Chilly Winter Drives and Lion’s Eating

Winter has truly come. The days are warm but the early mornings and late evenings are cold cold cold requiring jackets, gloves, and beanies. One of The Four Lionesses has had her cubs. She is playing the dutiful mother, only coming out early mornings and at night to hunt and spending the days holed up with her cubs. Her sisters are in and out of the den site.

The other day my guests and I found two of the sister’s tracks and got to work. After awhile we found a small Kudu they had killed. It was very fresh but they had only eaten half, which is strange. We followed their tracks to water and then on again back towards the den site, (some few kilometers away), and into very thick bush to sleep for the day. That night we tracked and found the elephants and then we rewarded with a beautiful sighting of out large male and large female Lions.

The next morning we decided to see if we could catch the mother while she was sun bathing in an open area near her den. We found tracks but no visual of her and her sisters. Then, over the radio, another ranger, again quite a ways away, called in that they had tracks and then visual. As we got there we saw that all four sisters had ventured far from the cubs back to where the little bit of Kudu meat was left. But they were not eating the Kudu; they had killed a warthog shortly before we arrived.

My guests and I watched as first one Lioness ate, and then another came and eagerly took the kill and ran off, having her share, before I was again stolen by another Lioness. The crunching sound of their carnassicial shears and the blood spattered growling faces at such close proximity made one of my guest’s comment that it felt like he was inside National Geographic.                                                                                      

Fantastic sighting and worth the chilly morning spent tracking.

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger

Lion Kills Honey Badger

This morning my guests and I had the most amazing sighting! It easily fits into my top three sightings, (just under a Leopard killing a Duiker in front of the vehicle and then Lions chasing the Leopard off and eating the Duiker themselves.) We were following two sub-adult Lions, a male and a female, and our largest adult Lioness as they wandered and sniffed and enjoyed the crisp morning.

The young female started getting very alert and then her brother as well. The older female watched them but did not move from her course. Then the young female ran and pounced. Her brother followed and we started to hear strangling noises. As we came around the bushes, the young male had a two year old Honey Badger cub in its jaws. The Honey Badger was struggling, growling, and hissing but the Lion’s grip was too firm. The young female Lion was trying to get her paws and jaws on the Honey Badger’s mother but she was unsuccessful and she quickly gave up.

Finally, after about 10-15 minutes the male started eating the Honey Badger, being careful to keep it from the other two Lions. Then an awful stench permeated towards the vehicle. The Lion had punctured the Honey Badger’s anal sac. At this, he stopped eating and left the remainder. The adult Lioness, knowing all to well what was going on, started wandering back into the bushes, with the other two following.

Honey Badgers are known to be one of the most ferocious animals in the African Bush. The youngsters, however, are not as adept as the adults at getting away using teeth, claws, and a staunch stubbornness. I’m still in awe of what we saw this morning! Another fantastic and one of kind sighting at Kapama!

By: Noelle DiLorenzo – River Lodge Ranger

Cool Nocturnal Sightings

As we are going into winter with colder and longer evenings, and together with that the shorter grass, we have been fortunate the past couple of days to have seen quite a variety of nocturnal animals.  The other night we came across two honey badgers playing around, a very special sighting as they can be hard to spot and I haven’t seen one in months!  As we drove past a waterhole, we found a caracal drinking water.  He was extremely relaxed, and we were able to watch him for a while.  Just before we arrived back at the lodge, a civet also crossed the road, and while trying to look for it, two porcupines came walking down the road.  I am looking forward to what the rest of winter might have in store for us.

By: Maggie Bester – River Lodge Ranger

Colorful Wings

There is a popular belief that a butterfly has a very short life span but it all depends on the species of the butterfly. The life span can be between weeks to nearly a year. There are between 15 000 and 20 000 species of butterflies worldwide.

The development of a butterfly can be divided into four stages: 

Stage One: THE EGG

The egg is laid by an adult female butterfly on a plant. The egg can be laid from spring, summer or fall.

Stage Two: THE CATEPILLAR

This is known as the feeding stage. The job of the caterpillar is to eat and eat. As the caterpillar grows it split its skin and sheds it about four or five times. Food eaten is stored and the adult will use the food at a later stage. Caterpillars can grow 100 times their size.

Stage Three: THE PUPA OR TRANSITION STAGE

This is when the caterpillar is fully grown and it stops eating – the caterpillar will turn into a pupa. The pupa may be under a branch, hidden in leaves or buried underground. The pupa will be protected by a cocoon of silk. The stage can last from a few weeks, a month or even longer. From the outside of the cocoon it may look if there is going nothing on in the inside but there is actually changes taking place. The caterpillar is growing rapidly inside the cocoon that will develop into legs, wings and eyes.

Stage Four – Final Stage: THE ADULT BUTTERFLY OR REPRODUCTIVE STAGE

The adult butterfly has the characteristics of long legs, long antennae, compound eyes and beautiful colored wings. In stage two, the caterpillar’s job was to eat and now in stage four the adult butterfly’s main purpose is to mate and lay eggs.  Some species of butterflies feed on the nectar of flowers by flying from one flower to the next and some species do not feed at all. The adult butterfly consumes energy by feeding on nectar.

There is ore than 800 species of adult butterflies from 9 different families that can be seen in South Africa. There is 5 popular species namely Acreidae, Danaidae, Nymphalidae, Paplionidae and Pieridae.

By: Wayne Lubbe – River Lodge Ranger

Pre- Mating

What an amazing few days, the game sightings have been fantastic! There is one however that stands out. This has to be one of my best sightings on Kapama!

We were watching our big male lion and our unusually large lioness lazing around in the late afternoon in true African style when, from a near buy thicket, we heard another lioness calling, immediately the male lion got up and trotted off in the direction of the calling lioness followed closely by the large lioness, when the male lion met up with the calling lioness they began a “game” of cat and mouse, the female running off with the male in hot pursuit roaring and growling, first in one direction then in another and the large female following behind also giving a low roar every now and then.

We believe that the lioness’ calling was an indication that she was coming into season and that she was looking for a mate. What started out as a quiet late afternoon game drive turned out to be an action packed adventure for my guests. I’m sure that they will never forget it.

By: Ryan Roodt – River Lodge Ranger