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Nxai Pan January 2013

NEarly.Cat7 Zebra Family NXAI

A phenomenal month at Nxai Pan with the zebra migration in full swing. The foals are already quite big, and all the herds look in great condition – apart from the odd one or two that show tell-tale signs of having a close shave with a lion.

Everywhere you look on the pan, hundreds and hundreds of springbok are milling around, with their young offspring bouncing and pronking (yes that is a real word, it describes the vertical springing jump with arched back that springbok make!) . Not exactly sure of the cars, the young sometimes approach closer than the adults out of curiosity, before moving off, with their out of proportion rabbit-like ears flicking to and fro.

With there being so many zebra around the park, the lions have dispersed, as there is no need to stay close to the waterholes, hoping that something will come down to drink. In addition, three days of heavy rain – the most rain northern Botswana has seen in 40 years! – meant that there are pans in many more spots, rather than the few isolated waterholes. Two male intruder lions were seen at the beginning of the month, but the young pride also saw them and moved out of the way quickly! Sadly, it’s thought that these male lions then moved out of the park and into the surrounding areas to the west, where they spent several weeks in January catching the much easier prey of domestic cows. There was a report at the end of the month of farmers shooting these ‘problem animals’.

The cheetahs, however, are still around, and we have had some lovely sightings. One of these included a young male who was seen close to the road, only a few minutes after heading out of the camp on morning game drive. He was posing elegantly, and was very photogenic. At one point, he decided that he needed to practice his hunting skills, and instead of focusing on one of the numerous springboks that were never far away, his attention was drawn to a very suspicious looking pile of elephant dung. He leapt and pounced on it, and created his own game of football with the dried dung, much to the amusement of the on-lookers!

The waterholes do still draw different species together, though perhaps not with as much angst as it can be during the dry season, it’s still important to be cautious when drinking. That must somehow explain the interesting meeting of a zebra and a leopard tortoise at one waterhole one afternoon. The tortoise had made it to the edge of the water, and was about to drink, when an approaching zebra startled him. He quickly withdrew his head and legs into the safety of his shell, but the sudden movement in turn startled the zebra. The two animals then proceeded into a ‘duet of startlement’ as each one alternately relaxed, then noticed the other one, made a quick withdrawal, in turn startling the other animal. Eventually, both animals realised they were not under immediate attack, and managed to get on with the business of drinking.