Happy new year

Female leopard (Ntima) – by Brendon Cremer

Wildlife Diary 1 – 17 January 2011

Happy New Year everyone!

Can you believe it’s already 2011? It seems like just the other day that we were all stockpiling in preparation for the year 2000 (heaven only knows what we were expecting to happen). And now it’s a decade later.

We anticipate yet another year of superb sightings, and hopefully Sabi Sand will do its bit by throwing even more surprises our way in the coming months.

The year got off to a good start, with a lot of much needed rain falling in the last few weeks. It has certainly made for some very interesting (and extremely slippery) drives. The wildlife was also out in force, despite the wet weather.

Elephants

The elephants remained elusive in the first couple of weeks of the month, but they have since begun moving back into the area. And with the Marula trees coming into fruit in February, they’ll soon be back in droves.

Buffalo

Buffalo bulls love this time of year. There are mud wallows everywhere, which makes finding these large animals remarkably easy. We’ve even been seeing them in places they don’t normally hang out.

Rhinos

The wet weather has transformed the bush into a lush green smorgasbord, which has enthralled the rhinos no end. One of our dominant bulls has been having a tough time of it lately. He is not the largest of males, and over the last while we have seen two of the younger males putting a lot of pressure on him. We often find one or the other locking horns with him, but luckily things haven’t got too serious yet. So far a few scratches here and there is about the worst they’ve had to endure. That said, there is always the possibility that things could get worse. Let’s hope it doesn’t get that far though, as it would be a real shame to lose one of the herd due to schoolyard bullying.

Lions

We’ve being seeing a lot of the group of lions that came from the Manyeleti Game Reserve recently. The pride – consisting of two large old males, four lionesses, and two cubs that are about 4 months old – aren’t the most relaxed of lions, which makes for some entertaining sightings.

The Styx pride is still doing well. The pregnant lioness is set to give birth any day now, and with with her large stomach she is looking decidedly hot and uncomfortable. Hopefully she won’t have to wait too much longer for her brood to arrive.

The pride took down a buffalo in the rain on our airstrip at the beginning of the month, and we spent the next two days watching as they gorged themselves on the kill.

The young male has had yet another hiding from some of the bigger males, so it’s only a matter of time before he is forced to move off and try his luck on his own.

The Majingilanes males have been concentrating their movements around the rivers, which has made viewing them difficult. But from what we’ve seen, all four appear to be strong and healthy.

Leopards

We have at least six female leopards with cubs at the moment. We haven’t seen all of them yet, as they are still too young to view with the vehicle. But having spotted a number of females with suckle marks, the evidence is all pointing to there being “new additions” to our growing family here at Arathusa.

Life has been easy for them with regards to food. After every storm we invariably find at least a few of the leopards with kills. Some of them are so nonchalant about the ease with which they are able to catch prey at the moment, that they aren’t even bothering to hoist their kills into trees to avoid losing them to hyenas. And if they do have their meals hijacked, we generally find them with a new kill by the following day. It’s that time of year, when the bush is teaming with vulnerable impala lambs.

Cheetahs and wild dogs

We were fortunate enough to see both cheetahs and wild dogs in the past few weeks.

Our female cheetah with her now much older cub has returned. She camped out on our airstrip for a good few days, making regular kills for the two of them. After she disappeared in December, we didn’t think we would see her for a while, so it was a real treat to have her back on the property. The cub is looking fit and healthy. She’s almost ready to leave her mother and establish herself in a territory of her own.

A pack of wild dogs also hung out on our airstrip for a day. We had an awesome sighting of them chasing herds of impala, zebra and wildebeest up and down the strip. They eventually killed an impala and devoured it in minutes. Although gruesome, it is something that’s rarely witnessed and was therefore quite an experience.

Hopefully the year continues to deliver even more amazing sightings. A little bit more rain wouldn’t go amiss either, as some of the bigger dams still need to fill up properly.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting, as we watch out for cubs from our lions and leopards.

Until next time,

The Arathusa team 😉

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