Safari Update by Matthew BrennanMay, 08, 2014
Over the last few months things have changed dramatically. Firstly the rain has stopped, leaving behind it an ever widening sand river, eroded roads and an ever changing landscape. As we move into winter we are experiencing the very short typical autumn that is common for the sub-tropics. So the bush is starting to turn yellow and brown, and the lovely green is starting to fade into non-existence. Interestingly the green we see is from a pigment in the leaves of the vegetation which assists in turning the light from the sun into energy for the plants, as the water dries up the plant is unable to create food and so it saves it’s energy by removing the chlorophyll and dying back, leaving energy in its roots for the next rainy season.
The Sabi Sand is famous for its cats, and at the moment it is a veritable melting pot of action and change. Dewane (Dayone) is no longer the territorial male around Inyati. He has been pushed west by a male leopard coming in from the east called Nyeleti.
We have seen them together fighting on several occasions. Nyeleti however scored a victory over Dewane, as we saw him limping heavily with a suspected broken foot. Dewane seems to be recovering but it is uncertain if he will ever claim his territory back form Nyeleti. We also had Kashaan male who typically resides quite a bit south of the lodge on the airstrip a few days back having a stand-off with Nyeleti.
With all the rain we have been unable to cross the river for a few months which meant we have not seen the likes of Hlangisa, the moment we could cross though she was waiting for us. The reason she was waiting is that she wanted to show off the fact that she was lactating which means she has cubs again. The next step for us will be to find her den site. Also lactating at the moment is Hlaba Nkunzi, we have good information though that she is denning to the east of Inyati’s traversing. Xhikave has been mating with Nyeleti and the more optimistic of us are seeing a bit of chubbiness suggesting that she is brewing a new litter.
Something that we need to hope for is that a male like Nyeleti matures quickly into a leopard who can keep competing males at bay, this will give the females on his land the stability they need in order to raise the cubs successfully.
There has been absolute turmoil of late. The Majingilanes have been skirmishing into the Selati’s territory at will and have been so far unopposed. When they first came over they caught one Selati on his own and really hurt him badly, since then the Selati’s have just seemed old and tend to move away when the other lions roar. The majingilanes on the other hand despite the fact that they are older than the selati’s look in terrific condition and have really been driving their dominance home. This is not the good news the prides that occur here have been hoping for. Lion behaviour tells us that if the Majingilanes find the cubs of the Othawa Pride or the Xhimungwe Pride they will kill the cubs. Reducing the populations of both prides back to three each, this should stimulate the females into cycle so the Majingilanes can pro-create. However given the advanced age of these lions and that their territory is extensive, the likelihood of their offspring surviving would be low, leaving the Xhimungwe’s who are currently past the 10 year age bracket without much time to continue the lineage of the pride. So I hope that the Majingilanes return east for at least the next 6 months to give the two prides a chance to raise their respective cubs and continue their prides illustrious names.
There have been very many cheetah sightings of late; we have also seen a kill or two by these animals. The wild dogs have been frequenting the north a bit and while we have struggled to cross, we have on occasion seen them playing in the sand in front of the lodge. We have heard rumours of two packs denning in the Sabi Sand, so here’s hoping they change their minds and move this way closer to the date of birth. There has been a lot of elephants as is usual in this area with really big herds seen at sunset crossing the river.