July 2016 Ranger's Letter
Here are a few stories from my ranger diary that I would like to share with you:
Digging out a porcupine!
The cold has set in, in Madikwe, but sightings have been warm so far this winter. On one of these cold crisp mornings, we left the lodge with big hopes on finding lions in the south of the park.
The resident lion coalition in the area, had been chased out of the area by 3 new males, so therefore finding lions was a struggle due to the distance they had travelled in order to establish a new territory. We spent most of the morning following a young females tracks that lead us to tracks of the rest of the pride. Time was against us and I was starting to get worried if we would be able to find the lions, but as things can change in the bush, another ranger called me and said in a very excited tone that I should find 5th gear on my cruiser and get down to the southern fence cause he had a surprise for me.
At this time we were on the ridge approximately 25minutes away from the southern fence, so I spoke to my guest explaining that there was obviously an extraordinary sight of some animal and that I thought it was a great idea to make our way down there. Everyone including myself was happy to make our way into that area, as our curiosity was killing us.
When we got near, I queried with the other ranger if it was still okay to approach his lock, he explained clearly to me that it was a 2 vehicle lock but he will make space for me. So we approached nice and slowly, everyone very curious as to what was waiting for us. When I got into the lock the other station was there looking into a thick buffalo thorn shrub, I asked him in a low tone what was in there? He answered nothing Gregg and pointed to the other side of the shrub and there it was a beautiful male Leopard, busy digging. He dug for about 5 minutes and then stuck his head into what looked like an old warthog hollow and brought out a porcupine. This was such a surprise cause first of all leopard in Madikwe is gold and porcupine is even better… such an amazing experience, we spent about 25 minutes watching him professionally eat this creature.
Black rhino, these animals are extremely rare and sightings of them are only for adrenaline junkies. I always say that in a black rhino sighting they are always running, either away from you or towards you. It’s all fine when it’s away from you, but when they are running towards you things start to get serious. So we had a full camp of Photographers with huge cameras and lenses, they were eager for some adrenaline or action photos. So this afternoon we decided to go up north for some white rhino and big herds of elephants. We stopped around one of the local pans to enjoy two big elephant bulls drinking and mud bathing. After about some time spent and shutters going off around the pan, I decided to carry on with the search for some rhino, we were driving through a relatively dense Acacia malifra ( black thorn) thicket when I heard a sudden snort, this snort was very distinctive, but I just could not put a face to it until we exited the thicket, and there it was, a young black rhino bull who was definitely not happy to see us. After jogging away from us, he was approximately 100m away. I stopped and switched off the engine to enjoy the sighting. He became curious and brave, and started testing us. He charged from about 70m and within seconds he was almost on top of us, and I started to smell fear coming from the row behind me. He then stopped and felt very comfortable with the vehicle and left us with racing hearts.
Just a quick update, all nine pups are still around and in great condition. Over the past few weeks the dogs have been situated a bit out of reach, and we seem to think it’s because they are looking for a denning sight. They become very localized during this time of the year, due to these den sights. One afternoon we left the lodge with the intention of finding a leopard. After a long afternoon of tracking and not being successful, a update comes through on the radio that the dogs have been located at a dam relatively close to the lodge. By this time it was already too late to make my approach due to light disappearing and wild dog sightings being closed after sunset. I started planning and working out what their route from there would be so I could focus on relocating them in the morning. I decided to update the guests about this and that it would be a good idea to leave 15-20mins early in the morning in order to relocate them.
Everyone seemed very happy with the idea. The next morning I woke up earlier than normal due to excitement for the wild dog relocation and got down to the lodge earlier than normal and made coffee and got everyone up and ready. We left 25minutes earlier to start our search there were other rangers out as well with the same idea. So we started a relocation team to cover a larger area in a shorter period of time. This was going bad, as we couldn’t relocate on any spoor,as it seemed like they used the hard ground to get around… I was starting to lose hope, and started to devise a new plan. Then another lodge called us on a safari channel stating that the dogs are at their waterhole. That specific lodge is situated in a really dense area and we were all very worried about them disappearing into the thickets, and that is exactly what happened. After the first vehicle managed to get visual they decided to move south away from the waterhole into the thickest vegetation in Madikwe, I still stated “just my luck”. So the relocation was back on, at least we had a better idea where they are and where they could end up. We worked the area, while keeping an eye on the different animals around to look for distress of any sort.
Suddenly….. they popped out on the western side of that specific lodge, and we were able to make our way to them. When we got into the sighting they were busy feeding on a impala. Within seconds, there was nothing left. During the whole sighting, we had the pups around the vehicle fighting over different limbs. Definitely one of the best wild dog interactions I have ever had.
After a few game drives and only seeing a few solitary bulls here and there, I decided to look for interaction with a large herd. We made our way in the direction of a reasonably large dam with a good source of water. On the way, we came across a tower of Giraffe feeding on some Tamboti trees. There was also an upset white rhino bull. We arrived at Tlou (elephant) dam to find over 100 elephants drinking, playing and mud bathing. this was exactly what I was looking for. There were both male and female of all different age groups and/or generations. We watched them interact around the dam for almost an hour.
This was something that one would never forget. The sighting of these beautiful creatures was not only interesting but we had perfect light on them for photography. Some small things that occurred in this sighting that I will never forget, was that a young female was pushed into the dam by 2 other young ones. To watch this young female struggle to get out was very interesting, because every time she got close to getting out, the other two would nudge her back in. We had a good laugh at this. The little female eventually got assisted by her mom and the fun and games were over. The poor thing was exhausted.
Looking forward to seeing you at The Bush House soon,