We set out this afternoon needing two of the big five to call it a done deal; the rhino and the famous Leopard.
I knew of a leopard that was seen earlier on during the day on a kill so I thought we should go out a little sooner than usual. As we got to the area where this leopard was seen, we saw the kill underneath a bush but no leopard in site so we sat there for a few minutes talking about the kill when all of a sudden here came the male leopard strolling in and started to feed.
This was truly a sighting of a life time but as we get ready to leave my tracker spots another leopard heading our way; a female this time. We could not believe our eyes; to have two leopards in one sighting is extremely rare. The female started making sounds as if she was calling a cub so we went to investigate. As we followed her we saw what she was looking for – a poor baby leopard that had been killed by the male. This is called infantiside when males of the same species kill a cub of the same species, most of the time in order to mate with the female. It was extremely sad to witness this reality.
However, it was an amazing sighting and my guests enjoyed it despite the loss of the baby leopard.
JT – Kapama River Lodge
Owls are birds of prey, meaning that they actively hunt live prey such as smaller birds, reptiles, small mammals and so on using very unique adaptations that set them aside from any other of the bird families.
Exceptional eyesight and superb hearing is two of the owl’s best features and combining these with the ability to fly completely silently makes for a formidable predator using stealth to take down its prey.
The most unique adaptation of Owl feathers is the comb-like leading edge of the primary wing feathers referred to as “flutings”. With a normal bird in flight, air rushes over the surface of the wing, creating turbulence, which makes a gushing noise. With an Owl’s wing, the comb-like feather edge breaks down the turbulence into little groups called micro-turbulences. This effectively muffles the sound of the air rushing over the wing surface and allows the Owl to fly silently.
The ability to fly silently makes it possible for an owl to hunt its prey using stealth and also gives it the opportunity to use its superb hearing in flight to pick up any changes in the movement of the prey. Although owls have excellent eyesight, they actually use their hearing a lot more in the hunting process than their eyes.
Some owls have asymmetrically set ear openings, meaning one ear is higher than the other. This is a very common occurrence in owl species which are completely nocturnal, such as the White-faced Scops Owl. These species have a very pronounced facial disc, which acts like a “radar dish”, guiding sounds into the ear openings. The shape of the disc can be altered at will, using special facial muscles.
An owl uses these unique, sensitive ears to locate prey by listening for prey movements through ground cover such as leaves, foliage, or even snow. When a noise is heard, the owl is able to tell its direction because of the minute time difference in which the sound is perceived in the left and right ear. Say for instance a mouse moves to the left of an owl, the left ear will pick up the noise before the right ear, the owl will then start turning its head until it hears the sound at the same time in both ears, this is how the owl knows when the prey is directly to the front of it. Being able to turn the head 270 degrees to either side also helps with this detection of prey using hearing.
Over the years there has been a lot of different folk lore and believes regarding owls all over the world and with many different cultures. But all and all these are extremely interesting birds and one of the most formidable predators keeping an eye, and ear out for their next victim.
Piet – Kapama River Lodge
It is Marula time in the Lowveld and everywhere you look you can see the Marula trees and fruit lying on the ground. Marula fruit is well known in South Africa and the delicious taste of Marula fruit reflects its origins as the “food of kings.” Marula fruit has up to four times the Vitamin C of orange juice. Many people from all over the world are also familiar with the delicious liquor Amarula that they produce from these fruit.
For years women in the rural areas of Africa have cracked the nut of the Marula fruit to extract the precious kernels from which the oil is made. Traditional uses include putting baked nuts into foods as a spice, over meat as a natural preservative, and in using oil from the kernels to soften the skin. Marula oil is indeed Africa’s miracle oil and it has remarkable qualities; it is rich in antioxidants and essential components for the maintenance of a healthy skin.
Can Elephants become drunk when they forage on the fruit of the Marula tree – this is an ongoing myth and tale that has been established now for many years…..?
The average human body weight is around 70 kg, while elephants weigh between 5000 and 6000 kg for males and 2500kg to 3000 kg for females.
An elephant would have to eat about 1500 fermented marulas to get drunk, meaning that an elephant must consume around 55 liters of Marula juice.
Elephants can consume one to two percent of their body mass per day. Thus an elephant eating only marulas may eat in the region of 30 kg of marulas in one day or approximately 714 individual fruits. This is less than half the amount of marulas needed to produce intoxication.
Wayne – Kapama River Lodge
With all the rains in the last couple weeks, we haven’t been able to drive off-road for quite a while. Asides from many vehicles getting potentially stuck, going off road in these wet conditions is extremely damaging to the soil and environment, and so we have to avoid it. While we understand the reasons, it isn’t always easy to accept as finding animals becomes a bit more challenging, and when we do see them they’re often in the thick bush.
This had been the case for the last couple of days with my guests while trying to find lions. It was the last morning drive of their safari, and while we’d managed to find a big male lion and then three females on earlier drives, we hadn’t been able to see more than a face lying down in the grass.
Towards the end of the drive, after finding our big lion pride once sleeping in the grass, it seemed we would be left wanting more again. Our patience, however, was richly rewarded when three of the lionesses got up and started to walk in front of our car. They were quickly followed by the cubs, who all stopped to have a drink of water in a puddle right next to the road. Soon after, they did what lions do best and went back to sleep. Getting to see them up and about and drinking right next to the car, it was definitely a special way for my guests to end a great stay.
Kevin – Kapama River Lodge
Over the last month, we have had some amazing and memorable sightings. Especially of three new young male leopards. Originally, our leopard sightings were short-lived and mostly of female leopards. However, with these new additions to our Kapama family, we have been seeing more of these cats.
Luckily for us, these males are extremely relaxed and do not really take note of the vehicles around – they just continue with their natural behaviours. This is very strange for these elusive cats as they do not usually stay in an area for long enough to be used to the vehicles.
Leopards have massive territories, usually overlapping with different reserves. The males, especially, have big territories – within their territories are about three or four female territories. However, two of the new resident males are still quite young so their territories are much smaller than a male’s territory should be. Therefore, their movements have not been so vast.
These males allow us to get a different view and insight of these amazing animals. Instead of seeing them for just two or three minutes, they allow us to spend a lot of time with them, thereby allowing you as guests, as well as us as rangers, to learn and experience various behaviours of leopards.
Kapama welcomes these new male leopards with open arms and we hope that they stay and form their territories within our boundaries. Hopefully, then, our leopard sightings will become a more common and memorable experience.
KC – Kapama River Lodge