October 2019 Sue & Gordon's Notebook
September 22nd each year is World Rhino Day. We seldom feature much about Rhinos in our newsletters mainly because of the sensitivity of the security situation around these amazing animals.
For those of you who follow our webcam via The Bush House website, we often turn the webcam away from Rhino sightings at the Lodge waterhole, for fear that seeing Rhinos in an almost "live" situation on our website could, in the wrong hands, lead to potential poaching incidents.
Thanks to additional funds collected from guests visiting the Reserve via the conservation levy, the Madikwe Futures Company (a non-profit organisation) has been set up primarily to look after the welfare of our Rhinos. The Reserve now has additional vehicles and equipment for the anti-poaching teams, significantly enhanced gate security and a control room set up specifically to coordinate all these activities.
Whilst incidents of poaching do unfortunately still occur, we can report that these are thankfully significantly less than what they could have been and for this, we owe a great debt of gratitude to everyone involved. From those who sponsor and donate to the absolute dedication of the teams on the ground.
Long may our children and their children's children have the privilege of seeing these great creatures in a natural and wild environment.
The picture at the top is of a Black Rhino cow and juvenile youngster drinking at the Lodge waterhole. You would not like to be chased down by this mother with that horn, and would not wish such an event on your worst enemy unless that person was an ill-equipped poacher. Could be an extremely painful experience! Black Rhinos are known to be very aggressive, unlike their White Rhino cousins.
Black and White Rhinos seldom come into contact with each other. Black Rhinos are browsers (feed on trees) and White Rhinos are grazers. So they eat different stuff and therefore generally live in different habitats. The exception to this rule would be when they need water, and can then come into contact. Even so, usually they will avoid conflict.
The night shot above is taken of a Black Rhino and a White Rhino bull facing off at the back of the Lodge waterhole. The White Rhino, with his back to the camera, is a good third bigger than the Black Rhino but is so much more placid. Nothing worse than some snorting and dust being kicked up and they were both off on their separate ways.
On occasions when different species meet up at the Lodge waterhole, one can never be sure what the outcome will be. Elephants and rhinos do sometimes get into a tussle, and unfortunately, when this happens, it is inevitably the rhino that loses out. This can lead to the rhino being killed by an aggressive and irritated elephant. In the picture below, the elephant is completely relaxed, but it is being closely watched by the White Rhino cow with her juvenile youngster.
If anyone remembers Looney Tunes - Tweety (the bird), Sylvester (the cat) and Granny - you have to remember the phrase "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat - I did, I did".
Well, you just never know do you?
A pride of lions, two adult females and three juveniles, visited the waterhole recently when we had no guests in camp. They, together with one of the territorial male lions, who have the lodge waterhole as part of his territory, were all very relaxed. You can often tell a young lion by the spots on the legs as with the one in the picture below, closest to the waterhole edge. He was intently watching the entrance to the underground hide where our two Front of House ladies were in the hide taking pictures of the lions.
Excitement peaked when this young lion got up and wandered towards the front of the hide. I joined the ladies in the hide to see for myself what was going on only to be snarled at several times by the young lion. The front grill was dropped as a precaution, as he was just a couple of metres away. His "aggression" towards us was more a combination of insecurity and curiosity than anything else.
Fortunately, the mature adults in the pride ignored this and did not get involved. You can imagine them thinking, "Here we go again - the kids of today!"
Summer is now in full swing in Madikwe. It is hot and dry at this time of the year. The rains have not yet started and will be most welcome when they do. Because it is so dry, the Lodge waterhole is under a lot of pressure at the moment, and it is a challenge to keep the water levels respectable.
Although great for photographs, we cringe when a huge herd of buffalo approaches. You can see them coming from a distance thanks to the cloud of dust they create as they move through the bushveld.
Only in the summer will Elephants that regularly visit the lodge waterhole get in for a dip to cool off. This all becomes very festive, both for the elephants and the guests who are either photographing from the lodge lawn or from inside the underground hide. If you are in the hide, you are likely to get a splash of mud or two. All part of the experience at The Bush House.
Do come and see for yourself and enjoy this great little corner of Africa with us!
See you soon,
Gordon & Sue