Ranger Diaries & Press
February 2023 Wildlife Report
February has been a rather interesting month. I have not seen so much rain in a very long time. We had nearly 360mm of rain in less than a week and just over 400mm in less than a month. The bush is beautiful, so lush, so green and the river has been flowing from one bank to the other. We even had 3 or 4 days where we could not even cross the drainage at the lodge or cross the river. With all this beauty comes its challenges, like limited areas to drive, and vehicles getting stuck. We had 6 vehicles stuck in our traverse area in two days, including a tractor. For the genuine bush lovers, this did not stop them, they were still out there with us enjoying what nature had to offer, even though sightings were a little slower than what we are used to. There is just so much water at the moment in the bush and small drainages, no animal is forced to go to the river or a watering hole.
All images in this article were taken by Ruan Ferreira, General Manager.
Leopard sightings have been tough, they are definitely still around, we do see their tracks, the bush is just so thick and wet. They are inside the blocks now, from where they can find their water, very little pushing them out to come to walk on the open roads. They do however need to come out to mark their territories as all scent trails got washed away with the rain. It is just so difficult to see tracks with water seeping (draining) out from the bush onto the roads. One sighting did stand out however, we drove from Malembeni in the direction of the windmill pan when we saw very fresh leopard tracks… We started tracking straight away, and after about 15min of tracking, we lost the tracks. We stopped the vehicle to check the last tracks we saw, to get direction and the next moment, in a flash, we heard a growl and saw a female leopard jumping up a tree. We very quickly got back in the car to view the sighting and to our surprise, there was the young male that we have been tracking. He and the female must have bumped into each other while looking for food. He chased her up the tree and was just lying at the base, whenever he moved she would hiss and growl at him. He at one stage came rushing up the tree and chased her high up into the canopy, he stopped halfway, jumped down, marked his territory around the tree and walked away. This was all a display of dominance over the smaller female.
Lion sightings have been up and down. We had the group of 7 stuck on our side of the river for a few days, so we had some nice sightings of them. The group of 15 was stuck on the other side of the river and killed another giraffe which we could not view as there was no place to cross the river.
Something very interesting happened fairly recently, where one of the older young river pride males mated with one of the females with the large males not being present, it was very short, so the female could have possibly been in a false heat. After this happened a month later one of the large males mated with the same female, so will be very interesting to see what is going to happen there. I am still very surprised that the dominant males have not chased away the two younger males, they are 3 years old and getting big and confident. Is it maybe a case that they have been accepted into the pride and that they won’t be chased away, due to the fact that the large males have been spending more time up north, who knows, only time will tell.
Elephant sightings have been on and off. There is water all over the place. During the first few days, we saw 2 breeding herds almost daily. It was interesting to watch them. They would feed up on the crest and walk down the river daily to go and inspect the water levels as they wanted to cross over, and every day in the same spot. With the river flowing so strong and with new born, they turned around every time until sand banks started forming only then they crossed.
There has been plenty of nice large bulls around, some in musth and temperamental and others very relaxed minding their own business, just strolling along mudding themselves and feeding on the marula fruits.
Buffalo sightings have been very good. We have seen buffalo almost daily around the lodge. They are enjoying all the mud pools that are filled up with water and the thick grass growing along the drainages. It is bachelor groups only, no breeding groups, even though it has been nice seeing them even in some larger groups up to 20 which is quite large for males-only groups. They split and walk all over the traverse and then get back together again. Even though we had all this rain, the days have been really warm and humid.
This is usually a very common sighting throughout the traverse and something Makumu has been known for, but we really struggled with hyena sightings. Their tracks are all over, every single road and they come through camp. We just can’t seem to find them and every time we do, then they just disappear into the thick bush.
The highlight of the month:
This was definitely the pack of 30 wild dogs we had around the camp for the day. They swam through the river early on in the morning from east to west and moved up to the lodge. As usual, the vultures were following hoping for a free meal. The dogs made 3 different kills throughout the day around the lodge, even in front of the guest’s rooms. It was just dogs and vultures the whole day and guests moving from the lodge deck to their rooms to view the sighting.
Thank you for reliving this wonderful experience with us.
Let’s cross our fingers for a spectacular March 2023.
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