When the first real rain fell about two weeks ago it brought such relief to the dry dusty ground of Kapama. Within a few days the new green shoots of grass were starting to appear. My guests who were in-house for four nights also commented on the change in the grass colour and foliage from the day they arrived compared with the day they left. The animals were really starting to graze like they had not seen food for months. To me this change is most noticeable in the impala. Where ever I look, I see impala grazing furiously. These antelope are total mixed feeders. Depending on the time of the year, the amount and type of food available to them and the impala’s geographical location; they will adapt their feeding strategy to include either more graze or browse.
Impala are common antelope and for the most part form the base diet of most predators, especially during this time of year. It is the season where the impala are giving birth. This process renders the females in particular more vulnerable to predators, and endangers the whole herd in general. Impala have an average recruitment rate of approximately 33% per year; hence forming the base diet for most predators. The lambs being taken mostly by Black Backed Jackal, Baboon, Leopard, Cheetah and Lion.
The first impala lambs have been born and within the next few weeks the whole reserve should be booming with impala lambs. Nature is both beautiful and cruel at these times. A few days ago while on an evening drive, I found Mother Nature had dealt a cruel hand. I noticed a small new face staring out at us from under a Tamboti tree. On closer inspection, I saw a new born impala lying curled up alongside its motionless mother. What had happened? The female had obviously died shortly after giving birth from excessive blood loss. She hadn’t even had the chance to clean her young one. Sadness filled me inside; I felt the urge to interfere. I wanted to go and fetch the baby and take it back to the camp and try my best to give the baby a chance at survival. The one thing that stopped me was the realisation that this was Mother Nature’s way of ensuring the survival of only the strongest genetic material. As sad as it was, I knew deep inside me that this would have been a purely selfish act, involving myself where I shouldn’t be. Fetching the lamb would have taken the food from the predators and thereby upsetting the natural balance. I explained this to my guests and they were in agreement with me. With mixed emotions we continued toward the camp for a hearty dinner.
What became of the young impala I can only imagine. The next morning when we drove past the same area, there was no sign of the young impala or its mother. I humbled myself in the thought that nature’s cycle was not interrupted, and that the cycle is the important part of nature. The words of my Trainer from ten years ago echoed in my mind… “Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints”.
Paul Daniel – Kapama Karula, Senior Ranger
It is always fascinating to see the emergence of the Alates (flying termites) and to witness the hive of activity that results from that. Birds, small mammals and frogs all come out to feast on the termites who soon after their “nuptial flight” loose their wings and can be seen crawling around on the ground in their thousands. These alates are the reproductives (future Kings and Queens) and if successful in finding a mate, will start a new colony of their own.
While watching all these creatures feasting an the termites we also noticed a red lipped herald snake (earlier described on this blog) hoping to catch one of the “unwary” frogs around.
One might say it’s only termites, but it is a facinating moment in nature to witness the alates taking to the air.
Westley Lombard – Kapama Lodge Ranger
Whist out last night during the cold rainy weather, we did not manage to see a lot of game, however on our return to Buffalo Camp, we came upon an unusual sighting – an African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica), foraging for food.
The cat was relaxed and did not pay much attention to us viewing him, as he was too interested in what he was stalking.
The Sand Cat (Felis margarita) is the species found in even more arid areas.
African Wildcats are on CITES Appendix II that mean species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. The primary threat facing the African wildcat throughout its range is hybridization with domestic cats. Hybridization has been taking place over a long period of time, particularly in the north of its range where domestic cats arose thousands of years ago.
After a good 10 minutes of viewing, this beautiful cat was on his way and we were on our way back to camp.
Kobus van Schalkwyk
Ranger at Buffalo Camp
The relationship between predator and prey is a very complicated one. The rangers at Kapama Main Lodge were extremely fortunate to witness some of this behaviour yesterday.
Firstly yesterday was not good to be an impala, since we found a young female leopard that had killed a male impala around the Mamba dam area. She was quite skittish at first but as the day wore on and darkness fell she became more relaxed and many of our guests watched as she devoured the carcass.
We were also privileged to see our pride of lions on an impala kill yesterday morning. Unfortunately for the lionesses the dominant male lion ate most of the kill only allowing the three young cubs to feed alongside him. But this is where it gets interesting. Not far from where the lions were feeding; the buffalo herd were having a drink of water at a nearby dam. The wind direction was just perfect and they picked up the scent of the lions. Luckily for the cubs the lioness saw the buffalo approaching and called to them so that they would have enough time to escape. The male lion however was too busy gorging himself on the Impala kill. Finally, at the last moment, he turned around and saw the buffalo who were by now at very close quarters. He just had enough time to grab what remained of the Impala carcass and run for his life, disappearing behind one of the dam walls with the angry buffalo in hot pursuit.
The score at the end of the day was Predators 2 Prey 1.
I am asked quite often if and how we interfere with the welfare and lives of the animals we view on game drive. The simplest answer is no, we let nature to nature, but that is not always the case. Recently our large bull elephant got into somewhat of a tussle with a wandering neighbor bull. Subsequently his right tusk was broken. Now, elephants “in the wild” also fight, also break their tusks, and when nature is left to nature they may survive from such an injury or they may die a rather gruesome death from infection. Because our animals are in our wild, they are a part of our family, and are an investment of Kapama Private Game Reserve, when some thing like this occurs we step in.
Instead of letting this particular bull get a rather nasty infection in and around the broken shaft of his former tusk, and thus going crazy from pain and infection, we brought in a vet. We darted him and smoothed out the ragged edges so that infection would not occur. I was lucky enough to be a part of the darting along with two other rangers from River Lodge, two rangers from Main Lodge, Oom Paul from Camp Jabulani, and other Kapama personnel. We tracked and found him easily enough. The vet darted him using a mixture that is the equivalent of a dosage of morphine able to kill humans. He wandered for about 100 meters and then passed out. We checked his vitals. Supplied a stick to keep his trunk passage open, and made sure to poor generous amounts of water over his body, particularly his ears, so he stayed as cool and calm as possible.
The whole operation took about three hours. After which he was given an antidote to the sedative and as we sat silently watching, he rolled to his feet, looked around, and slowly meandered off. (One is want to muse if the bull was thinking, “what a strange dream I just had….”) Three nights later my guests and I watched him nonchalantly eating and walking, going about his normal elephant business, safe and healthy. It is not every day that we as rangers get to assist in such a fun, fantastic adventure and learning experience; it definately re-news your love of the bush!
Story by: Noelle Di Lorenzo- Kapama River Lodge Ranger