Rangers Report March 2011
The female cheetah in the North of the property still has all four of her cubs after the death of 2 of them a while back and has been killing with regular frequency.All the cubs are wonderfully relaxed and have already provided many fantastic hours of viewing.They seem to have developed a penchant for climbing trees however and have yet to learn that this isn't what Mother Nature intended for them!The getting up part seems to be ok, being still light and agile little things, but it's the coming down part that provides for many a hair raising moment.They are truly little gluttons and after a kill while lying down they take on a beach ball ENGINE profile instead of their sleek natural curves.Mom recently provided some sport for the guests of Chapungu Tented camp by chasing and bringing down an impala right in front of tent 8!It was quite the show for the guests sitting outside on their decks enjoying a bit of "tranquility".
Our lionesses belonging to the pride in the Northern parts of Thornybush have decided, I'm sure, to let themselves go.They are the first wild lions that I have seen with a bit of fat on their bellies.They spent a leisurely 3 days a while back with a kudu that they killed in the Monwana river and 2 days previously passed the time by snacking on young warthogs.This coupled with all the wildebeest they killed at the end of last year (5 in one evening) has prepared them well for any lean times that they might face in the future.They have still not come into estrous yet and as so our Male up North has been spending a lot of time patrolling his territory.He regularly goes for up to 7 days without food while doing this.
All of the cubs (3) in the Southern pride have been doing very well and growing at a remarkable pace.Their mother has been killing regularly and has done a sterling job of raising them by herself.
The elephants have been a real treat of late often breaking from the Southern parts of the reserve that they normally frequent and wondering up to the top half.With the end of the Marula season however I am sure that our big grey friends will return to their usual habits of staying closer to the lush vegetation that lines the banks of the Timbavati and other drainage lines in the South.A great sighting was of them crossing the tarmac of Thornybush airstrip.They have probably not walked on tar for many years and for some of the younger animals it might have been their first time to feel the hardness and roughness of the tar.As they got onto the tarmac they lifted each foot individually and swung it back and forth, unsure about this new strange ground that they had just stumbled onto.Each elephant proceeded to do this little dance as they stepped onto it, quite comical for an animal of that size!Their confidance soon returned though and they carried on their way to the front of Main Lodge to quench their thirsts from our pan.
We have been spoiled with some fantastic Black Rhino viewing of late.Recently we had a sighting of a female with her young calf being followed by a male.The mother obviously didn't approve of his intrusion as he may have posed a threat to her calf.He would slowly feed all the way up to her and be promptly shoed away with a puff and a snort from her only to start all over again, slowly edging forward while feeding.The male's horn has a chip in it from fighting, and one can only wonder if it wasn't the female that gave him a run for his money.
The white rhino calf born roughly 2 and a half months ago is also doing very well and has proved to be very relaxed around the vehicles provided that he has the support of mom who is never to far off from him.
There has been a great deal of excitement on the reserve recently regarding one of our buffalo herds.One of the calves that has been born is completely white!It is incredibly rare and this phenomenon is caused by a white allele in the genes of the buffalo.This is a recessive allele and is normally dominated by the brown gene.In order for the buffalo to have been born white there must be a pair of the white alleles with no brown present in the buffalos genetic make up.If there is one white and one brown then the calf will be born brown but will still carry the white gene.That is how when 2 brown buffalo mate with each other, there can be a white calf being born. If both parents are carriers of the allele then there might be a chance the 2 white alleles are present in conception with no brown thus allowing the calf to be born white.We now know that this herd carries the gene and a hint at it has been one of the young calves being born with a white tail.A cherry on the cake however has been the recent arrival of another white calf in the same herd!Sadly however these white calves are at a greater risk of predation that their darker siblings as the white that makes them special and unique is also not the best camouflage in the world and they stick out from the herd when being viewed by everyone including predators.Only time will tell if they will beat the odds and make it to adulthood.
The leopard viewing of late has been fantastic with regular sightings of the rosetted felines being made.The 2 young male leopards on the property are doing really well under the care of their mothers who are providing really well for them.Both are around a year old now and have made significant kills for themselves, One has killed Grey Duiker and the other has killed juvenile Impala.A good thing as they are going to be making the transition to independence pretty soon.That will be a sad moment indeed as being male they will more than likely move completely out of the property due to the territorial nature of the species and we may never see them again.But for the time being they are proving a great treat to all who spend precious moments with them.Another recent bonus is the return of our dominant male Leopard and father of both above mentioned youngsters.He is a truly impressive male and we recently had the pleasure of watching him feeding on the carcass of a fully grown male giraffe.He was dwarfed compared to his meal and was torn over where to start feeding, climbing all over the massive remains.Hopefully he spends a bit more time with us before moving on to patrol the rest of his territory.
It's unfortunately getting to that time of year again when we start waving goodbye to our eight legged friends who over the last few months have provided much sport on the back of the Landies when off roading for some off our larger game.Many a guest has had the difficult choice of sharing a seat with a Golden Orb Web spider or taking their chances with a Leopard or Lion pride off of the vehicle.These gorgeous spiders are completely harmless but their size (the size of an open hand) make them intimidating to a large number of people.They are named after their silk that they construct huge webs with.These webs can stretch well across the length of the roads.The silk is a beautiful golden colour and is surprisingly strong.It has a greater tensile strength than the steel of the same thickness. They will be sorely missed until their return next year.