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Nxai Pan Camp, December 2022

The rains finally arrived, and Nxai Pan was a spectrum of beautiful colours. The impressive resident Kalahari black-maned lions stood out amongst the yellow, green, and orange blossoms and fields.

Why do lions of the Kalahari have black manes?

There are plenty of theories to account for a darker mane, including making the males more attractive to a potential mate, more intimidating to rivals and higher testosterone levels. There is also a curious view that a black-maned lion will recover quicker from wounds than other lions. Regardless, being more prevalent in arid savannah regions such as the Central Kalahari and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, the mane is undoubtedly a product of the dry and harsh environment to which they are acclimated.

Kalahari black-maned lion Nxai Pan

The resident male was seen in the company of a lioness with a cub and seemed well inclined towards the little one, which means there is a good chance it may be one of his offspring. South of Nxai Pan, we also spent time with three healthy lionesses and their six cubs. The cubs were still too young to join the fray, but we watched the three adults hunting several times.

Another resident, a male cheetah, was frequently spotted between the camp waterhole and the main Nxai Pan waterhole. He looked well-fed and content taking advantage of the grasses for extra camouflage while stalking his prey. His evident level of contentment may be fuelled by all the new springbok young we saw on the pan. Although they are “up and running” not long after birth, the springbok young rely heavily on their mother’s lessons and instructions. The cheetah is an expert in separating them, making the young antelope more vulnerable.

The Nxai Pan zebra migration has commenced

Alongside the arrival of the newborn springboks, we saw the start of the zebra migration. Plains zebra will converge on Nxai Pan in the coming months from north, south, east, and west. The zebras that have been taking advantage of the Boteti River waters to the south have started moving north, and we saw the arrival of these zebra. However, the Chobe and the Delta residents will soon join them to complete one of the largest mammal migrations in Africa.

With the arrival of the zebra, we also eagerly await the flocks of breeding flamingos that love to congregate at Kudiakam Pan under the watchful eyes of Baines Baobabs. After the first rains, the pan began to fill with water and brought some fantastic birdlife. Plovers, sandpipers and other waterfowls were a welcome addition to the incredible stories shared with guests below the giant baobabs. The baobabs looked very handsome with their new leaves and flowers. Some of them already had fruits too.

The baby ostriches still run amok and have been joined by other ground-nesting birds, such as the Double-banded coursers whose chicks are emerging to forage alongside the breeding herds of blue wildebeests, giraffes, and bat-eared foxes. The jackals were also aware of the baby coursers and until they fledge and can fly (at about five to six weeks), the adult coursers kept a watchful eye on their young.

Rampant raptor sightings at Nxai Pan during summer

We had great raptor sightings throughout the month, including goshawks, tawny eagles, secretarybirds and the majestic martial eagle. These didn’t hesitate to pounce on a distracted courser and, in the case of the martial eagle, even provided a threat to baby antelopes! It always pays to be on your guard in Nxai Pan.

Kalahari raptors

Migrant birds logged this month include lesser grey and Red-backed shrikes, Lanner falcons, Grey crowned cranes, Yellow-billed kites, and Black cuckoos. They have feasted upon the flush of insect life during the day, and we enjoyed watching community nest spiders foraging at night. 

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the location of either rhino or pangolin sightings. Accompanying pictures are 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!)