Rangers Report August 2011
It was a sad month this month as our cheetah family that have been doing so well, the mother and 4 cubs, lost a sibling to another youngster on the property, the young male leopard in the north of the property. We weren't exactly to sure what transpired but the young leopard somehow caught the cheetah youngster and proceeded to consume it. It is not uncommon in the wild for predators to kill each other but they do not always consume one another. The reason why the predators will try and kill each other at any turn is because of competition for food. They all feed from the same pool of prey animals and the fewer predators that there are around then the more food becomes available to them. The leopard would probably have consumed the cheetah because of its nack for survivability and its willingness to take a wide variety of food no matter what the condition and taste that food may be in. While it is sad that the young cheetah has been killed it is however good news for the young leopard who has filled his belly for another few days and gained the energy and strength to himself out compete and out maneuver his enemies and hopefully live to adulthood.
The end of another dry spell draws near
As the winter draws to a close the temperatures have climbed steadily and there is already a feel of summer in the air. The knob thorn trees (Acacia nigrecens) are all in bloom and they create a beautiful light cream landscape in the bush. Always a beautiful sight during the morning drives. We are still waiting for our rains to come though and the water holes that have remained full throughout the winter are now becoming hot property as the thirsty game congregates around them to quench their thirsts after a hot day. This has given us some wonderful sightings especially of big buffalo herds coming down to drink. If you are lucky enough to get to the head of the herd and watch them coming in to drink you are in for a real treat. They approach the water cautiously at first, checking for predators, and once satisfied that all is safe they surge forward to the water, almost as if they have found a long lost friend. They enter deep into the water sometimes half disappearing into the water. This can go on for quite sometime and a few of them after having a drink may lay down in the water, catching a bit of a respite from the colonies of flies that constantly shadow them during the day. They are not the only ones happy to have arrived at the water hole though. Almost as if on cue a number of small round shapes head off to the buffalo like little torpedoes. They are terrapins, fresh water turtles. The little reptiles have a carnivorous diet and are well known for eating the parasites off of animals that wallow in the water. They proceed to feast and gorge on the abundance of ticks and other parasites that plague the buffalo. A sort of aquatic ox pecker if you will.
A few of the other animals that are also glad for the coming warmth are the crocodiles. Being cold blooded they are reliant on the outside temperature of their environments for their energy. While it has been cold they have not been very active and spent large portions of their days sunbathing. As the weather improves so they will be able to devote more of their day to hunting. It will also be easier for them to avoid predators as they will have faster and sharper reflexes. The smaller crocodiles in some of the dams will need the quicker reflexes to catch the nimble fish that constitute a large portion of their diet.
A good thing about the colder weather was that as it started warming up later in the mornings, the hippos would come out of the water to lay on the sand banks and bask in the sun. They are normally nocturnal and spend their days resting in the water. The buoyancy of the water supports their weight. Hippos cannot mate on land and need the support of water to help them. The water also keeps their skins from getting sunburned and drying out. They are grazers and can cover huge distances in one night to find enough food to eat, sometimes up to 40 km. an amazing feat considering their tiny legs and massive size. They have provided us with some great day time viewing out of the water lately though, a good thing about the cold!