Ranger Diary – May 2011

14In a recent blog update, we touched on how good the weather at our tented safari camp has been of late. With wonderful late rains the bush is looking absolutely fabulous. We are seeing an array of large herbivores abound at the moment with numerous sightings of elephant, buffalo, rhino and giraffe. The impala rutting season is in full swing and their guttural calls can be heard echoing throughout the bush. The predators are taking full advantage of this period as the impala rams have their mind on other things and are much more interested in fighting and mating than vigilantly looking out for danger.

21Our resident leopard population seem to have taken to the trees this month. On our numerous game drives and overnight walking safaris we have had wonderful opportunities to photograph these magnificent animals stashing away their kills or just taking it easy and enjoying the view from high up above. The leopard to the right is the Ntombi female and she strikes a wonderful pose as she has a look out for potential prey.

The photo below was taken by Martin Gagnon and is an absolute beauty. It is a wonderful example of the sheer power and balance a leopard possesses. This is the young male leopard known as Xinhopi and he is very fast becoming a firm favourite amongst guests. He too is taking advantage of the impala rams preoccupation and has fed on this carcass for a couple of days, which by the end, was completely gorged.

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Now many people believe that lions can’t climb trees. Well, that is definitely not the case as shown here by one of the Machaton lion cubs. In a previous blog entry you will find a very interesting article on the white lions who managed to successfully steal a leopard’s kill out of a tree (the white lions as you may know are synonymous with the Timbavati

41Private Nature Reserve as this is where they were originally discovered). Lions don’t have a problem climbing tree’s but run into problems when manoeuvring in them as they are just too large and bulky. Getting out of trees is often a very entertaining affair with them usually jumping out the tree at quite a height and landing with a considerable thump. All the cubs in the Machaton pride are doing very well and the males are spending a lot of time with the pride. It is wonderful to watch the interaction between the cubs and their fathers.

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Wild dog viewing has also been incredible over the last few months. One of our guests managed to catch a memorable moment on film when the dogs ran down a steenbok a couple of days ago. We will be sure to post this on the web shortly and will keep you up to date when we do. The alpha female looks to be pregnant and we are keeping our fingers crossed that she chooses a suitable den site close to camp!

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As we mentioned earlier, buffalo and elephant have been wide spread. This buffalo cow seems to be enjoying the grazing and is really getting stuck into the thicker grass vegetation.

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Elephants always provide endless entertainment as they feed and socialize with each other. Below, this young calf decided to come over and investigate the vehicle a bit more closely. With her ears wide spread and trunk raised, she came within ten meters of us, decided that we were not a threat and continued grazing.

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Over the last month we have done numerous walking trails and have been very fortunate to have had a vast array of encounters with various species. A real highlight for me personally was when we were tracking a small crash of rhino early one morning. We had been following the tracks for around an hour when they crossed a small riverbed and then milled around a small cove where the river took a turn. On approaching this point, we found what looked to be a large snake skin. On closer inspection though we found that it was not a snake skin but rather the after birth of a white rhino calf! We put the whole scene together and realized that the female must have separated herself from the group and found this cool well-sheltered spot. This secluded spot was perfect, off the beaten track and well hidden.

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After a 16-18 month gestation she had given birth to a single youngster weighing in at roughly 40 kilograms. What a find! We unfortunately never got to see the rhino but then Foreman managed to get a brief glimpse of it while on drive. I sadly never managed to get any decent photos of this momentous event, or of the youngster, but seen above and below are photos of another youngster, just to give you some perspective. This youngster was already a few months old when these shots were taken, very cute!

Sighting of the Month
This is also a fantastic shot taken by Martin Gagnon and depicts the surprised expression of the Foreman as he encounters a little frog that jumps over into the vehicle. It is so often that the smaller species are the ones that create those special moments in and around camp. These frogs are constantly found in and around the bar area at Tanda Tula as they prey on small insects that are attracted to the lights. They make large foam nests that can be seen over various water points in the bush during summer. As the eggs hatch, the tadpoles drop straight into the water below and continue their life cycle from there.

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Photos and text by Dale Jackson

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