Tau Pan, May 2018

Tau Pan - Oryx

The Tau Pan pride were seen very regularly in different configurations. The impressive coalition of five males were seen together on occasion, but sometime separated from each other to patrol. This usually then resulted in a night of roaring as the males made contact calls to find each other again. A group of six adults and a cub were seen feeding on a wildebeest and two of the males were seen trying to hunt giraffe but failed in their attack due to lack of cover. Two mothers with three cubs were located drinking from the camp waterhole every few days, sometimes accompanied by one of the males. A different pride of lions consisting of a big black-maned lion and a female with her two sub-adult cubs was located at the Passarge waterhole. They looked well-fed and showed little interest in the surprisingly relaxed oryx grazing very nearby.

One morning the guides were surprised to find elephant tracks going through camp as they went to do their wake-up calls. Eventually they found a large bull elephant browsing next to Room 1. Elephants are not very common in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and it is very unusual for us to have one staying in the camp area.

A shy male leopard was seen a few times. On one occasion we found him being mobbed by a few jackals which stopped him successfully hunting the springbok which he had his eye on. A young female who is the daughter of a well-known resident was seen mobile towards the old camp site.

Two young cheetah brothers were sighted towards the west of Tau Pan, although they were a bit skittish.

As is often the case in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve there were many species of raptors including bateleur eagles, tawny eagles, goshawks and secretary birds. Kori bustards and huge flocks of red-billed queleas were also seen.

A beautifully relaxed herd of twenty adult oryx with ten calves was located at Phukwi Pan. Other general game species included springbok, red hartebeest and wildebeest. As the mornings got progressively colder, the antelope could be seen lying on the roads to warm themselves up. There were plentiful giraffe in the area and we were able to see them licking at the soil to gain extra minerals into their diet. At the camp waterhole we watched two kudu bulls testing a female by sniffing her and grimacing in a pose known as the flehmen response. This behaviour is done in order for males to better detect pheromones that might indicate whether the cow is in oestrus.

Black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes were seen foraging. On one occasion the jackals and foxes started growling at each other, raising their hackles and eventually fighting. An African wild cat was seen hunting birds. Honey badgers were seen hunting, accompanied by jackals and southern pale chanting-goshawks who were always on the lookout for any rodents missed by the honey badgers during their digging. The bat eared foxes could be seen huddling up together in family groups in the early morning chill.

 

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Nxai Pan, May 2018

Nxai Pan - Elephants

Predictably, as the natural water sources dried up and the weather stayed dry the herds of elephants returned to the camp waterhole in huge numbers. With the clear viewpoint from the main area and rooms, guests were able to spend their siesta time watching lots of interesting interactions within the elephant family groups.

A resident pride of nine lions (three lionesses with six sub-adult cubs) were spotted on different occasions hunting. As the natural waterholes dried up we noticed that the lions’ movement pattern became more predictable. They would visit the camp waterhole, then move in a clockwise direction around the pan before completing their loop via the Department of Wildlife waterhole. They appeared to be specialising in killing giraffe calves as there were lots of them in the area.

At the start of the month we saw the two resident sub-adult cheetahs very regularly, including hunting. A male cheetah was also seen hunting in the middle of the pan but without success.

There were only a few zebras remaining in the pan, but plenty of giraffe, wildebeest, warthogs and black-backed jackals. Bat-eared foxes were also seen resting. Springbok, oryx and steenbok were mainly towards Baines Baobabs with just a few in the Nxai Pan area.

Plenty of raptors were seen in the area including lanner falcons, pale chanting-goshawk, Gabar goshawk, martial eagles, black-shouldered kites and secretary birds. Smaller species included scaly-feathered finches, black-chested prinias, bee-eaters, ant-eating chats, and various species of larks and flycatchers. Kori bustards and ostriches could be seen striding out across the pans.

At Baines Baobabs the trees were starting to lose their leaves, their bare branches looking remarkably like inverted roots, earning the species their nickname of ‘upside-down tree’. On a day trip to Baines Baobabs we saw an interesting fight between a Mozambique Spitting Cobra and a Puff Adder; these two highly venomous snakes engaged in a deadly duel.

 

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala, May 2018

Lebala - Lions

The Bonga pride of lions were still in the Lebala area during May, though it appeared that they had started to move = back towards their usual territory nearer to Lagoon camp. Whilst the Bonga Pride had been around, the Wapoka Pride had moved south of the Kwando Reserve, but towards the end of the month they seemed to realise that the territories were shifting and we found them back in our area again devouring a wildebeest. As they were feeding, one of the dominant males known as Big Gun came to claim his rights at the carcass. One of the young males from the Wapoka Pride tried to defend the food but was very quickly put in his place by the mature lion in a swift but dramatic fight.

We saw eleven Bonga lions hunting amongst a big herd of wildebeest. They managed to bring down and kill two of the wildebeest at once. Another time the lions killed a wildebeest in a waterhole and as we arrived the big male was seen dragging the carcass out of the water. Although mainly seen targeting wildebeest, the Bonga pride were also seen successfully hunting buffalo at the large end of the prey scale, and warthog at the other. One day, we had been watching the pride hunting zebra when they encountered a puff adder which became aggressive. True to its name, the snake inflated its body to make itself appear bigger and try to scare the lions.

A mother lioness with three cubs of approximately nine months old appeared to have split away from the rest of the pride and was occasionally joined by the dominant males. A sub-adult male appeared to have been kicked out of the main pride by the dominant males and was seen on his own for most of the month.

We enjoyed seeing some of the smaller rare mammals at Lebala during May. A sighting of two aardwolf was enjoyed near to Skimmer Pan. The two animals were moving through the grass. We were also lucky enough to find a porcupine running in front of the vehicle during a night drive. A serval was also spotted hunting after dark and to cap off a great month we came across a pangolin on the road looking for termites and ants.

Our guides were delighted to find the resident female leopard, Jane, with her two cubs. Last time we had seen her a couple of months previously she appeared to be looking for one of her cubs, so it was a huge relief to see the family back in the area, and apparently all doing well. On a morning game drive to Motswiri Pan our guide noticed impalas, birds and squirrels all shouting alarm calls. He quickly followed up and found a resident male leopard, known as Fisherman, feeding on a banded mongoose.

A pair of wild dogs have been coming to Lebala from time to time and the female appears to be pregnant. In the middle of the month they pulled down and ate a bushbuck within the camp surrounds. At the hyena den, there appeared to be just two cubs.

As the weather stayed fair and the inland waterholes started to dry up, big herds of elephants started to return to the riverine area. There were also plentiful giraffe and buffalo coming out of the woodland to find water. A big herd of eland, grazing in a mixed herd with zebra, was sin the area. Guests were also happy to locate some sable bulls. The water levels in the marsh had started to rise with the incoming flood waters, bringing with it large herds of red lechwe. We had good sightings of them running and splashing through the shallow waters.

 

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lagoon, May 2018

Lagoon - Leopards

Wild dogs were denning near to camp throughout the month of May. Two separate females had conceived within our resident pack of six and they made den entrances approximately fifteen metres apart. Towards the end of the month four puppies emerged from den and could be seen suckling. The second litter was born on the 24th May. The dogs tended to stay fairly close to the den and were seen feeding on kudu, warthog and impala. We witnessed them regurgitating food for both pregnant females after their hunting missions.

A mother leopard known as Mma Maporota (Mrs Sausage Tree) was seen on an almost daily basis, with her two subadult cubs, one female and one male. Sometimes they were seen apart and other times feeding or hunting together; when they had a kill they tended to stay in the same area for several days. The adult female spent a good amount of time marking her territory by scent marking and clawing trees.

After a lot of patient searching by our guides we located two hyena dens in the area. Evening visits were particularly rewarding as we were able to see the adults socialising with their young and greeting each other before setting off on patrol. At one of the dens there are five cubs, ranging from several weeks old to approximately 8 months. They were very playful, sometimes curiously approaching the vehicle.

The coalition of two cheetah brothers continued to cover huge areas but were seen often in the Lagoon side of the Reserve. The guides suspected that they were trying to stay away from the Bonga Pride who were located more towards the east. The males were located patrolling their territory and also hunting various species including impala, warthogs, tsessebe and even young kudu.

Four young male lions were still in the area, having come from the north. They were generally seen on the move and were still skittish around vehicles, but we hope that they will relax over time. They sometimes split up to track females and could be heard roaring in the early mornings. A lioness with one cub was seen hunting impala and zebra along the woodland, but they also seem to specialise in warthogs and could be seen checking out burrows looking for prey. One time after they had brought down an impala the hyena clan came and raided their kill. Two new pale-coloured lionesses seem to have taken up residency in the area and were seen in the vicinity of an elephant carcass. After a few days they were joined by two big male lions and were seen mating with them. Towards the end of the month two separate prides were seen fighting over the elephant carcass; the dispute continued over a three-day period. In the end a coalition of three lions disrupted and pushed away the four younger males. A female from the Bonga Pride was also seen towards Halfway Pan; she looked like she was nursing, so it is likely that she had split away from the main pride to give birth. It seems that the Bonga Pride are starting to move back towards the Lagoon side of the Kwando Reserve, having spent the last few months in the Lebala area.

General game was very good along the floodplains. There were two relaxed herds of sable and roan antelope and plentiful zebra and wildebeest. As the weather cooled, hippos were seen out of the water during the day more frequently. Elephants, buffalo, eland, tsessebe, giraffe, impala, steenbok, kudu and hartebeest were also seen.

There were good sightings of smaller mammals including African wild cats, bat-eared foxes, civets, genets, bush babies and servals. Aardwolf were seen several times towards the end of the month, though sadly we found aardwolf carcass at the vacated hyena den (one was also found the previous month).

As usual, there were good numbers of raptors and vultures in the Kwando Reserve. A family of endangered Southern Ground Hornbills were seen frequently. Ostrich were seen graving alongside plains game.

Crocodiles could be seen during the boat cruise and monitor lizards were seen mating.

 

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Kwara, May 2018

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May was an incredible month for predator action on the Kwara concession. Leopard, wild dogs and hyenas were all denning during the month and we witnessed some incredible interaction between the species.

The pack of eight wilddogs were still denning about half a kilometre from Little Kwara for the month of May. At the start of the month the alpha female was inside the den and was even growling at the alpha male if he came too close. On the same afternoon, once the dogs had killed an impala, a spotted hyena came to scavenge and it was also badly bitten by the wild dogs. The clan of hyena continued to follow the dogs every day on their hunting missions and we witnessed further dramatic interactions between these two predator species as the month went on. Despite the raiding hyenas, the dogs were able to kill very regularly and all looked in good condition.

The spotted hyenas had their own young to look after and we were able to visit the den regularly. The cubs could be seen playing and occasionally yelling at their mother for her to lie down and nurse them.

Our female resident leopard also had cubs in a den; she was seen feeding well on various kills and looked in excellent condition, despite having some carcasses stolen by hyenas. We watched her on her hunting excursions making full use of the camp’s bridges to traverse the area and we had wonderful sightings of her climbing trees. Her initial den was not accessible to our vehicles, but after a week or so she moved her cubs and then we were able to enjoy watching the family interacting together. A male leopard was also located to the east of the Kwara airstrip.

Lion were doing well in the Kwara Reserve including a pride of three lionesses and five sub-adult cubs. A different pride of two females and two males were located at Four Rivers, on the western side of the concession. One afternoon we located a female lioness, daughter of resident Mma Leitlho, travelling towards camp and after following her for a while we were lucky enough to witness her stalking and then bringing down a fully-grown warthog boar. We also found lions feeding on kudu and zebra.

A female cheetah with two sub-adult cubs made a successful kill of a male impala at bat-eared fox den. They were agitated by lionesses who were roaring not far away from where they made a kill. The male cheetah, known to the guides as ‘Special’ was seen often and one day walked all the way from the airstrip and into camp, passing in between Kwara and Little Kwara. As he was stalking a herd of impala the wild dogs came and ambushed him, but he managed to escape. We found a different male cheetah feeding on an impala close to Splash, surrounded by vultures awaiting their turn at the carcass. This cheetah was also seen scent marking on a sausage tree whilst also using the vantage point to scan the area for prey and danger.

The general game in Kwara Reserve was excellent, with plenty of breeding herds of elephant coming back into the area. We watched them as they were feeding, drinking and bathing in the waterholes. There were plentiful herds of wildebeest, zebra and giraffe. Two giraffe bulls were seen fighting over females; it is always a dramatic sight watching such huge animals swing blows at each other with their head and necks. The rest of the giraffe family seemed unperturbed though and carried on browsing whilst the fight went on.

Smaller mammals which we were able to view included a very relaxed serval and honey badgers. Bird life was excellent with endangered Wattled Cranes a notable favourite with our guests. A Verreux’s (giant) eagle owl was seen feeding on a small spotted genet.

 

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)