So close and yet so far…

We started of our drive this morning following a female leopard’s spoor who had passed through the lodge during the early hours of this morning. Unfortunately we never caught up with her, but the whole experience of tracking her was fun and exiting. It is normally very disappointing to know a leopard was right here under our noses, but we couldn’tmanage to find it…. anyway, that is how it goes with leopard. Luckily we had one of those exceptional mornings where we seemed to find animals around every corner, and this more than made up for the bit of disappointment with our spotted cat earlier.

We eventually responded to a lion sighting, and as we pulled in some buffalo decided to “burst” onto the scene much to the delight of my guests. There was some very nice interaction as the buffalo chased the lions around where-after the typical stand-off ensued. After a wile the lions moved off into a drainage line, and the buffalo went the opposite direction. Some awesome action on a beautiful morning.

Wile leaving the buffalo and lion sighting we came across a pair of rhino and a big herd of giraffe to end our fantastic drive…. There is just no telling what to expect or what might happen out there, and that is just the way we love it!!!

Westley Lombard – Ranger

Kapama Main Lodge

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Elephant Baby Boom

This morning we went in search of elephants. And who could have known what was in store for us. When we eventually came across the herd they were quite spread out. As we approached closer we could see that there were a number of elephants forming a circle around an adult female. When we looked more closely we could see something drop from between the legs of the adult female. Then we noticed that it was birth fluids. And then we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of a brand new elephant baby!!! The baby was still covered in birth fluid and struggling to stand. And the group was shuffling around with the calf between them for protection. Every elephant birth is different can take widely varying amounts of time. On average the process is approximately 7 hours and the calf weights around 300 lbs, standing within a few minutes. Nursing usually occurs within a few hours after birth.
This is the third recent addition to the herd. There are two other youngsters of 10 weeks and 2 weeks. Soon after the female had given birth one of the bulls in the group began an attempt to mate with her. He mouted her several times but his attempt was blocked every time. Evidently it is not uncommon for male elephants to attempt to mate with a female just after she has given birth.
As we watched events unfolding we saw a bateleur eagle soaring low above our heads. Bateleur eagles usually fly lower than most other eagles and vultures and are the first bird of prey to locate food. Vultures and other raptors watch the bateleur and if he/she lands on the ground they usually follow to investigate. Clearly the eagle had seen the after-birth and was keen to dig in. Within moments there were around 100 African white backed and hooded vultures all tucking in for a feast.
For all of us this was a first. And we felt extremely privileged to be part of such a momentous occasion. We wish the youngster well and look forward to documenting its progress over the coming weeks.
Story by Sarah-Estelle Sangster, River Lodge Ranger

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Maybe a bit too big…

Last night we set out on safari with two honeymooners from the USA who were very exited about their first safari in the African wilderness. After viewing some buffalo and rhino we followed a lioness with her three cubs until they eventually met up with the dominant male lion in this section of the reserve. He was feasting on an impala kill with a crash of rhino not too far away.

The rhino’s though, were not at all perturbed by the presence of the cats. The cubs got more and more bold as the time went on and started stalking the rhino at which point they got annoyed and moved into the inflow of a nearby dam. As they came to the edge of the water the lions spread out into a triangular formation, but as soon as the rhinos turned around they scampered away quite hastily. All this to the deafening roars of the male lion only ten metres away.  We left eventually, knowing this was just one of those very memorable moments on safari.

Sebastiaan Jansen Van Vuuren – Ranger, Main Lodge

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Close but no cigar…

Our morning started off with a bang as another ranger driving in the same general area as me had seen 4 lionesses but then lost visual soon after. He gave us the general direction that they were moving in, and as a matter of fact it was 100% correct. We stopped at the junction where he told us to try and not even a few seconds later they appeared out of the bush. My guests thought that this was the best thing since sliced bread! As they approached our vehicle they made a sharp turn to the left. It looked as though they had seen something interesting in the bush nearby. We slowly backed off and turned the vehicle around to be able to watch them.

As we all stayed still and silent on the vehicle we heard a rattling sound in the bush. It sounded a bit like something running over dead leaves and branches. One of the lionesses crouched down into the stalking position. The other 3 lionesses watched their sister and instinctively knew that meant the possibility of breakfast. They tactically split up and moved in different directions in an attempt to catch their prey off guard. One lioness started charging like a lightning bolt into the bush, dust everywhere. We could clearly hear the alarm calls from the impalas nearby. We still couldn’t see the impalas at this point. We just sat back and listened to the action unfolding around us! We then saw one of the lionesses that had been running down the road trying to intercept the impala suddenly slow down and stop. It was too late. The impalas escaped with their lives and were granted another day at Kapama. Soon after all 4 lionesses walked out of the bush looking decidedly disappointed with their failed attempt. After this they vanished into a very dense area and we were unable to follow them. All of us knew that this was a question of “close but no cigar”!!!!!

Story by Eduan Balt, River Lodge Ranger

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Buffalo Interaction

On this evening’s game drive we had a great sighting of one of our bigger buffalo herds. This particular group is more than 400 strong and it is always fascinating to watch the continuous interaction between herd members. They were slowly making their way towards a watering hole, munching on grass along the way. Once the buffalo arrived at the watering hole some drank whilst others had a mud bath. There were many scuffles as always between group members, with many of the males establishing or re-establishing their position within the group dominance hierarchy. The hide on a bull buffalo’s neck is as thick as 2 inches in places, which protects it during battles with other bulls for dominance. One can never disrespect these animals – in past years, the African buffalo has reportedly killed more big game hunters than any other animal in Africa. They are considered by many to be the most dangerous of the Big 5 as they gore and kill over 200 people every year. An African buffalo has four times the strength of an ox, and a determined buffalo can even tip over a motorcar!

It is always interesting to look at and compare the horns of buffalo. There is not any specific shape for a buffalo’s horns. They can spread outwards, downwards, or upwards. Some horns are extremely long and wide, whilst others have relatively small horns. The differences between the horns are therefore a great way of identifying individuals. The horns are used as weapons in battle. The two horns of the males are joined at the tip by a boss and they work as a shield covering the head during fighting. Adult bulls will spar in play, dominance interactions or actual fights. A bull will approach another lowering his horns and waiting for the other bull to do the same thing. When sparring the bulls twist their horns from side to side. If the sparring is for play the bulls may rub each other’s faces and bodies during the sparring session. Actual fights are violent but rare and brief. Calves may also spar in play but adult females rarely spar at all. The young males keep their distance from the dominant bull, who is easily recognizable by the thickness of his horns.

When chased by predators a herd will stick close together and make it hard for the predators to pick off one member. Calves are gathered in the middle. Buffalo show loyalty to one another and will often try to rescue a member that has been caught. A calf’s distress call will get the attention of not only the mother but also the herd. Buffalo will engage in mobbing behavior when fighting off predators. They have been recorded treeing lions for two hours, after the lions have killed a member of their group. Lion cubs can get trampled and killed. And even though they say that elephants never forget it is the buffalos you need to watch out for – studies show that buffalos remember their attackers and will not hesitate to retaliate – even at a much later date!!

Story by Sarah-Estelle Sangster, Kapama River Lodge Ranger

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