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4 Rivers, January 2023

Encounters with cheetahs were memorable during January, particularly on the eastern front near Paradise.

A promising young male caught our attention during off-road tracking game drives, and we wondered if he might be poised to take over territories previously dominated by the undefeated cheetah, Mr. Special. This young male was observed to have successful kills, showcasing his hunting prowess. His movements, marked by strategic scent markings, were tracked as he ventured further east towards Splash and Kwara.

The resident pack of 21 African wild dogs kept us on our toes! We tracked them as they gracefully navigated the flooded plains, skilfully capturing red lechwes, wildebeest, and even small zebra foals. An exciting incident unfolded when they surrounded a large herd of lechwes near 4 Rivers lagoon. Some lechwes, unfortunately, found themselves in the clutches of hungry crocodiles, and the distress calls attracted spotted hyenas to the scene, too. We watched in awe as the pack adeptly defended their hard-earned meals.  

African wild dog 4 rivers camp

One particularly fascinating observation this month involved a snake capturing a flap-necked chameleon near the staff village area.

Among the treasures of the avian world, the magnificent Pel’s fishing owl was also observed gracefully perching in the riverine forests at camp, and further bird sightings included storks, colourful bee-eaters, regal herons stalking the pans, and the elusive marsh owl.

The lions and leopards of 4 Rivers: cubs coming?

Leopards concentrated their movements within the impenetrable woodlands. However, we encountered a few shy leopards and occasionally spotted relaxed ones around the 4 Rivers lagoon area. Anticipation is high for the coming months, with expectations of increased sightings and the possibility of glimpsing new leopard cubs!

We frequently crossed paths with a pride of 11 lions in the southeast, while the east hosted a lively group of 17 with playful cubs. Moving westward, two males were spotted accompanying a female, and to the northeast, a lioness was seen with three subadults. Excitement lingers!
We look forward to new arrivals within the pride of 17 lions, with several females expected to give birth in the coming months.

We encountered small hyena clans south of camp. These clans, often accompanied by playful cubs, engaged in various activities. Some were spotted feasting on the remnants left behind by lions. To our surprise, a few hyenas ventured close to the lodge, offering our guests an unexpected but delightful spectacle.

What is the weather like in January?

The initial weeks of the month brought forth bountiful rains, ushering in a transformative spectacle across our ecotones. The floodplains changed remarkably as water levels surged, resulting in widespread flooding, and we enjoyed mokoro rides in the brimming lagoons. This natural rainfall acted as an irresistible invitation for various animal species, leading to the emergence of vast herds of buffalo, mixed groups of zebras and wildebeests, elegant waterbucks, and agile red lechwes. Even the usually serene woodland areas experienced a metamorphosis as their waterholes filled with water, attracting elephants. Adapting to this abundance, the wise hippos expanded their territories, mitigating potential competition and conflicts between dominant and younger males.

We also experienced magnificent lightning strikes with the storms. Although there is a significant risk of fires created in the Okavango bush, this atmospheric nitrogen is also converted by plants and used to produce proteins required by the grazing animals in the great web of life.

When lightning strikes, it indirectly helps plants by contributing to nitrogen fixation in the soil. This happens because lightning splits nitrogen molecules in the air, which allows nitrogen atoms to combine with oxygen to form nitrogen oxides. The nitrogen oxides then dissolve in rainwater, creating nitrates and nitrites. These compounds are essential nutrients for plants and can be absorbed through their roots.

Honey badger 4 Rivers

In the quiet embrace of the night around the camp, we often spotted the curious honey badgers. Another nocturnal presence is the porcupine, its quilled silhouette appearing in the darkness. 

(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!)