September 2012 Tiersichtungsreport der Kwando Safaris Camps
A lovely day of exciting animal activity, where three male cheetahs were seen harassing a female cheetah with her cub, was to be finished off with a quiet fishing trip on the Kwara channel.
The keen fishermen were looking forward to an expedition where they could dip their rods in the clear, calm water and hook a good catch. Meanwhile, other inhabitants of the Delta were also launching an expedition of their own, hoping to hook a good catch. The boat cruised along the channel, looking for a good spot to throw in the lines, everyone enjoying the beauty of the reeds and birdlife that darts in and out of the channel. Rounding a corner of the channel, the guide and fishermen bumped into a group of individuals who had already made a catch, far in excess of anything they could hope to pull aboard their boat: five lions devouring a buffalo on a sandbank of the channel! An amazing sighting, the guests watched the lions from the upper viewing platform of the boat. The guide nudged the boat along the side of the channel, as he would with a game drive vehicle at a lion sighting. The tail of one of the lions started flicking to and fro – never a good sign – so the guide put the boat into reverse and backed out further into the channel. It appears that the lions were as surprised to see this strange thing come floating down the channel as we were to see them. They are used to the shape of the car, but not the shape of a boat. They saw the boat as a threat, and one game individual was preparing to make a warning charge at the boat if it got any closer! The guide and guests moved off in search of fish and left the lions in peace to enjoy their meal.
It was also exciting to see the brief return of the Splash Boys (two big male lions that frequented the Splash area) … They made a quick foray into the area by the Kwara boat station, only to be chased back out by the current resident males of the area. In fact, its been a good month for catching up with male lions, with several sightings of four of the so-called Magnificent Seven, including one day where they caught four buffalos of assorted sizes from one herd!
The latest on the wild dog pack that has been favouring the Kwara area is that some of the puppies are missing…. They now only number six, with no one knowing what happened to the other three pups. The adults are still hunting well, and have taken “souvenirs” of their kills back to the puppies, to get them used to the idea of where the regurgitated meat that they eat comes from! One adult female caught an impala, and diligently carried the impala head back to where the puppies were waiting, and then it was a tug of war between all of them. The rest of the impala was eaten in situ by the pack of 10 adults – total time taken: 7 minutes.
However, these are not the only wild dogs that are currently in the Kwara concession: there have been two recent sightings of a small pack of four dogs (two males, two females), with five puppies. Where this pack has suddenly appeared from is unknown, but they will have to choose their territory carefully if they are planning to stay for a while, so they do not compete with the bigger pack.
The exciting bird news is that the heronry is up and in full swing again! All birds are at different stages of nesting with many nests still being built, some incubating their eggs, and a handful of the earliest arrivals already raising their chicks. The next couple of months will provide wonderful sights and sounds as the many different birds use this safe haven. In the middle of the month, the heronry was visited by hundreds and hundreds of lesser and greater flamingos, before they moved on to their more usual feeding grounds.
An action packed month with a lot of multiple predator sightings, and multiple kills!
The southern pack of wild dogs were seen regularly, usually with the puppies in tow. There were several exciting interactions with hyenas chasing dogs, dogs chasing hyenas, dogs chasing leopards, and a very weird combination of wildebeest chasing dogs.
The most amazing sighting of dogs was mid-month when one game drive vehicle found the adults from the southern pack of dogs harassing four dogs, initially thought to be from the Lagoon pack. Three managed to escape, but one was caught by the pack, and suffered a severe mauling before hiding in the reeds. The southern pack looked as though it was settling in for a long wait for the intruder dog to come out. Whilst this was going on, another game drive vehicle came across nine puppies. There was some confusion as to which pack these puppies belonged to… However, the adults from the southern pack soon realised they had been separated from their puppies while chasing the other dogs so they left the interloper and went to look for their offspring. They were about three km apart. The dogs dispersed, with the lead dogs finding the puppies all safe, and calling in the rest of the pack. The lone dog made his escape, dripping blood from his wounds as he headed off to try and link up with his three packmates. Interestingly, the next day the Lagoon pack was sighted with all adults and pups accounted for, and none injured, so the four dogs that were seen the day before were a third group that had moved into the concession temporarily.
Leopard sightings were also excellent this month – and were not limited to the dogs ‘treeing’ them (probably not a verb found in the Oxford English Dictionary, but meaning when an animal is chased up a tree to escape a threat, and can’t come down until the threat leaves…!). One very skilful female leopard managed to hunt three times in two days, pulling down a warthog, impala and finishing off with a reedbuck.
Not to be outdone by the more famous tree-climbing felines, a lioness was found relaxing up a tree, admiring the view.
The cheetah brothers were seen several times this month, after lots of hard tracking done by the teams. Both animals looked in good health.
An elephant which had died near Steve’s Pan provided an interesting array of visitors to the take-away service on offer. Hyenas were prevalent, but they made way for the avian scavengers, (white backed vultures and marabou storks), the jackals also sneaking in for a bite.
It wasn’t a lucky day for the impalas – who often bear the brunt of various predators dietary requirements – two found themselves being chased by a pack of wild dogs. Finding their escape routes limited, the impalas charged into the nearby water. One managed to bound out and escape the dogs but the other was quickly grabbed by a crocodile!
Life in camp was also very active, with the elephants moving through the marsh in front of camp each day, and drinking at the small channel. During the night, sound effects were magnified, as they stomped through the camp, eating the trees, and shoving the hippos out of the way. The wild dogs visited the workshop one late afternoon, chasing an impala who launched herself into the channel next to the bar, and bluffed out the dogs. They ran across the open area in front of camp and pulled down another impala, only to have it taken away by 15 cackling hyenas, who in turn continued to tackle each other and make grabs at lumps of meat. However, it’s not just the big stuff that keeps us entertained in camp: a small spotted genet was seen several times (including in the bar!), a francolin proudly escorted her eight, day-old chicks across the dining room, and a baby squirrel attempted to join in for afternoon tea in the lounge while its mother’s back was turned.
Lovely sightings this month of leopards – including a female with her own little cub. The cub is quite shy, so the guides are being careful not to disturb it in any way, and slowly habituate it to the vehicles. The cub is estimated to be two months old, so really in the first days of discovering its environment. The mother is very relaxed, and it is by watching their mothers that cubs learn what is ‘acceptable behaviour’ for a leopard. So, if their mum is not nervous about some strange things rolling in from time to time and taking photos, they will not be. As the cub grows and gets braver, it will become more curious about new things, and will begin investigating its’ surroundings. This will all help to provide delightful viewing opportunities for our guests.
Lions have also been making forays into the area near Lagoon camp. In particular, a female with three sub-adults has been seen attempting to hunt buffalo on several occasions – all unsuccessful unfortunately. The sub-adults don’t appear to be much help, they lounge around watching whilst their mum tries to take down dinner for them! Another pride of lions was also found in the north of the Lagoon area, feeding on one of the many buffalos that have been moving through the concession. The same lions were seen the previous week, tussling with hyenas, close to the hyena den.
Early on this month, the Lagoon pack of wild dogs moved from their den to the area around Zebra Pan. Shortly after that, they disappeared into the thick mopane, and we have only had sporadic sightings of them, despite intensive tracking. This could be due to the lion and hyena activity in the area – all of which compete for the same prey, and are a threat to the young pups. At this age, the pups are too big to stay at a den, but not strong enough to be able to keep up with the adults if another predator approaches. It is likely that they have retreated to the thick mopane area until the pups are a little bigger.
The two cheetah brothers were seen during the month, but the third brother is still missing. Last month they were within a few hundred metres of each other, but failed to locate each other. With that distance apart, it is more than likely intentional that one has decided to leave the other two, perhaps seeking independence.
With the warmer temperatures swimming season is open for all in front of camp, and the elephants are parading down to the water, sometimes with only their (swimming) trunks visible! The youngest have to doggy paddle at double the pace to keep up with the herd, but there is usually a kindly relative along side ready to nudge them along. The hippos make sure they give the ‘day visitors’ a lot of space!
It’s also buffalos galore, with a herd of more than 1500 individuals – the largest we have seen this year – moving around the Muddy Waters area of the concession. The short grass is drying out fast, providing little for a herd this size to eat, so they need to keep on the move to find sufficient sustenance for everyone.
Hyenas are still using the den for the youngest cubs (now a little older than two months) but the ones aged around 6-8 months are now moving around with the rest of the clan. This creates a lot of excitement at any kill, with hyenas of all shapes and sizes trotting in and out and grabbing the best food available.
Another lucky sighting of aardwolf this month, as well as wonderful herds of eland, sable and roan.
The most eventful sighting of the month was in camp during the middle of the day. Guests resting up in the last room were disturbed by unusual sound effects, that couldn’t quite be identified, but didn’t sound like anything that normally happens in camp during siesta time. The sounds were enough to disturb most other guests, and all the staff as well. Closer and careful investigation revealed the pride of seven lions, hunting at midday, had caught a adult kudu bull and were now enjoying their lunch just 100m or so from the guests’ room!
NXAI PAN CAMP
As things get drier and drier, the fight for water resources becomes stronger. Ever the bullies, elephants hog the waterhole, and this is possibly not sufficient to sustain all their needs. One night this month, an elephant decided he didn’t want to run the gauntlet of the other bigger, tougher characters at the waterhole, and found his own water source. Bravely pushing against the wire of the electric fence (which has a mild current, supposedly just enough to deter a half-hearted elephant) he snapped it, and made a bee-line the geyser at Room 1. A gentle nudge, and that was the end of the geyser and start of a long and un-interrupted drink of water!
A lioness with three cubs around four months old was keeping a low profile, and was seen moving away from a water hole as two big male lions approached. The males are from the Kgama Kgama area and are a potential threat to the cubs if they are not their own offspring. On the same day, two male lions and one female from the pride of 11 were seen mating, the two males seemed unperturbed about ‘sharing’. If the female produces a litter of cubs, then both males have a vested interest in their genes being handed down to the next generation. The male lions may be closely related, so no matter who sires the cubs, it will still mean their hereditary line will be continued for them both.
TAU PAN CAMP
One lioness was seen near Sunday Pan waterhole, with wounds – evidence that not all is happy in the lion family. There seems to be a constant tussle between the Passarge Pan lions and the pride that frequents the camp waterhole.
Around the camp, the six sub-adult lions are still present and healthy, but are not always joined by their older family members. One big male was only seen at the end of the month, coming down to drink water after a lengthy self imposed solitary spell. Amazingly this male lion has decided to go solo, leaving behind his pride of two lionesses, six sub-adult cubs and the other male. Later, the six sub-adults were seen play-stalking each other, and any prey species that came down to drink, including kudu and oryx.
The ‘usual suspects’ have been sighted regularly out on game drives too: cheetahs, leopard, jackals, giraffe, oryx, and all the other general game. Honey badgers are still active as ever (both in camp and out!).
The elusive brown hyena has also been visiting the waterhole, to slake its thirst - or so I am lead to believe. It is conveniently absent whenever I visit the Kalahari, and after 14 years of looking for one, I view these reported sightings with a certain amount of disdain (or perhaps that should be disbelief…).
As dry as things are now, the whole country will only get drier before the rains begin, hopefully in October. We were lucky enough to have a very brief few drops of rain on the 28th September – not unexpected, as there is always a light shower somewhere over the country around the 30th of September, to celebrate our Independence Day. Pula!