tiersichtungsreport der Kwando Safaris Camps
The three brother cheetahs were seen regularly in the Tsum Tsum area, managing to avoid the lions that were also seen out there, but also having luck killing reedbuck. Later in December, they were seen more and more frequently in the region around Splash. There have also been regular sightings of the shy female with a female cub, and another female is often seen on the outskirts of the camp.
Also in the Tsum Tsum area, a leopard was found up a tree with an impala. He didn’t look as though he was going anywhere fast, as a group of hyenas were at the bottom of the tree, waiting for any tidbits to fall out – or perhaps even waiting for the leopard to fall out?
Lions were seen almost every game drive this month, but there was no need to actually get on a vehicle and leave camp on some mornings. Early morning tea around the camp fire at Little Kwara was made that little bit more interesting by having two lionesses sitting on the floodplain in front of camp, watching the proceedings…
Lionesses didn’t have the upper hand for the whole month however, as on the 17th a pack of hyenas arrived where a group of lions were feeding on a kill. A fight ensued between the two predator species, and sadly, one lioness from the Shindi pride and her young six month old cub were killed in the attack.
In general, the lion dynamics in the Kwara concession have become quite confusing. The Solo pride seems to have split, and the four male intruders that have been seen over the last couple of months have been seen mating with young females from the Solo pride, as well as a female from the Shindi pride. The seven males have now moved deeper into the east, and are rarely seen.
The next day, when two male lions from the Solo pride came upon a pack of wild dogs, the dogs – 6 adults and 5 sub-adults – took no chances and set off at pace in the opposite direction. Lions can give chase for a short distance, but cannot keep up with the dogs that are adept at maintaining their speed over long distances.
As the grass is now a lush green with the rains – but not too long, the general game is looking in excellent condition, with impala, zebra, wildebeest and other antelope all having their young. Giraffes are feasting on the variety of new leaves, and elephants are enjoying a diet of a wide variety of grasses and other fresh vegetation. The mopane worms – fat black, green, red and yellow caterpillars about 10cm long – that feast (predictably!) on the leaves of the mopane tree are being seen here and there. These are a high in protein, so a boon to birds or animals that find them, and are a popular meal for humans too!
December was a very tricky month for lion sightings, and few were seen. However, a new male lion was found feeding on an old elephant carcass along the cutline. Tracks of the pride were seen, but we were unable to locate the animals themselves.
Good sightings of leopards this month, with a relaxed female being seen several times: feeding on an impala in a tree, and relaxing in another tree a few days later. One male managed to kill a warthog – a risky business to stay out of the way of those formidable tusks.
At the beginning of December the Lagoon pack of 21 dogs was seen around the camp for most of the week, feeding on impalas every day. The alpha male was missing for four days, and only found with the whole pack again on the 8th of December. He is getting quite old, and seems to be struggling with keeping up with the whole pack. It will only be a matter of time before another younger male will assume the responsibility of the Alpha position. By the middle of the month, he was showing obviously signs of weakness – looking thin, and moving slowly, lagging behind the rest of the pack. This does not necessarily mean that he will be thrown out of the pack if he loses the Alpha position: wild dogs have a huge community spirit, hunting for and feeding injured pack members for months on end. The pack was still being seen most days by the end of the month, killing impala & tsessebe babies, and also taking down a zebra foal.
Usually for about four weeks or so of the rainy season, many of the breeding herds of elephant disperse throughout the concession, and further afield, not being so reliant on the river as the only water source. There are still plenty of bull elephants to be seen, and a few smaller breeding herds of 30 or 40 individuals too, as they move through the concession.
The large herds of buffalos have moved on, which is again normal for this time of the year. It won’t be long before they realise the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and they return back to the concession in their hundreds!
With the rains, the bush comes alive with the sounds of frogs – tree frogs, rain frogs, bubbling kassinas, bull frogs. Add to that all the sounds of the large raptors circling over head and looking for prey, and the storks and herons marching through the grass picking out the frogs and termites as they go. It’s a great season for birding, with various kites, Wahlberg’s eagles, Steppe buzzards and eagles, ospreys, and tawny eagles.
The Southern pack of dogs (9 adults and 7 subadults) were seen a lot out on game drives, and were highly successful with their kills. One lovely afternoon game drive we went back to where the dogs had been found in the morning and were in time to see them begin their greeting ceremony which helps the dogs bond, and signals the end of their rest period. It is quite a vocal ceremony, and the high-pitched yipping calls attracted a lone hyena. As soon as the pack saw the hyena, they began the chase, and the hyena had to take refuge in deeper water than the dogs wanted to go in. Leaving the hyena, they begin their hunt in earnest, and quickly brought down two baby impalas. The next morning, the same dogs caught three baby impalas.
Although Lagoon was struggling with lions in their part of the concession, the lions were seen several times down in our area.
Although the Southern pack of dogs were the ones we saw most often this month, we also had a visit from the Lagoon pack of 21 dogs, towards the end of the month.
Several relaxed leopards were also seen this month, together with one not-so-relaxed sub adult that was flushed from a blue bush whilst a guide and his guests were on a walk. She skittered off into the surrounding vegetation and was not seen again!
A big clan of hyenas were found feeding on a dead hippo, with the young cubs running in and out, and lots of giggling and cackling from all ages.
Lovely sighting of a mother and baby porcupine, plodding along the tracks close to the staff village.
Christmas day came to the lions as well as the humans: a pride of two males and three females took the opportunity of a few buffalo not being overly wary, with the males bringing down one buffalo, and the three females bringing down another. Keeping with the festive tradition, there was plenty of leftovers for Boxing Day!
Following a good sunny day, after the first big downpour, then chaos breaks loose in the evening: thousands of termites (winged alates) launch from each termite mound on a romantic getaway, with the hope of finding a partner and becoming king and queen of their own mound. They flutter and fly for only a short time - and then drop to the ground, losing their wings and snuggling up to their new partner. It’s an amazing scene as they flutter around every possible light, soon leaving piles of discarded wings next to each lantern. Unless you’re trying to eat dinner, of course, then you get rather a higher intake of protein than was initially served on your plate. Luckily, its only one night a year that dinner gets interrupted, and usually by 9pm, it’s safe to switch a light on again and have a meal. The next day however, is the equivalent of an all-you-can eat buffet for every bird, and small animal (and yes, people too). At first light, the early birds (literally!) start their feeding frenzy and are soon joined by the tree squirrels. It’s a race to see who can jam as many juicy partner-less termites into their mouth as possible!
Lots of cheetah sightings this month, including two males that spent several days following a female, and mating. Cheetahs were also seen by the Baines Baobabs – a beautiful back drop, as well as in the area around the camp.
Lions were also seen regularly – three adults with three sub-adults were taking the opportunity of the plentiful game, and were stalking zebra.
Lots of general game everywhere, including the giraffe, zebras, elephants, oryx and jackals. The springbok babies are everywhere, bounding around like little jack in the boxes on spindly legs, and, unfortunately, providing plenty of food for the cheetahs, lions, leopards and other predators of the area!
A nice sighting of a honey badger, had an added bonus, when an African wild cat that was hiding in the grass was flushed out by the honey badger – to the surprise of both of them!
The whole of the Kalahari is back to life with all its flora and fauna sparkling after the good rains that continued to pour day and night in the beginning of the month. Springbok and oryx are countless, on every corner, and the normally hard to see red hartebeest are a regular sighting. The first wildebeest calf was seen on the 7th while the springbok kids were seen on the 8th around Tau Pan. Black backed jackals are now regaining good body condition after a lengthy dry spell that meant low food supply for the canids.
Three new lions (two sub-adult lionesses and one sub-adult male) were located around Phukwe Pan. Behaviour-wise, they were relaxed and appeared to be at ease with human presence. High chances are they that they have broken away from their natal pride together. They look very well nourished and healthy. Another pride of eight lions including five young cubs were seen in the Letiahau area, with the cubs being very playful, and wrestling each other as they moved along with their mother.
Closer to home, the Tau Pan waterhole has been attracting a variety of lions – both males from the Tau Pan pride have not been seen with the rest of their family, but the two females and their six offspring – now big enough to be called adults remain in the area. They were seen regularly drinking at the pan, and feeding on several kills, including oryx. Earlier in the month, a female lion – probably from the Passarge Valley – was also seen at Tau Pan, with her four cubs. All were fat and over-fed – having eaten so much they were having trouble breathing! – they spent a couple of days relaxing around one of the natural waterholes created by the rain.
When the lions are not resident at the Tau Pan water hole, we were lucky enough in December to see 8 wild dogs several times playing around the area, drinking, and even catching springbok. It is highly unusual to see wild dogs in the Kalahari, simply because they have huge territories, and rarely stay in one place for long.