We knew they were around. For a week or two, we’d seen their tracks on a couple of occasions, but at such a young age their mothers are extremely protective and like to keep their bouncing newborns secreted away in areas of cover. Rhino calves are something very special to see in the wild.
Now, between two and three months old, the little rhino calves are gaining confidence and becoming inquisitive – much like any other toddler. While still keeping a very close eye on their youngsters, their moms, too, are starting to let them explore more of their new world.
On game drives, we rangers always keep a good distance from young calves and any newborns in the bush. This allows them to comfortably habituate with our presence, rather than feel harassed or threatened by humans on a vehicle being near them.
With silent awe, I – along with my guests – watch as the curious young rhinos start edging away from the safety of their mother, and slowly move closer to our game viewing vehicle. Then suddenly the young ones realise how far they have ventured from mom, quickly bounce around and bound back to her for protection. It is a memorable sighting for everyone.
With the continued threat to South Africa’s rhino populations, I always try to impress upon my guests how fortunate we are to have any rhino sightings at all, and that I often fear that my future children may not be able to enjoy this privileged experience in the wild – unless some drastic changes occur.
In 2013, South Africa lost 1 004 rhinos through poaching, and by the end of May 2014 over 400 rhinos have already been killed for their horns. In the face of such alarming tragedy, it is particularly special to witness the miracle of two hopeful little rhinos curiously exploring and navigating the challenges of the first phase of their lives. With their continued drive to survive, and with the ongoing protection of their vigilant mothers and the countless people who fight on their behalf, maybe there is still some hope for the future of these prehistoric animals. Rhinos have walked the earth for over 60 million years.
Story by Kevin Samuels, ranger: Kapama River Lodge
Edited by Keri Harvey
I have had many interesting questions on drive from guests – some quite thought-provoking, and some that are just down right difficult to answer (and sometimes, not because they are intelligent questions!) One of the most common questions, however, is what hippos eat, and ultimately, how do they live in harmony with the other dam dwelling animals, especially crocodiles. The easiest way to answer this, I find, is by telling them an old African Folktale:
“When God was giving each animal a place in the world, the pair of hippos begged to be allowed to live in the cool water which they so dearly loved.
God looked at them, and was doubtful about letting them live in the water: their mouths were so large, their teeth so long and sharp, and their size and appetites were so big, He was afraid that they would eat up all the fish. Besides, He had already granted the place to another predator – the crocodile. He couldn’t have two kinds of large, hungry animals living in the rivers. So God refused the hippos’ request, and told them that they could live out on the open plains.
At this news, the two hippos began to weep and wail, making the most awful noise. They pleaded and pleaded with God, who finally gave in. But He made the hippos promise that if they lived in the rivers, they must never harm a single fish. They were to eat grass instead. God said that they were to show Him every night, that they were only eating grass. The Hippos promised solemnly, and rushed to the river, grunting with delight.
And to this day, hippos always scatter their dung on the river bank, so God can see that it contains no fish bones. And you can still hear them laughing with joy that they were allowed to live in the rivers after all”. (From: When the Hippos were Hairy and Other Tales from Africa: Nick Greaves)
People are always amused with this story, and children roar with laughter. Sometimes, though, this is the only way to explain things. It makes the drive more fun, and it often has a hidden meaning that people can think about. There are many African Folktale stories out there and usually only just about every animal you can think about.
Story by Angie (River Lodge)
Painted Wolf, Wild Dog, Cape Hunting Dog are all words describing one of the most successful predators you’ll get to witness on a safari anywhere in Africa. We at Kapama were lucky enough to view a pack of these incredible animals for the last week now, probably ( hopefully ) seeking new hunting grounds to include in their massive home ranges.
Unfortunately Wild dog numbers are on the decline and very few wildlife areas still exist where these animals can be seen in a natural environment doing what they are supposed to do. This mostly because they were invading cattle farms, and being as successful at hunting as they are, thousands of them got shot because of the threats they posed to livestock.
Rather than using stealth, cunning or brute power to bring down prey they hunt in packs and it takes a considerable amount of team effort for them to be successful With a 90% success rate this tactic obviously serves them very well as they employ cooperation and a good dose of stamina to run down prey and tire it out until such basically collapse out of pure exhaustion.
The pack we see at Kapama probably came through from the conservancy next door to our west, but in all indication it seems like this family is quite happy to be spending some time with us. Hopefully they will have a couple of successful hunts on the reserve and decide to include Kapama Game Reserve as a part of their home range, which would mean that we get to see them a whole lot more often than we used to.
It is truly a big privilege to have them here as their dwelling numbers everywhere throughout sub- Saharan Africa is a cause of great concern. For now we will just enjoy every single sighting of these amazing predators and hope they will decide to make this a part of their permanent home…
On a pleasant night safari the other day my guests and I were coming towards the end of the safari drive, when out of the blue we happen upon one of the rarest sightings I have ever experienced. It all started earlier during the drive when we found the young Southern Male lion fast asleep at Sunset dam. This male normally likes to associate with the youngsters and lionesses of the Moria pride (named after one of the areas on the reserve). Later that evening on the way to the lodge I thought I would go past Sunset dam again and sure enough found the same magnificent Male lion heading towards us in the middle of the road.
I pulled off the road and allowed this massive cat to pass mere meters away from the vehicle. The guests loved the thrill and exhilaration to have such an powerful animal go past this close, and also the fact that he trusted us enough to actually come this close, without paying us any notice. We followed him down the road and he then suddenly veered off his direction clearly showing signs of having picked up on a smell needing closer investigation.
At first we thought he might have picked up a females’ scent and as he moved closer to a bush pandemonium broke loose. He suddenly launched himself into the air behind the bush with a massive African Rock Python biting him on the muzzle. With enormous power he flung the python of his nose and darted back into the road. You could see that this was quite an unpleasant surprise for him and after a few rubs he continued down the road. African Rock Pythons can reach a length of about 6-8 meters and grow up to about 50 – 70 Kg in weight. This is pure muscle and they are extremely powerful snakes.
Obviously this would be quite a hearty meal for a Lion but I am sure this male would think twice before taking on such a powerful reptile again. We couldn’t help but smile when it struck us that this is probably the best example of the age old saying ” don’t bite off more than you can chew…”
Ranger Mike Powell
On a beautiful clear and pleasant afternoon on Kapama Game Reserve we had an epic sighting building up which culminated the moment we arrived. My guests and I found a big bull Elephant bull (around 30 years of age) and a younger bull (possibly late teens) having a bit of a tussle.
The older bull was clearly much bigger, so as we watched I didn’t expect this to go on much further than a few pushes and shoves before the younger bull would retreat from the bigger much more dominant bull. To my surprise the younger bull however wasn’t going to give up and the bigger one now had an aggressive teenager to deal with.
We were parked quite a bit further than the minimum distance for these big animals as from past experiences I knew that when two elephants really get into it, trees and anything else in their path will be demolished. Sure enough after a big shove from the older bull the teenager swung around and saw us at the end of the road. He gave us an exhilarating mock charge and I had to quickly give him some space.
He stopped charging after a short distance and I knew he was just a bit frustrated for not being able to dominate the bigger bull. As all this was happening the older bull then started to display a behavior I’ve heard of but not yet actually seen. He was kneeling down and it looked like he was injured. The younger bull noticed this and tried to shove him while he was down. As the teenager was close enough again the bigger bull quickly rose to his feet and gave the youngster a proper hiding.
It seemed as if the older bull “faked” injury and submission to lure the younger one back so the fight could continue. All my guests and I left that sighting with plenty to talk about at the dinner table.
Mike Duncan Powell – Southern Camp
This evening started off quite cold and we did not expect to see much. It was an overcast evening and it got dark earlier than usual so we stopped for some drinks. Just as we were about to pack up the drinks we heard the call of a Leopard in the area. I asked the guests to jump in their seats so that we can try find this amazing animal.
We drove into the bushy area where the sound came from but we could not find her. Alfred, my tracker, and colleague, Kim, decided to make our approach back to the road with the hope that we might find her there. She was in the middle of the road and then moved off into the bush and we then followed her and lost her.
We found the female Leopard again and she approached a warthog hole. She tapped with her feet at the entrance of the hole and out came about four warthogs, one big female with her little ones. I am not sure how many they were. Everything happened so quickly. They were all over the place and confused the Leopard.
She missed three of them, one actually ran straight into her face and she didn’t manage to catch it. But, eventually, she killed one right in front of us and another just a little further away. After all this exhilarating excitement, we found a spotted Hyena coming along. It stole one of the Warthogs the leopard had killed so the female leopard ran for safety into a tree and waited for the scavenger to leave the area. She then slowly got out of the tree and made her way to the other kill which, during all this commotion, she managed to hide away from any threat. Finally she could enjoy her feast in peace and silence.
This was truly a once in a lifetime experience and we will remember this moment for the rest of our lives.
Janco Du Plessis