Kwara, Splash

Splash and Kwara Camp, January 2022

In early January, a pack of wild dogs was located east of Splash Camp, shredding a baby impala. The following day 14 more dogs were seen at Kwara islands. A different pack came chasing impalas into camp and made a kill just next to the main pool area. However, they could not enjoy their meal. It seemed like a bigger predator (probably a lion) spooked them, and they soon fled.

Speaking of lions, there’s been action this month! 

A territorial dispute

The Zulu boys occupied the western part of the Kwara Private Reserve, extending into the Shinde area. One day we saw these males mating with a lioness. Soon afterwards, we came across five male lions feeding on a wildebeest carcass near the Splash boat station along the river road. We believe this coalition controls the Kwara-Splash territory. The next day, four of these lions picked up on roars of other males nearby. Kwando guides followed as the resident lions responded with fierce roaring and headed towards the challenging calls.

The four males caught up with the three Zulu boys, and a territorial fight immediately ensued near Basarwa Sethabana. It was four against three, and the resident four males won, leaving one of the Zulu boys with severe injuries. Unfortunately, this lion succumbed to the damages. Two days later, we discovered his remains. Guides were alerted to the carcass by vultures and rampant hyena tracks crisscrossing the road early in the morning. They only found his fresh skull, part of the skin and remnants of paws and claws.

The Mmaleitho Pride visited Splash Camp one night and killed a wildebeest calf, then a clan of Spotted hyenas caused a commotion trying to overrun the kill. We saw this pride again at the Splash Camp waterhole drinking at midday. They then moved west past room 12 late in the afternoon but returned to Splash Camp again towards the end of the month. Closely monitored by the camp manager, the pride moved south, passing the solar room heading towards Tau Island.

Mr Special made his usual rounds and was often found hunting or scanning the plains from a termite mound. Another male cheetah was seen stalking impalas at Wild Dog Pan but could not secure a meal and scent-marked the area instead.

A male leopard killed an impala at the Kwara staff village and pulled its carcass up into a tree. Unfortunately (for the leopard), the carcass fell, and hyaenas quickly took it over, leaving only the head. Another male leopard was then located north of Kwara lagoon, comfortably sitting into the shaded storey of a Sausage tree with a Red lechwe kill. He spent about two days enjoying his meal much more peacefully.

At Kwara Camp, three hyenas came sniffing around the old Little Kwara staff village and proceeded towards the airstrip. A sub-adult hyaena frequently came to inspect the main area and was often seen during the day. Many hyenas were seen at Willy’s Valley celebrating the demise of the Zulu boys. It’s also highly probable that the hyenas could have finished off the injured lion since he was more vulnerable.

Servals, civets and other spotted creatures

Thick bush covers most of the landscape, and the long Turpentine grass grows everywhere, which posed a challenge when locating smaller animals, but we still enjoyed many incredible nocturnal sightings. This included serval cats, occasionally African wild cats, civets and Honey badgers, but Small spotted genet and Springhare were the most common sightings on night drives. One evening we also saw a huge Spotted eagle owl during dinner in the central area at Splash Camp. 

We saw several Ground hornbill groups this month. They spent much of their time scouting for prey — lizards, insects, snails and snakes — which are all abundant at this time. Monitor lizards were regularly seen, and sightings of snakes such as Puff adders, Mozambique spitting cobras and Black mambas were all recorded at a safe distance during game drives.

The grass has grown very tall, and there is lots of water, especially on flood plains, due to plentiful rain. Small and medium-sized crocodiles were seen frequenting these refreshed waterholes, as well as the plethora of wading birds that now have to dodge the reptiles as they feed.

Hippos at Splash Camp

Despite the tall grass, we saw plenty of general game, mostly antelopes such as tsessebe, impalas, wildebeests, kudus, waterbucks, small buffalo herds, Common reedbucks, Red lechwes, zebra, plus plenty of giraffes and good elephant numbers. There is also a significant pod of over 22 hippos (with adorable calves) residing in the Splash Camp lagoon. They occasionally leave the water out during the day and feed around the camp area at night.

We ticked off a glut of waterbirds during boat activities, such as herons, egrets, Egyptian geese, teals, and many jacanas. Raptors such as Tawny eagle were also seen, often scoping out kills before vultures (such as the White-backed and White-headed) rolled in.

Artur Stankiewicz was there to capture the drama and his image portrays just a fraction of the intensity of the lion confrontation. Sightings like these remind us that this truly is the wild!

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