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Month: May 2013

Tau Pan May 2013


Towards the end of April, the two intruder male lions successfully caught and killed a young adult male giraffe – an exceptionally risky but very profitable catch. This provided food for the two male lions for the next ten days – and guaranteed entertaining sightings of not just lions, but all the associated scavengers that came in to try and get a piece of the action, including the jackals and vultures. You can imagine, even by day number 3… – the smell was not that attractive, but with plenty of meat still to get through, the lions persevered. By day 10, it was very tough biltong… At the end of May, the same male lions spent several days – and nights- patrolling the area around Tau Pan, roaring, with the sound reverberating through the air.

Another lion group – three lionesses – also had good hunting luck when they caught a blue wildebeest at the junction of San Pan and Phukwe Pan road. They were found feeding on the carcass, which they appear to have killed the previous night.

One thing that is quite commonly seen in the open area around Tau Pan are giraffe. In particular this month, a lovely grouping of 19 adults and 4 young were seen often. This month, the males were continually checking on the sexual status of the females, so it appears that at least one of the females will be coming in to heat soon.

Late May we had a lovely early morning encounter with a male cheetah, close to Tau Pan airstrip. He was squatting down, scanning the surroundings, and saw a big herd of springboks and kudu in the distance, with their calves. He burst out at lightening speed, and gave the kudus chase. From the onset, the cat had miscalculated the distance between him and his prey, and they managed to escape.

A family of bat eared foxes – two adults and four young- were finding the weather a little cool one morning when they were found at Tau Pan. They were all lying down with their bushy tails curled tightly around their heads, cuddling up against the chill.

A pale chanting goshawk was observed flying very low in and around some bushes. When we approached, we saw that the goshawk was chasing a guinea fowl chick, which he eventually succeeded in catching.

And what is it with May and aardvarks??? Another camp, another aardvark sighting: bizarrely, seen in the late afternoon, around 5pm, this aardvark had not read the book on “nocturnal and extremely shy aardvarks” and happily stood about 15 meters from the vehicle, digging away for termites and ants.

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Nxai Pan May 2013


In the beginning of May, it’s hard to get out of bed. It’s the beginning of the change in weather, as the temperature at night begins to drop, and the idea of getting up at 5.30 a.m. means getting out of the snug warm duvet in the darkness, getting dressed quickly, and moving as fast as possible to the fireplace, for a welcome cup of coffee. For those that were a little slow to get started one morning, it meant an enforced delay in getting their cup of coffee…. For those first around the camp fire, most were staring into the warming flames, though one of the eagle-eyed guides was looking out towards the waterhole, still barely visible at such distance in only half-light. A moving shape alerted his interest, with his initial reaction being that it was a brown hyena (rumours of a company-wide scheme of rapid promotion for the first person to show a brown hyena to the writer of this report may have had something to do with it). A little closer look, and the brown hyena turned out to be a lioness, with another lioness following close behind. As they moved away from the water hole, towards the camp, a quick count of guests at the fire place (now much more awake) and the realization that two guests were taking a few extra minutes getting out from under the duvet. To complicate matters, the lionesses were now making a bee-line for the gap between rooms 5 & 6. Very quickly, the sleepy guests had a vehicle not far from their bedroom with the guide telling them not to go outside till the cats had moved off. Luckily, the vegetation between the rooms is not very lion friendly. The lions soon moved back out into the open to warm up in the sun, enabling the guests to finally secure a good cup of coffee! Later in the morning, the lionesses moved off to the east of the camp, to lie up under the scrubby acacias, in the hope of catching something a little later.

Although the nights are cooler, the days are still warm, and wildebeest, oryx and other general game are seen resting in the shade of the small trees that dot the edge of the pan, and the tracks to Baines Baobabs. Moving to the main waterhole to drink, there is relief there for the thirsty animals, but right of way still belongs to the elephants, who shove the wildebeest away from the waters edge. Ostriches also move in to drink from time to time, and a pair were seen with a flotilla of knee-height chicks following along the way.

The 9th of May was a lucky day for two kudus who almost fell upon two lionesses as they approached the waterhole. The lionesses ignored them, focusing more intently on the other game that was drinking at the water hole. Perhaps they were just whiling the day away, as the lionesses didn’t make a move on any individual. The next day wasn’t such a lucky one for a zebra, as a herd of zebras was seen fleeing from Baobab Loop, and we made the discovery of one lioness having just caught one.

Lions were seen several days in a row in mid-May, with the Main Waterhole being the key area. Of a group of six lions, one male and female were mating for several days, ignoring the presence of the others, and pretty much any other animal nearby.

Cheetahs were seen several times as well this month, and we were able to follow them for two days in a row whilst they desperately searched for something to hunt. They travelled a distance of roughly ten kilometers over the two days, without seeming to have any success.

It’s not just the big predators that get to make the kills out here – raptors often take one of the many thousands of guinea fowl that roam around the ground. One raptor, a martial eagle (the biggest raptor we have) did well to catch his meal of a guinea fowl, but then lost it immediately to a brave black backed jackal!

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Lebala May 2013



In early May, the Lagoon pack of wild dogs paid a visit to Lebala, hunting impala in the area around Water Cut. They weren’t successful when we saw them, and they then sat down to relax.

The 10th of May was a great day for predator sightings, with a pack of six dogs chasing and managing to kill an impala. Unfortunately, they weren’t to have their kill for long, as a male lion soon approached and took it from them! Although they outnumbered him vastly, with his huge size and power, it is too big a risk for the dogs to try and face him down. They left quickly. Later that day, the southern pack of 11 dogs were seen in the area where the six had been seen that morning! The lion was seen again the next day – full bellied, and fast asleep in the middle of the road.

Following wild dogs (a rare sighting in many parts of Africa, but thankfully not in the Kwando concession) led to another exceptionally rare sighting: pangolin! All thoughts of following the dogs were temporarily suspended, as this very weird creature was observed. Normally nocturnal and very shy, these scaly anteaters often disappear down their burrows before being seen.

The lack of rain this year (we have not had any rain since February, though often the rainy season pushes through April) has meant that animals are congregating along the floodplains, to drink and in the hope of getting fresher vegetation.

Leopards were the order of the day on the 15th May, with three different individuals being sighted in the one morning – one male, and two females. Later that night, a smaller cat – the caracal – was also seen.

Any animal passing away is a ‘free lunch’ for predators and scavengers, but an elephant provides a meal for many. With so many elephants moving into the area, the odd one will succumb to old age or illness. One such elephant carcass was found to be providing a very large banquet for twenty or thirty hyenas – if you have ever seen this many hyenas feeding at once, you will understand why the number is uncertain. They have a tendency to ‘grab and run’ and scuffle with one another for the choicest cut. Although they are excellent hunters in their own right, an elephant would be too big a size for even a big clan to bring down, so that night the hyenas were simply being opportunists.

The other big opportunist – and great scavenger in their very own right, contrary to whatever Disney says – is the lion. Sure enough, a male lion was also seen next to carcass, probably having consumed his fill. The pride of six were also in the area – much easier to have a ready-made meal than to have to do all the hard work yourself…

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Lagoon May 2013


The end of last month saw the return of three cheetahs – but not the brothers that we used to see, instead it is a mother with two sub-adult cubs. They were seen several times at the end of April, and in May….

A pride of six lions – two lionesses, three sub-adult males and one sub-adult female were also seen during the month of May. On one occasion they spent some time following one of the buffalo herds that are in the area, but they did not attempt to hunt whilst we were watching. Later in the month, a solitary sub-adult male (possibly a member of the above pride) was seen in the area several times. Young males do have to leave their natal group, and find their own territory, but it is a harrowing business for them, as they have to hunt on their own, and are always at threat of bumping into a larger male, and having to fight or flee.

Being solitary by nature, leopards are not often seen together, but a male and a female were seen this month on an impala kill. Although the female was very relaxed, the male was very nervous. It is likely that they are mating, as leopards will not normally share kills, or each others company. A different female was also seen early on in the month, and it was noted that she was lactating. We were lucky enough to see two leopard cubs as well, sunbathing and waiting for mum to return with some food. Overall, leopards were seen on a number of days and were often very relaxed.

The elephant bulls are hanging around the camp, hovering up fruits from the marulas. The females are not as confident in areas of human habitation, and hang around the periphery, only venturing through on rare occasions.

The buffalo herds are also beginning to move in, with seven different breeding herds being seen in the area. These herd sizes will increase over the next few months, with smaller groupings joining the large herds, and moving together between the best areas for grazing and then trekking to the water.

A tough time for the wild dogs – so used to being in charge in the area, the pack was caught by surprise by four intruder dogs, who obviously felt they had no alternative but to stand and fight. Although the four dogs left, it was not before one of the yearlings from the Lagoon pack badly injured his leg, breaking it – possibly in two places. As sad as it is, as this is a natural event, we and the Wildlife Department are not permitted to intervene and assist the dog. It is not actually a death knell for a wild dog, as it might be for some other predator: the wild dog social structure is so strong, that the pack will look after weak or injured individuals. One of the members of a pack in the southern part of the Okavango Delta had an individual with a broken leg who continued to travel with the pack for more than two years.

A few days after this incident, the pack of four dogs were back, and successfully chased off the alpha male of the pack – he’s been the alpha for several years now and is obviously past his prime, unable to chase off the intruders. Now, it’s a race to the finish line, as the intruders court the alpha female – all with a hope of becoming the next alpha male, and fathering a litter of puppies… Although nothing has been seen of the former alpha male since, the four intruders are settling in to pack life. It is possible that the alpha male will be accepted back in to the pack at a later stage, but as a subordinate.

A relaxing sundowner by a waterhole was interrupted to a small extent when the wild dogs ran past the people. African wild dogs have never been known to attack people in the wild – their reaction to us is very much a slight curiosity.

Some foam nest frogs decided to rest up on the Lagoon boat, (it certainly saves having to jump or swim if you want to move along the channel …) but met an unhappy end when a very pretty spotted bush snake (harmless to humans) saw an opportunity and ventured onto the boat to devour them. She left the boat again, not keen on an afternoon river cruise, but with rather un-shapely lumps along her body.

A new den of hyenas has been found in the Lagoon area, with some brand new baby cubs. Hyena cubs look quite different to their elder siblings and adults – almost completely dark brown in color, they look reminiscent of a bear cub. The spots and lighter fur only begin to be seen after a couple of months. The rest of the clan were seen out and about, following the wild dogs in case they have a chance of taking a kill off them.

Night drives this month produced porcupine, aardwolf, civets, African wild cats and honey badgers, to name but a few.

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Kwara May 2013

amills.Mammal_Pangolin KWARA


It’s the magical hour – the hour before dawn, when animals that made it the night start to feel a little at ease, and when the predators seem to find the air at its coolest and it’s the best time to move. Guests are sleeping peacefully, the early morning call from their guide still a few minutes away. Perhaps a few of them are awake already, listening to the early morning sounds: the rustle of the impala moving next to the rooms, the alarm call snort of one impala that has spotted something that is making a move at this early hour, the pandemonium of rushing hoofs as the herd begins to move at pace to escape, and the metallic “thunk” of the… actually, what WAS that? In a scene reminiscent of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, the speeding impala, rushing away from the lions that had decided to take a stroll through camp, dashed through the workshop. One impala was unable to hit the brakes in time and slammed into a parked car. Leaving a few tufts of hair, and some fancy footwork in the sand (skidding hooves…) The impala managed to live another day.

One of the rarest animal sightings a visitor can have is of an aardvark. Sadly, these sightings are now even rarer, as an early morning game drive discovered a male lion breakfasting on one. It was probably a fairly easy catch for a lion, if the aardvark didn’t make it to his hole in time. On a protein-rich diet solely of termites, it was obviously tasty for the lion. Three cheetahs, later the same morning, had a rather more conventional choice of diet, and managed to catch an impala for brunch, with the hunt witnessed from beginning to end.

There was definitely something missing from the lions diet this month, as they ventured into the odder delicacies – three lionesses were found fighting with a pangolin, trying to kill it. Luckily for the pangolin, they couldn’t quite figure out how to make this particular kill, and they ended by giving up and walking away in search of something that was a little more accessible, and didn’t require a can opener.

It is jackalberry season, and it’s a race as to who can eat them all before they disappear. It’s a pretty strong competition, with entrants including elephants, baboons, monkeys, squirrels and humans. The huge jackalberry trees that dot the camps don’t all give fruit, but the ones that do are checked daily to see if the ripened fruit has fallen. The small, yellow-beige fruits taste a little like raisins. Of course, if you are an elephant you want to eat a LOT more of them than a squirrel, so there is some sense of priority. It’s when those tricky people have built their camp – and decks – around the trees, and the smell is just too tantalising… well what is an elephant to do but lean and stretch as far as he can? I am sure those people can just hammer that pole back in to the deck tomorrow…

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