Splash, July 2019

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A very unusual tale unfolded with two packs of wild dogs. Regular followers of these reports may recall that at the end of June the pack of eight and a smaller pack of four had a confrontation. In the days that followed the larger pack had taken to ambushing the den of the smaller pack and we feared for the lives of their puppies. But in an extraordinary twist at the start of July we found the three puppies of the smaller pack five kilometres from home at the pack of eight’s den – apparently kidnapped! We contacted researchers who explained that there are previous records of wild dogs adopting puppies from other packs and hypothesized that the smaller pack may in fact be a distantly related splinter group. The pack of eight continued to feed all fourteen puppies (eleven of their own and three from the other pack) via regurgitation and both sets were nursed by the alpha female. The two sets of puppies looked distinctly different at this stage because of their varied ages, the eleven from the pack of eight were still small and dark, whereas the adopted pups were much bigger and starting to develop their patterned coats. We were able to see the adult dogs hunting impala and reedbuck, usually finishing off the whole carcass in just twenty minutes, a strategy that helps to avoid competition with other predators. Once time we found the dogs being chased by lions who were attempting to scavenge, but luckily all the predators remained uninjured. Another time we found the pack taunting and chasing a herd of elephants, but the pachyderms grouped together to defend their calves.

To add to the wild dog excitement, at the end of the month we came across the Kwara pack of thirteen adults and followed them back to their den where we counted fourteen puppies. Having already seen the other pack we ended up seeing a total of 49 wild dogs that day!

The resident male cheetah known as Special still continued to be a big favourite with guests and we were able to follow him as he hunted impala and reedbuck. One time we saw him watching some common reedbuck who had young ones with them. The cheetah stalked to get closer before chasing and separating a lamb from its mother. The lamb was only a few days old and at that stage seemed to get confused as to who was its mother because it stopped running and turned straight to the cheetah. To everyone’s wonderment Special played with the lamb for about 10-15 minutes before, inevitably, killing it. Another time we found him close to Splash room 1 and followed him until he killed a common reedbuck. Some hyenas came and took away the kill, providing an exciting inter-species interaction.

We also found a female cheetah with three cubs a few times. They were feeding on different species such as impala, a kudu calf, warthog and steenbok and sometimes we were lucky enough to witness their hunt. It was interesting to watch the mother use a sub-adult reedbuck to train her cubs how to chase and kill.

A female honey badger and her young cub visited Splash camp every night, sometimes easily seen by guests as they enjoyed pre-dinner drinks around the open fire. We also saw many honey badgers during game drive.

A beautiful young female leopard, estimated to be about three years old, was very relaxed with our vehicles and we were able to spend quality time with her including watching her hunt impala. We found another female with a cub up a tree feeding on an impala.

Two lionesses with their six cubs were seen hunting to the east of the airstrip and we watched as they brought down and killed a young warthog. It took them just ten minutes to finish the piglet off. The two young resident male lions made a big deal of declaring their territory by roaring. We found them mating a lioness at the start of the month.

Two very bold spotted hyenas came quite close to the vehicle as we were stopped for sundowner drinks. Jackals were seen scavenging on the remains of a wild dog kill. We also saw African wild cat and civet.

Huge herds of elephant were in the area, attracted by the permanent channel that forms our border with the Moremi Game Reserve.

A very relaxed herd of five sable antelope could be seen near to the mokoro station and a roan antelope bull was seen more than once drinking from the waterhole in front of camp. Giraffe could be seen with splayed legs as they reached down to lick the minerals from the soil in a behaviour known as geophagia, commonly seen in many species during dry season.

Every day a large herd of buffalo could be seen moving to the west of camp. Once we saw them being followed by two lionesses from the Mother Eye Pride, the first time that we have seen this pride trying their luck on buffalo. In the end the buffalo won the day and the two lionesses walked away.

Cattle egrets and oxpeckers could be seen accompanying the herds of buffalo, some herds up to 200 strong. A flock of one hundred vultures were observed feeding on the leftovers of a cheetah kill. On the same morning we watched a fish eagle feed on a catfish and then a tawny eagle eating a monkey. Two fish eagles were also seen in front of Splash camp. Four bateleur eagles were seen on the ground drinking water neat to the mokoro station.

(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!)

 

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