Today was one of those typical days that reminded me of just how lucky I am to be doing one of the most rewarding and exciting jobs in the world!
My office has a different setup day after day and where most would complain about being stuck in the early morning in rush hour traffic, I can only be privileged to be stuck behind a herd of zebra or to watch a pride of hunting lions walking down the gravel road looking for their next meal.
This evening on safari we found a beautiful leopard mother with her two cubs on a warthog kill. The mother was comfortable with us in the area and while she was feeding we sat and watched her two little ones playing in the long grass just behind us.
After the sun completely went down we found a pride of lions. We followed them down the road to see them also kill and take down a large warthog boar.
Life in the bush is definitely a “eat or be eaten” game and by far not for the faint of hearted.
Wayne – River Lodge
I set out on my afternoon game drive with the intention of looking for a leopard. But not just any leopard, but one with two cubs. She had had a kill earlier in the day so my tracker and I thought that she would still be there in the afternoon. So we went straight to that area. As we were looking around we found some of her tracks going to a water hole and then going back to the same area in which the kill was. So we knew she was there in the block.
As we entered the block, we searched. We drove around for a while. There she was, walking in the grass. Briefly, we lost visual so we had to go around again. We found her lying in the tall grass. It took us a while to see her nicely as she is so well camouflaged. I tried to get a better visual of her for the guests but unfortunately the grass was too long. So we sat with her for a while with the hope that she would get up soon.
As I was talking to my guests about this amazing and elusive animal, my tracker, Alfred, said to me “look over there”. As I looked in that direction I saw something next to a tree. I was amazed. One of the cubs was lying in a small open area looking straight at us. The cub is around four months old and is adorable.
This was the first time I had seen a leopard cub this small and I will never forget it. These cubs are already very relaxed; therefore I hope that they will establish their territories inside the Kapama premises. They will make for awesome sightings in the future. Let us hope for he best for these little ones.
Hyenas are generally nocturnal and very cautious animals, not easy to find and when they are found they normally run away from vehicles. There are two types of hyenas, the smaller less aggressive brown hyena, and the larger spotted hyena. At Kapama, the spotted hyenas are generally seen more often.
Both species live in packs that vary in size and are lead by an alpha female. She is normally the only female allowed to breed but on occasion she will adopt other female cubs or let other females raise her cubs. They care for their young as a pack, bringing back food for the pups and taking turns guarding the den.
Contrary to popular belief, they are very good hunters, with a success rate higher then lions and leopards. Hunting in packs gives them the ability to bring down prey much larger than themselves which my guests and I had the opportunity of seeing.
During dinner the previous evening, we heard them calling to each other, so I decided to leave early on the next morning’s game drive to try and find these elusive animals. About five minutes into the drive we heard them calling again near by us. My tracker (Magnum) and I got very excited.
We saw two male hyenas running across the road and a flash of black and white just ahead of them. We then saw three more coming from different directions and heard the impact of bodies colliding. The excited yelps of the hyenas drowned out the painful cries of the fully grown male zebra.
We made our way into the block so we could get a better visual of the action. When we got there the zebra was already dead and the hyenas were feeding. Some were taking large portions away (probably to a den) and then came back. They had to keep numerous jackals at bay and they were soon joined and surrounded by vultures.
It was an amazing kill to see. Such a big zebra would have been a challenge for a small lion pride but the hyenas made it look quick and easy.
On one of my evening drives, the animals were not so active. Even though it started off quiet, we still kept on searching. Eventually we found two big lions walking in the road, one male and one female and we decided to follow them as they walked into the bush.
The female walked straight to a warthog hole so I parked the land cruiser a few meters away from her just incase something exciting would happen. Finally, the female tapped with her front paw on the outside of the hole and just then a big warthog rushed out of the hole and into the claws and jaws of the lioness.
We could not have asked for a better position to witness this kill. The male then came and took the prey away from her and started eating. I will never be able to explain the adrenalin running through my veins when we experienced this and I know that my guests will remember that for the rest of their lives. It was perfect timing – it is really all about being at the right place and time.
Janco du Plessis
Many come to Africa to see and experience the notorious “Big 5” and know very little about the other secretive creatures that occur in the wilderness. Therefore, I decided to share some information on these interesting, and rarely seen animals.
The Pangolin, also known as a scaly anteater, is something that is spotted very rarely – less than the shy Leopard. The Pangolin is extremely endangered due to the belief that their scales are medicinal. Nevertheless, the scales are formed from keratin, the same substance in the human hair or nail. It will use these strong, sharp-edged scales to protect itself and its young by rolling up into a ball, protecting its un-scaled belly.
Pangolins are carnivores and eat mainly termites and ants using a long, muscular and sticky tongue, as well as strong forelimbs for digging. Interestingly, their tongues are not situated in their mouths but rather near its pelvis. When extended, the tongue can be as long as the body. The Pangolin is an interesting animal and not much is known about this exclusive creature.
The Honey Badger, or Ratel, is another one of the secretive creatures of Africa. As the name suggests, Honey Badgers will attack bee hives to get to the honey. However, they will also eat the bee larvae. They are also known to eat birds, hares, snakes and even on occasion, small antelope. With regard to snakes, Honey Badgers are believed to have certain immunity to a snake’s venom. The most damage that can occur would be getting sick but once slept off; the badger is as good as new again.
Honey Badgers give the illusion of being “cute and fluffy”. However, they can be extremely aggressive when they feel threatened. They are known to take on fully grown male lions on their own. One of the reasons that they are so brave is that they have extremely loose skin and very long and sharp claws. Therefore, they can literally turn in their own skin, face the attacker and attack it with its claws.
The Aardvark, or Antbear, is another one of our most elusive animals. Like the Pangolin, it has a long, sticky tongue and eats mainly termites. They are nocturnal and will travel far distances at night to find the biggest and most inhabited termite mounds. With its strong feet and claws it can dig through the strong walls of the termite mounds. It has thick skin to protect it from bites from other insects and, interestingly, it can close its nostrils in order to avoid insects from entering them.
During the day, the Aardvark will sleep inside an underground burrow in order to keep cool. Ironically, it will use abandoned termite mounds for this purpose.
I hope this has given a different insight to the African bush and that many will be more aware of the other interesting and amazing creatures that occur in nature. Nature at its best would not be the best without all other components.
Kim Pretorius – River Lodge