Lebala, September 2017 Sightings

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During September the resident Wapoka pride of lions were still hunting very successfully and we found them feeding on zebra carcasses on several occasions.  However the big herds of buffalo were a tempting target as an adult buffalo would provide a substantial meal for this fast-growing pride. Towards the middle of the month the lions attacked a massive breeding herd which had calves enveloped in the middle and was being protected by some formidable bulls. Four females and five sub-adult cubs started to chase the buffaloes to the marsh. One of the females managed to bring down a calf, which was soon taken over by the male lions who started to feed. Unfortunately, two of the cubs were badly injured in the stampede. One of the cubs was found dead few days later, the other could not move for some days but luckily it survived and was seen with the rest of the pride later during the week. Following that incident, the lions were seen hunting easier prey such as kudu and wildebeest.

Hyenas have also continued their strategy of following leopards when hunting and as soon as a leopard has made a kill, then they come in good numbers to outnumber the cat and take the carcass. With the lions they did not dare to try and steal the kill, rather they waited for the lions to finish feeding before they scavenged on whatever was left. Hyenas were also seen gorging on an elephant carcass that the guides suspect died from an old age. The den was still active and guests were able to see female hyenas nursing their cubs.

A pack of nine wild dogs were seen from the middle of the middle of the month onwards. They looked well-fed and in good condition. One afternoon, as we were following them hunting, two nomadic dogs from a different pack came and killed an impala in camp, right in front of Room 2. The camp called in the remarkable sighting so that the guests could come and enjoy watching them feeding. On another occasion we heard the dogs making contact calls with each other. When we followed up we found the pack fighting with hyenas over an impala. Eventually the wild dogs were outnumbered and they had to give up their kill to the hyenas.

It was a very tough month for a resident female leopard called Jane as time and again she lost her hard-won meals to the hyenas, but when she had the opportunity she was quick to haul her kill up on trees, leaving the hyenas waiting underneath for any scraps that dropped onto the ground.  Tawny Eagles and Bateleurs led our guides to find Jane devouring a female kudu, a large meal which kept her occupied for a couple of days. A tom leopard was also seen as well as Jane’s two sub-adult offspring who were increasingly seen on their own.

General game was very good as most of the natural water holes had dried out increasing the concentration of animals on the river, including breeding herds of elephant, big numbers of buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. A beautifully relaxed herd of sable antelope were seen.  Guests enjoyed seeing three honey badgers hunting for mice.

September heralds the start of spring in the bush and several of the trees including acacia species and the Sausage Tree started to produce beautiful blossoms and fragrant scents. We are starting to see different species of birds as they come for breeding and good numbers of different vulture species feeding on the leftover carcasses.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

 

Lebala, August 2017 Sightings

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Once again, the Wapoka Pride of lions took first prize for sighting of the month at Lebala. The two pride males took down a baby buffalo right in front of the game viewer. Not content with killing their original target, the two males rather rashly decided to try and tackle another two adult buffaloes at the same time, pouncing on one each. Wapoka means “crazy” in Setswana and on this occasion, the lions lived up to their name. Rather than help each other out, each male stubbornly hung onto his own prey animal, but the buffalo managed to take advantage of this situation and were successful in standing their ground, chasing the lions away. The two buffalos stood up and rejoined the others as the herd ran away, leaving the lions to make do with the calf that they had originally killed. They were seen in another confrontation with buffalo later in the month with the hunter and hunted chasing each other for three hours. They were also located hunting along the river chasing red lechwe but were not successful. Whilst following the lions we saw them come across hyena and behave aggressively towards them.

The hyena den was very active and the puppies were getting ever more inquisitive, coming to inspect the vehicles closely and even trying to bite the tyres. The adult hyenas were now starting to bring meat to the den. At another time, two spotted hyenas had disembowelled a hippo outside one of the natural watering holes. The hippo escaped by running into the water where the hyenas couldn’t damage it further, but the hyenas waited for days on the periphery of the pan for the hippo to come back out. Even whilst the hippo was still alive some white-backed vultures started to feed on it.

The resident cheetah brothers, who have been working in a coalition since they left their mother last year, got more than they bargained for when they tried to take on a herd of wildebeest. They didn’t manage to single any one animal out and then the antelope turned on them, chasing them until they drove one cheetah up a tree in its desperate attempt to escape. A different single cheetah was found marking territory and enjoying a warthog kill before drinking and disappearing into the mopane woodlands.

Other notable sightings during August included a lovely view of a very relaxed African Wild cat and a huge African python seen at basking at Nare Pan

As the natural watering holes dried up in the mopane woodlands found to the west of the concession, large numbers of elephants started to herd towards the Kwando River which will provide their main source of water for the next few months. Breeding herds with several young elephants were often seen close to the lodge. As guests were eating dinner they enjoyed hearing elephants munching the vegetation nearby. One evening at a sundowner stop, a herd of elephants started to approach the vehicle. The guide advised the guests to get into the safari vehicle and stay still. As the herd passed, the guests were awe-inspired by the matriarch staring straight at them.

Other herbivores seen included herds of buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and impala. Following the good rains this year there was still plentiful grazing and the animals appeared to be in good condition.
Birdlife was also very rich, especially on the almost dried water catchments where storks, herons and other water species fed on insects and frogs stuck in the mud.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala, July 2017

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Lebala’s sightings during July were incredible, and will be particularly remembered for the remarkable interactions between the different predator species. Lions, hyenas, wild dogs and leopards were all seen engaging with each other as rivals.

Guides located a number of different individual leopards during the month, and these elusive cats were at the centre of many of the sightings where inter-specific competition was displayed. One day, the Wapoka Pride chased two resident leopards, Jane and her son, up onto a tree. Two lionesses followed them up onto the tree and this game of chase progressed higher and higher up into the branches until the lionesses lost their balance or their nerve and eventually had to give up. They returned to ground, waiting some 50 metres away for their quarry to come back within striking distance. A different leopard was in a similar predicament a few days later as it was found up a tree surrounded by wild dogs. Hyenas were also seen following leopard to scavenge, at one point disturbing a male’s opportunity to stalk some warthogs.  As ever, the prey animals were also determined to make life hard for the leopards – one morning we followed up on a jackal alarm call to find a leopard trying to catch a porcupine by its head. The two animals danced nervously around each other, porcupine trying to turn its quills towards the leopard and the cat darting back around to try and get to its head. Eventually the porcupine found a moment to dash into the undergrowth and escape.

The Wapoka Pride of 6 adults and 9 young were seen almost every day. Towards the end of the month, we were enjoying a relaxed game drive and were watching a big herd of buffalo from a distance. We spotted the pride of lions approaching the buffalo and, anticipating some action, the guide got into a good position. The lions started to surround the buffalo who fought back determinedly. The lions paused, came up with a new strategy and this time it worked as they managed to bring down a sub-adult buffalo. The young buffalo’s distress call attracted the attention of a clan of hyena who came in large numbers and after a fierce fight eventually managed to drive the outnumbered lions away.

On another occasion the guides found a carcass with lion tracks around it so followed up and found the lions resting by a pan. As we watched, a herd of zebra come down to drink. The lionesses stealthily stalked into position and were lying flat on the ground ready to ambush when the male lion ruined everything by standing up and stretching for all to see. Not surprisingly the zebra herd bolted. The two pride males were located often, sometimes making our lives easier by calling very close to camp in the morning as they patrolled their territory. They seemed to enjoy warming up from the chilly winter nights by basking on termite mounds. Guests were able to get some stunning photos of them yawning, revealing impressive canines, in the early morning light. The lionesses and cubs were seen on other kills; the youngsters’ energetic play making for entertaining photographs.

There is currently a very active spotted hyena den on Lebala, with ten cubs. We were privileged to witness the mothers nursing their young. As the month progressed, the cubs became increasingly inquisitive, even coming right up to our vehicles to sniff the tyres whilst their parents were away hunting. The spotted hyena clan kept a close eye on the movements of the Wapoka Pride and were seen more than once finishing off the cats’ kill by crushing bones and eating the remaining scraps. Although well-known as scavengers, spotted hyena are successful predators in their own right and one individual was found disembowelling an old hippo at zebra pan. The hippo ran away into the pond, but did not manage to escape. The next day 20 hyenas were feasting on the carcass, including 3 cubs. Black-backed jackal and white-backed vultures were hungrily waiting for their chance to feed.

The coalition of two young male cheetah were looking well-fed and in great condition. We saw them targeting wildebeest calves by bursting into herds trying to cause enough chaos to give them an opportunity to get to the youngsters. The wildebeest managed to outsmart the cats more than once, protecting their calves and eventually running into thick bushes where the cheetah could not use their speed.

There are large herds of elephant, buffalo and giraffe in the area as well as giraffe, kudu, zebra, wildebeest, impala, sable and warthogs. Smaller mammals seen included honey badger, civet and African wild cat. Birdlife was rich, including many water birds such as herons, yellow-billed storks and Egyptian geese. Birds of prey included bateleur, tawny eagle, brown snake-eagle, black-chested snake eagle, and Verreaux’s eagle-owl.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala, June 2017

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Sightings at Lebala camp were excellent during the month of June, with lots of predator action as well as great general game sightings.

Two different packs of wild dogs were seen during June. There is a relatively new pair of dogs, alpha male and female, who seem to be settling in the area. During the month, they made a kill of a bushbuck within the lodge area; unfortunately for them their kill was taken by hyenas however the dogs spent their day at the camp sunbathing. The Southern Pack of fourteen dogs were also seen regularly, often hunting; we were lucky enough to see them bring down and feed upon a male impala, watched hungrily by two hooded vultures. We were also lucky enough to see their ritual greeting ceremony.

The hyena clan have now left their den, but single hyenas were frequently sighted, often on the move as they looked for food.

The Wapoka Pride of 4 female lions, 6 sub-adults and 3 small cubs were often found and were a favourite with guests as the cubs were often playing, or interacting tenderly with the females. In one exciting sighting, we had been following the lions as they stalked impala, then all of a sudden two of the sub-adults burst forward to chase the antelope. We lost sight of the action as the animals dashed into the long grass, but then as we stopped the vehicle to scan for activity an eerie and intense howling was heard nearby. We quickly responded and found the pride killing a wildebeest, watched on by several hyena. Their whooping calls drew in reinforcements and eventually they were able to overpower the lions through sheer numbers. Within 30 minutes the massive clan managed to clean up the entire carcass.

Leopards were often seen, usually the resident female known as Jane; her two strapping adult sons were also in the area.

A female cheetah was located perched on termite mound to get a better vantage point of the game around her. As she started to hunt she disturbed a yellow mongoose who was searching for lizards in grass. This female was new to our area, but seemed very relaxed around the game viewers, so we believe that she may have moved across from a neighbouring concession. The coalition of two male cheetah also paid a visit to the area and were seen on an impala kill.

General game was still plentiful; as the natural watering holes were drying up massive herds of elephant and buffalo were seen as they made their way towards the riverine areas. The large herd of eland was still in the area, as well as the beautiful roan and sable antelopes. Other resident antelope species included zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala, red lechwe, tsessebe, reedbuck and kudu.

Although the summer migrants had mostly moved on, some Carmine Bee-eaters were still in the area, unusual for this time of year. One of our trackers was commended for his sharp eyesight as he picked out the tiny and well-camouflaged Pearl Spotted Owlet. At the other end of the scale, the massive Verreaux’s Eagle Owl was also found. Wattled Crane, Ground Hornbill, Marabou Storks and three species of vulture were also seen during June.

Smaller mammals found during the month included a beautiful rare sighting of an aardwolf during a night drive. We were also successful in locating bush babies, honey badger, small spotted genet and African wild cat

As night-time temperatures dropped it was vital for endothermic animals such as reptiles to regulate their body temperature using the sun. Crocodiles and snakes were frequently observed during the warm days; species seen included puff adders, olive grass snakes and a massive African rock python basking on a termite mound.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala, May 2017

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The resident pack of 12 wild dogs were seen frequently in the Lebala area. After finding them sleeping under a mophane tree one morning we followed up in the afternoon drive and found them chasing wildebeest. The herd managed to stand their ground and in the end the dogs gave up and moved towards the airstrip. Suddenly four hyenas moved in. One of the dogs went directly to the hyenas with his head lowered and his aggressive pose was sufficient to drive the hyenas away. The following day the pack was seen feeding on a tsessebe carcass.

The hyenas have a den in the area and it was very special to see the females interacting with the cubs. Quite at odds from their rather fearsome reputation, hyenas are wonderful mothers. On one occasion hyenas were witnessed mating, so hopefully we will have another family to watch before too long.

A very relaxed young male leopard, who we have known since a cub, was seen feeding on a jackal. We watched him dragging the carcass to the shade, at the same time calling for his partner who was not around at that time. His mother, known as ‘Jane’ is still resident in the area and was found one morning on an impala kill; her position given away by Bateleur and Tawny Eagles who were spotted descending to the ground. Leopards are very opportunistic feeders and other notable sightings included a magnificent male with a wildebeest hung up in a tree, a female with a face full of francolin feathers, and another young leopard pouncing on a mouse.

The Wapoka Pride consisting of four lionesses and 11 young were seen regularly. Once on a zebra kill the three smallest cubs of just 3-4 months old were very active, fighting for the meat. We were also fortunate enough to see the pride take down a warthog right in front of the vehicle. As the pride is so big the warthog was not enough and so there was lots of fighting and snarling over the carcass.

We came across the two large resident male lions calling for each other and once reunited we were able to watch them nuzzling and rubbing their heads together in a bonding ritual. Another time we witnessed them chasing a warthog, but on that occasion the prey got away. Later in the month they were seen on an elephant carcass.

A lioness from the Southern Pride with two small cubs stayed in the area; the cubs were still quite shy of the vehicle and apt to keep dashing into the bushes, however some lucky guests did manage to get a wonderful sighting of them suckling from their mother.
A resident male Cheetah was seen full-bellied and resting a couple of times. We were also lucky to get a rare sighting of a wild cat, although it was shy.

The general game in the Lebala area increased during May. The natural watering holes in the woodland areas started to dry up, forcing large herds of elephants to make their way to the riverine areas. There were mixed herds of zebra and wildebeest in their hundreds, as well as plentiful giraffe. A solitary male buffalo, a well-known “dagga boy”, was found along sable road. This was the first time he had been seen in the area since before the rainy season, so the guides were happy to see this relaxed individual again.

The pans and riverine area were still host to a variety of water birds including Egyptian Geese, Knob-billed Ducks, African Jacanas, Pied Kingfishers and sandpipers.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lebala, April 2017

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The predator sightings in Lebala were very good during April and we were thrilled to find a clan of Spotted Hyena choosing to den fairly near to the camp. We have been able to watch two female hyenas nursing their four cubs, with another female also joining the group.

In an exciting sighting, hyenas chased a female leopard up a tree and stole her kill. After a while, the hungry leopard realised that her hard work was in vain, so she jumped down from the tree to start hunting again. As the day got warmer she eventually gave up and climbed up onto a different tree to sleep. On another occasion, we spotted a leopard with a kill on a Leadwood Tree. It was very shy, and dropped the carcass. An opportunistic clan of hyena scrambled on the free meal whilst the leopard jumped and ran into the bush.

However, it was not all bad news for the leopards in April, some lucky guests were able to see the remarkable sight of three leopards enjoying two kills at once. In an incredible feat of strength, a female leopard had killed a kudu and taken the carcass up a tree where one of her sub-adult sons was feasting on it. The female herself and her other son were feeding on the ground on an aardvark!

An interesting sighting occurred when a female and male adult leopard were seen together. The female had been stalking impala when the male appeared. He didn’t join her in the hunt, but walked away and started to spray the bushes with scent. From their behaviour, the guides deduced that this was not a mating pair, but a chance encounter between two individuals who had stumbled across each other inside a territory.

The resident Wapoka pride were seen regularly. They have 11 cubs to feed so were hunting nearly every day. One afternoon we followed the pride hunting for about one and a half hours, and left them whilst they were still mobile. The following morning, we found them feeding on a giraffe calf, making for some rather graphic photos of the lions with blood all over their faces. The next day the same pride had managed to kill yet another giraffe. On another occasion the females had caught a warthog, however the male lion aggressively took the carcass from them and started to feed on it by himself. It was interesting to watch the rest of the pride submitting to his dominance.
The two impressive resident male lions took down a baby zebra right in front of the game viewer. After killing the foal, they took a well-earned rest and stayed sleeping for an hour before starting to eat on it. Seemingly, one of the males didn’t want his partner to feed at first but he finally allowed him to feed.

The pair of wild dogs who were first seen in the area during March were sighted again in April, so we will follow their progress with interest to see if they form a territory in the long-term.

The two resident cheetah brothers were seen mobile and hunting. On one occasion their hunting efforts were thwarted by a troop of baboons who raised the alarm and scattered the grazing game.

At this time of year the grasses are high, but there is abundant general game around the area including big herds of eland, zebra, elephant, wildebeest, tsessebe and impala, especially near the watering holes in the afternoons. One atmospheric moment was when a herd of wildebeest stampeded through a pan in the late afternoon light. During night drives bush babies were seen, as well as porcupines were seen digging for tubers and bulbs.

We had some keen birders stay with us during April and they were thrilled to tick off some new ‘lifers’ including the huge Verreaux’s Eagle Owl and White-faced ducks.

Lebala, March 2017

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The guides were excited to find a set of small new prints when tracking the Wapoka Pride this month and sure enough, when they located the lions, there was a new cub of about 8 weeks old playing with a sub-adult. It is always a joy to see new life in our concessions. The mother and cub have also been seen apart from the pride, so it seems that she is managing her baby’s integration into family life slowly.

The large Northern Pride of lions were sighted regularly. On one memorable afternoon the adult lions lay resting whilst the 10 sub-adults played endlessly, climbing up fallen logs and pouncing on each other, to the great entertainment of the guests. Two male lions were also seen regularly, often full-bellied and sleepy, but were also seen in hunting mode stalking a big herd of wildebeest at the airstrip.

General game in the Kwando area continued to be very good and the impressive herd of over 80 eland was still in the area. Both sexes of the eland have horns, and we can already see that the twenty or so calves born this year are starting to grow theirs. Other species regularly seen included sable antelope, zebra, wildebeest, impala and warthog. One rather notable sighting was when we found a hyena being chased by a large wildebeest bull on the airstrip – it is always rather amusing to witness the hunter turning tail and becoming the hunted.

The resident pack of wild dogs, consisting of 19 adults and 9 young were found eating a young male impala. The guides were also intrigued to follow a smaller group of two male and two female wild dogs who appeared in the area near Twin Pools. Time will tell if this a transient group or whether they will attempt to stay in the area and form a territory of their own.

A dead hippo was relished by the scavenging ‘clean-up crew’. Up to eight hyena at a time were seen feeding on this feast, as well as many vultures. The most common vulture in the Kwando area is the White-backed Vulture, however Lappet-faced, Hooded and White-headed Vultures can also be seen in the region.

Leopards were seen a few times, including a female with two sub-adult cubs. One day they were all found up a tree feeding on an impala kill, the following day the carcass had dropped to the ground where the two youngsters were enjoying finishing it off whilst their absent mother was no doubt hunting for their next meal. Towards the end of the month some guests were able to enjoy a wonderful photo opportunity of a leopard perched on top of a termite mound, staring intently at a herd of antelope.

Other smaller animals enjoyed by guests during the month were dwarf mongoose, African wild cats, honey badgers and occasionally a python basking in the sun.

The bird life in the Kwando area continued to be rewarding and some migrants who appeared included White Storks and White Storks, European Bee-eaters. One night drive gave a wonderful sighting of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl.

 

Lebala, February 2017

PedroAmaral.EssenceOfKwando.WildDogsLebala2The resident pack of 19 wild dogs were seen hunting on several occasions. At one point they were running all over the airstrip chasing impala when they came across a jackal and chased him into the waiting room. Fiercely, the little jackal stood his ground against the dogs, much bigger in size and number. To everyone’s surprise the dogs backed down and let him wander away.

The next day the dogs were once again hunting at the airstrip, but this time chanced upon a hyena. This time they were not so merciful and ganged up on the hyena attacking her until she came running and hid straight underneath one of the game viewers! Eventually the wild dogs moved on and she was able to come out from under the vehicle and the game drive could continue. An incredible sighting for our guests.

Kwando guide and tracker teams successfully found the resident pride of 7 adults lions and 10 cubs on numerous occasions in February. At the start of the month the lions did not appear to be very successful in their hunts and at one stage all looked very hungry. Towards the end of the month their luck picked up and we found them having gorged to bursting point on a baby giraffe.

The familiar males of the Northern Pride, known to the guides as Old Gun and Sebastian were seen checking out a lioness. By grimacing in a particular way (known as the ‘flehmen’ response) they were using an organ located behind their palate to test her urine for hormones that would let them know if she was coming into oestrus.

Guests enjoyed a relaxed sighting of a beautiful female leopard who is resident in the area. Frequently-sighted were two sub-adult cheetah males who are forming a territory and getting more habituated to the safari vehicles as they grow in confidence.

There are still large breeding herds of elephants in the Lebala region as well as solitary bulls. This is a change to previous years when elephant numbers have been less during the rainy season.

The watering holes have been extremely productive and are currently the best place to spot hippos, many of whom who have moved out of the riverine area to enjoy fresh grazing further afield. There are large congregations of zebra, eland and wildebeest with young at foot coming to drink in the afternoons.

Birding in the Lebala area is excellent at the current time. Summer migrants in the area include Thick-billed Rollers, Carmine Bee-eaters and Wahlberg’s Eagles.

Our guides have enjoyed taking bush walks, allowing guests the opportunity for great bird photography including close sightings of Saddle-billed Storks and Tawny Eagles and Egyptian Geese with babies. Black-backed and Side-striped jackals were also seen on these excursions.

We have had reports of dramatically beautiful sunsets at Lebala during February. The late summer sun has combined with thundery skies to produce the most astounding colours.

Lebala, January 2017

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Predators dominated the scene at Lebala in January and amazing sightings of hunts and kills were seen regularly.

An adult eland bull, the largest of all the antelopes, can weigh in at almost one ton. A smaller pride of two females and four cubs were observed gorging on this feast for the best part of a day. This large kill attracted different species of vultures; all of the Southern African vulture species are increasingly endangered so it is exciting to see them being so successful in the Kwando area.

The following day it was the hyenas’ turn to strip the carcass of all that was left. A clan had plenty to eat despite the crowds that had filled their bellies the previous day and night. The alpha female hyena clearly had her own mouths to feed and continually chased her subordinates off the carcass to ensure that she could provide for her young.

Two sub-adult cheetah were seen trying to stalk an impala, although on that occasion their prey got wind of their scent and bounded away.

A female leopard posed beautifully on a tree for some time before clambering down to start her evening hunting mission. The guides were able to follow her for a good while before she disappeared into the thicket.

The resident lion prides have cubs and need to feed their young regularly.  The larger the kill the more food it provides and the less the adults need to hunt.

Towards the end of the month the two large males from the Southern (Wapoka) Pride were seen following the 5 lionesses and 10 cubs from the Northern Pride. This was potentially a very dangerous situation for the cubs as male lions have been known to practice infanticide, killing cubs sired by other males. The lionesses reacted instinctively to protect their young. As the three larger females defended their positions, the other two females started to lead the cubs away from the scene. As this was happening the three large lionesses ran in a different direction leading the two males away from the cubs. This was a simple yet effective strategy.

Wild dogs were located in the area and guests were able to enjoy seeing them finish off an impala carcass. The general game this month was great as the rains brought an abundance of leafy growth. There were lots of giraffes, kudus, impalas, wildebeest and zebras. Particularly special antelope sightings included eland, roan and sable.

The water birds were noticeably more abundant with many storks, herons, egrets and plovers seen wading through the wet lands in search of food. Guests were delighted when their guide spotted a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl hidden in plain sight as it was well camouflaged against the bark of a tree. This beautiful bird (and largest species of owl on the African continent) lazily batted its pink eyelids for the cameras.

Lebala, December 2016

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It was a sad start to the month for the Southern Pride. The lions were seen hunting and stalking Red Letchwe, but after a while we realized there was a cub missing. A few days later we came across two male lions from the Northern Pride, Old Gun and Sebastian; it transpired that the missing cub was injured and subsequently killed by these two dominant males. Infanticide is well-documented in lions with males often killing the young of others to try and ensure that only their genes are passed on. The rest of the Southern Pride had at this point moved on with one less family member.

The pack of 8 adults wild dogs and 14 puppies were fairly elusive this month, but when they were seen they delivered incredible sightings. On one occasion the guide and tracker team did brilliantly to track the wild dogs for a thrill packed hour and found them resting in the thick bush. While we were still watching them a young impala came running towards the dogs. After a moment’s hesitation the adult dogs pounced into action, caught and devoured the impala as we watched in awe. After the adults had stripped the carcass they then fed their puppies by regurgitating the meat. Yes, all the gory details do come along with the whole safari experience.

One of the more interesting sightings at Lebala this month started after a tssesebe made several alarm calls. We moved in to take a closer look and found a stunning pair of wild cats digging something out of a hole. Wild cats are nocturnal and spend most nights hunting small prey such as field mice, squirrels and birds. It is very unusual to see them during the day, let alone witness them hunting.

Leopards were seen fairly regularly; on one particular occasion we found fresh track of an adult leopard and two cubs. After tracking the leopard for a short while through the thickets we came across her and two sub-adult cubs feeding on a large male impala.

Cheetah were seen on rare occasions this month, a female and her two cubs were spotted near Halfway Pan with their bellies full. The two sub-adults were playing and chasing each other around a termite mound. This playtime is essential for the young adults as they dart around tripping and chasing each other, developing the skills they will need to hunt and kill on their own in the future.

The seasonal rain has arrived filling the pans and natural waterholes. The summer migrants have arrived, birds are nesting and the excitement of new life is contagious. There will be plenty to eat this year and we are expecting great sightings all round. The grasslands are lush and the grazers are content, as are the browsers as they trim the trees of verdant new foliage. It’s astounding how the rains bring new energy to the wilderness.