A new pride of lions – 4 adults and two cubs about a year old – moved into the area early in the month. They spent some time following a herd of buffalos, but were not seen to have been successful in a hunt. It will be interesting times when this pride bumps into the regular lions of the area – though they may have just been sneaking through their territory, in the hope of catching some food.
The three cheetah brothers were seen early on in the month, but then headed north into an area that we could not follow. Another type of cat – the caracal – was a more unusual sighting this month.
There were several leopard sightings, including a female leopard who was chased up a tree by the wild dogs. However, her patience paid off, and the dogs lost interest. When they moved off, she climbed down the tree, and fed on the carcass of an impala that was located about 50m by the tree. The dogs themselves hunted a young kudu for themselves that afternoon. Earlier in the month, we had also seen a male leopard who had pulled an impala into a tree and was oblivious to the hours we were able to spend watching him eat and relax.
Quite amazingly, all wild dog puppies have survived and are coming close to matching the adults in size. Now able to cover large distances as a pack together, they have been moving through the Kwando concession, going towards Lebala camp and then back again to the north-west every few days. This provides a challenge for the tracker and guide teams, but adds to the excitement, as hard hours of tracking are put in with the reward of a great sighting of the dogs at the end.
In addition to the known jackal dens from previous months, a hyena den has been discovered. Interestingly, there appears to be only one female hyena suckling her two young in this den. Three porcupines were seen coming out of a hole near the den, with the baby hyena snuffling around the hole when they had left.
The more unusual antelope – roan, sable and eland were all seen several times this month, together with regular sightings of giraffe, wildebeest, zebras and tsessebes. Breeding herds of elephants are seen throughout the area, and the bulls are still coming into camp – possibly looking for the marula fruit which is about to ripen.
The female cheetah with her two young cubs is still being seen regularly – every day or two in the month of March. Although we were not lucky enough to see her kill, she and her cubs are obviously well fed, and we often saw her resting and relaxing close to the waterholes. One morning, a jackal got a bit too close for comfort to the cheetahs –jackals often follow predators to see if they can scavenge any part of a kill that is made. On this occasion, the cheetah cub took offence, and chased the jackal, managing to hit it with a paw. The jackals escaped, but ran off calling in distress.
The recent rains have allowed fresh green grass to grown, making good grazing and attracting good general game including springbok, zebra and oryx. This in turn encourages the predators to the area, so as well as the cheetahs, we have had several sightings of the Nxai Pan pride of lions – a group of six adults with three young. One of the females was also seen with an unidentified male along Baobab Loop.
The larger groupings of zebras have started to move back towards Magkadigadi Pans, but there are still good sized herds of around 30 individuals left enjoying the grass around the pan.
The elephant bulls spend much of their time strolling around looking for good sources of food, but because of the limited amount of water available, they usually come via the camp waterhole at some point during the day, pushing the general game out of the way to drink.
The Tau Pan pride of lions were seen most days this month – often around the water hole near the camp. There was a bit of a concern on the 11th of the month, when it appeared two cubs were missing, and the females were slightly bloodied – it was thought possibly an intruding lion had been involved in a fight with the pride. Luckily after five days, all the Tau Pan pride, including the six cubs, were seen together again, looking in good condition. , Towards the end of the month, they were spotted feeding on a giraffe, which they managed to finish in one day! Two days later they pulled down an oryx during the night, and had finished it by noon the next day. It takes a lot to feed four adults, and six fast-growing cubs!
There were several sightings of leopards, including one male that spent 20minutes in the late afternoon relaxing on the road, before sauntering off.
After the March rains, the antelope seem to be increasing in the area – lots of oryx, springbok, and wildebeest seen around Tau pan and along the road to Deception Valley. The beginning of the month saw a few new additions: oryx and springbok babies were seen following their mothers closely in the Tau Pan area.
Investigating a cloud of dust that didnt seem to be decreasing in the breeze, a honeybadger was found digging in the ground. A couple of jackals stood off close to one side, interested in what the honey badger might discover, After about 15 minutes, the honey badger dragged a dead young warthog out of the burrow. The jackals tried to claim the prize, but were put off by the hissing and growling of the honey badger, as he trotted off into the bush with the warthog dangling from his mouth.
Another unusual sighting was of a snouted cobra, which was attempting to hunt ground squirrels. The squirrels, however, were having none of it: a head to head fight between both species ended with the cobra slinking off down a hole, perhaps for a bit of a rest from the chirruping and chattering ‘prey.
An interesting sighting of a pale chanting goshawk attempting to grab a guineafowl resulted in the goshawk being kicked and flung across the ground – leaving with a few bruises and a few less feathers!