January 2013 - Ranger's Letter
Hi folks we had a few surprises and very good sightings these past few weeks, but some of them stood out…Brown Hyena, Lazy lions, a Steenbok mother with her baby is just some of the things I will be sharing with you in this months’ letter.
When we are out on drives we do stop to stretch our legs, light a cigarette have some coffee in the mornings, or have a beer on the afternoon drives’ stop…but sometimes we do get “surprises” during our stop…like this brown hyena busy marking and patrolling it’s territory. (They do have what we call an anal pouch, which they will use to mark their territory which we call “pasting”.) We were all enjoying a drink on the afternoon game drive stop, when suddenly this hyena caught my eye walking about 30 meters behind the guests, marking its territory! It was not bothered by us at all, and just kept on marking and walking pass us as if we were not there! We tried to pack up as quickly as possible to try and follow the hyena but it moved away from the road into thick vegetation, we stood and waited for about 5 minutes but no sign of it anymore, so we then decided to continued with the drive.
These two Steenbok were spotted one morning near one of my favorite drink stops in the reserve. It is a Steenbok mother and her offspring, not a male and a female! These antelope are what we classify as “Dwarf Antelope”. Very rare to see, and females are very skittish. They are very small with a shoulder height of only 50cm! They are monogamous, which means one male and one female will mate for life…like some humans..! However, you will more often see only one by itself…they will feed separately, sleep separately, and run away from danger separately…Maybe they have a “love-hate” relationship….
Now if you look very closely at the following photo you will see three of the “Big 5 “! Buffalo, white rhino and elephant, all part of the “Big 5”! White rhino and black rhino share the status of being “Big 5” but the black rhino is much more aggressive and short tempered than the white rhino. We spotted them at a very beautiful area at a waterhole in the south of the reserve called “Vlei pan”, one of my favorite areas in the reserve. It is a very long way to go, but it was worth it! We probably sat there for 30 odd minutes, before we decided to drive on. The other guides in the reserve were rushing to see these animals in action at the waterhole! This was very special and probably a once in a lifetime experience.
These two lazy ones, known in Madikwe as the Naledis (+- 6 years old), were as usual very active as you can see from the photo…We were about 2 hours in our drive when we were notified by another guide via the two way radio of these lions’ whereabouts. When we eventually arrived at the sighting these two were not moving, we thought they were maybe dead! We stopped very close to them, about 5 meters and still no movement! We sat and took photos for a few minutes and still nothing. I started the vehicle and reversed for about ten meters, and then moved forward towards them and still nothing, no movement! We did however see and hear them breathing, so they were and still are alive today! These two are part of a pride in the south of the reserve, they literally want to broaden their horizons, by taking over Madikwe, territory by territory. We see, and hear them once in a while going past The Bush House on the way to the North-North West of the reserve on their way to go and challenge the resident male for his territory, but no luck to this day.
And to end off with a bang…Cheetahs!
At the moment we have two 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. They were released from the boma on 19 December 2012. We do however have 4 other males currently in a different boma in the far south east of the reserve, which will only be released in January 2013…After two days’ release from the boma we encountered these two on our morning drive! What a surprise! We were so lucky and very happy to see these two, well one, the other Cheetah was hiding in dense vegetation, a bit camera shy I think…Single Cheetahs seldom kill prey heavier than themselves, but these two have been reported to kill animals as big as Eland! It is thus beneficial to stick together with your brother(s) which will help to catch bigger prey, get some females and of course a territory. Hopefully this was not the end, but the beginning of a new life journey in Madikwe for these two and the others that will follow …
Well folks that is all from me for now.
A happy and prosperous New Year from me Thomas and The Bush House family.