Climate and Landscape
The heavy rains during the season have kept plants and grasses lush, green and palatable, making for good grazing and browsing, which in turn has attracted loads of general game such as zebra, giraffe, impala, kudu, tsessebe and many more. We had rain throughout the month with several heavy storms coming from the north, leading to lower temperatures. We recorded a minimum of 15° Celsius and a maximum of 35°, quite moderate temperatures for this time of year. However, one can sense that summer is behind us and we are slowly tracking towards the winter months.
The abundance of general game has attracted most of the predator species, allowing them to be easily spotted throughout the month. Evening game drives have been excellent and last week a family of five honey badgers was sighted. Normally one may see one or two, but five together is indeed a very rare sighting. That most elusive of nocturnal animals, the ant-eater or aardvark, was also seen on two different occasions. The guests did not initially appreciate the rarity of seeing an aardvark, but the guides’ overwhelming enthusiasm made it very clear that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Towards month’s end, a new pride of four young adult male lions, between three- and three-and-a-half years old moved into the area. These males are probably brothers and together they have formed a very powerful coalition. Duke, one of the guides, was the first to see them, so we suggested we name the pride after his nickname, Madonsela. Despite hearing the regular calls of our two dominant males that currently hold the territory, the Madonsela brothers seem very relaxed, comfortable and confident in their new area. They seem to be taking full advantage of the large area, knowing that the dominant males cannot cover the entire concession. Our first good look at them was on a giraffe kill near the airstrip, on which they fed for at least three days. It will be interesting to see the interaction when this pride encounters the regular lions of the area. One of these new males has already been seen mating with a sub-adult female fathered by the current dominant male from the resident pride. Having another male come into the area is often a good thing as it reduces the chances of inbreeding and increases the gene pool.
As mentioned, the Chitabe territory is vast and it is certainly exhausting for the two dominant males to patrol the entire area. What makes it even more challenging for them is that there has been a continuous presence of three different sets of male coalitions bringing their testosterone to the area and freely moving in and out of the territory from different parts of the concession, obviously to test the boundaries.
This intrusion can be frustrating to the dominant males and also to the females, especially those with younger cubs. We have a large number of females that are also roaming the area and it is possible that they are tempting the nomadic males to come into the territory. Although there is a high prey density, it is the number of females that seems to be the main reason these new males have taken such an interest in the area. As you can see, a lion’s social life is very interesting and complex and we will keep you updated in next month’s newsletter!
The female cheetah with her three sub-adults cubs is still being seen regularly, at least three times a week during the month of March. Although we have not seen all of her kills, some of our guests were very lucky one morning to see her hunt, chase and bring down an impala ram. What really impressed the guests was the patience she showed in waiting for precisely the right moment to execute her attack – which she did with remarkable efficiency. She and her cubs are obviously well fed. Her cubs are growing at a rapid rate which no doubt puts her under pressure to hunt more often; however, they are quickly learning to take care of themselves and will soon be on their own. The popular lone male cheetah has also been very active in the area in March. There were also several sightings of leopard, including one female and a male that we are not familiar with in the area.
Elephant have started moving back into the concession recently. The resident bulls have been strolling around the camp’s immediate vicinity. The fruits from the marula trees are ripening, dislodging and falling to the ground, which encourages these bulls to come into camp. Big breeding herds with small calves have been frequenting our prime game drive area. Last week the guides and some lucky guests sighted a herd of about 75 elephants with at least 20 young calves. It was fascinating to watch the young elephants learning how to use their trunks, trying to control the thousands of muscles that make up this remarkable “tool,” a complicated piece of equipment for the young calves. With mixed habitats, dominated by woodlands, the Chitabe area will always attract these majestic animals.
Birds and Birding
As usual birding at Chitabe is never dull. Large flocks of waterbirds seem to concentrate along the recently inundated floodplains and pans in the woodlands. Sightings invariably consist of malachite kingfishers, wattled cranes, saddle-billed storks, little egrets, black egrets and many more.
Staff in Camp
During the month of March, Moalosi and Kay were at the helm of Chitabe Lediba and the combination of their experience and knowledge made all our guests feel at home and enjoy their safari experiences. At Chitabe Main Camp the team was driven by Six, Charity, Masedi and Conny. We would like to welcome Conny to the Chitabe Team. Conny has managed several camps within the Wilderness Safaris group. Her friendly personality with both guests and staff, and her impressive management skills have made her an easy fit within our family.
Our guiding team for the month was Duke, Gordon, Ebineng, Oats, Luke and Doctor. Ebineng, more commonly known as Ebs, has been appointed as the new Head Guide as of the beginning of March. Our former Head Guide Phinley, who had been with Chitabe for more than 16 years, retired at the end of February and is currently working on his farm in the Kasane region of Botswana. Ebineng comes with a wealth of experience and has been a guide at Chitabe for the last 15 years. His calm disposition, experience and mature sense of leadership made him the natural choice to fill this position of responsibility and we wish him great success.
Until next month, greetings from Chitabe and Chitabe Lediba!
Newsletter by TL Moalosi