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Lagoon Camp, December 2023

Golden Boy, a substantial male leopard, often strolled through the vicinity of Mokhutsomu Pan as he ventured northward.

Another male, Mazaboka, shifted his usual haunt to the north of Grass Pan, revealing the dynamic nature of leopard territories. Along Diolo Road, a young female engaged in intriguing olfactory investigations, seemingly searching for Mazaboka, her companion from multiple past encounters. Their rendezvous was documented west of Lagoon Camp along Number One Road. Mazaboka displayed his hunting skills by securing a kill — an impala lamb.

In other news! The mother of two, Mmamazabuka, showcased impressive adaptability, leveraging the abundance of young animals in the region, including impalas, kudus, and tsessebes. A remarkable deviation from typical leopard behaviour unfolded as we trailed her during a hunt, witnessing her chase an impala lamb for an extraordinary distance of around two hundred meters — an uncommon feat in the world of leopards. The subadults under her guidance also made their mark, securing a kill of an impala lamb south of Tsokotsha. Additionally, west of Pangolin and Upper Kwando Junction, we encountered a female leopard with a cub that had successfully hunted an impala lamb.

Leopard at Lagoon Camp

Frequent rains added a dynamic flair to the activities of the lion prides, notably the esteemed Holy Pride. Their movements, extending as far as Ipelegeng road and the Cutline Pan, typically favoured territories of the Mmadikolobe pride due to the abundance of resources — zebras, tsessebes, and wildebeests adorned these landscapes in impressive numbers. Their full bellies spoke of numerous occasions spent in these rich hunting grounds. Notably, one heavily pregnant female roamed with her eight cubs (all around seven months old).

The skills of the male lions, the Rrabogale coalition, were evident as they also covered vast expanses, ranging from John’s Pan to the far east of the camp. A glimpse of one member feasting on a hippo carcass by mud-waters and three others savouring a buffalo carcass southeast of mud-waters became a regular occurrence, their satisfied bellies showing off successful endeavours. At the start of the month, the Mmadikolobe pride ventured as far as the first lagoon, Badisa, and traversed the cheetah marking post route, the domain of Mmamosetlha. The Mmamosetlha pride, accompanied by three subadults, thrived, exhibiting successful kills in various locations. Their vitality was evident from feasting on a zebra carcass west of the airstrip to a later spectacle south of the airstrip, where they relished another zebra kill.

The great plains game of Kwando

Zebras dominated various landscapes of the Kwando Private Concession, from the second and first lagoons to grassy plains and the aptly named Zebra Pans. Most antelope species nurtured their young, while some still gave birth, including wildebeests, impalas, and tsessebes. Eland antelopes clipped across the open areas alongside zebras, while sightings of sable antelopes were less frequent. Abundant water in natural holes reduced elephant movement. Yet, whenever more than two rainless days passed, a significant number of these majestic creatures could be observed converging towards the Kwando River.

Two prominent cheetah brothers were frequently spotted, particularly in the southern region of Cutline, coinciding with tracks belonging to a female. Occasionally, they ventured on separate paths only to reunite the following day. We traced their recent movements with the discovery of fresh tracks near Grass Pan, leading us to locate them in the afternoon at their distinctive marking post by Mosheshe.

The Lagoon Pack of African wild dogs

A pack of ten African wild dogs, known as the Lagoon Pack, consisting of nine adults and an endearing puppy, journeyed near Lagoon Camp, heading southwards towards Rrakgolo. They displayed their skills by hunting and successfully taking down an impala lamb. After their meal, they found respite by the cheetah marking posts along Grass Road. The afternoon unfolded with a thrilling pursuit, resulting in the pack securing at least four additional impala kills. However, by the following morning, they had mysteriously vanished, leaving behind tracks indicating a trajectory toward Cutline. In the afternoon, their presence was noted on the Lebala side. During another morning game drive, we were drawn to a single highly mobile wild dog, swiftly disappearing into the dense mopane bushes. In the afternoon, diligent tracking led us to a group of approximately fifteen wild dogs within the mopane woodland.

Wild dogs Kwando Lagoon Camp

Spotted hyena encounters were exceptional, with these fascinating creatures frequently appearing in various areas. In the preceding month, there was a den not far from Middle Road, but the hyenas relocated due to flooding. Following the tracks of African wild dogs, we stumbled upon their new den along Maporota Road, although the clan appears to be accustomed to denning along Middle Road. Throughout the month, we were fortunate to witness their hunting and scavenging activities unfold in diverse locations.

Bat-eared foxes foraged, and springhares hopped into the lamplight during night drives. Banded, yellow, and slender mongooses added lively dynamics to bush explorations, while aardwolves made noteworthy appearances throughout the month. Two bustling aardwolf denning sites were particularly active, situated by Main and Makudi junction roads and another along Makudi road, though it, unfortunately, also succumbed to flooding. The elegant serval cat was seen foraging along Water Affairs Island, and African wild cats, with their mysterious allure, were repeatedly sighted.

A languid giant crocodile was observed basking by the second lagoon, accompanied by several energetic young ones at Kwena Lagoon and Half-Pan. Water monitor lizards were also spied.

Diverse cuckoo species, carmine bee-eaters, broad-billed rollers, steppe eagles, wattled cranes and open-billed and yellow-billed storks adorned the skies while majestic ostriches moved through the lengthening grass. Various vulture species added to the aerial ballet, soaring and, on occasion, feasting on scattered carcasses.

Celestial bodies like Jupiter occasionally graced the night sky when clouds parted, and Venus cast its early morning glow. Constellations like Orion’s Belt, Taurus, Sirius, and the Pleiades made captivating appearances during clear spells.

(Please note: For the safety of the animals, we do not disclose the precise 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!)