The Bush House - exclusive private game lodge in malaria free Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa - Game viewing drives to see the Big 5

The Bush House

Ranger's Letter

 Hi folks,


For the past two, three months we had some luck with Cheetahs, as you will see in this newsletter...


Let us start with some sad news...


At the moment Madikwe has five newly introduced Cheetah males in the Reserve that is free roaming. They were kept in a holding area/ boma for a few months so that they can get used to their new home environment, amongst other reasons. They came from a reserve in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The coalition of two was released from the boma on 19 December 2012. The other 4 males were released in January 2013...


In our previous newsletter we mentioned that Madikwe has six Cheetahs, well folks, that is the sad news...Like I mentioned above, we only have five now. We can only speculate what happened to the one cheetah. The missing cheetah (the one on the right in the photo below) was part of the coalition of two. As faith has it, it is the one cheetah without the radio tracking collar on! Which of course would have made it easy for the Reserve Management to track it and find out why it died, or who, or what killed it...or where it is..."RADIO TRACKING COLLARS "(if you look at the cheetah on the left on the photo below) are fitted around the animals' neck, with some sort of a tracking device which make it easy to track animals and keep an "eye" on them...




The missing Cheetah has still not been seen by anyone in Madikwe, it has been months now...We can only speculate what had happened to him; maybe it got killed by Lions, Wild Dogs or a Leopard, as these animals are all a threat to Cheetahs. The other possibility might be the other four male Cheetahs were out on "patrol" and "surprised" the two males and one got killed in the process...But never the less, we are all still holding thumbs that he is some-where in Madikwe waiting to surprise us with his presence!


While taking it easy on one afternoon drive, I heard that the four Cheetahs were spotted near the Northern fence line of the Reserve. Nobody on our vehicle knew what we were pursuing as it was a surprise, because there are only five Cheetahs in the Reserve and they are not seen everyday! As we approached the four Cheetahs, no one on the vehicle knew what we were looking for until I stopped the vehicle next to them! Everybody was surprised and amazed by the four brothers! We stood there for a few minutes, took some photos, looked at them doing absolutely nothing...until one guide from another Lodge called for my attention. The solitary/ lone male Cheetah fitted with a radio collar (previous photo) was approximately 200 meters behind us, all five cheetahs not having a clue of one another's presence! We waited to see if anything will happen between the five, but to no avail...We proceeded to move to the lone male cheetah, but he was lying flat between bushes which made it difficult to see him or even try to take a photo! We once again stood there for a few minutes to see if they spot each other, but nothing happened. We then continued with the drive, listening out on the radio if the Cheetahs did perhaps spot each other and did do something...but nothing...The following morning we heard over the two way radio that the lone male was spotted again, not far from the area were we got all five of them the day before, still alive! While on the other hand the four brothers were gone, nobody knew where they were! The worst case scenario with the lone male is that the four brothers could have killed him if they spotted him and got hold of him, because he is competition to them! Luckily for him he is still alive today!




We have some other good news as well...lions!


One of our Lion prides from the south, the Bulayas, the mother being approximately six years old and the daughter four years old, had both cubs this year. The 2 cubs range between +- 2-3 months old and the other 3 cubs +-4-5 moths old. Due to the cubs still being very young, especially the 3 younger cubs, the mother will now and again hide them in different places so not to attract unwanted company. I got a bit worried at a stage because I have not seen the younger cubs for a while, then suddenly one morning we got word that they were spotted feeding on a Zebra, probably caught the night before, as there were not really a lot of the Zebra left! As we approached the sighting we got visual of all of them! The two mothers and all the cubs! What a treat! (The cubs are sometimes left unattended for a few hours or even for a few days, while the mother is out hunting; at that stage the cubs are very vulnerable to a wide variety of danger)




Cheetahs & Spotted Hyena on the same carcass??


It all started in the early morning while Werner was tracking some male Lions. Werner searched far and wide but no sign of these lions. He came across a Brown Hyena with some Impala making alarm calls some-where in the distance. With the Brown Hyena very interested in these Impala alarm calls, Werner and the guests set off and followed the Hyena into the bush. After a while following the Brown Hyena they came across four male Cheetahs. The Cheetahs were very "skinny" and very active, looking for any prey. With everybody's stomachs grumbling on the vehicle they decided that they will head back to camp to eat breakfast and continue in the afternoon to see if the Cheetahs will make a kill. That afternoon they went back to the Cheetahs, as they arrived at the Cheetahs they only saw two, the Cheetahs were busy stalking some Zebras...


They waited to see what is going to happen as the Cheetahs slowly creped forward towards the Zebra. Suddenly they heard a distress call further into the bush and Werner knew the other two caught something, but what? The two Cheetahs that were with Werner and the guests, rushed of to the de-stressed call, but in the rush the one Cheetah got left behind. They sat with the one Cheetah brother for a while as he was trying to get to his other brothers contact calling the whole time. Werner and company left the one Cheetah and went on to the other 3 brothers who had killed a Blue Wildebeest calf. Werner and company could still hear the one brother trying to call his brothers, but the other Cheetahs were to busy feeding on the Blue Wildebeest. With all this commotion going on other predators must have heard this as well, so the brothers were just eating as quickly as they can. All of a sudden two Black Backed Jackals came out of no-where just hanging around hoping for a piece of that meat, with the Cheetahs being much bigger they kept their distance.




Then suddenly two other Black Backed Jackals arrived out of no-where followed by another one with about 5 Jackals surrounding the three Cheetahs on their Blue Wilde Beest kill. After about 10 min the one lost Cheetah located his three brothers and also joined in on the feast of the Blue Wilde Beest. In The distance Werner & company saw the Spotted Hyena coming along towards the Cheetah kill. At first the Cheetahs were not happy with the Hyena, hissing and slapping at the Hyena trying to push him away. The Hyena was not bothered at al with them and just continued on wards to the Blue Wilde Beest kill. The Cheetahs then realized they are not going to win and just accepted the Spotted Hyena, with the Cheetahs eating on the one side and the Spotted Hyena on the other.
The Cheetahs and Spotted Hyena got so relax with each other that they even took turns in eating and even looking out for danger!


Some towering visitors on our morning coffee stop...


On one of our morning drives we decided halfway through we are going to make a quick coffee stop and also to stretch our legs a bit...As we pulled into the area where I sometimes like to stop with a beautiful mountain scenery, we were welcomed by a journey of Giraffes. They all gathered around what seems to be like a temporary waterhole all waiting their turn to get some water. We stood there for a while watching these magnificent creatures doing what they do best...being beautiful!


After a couple of photos we decided to rather let them be and continued a bit further on with the drive until we got to another good spot to have a cup of nice warm coffee. (Giraffes are water independent, but will however drink surface water when it is available. Giraffes get their water from the trees/ plants that they eat, which is also why you will not often see a Giraffe at the Bush House waterhole.)




And last but not least...another "ghost" of Madikwe, and that at the Bush House waterhole..!


One morning while I was busy in the office/ curio shop I noticed something "unusual" at the waterhole, something "new"...An Oryx also known as Gemsbok at the waterhole! I quickly made my way to the waterhole while staying undetected behind a tree. It wasn't even two minutes before the Oryx decided enough is enough and left very swiftly through the vegetation just behind the waterhole.


What an amazing sighting it was and that in our back yard!! All you need to have is patients and some luck sometimes! So folks like I always say, NEVER take your eyes off the waterhole you might miss something! Good news is that the numbers are increasing "naturally".


We spotted two Oryx's on one afternoon drive, but at a distance. As we watched them run off-like they usually do when you approach them, we saw for whatever reason something small between them, and at first we thought it was maybe a Steenbok or Impala, but it was actually a baby Oryx! We are so happy for these guys because it is always a good sign that animals are adapting to their (new) surroundings when you see babies.




(The last game count done by the Reserve Management was around 45 Oryx's in the Reserve! The Reserve Management planned to bring in about 50 Oryx's in 2012, but only some of them were delivered. We have no idea how many we have in the Reserve today, but we do have them!)


Folks that will be all for now, from me Thomas & the Bush House family!

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