Climate and Landscape
Temperatures during the month ranged between 15° Celsius and 30° C. It was cooler than normal due to the number of cloudy days we had throughout the month. Though we recorded a maximum temperature of 30° C, the days were mostly mild to warm due to the late afternoon and evening thunderstorms which cooled everything down.
With all the good rains we have had, the change in the landscape is really amazing – and it is not only beautiful to the eye, but also to the wildlife that abounds within the heart of our Chitabe Concession. All living creatures exploit the growth of nutrient-rich vegetation which concentrated more now than at any other time of year.
All the herbivores and grazers are in excellent condition – which naturally also keeps the predators in good shape. With the water evenly distributed across the floodplains, elephant and other animals like zebra and wildebeest are seen spread out across the plains enjoying the greenery and the abundance of water. This also makes game driving in the bush more interesting at the moment. For the predators, their time for finding and hunting down prey is at its best as they are able to take advantage of hiding in the long grass and ambushing their victims at close range; this season is a blessing for them.
The leopard with two cubs took her opportunities to feed them well due to the abundance of young and vulnerable antelope. And as the cubs’ hunting skills improved, guests were treated to some exciting sightings of the leopard teaching her youngsters bush survival tactics. They watched the cubs hunting and chasing down their prey.
Another incredibly relaxed leopard with her cub dominated our leopard sightings throughout the month; at first the cub was very shy but eventually gained trust from watching her mother: that our vehicles are innocent if large, noisy objects. She then came out of her shell and one day did what cats and dogs always do when curious: she sniffed at the car wheels. The mother’s calm and relaxed nature allowed visitors to spend some time with her and photograph her hunting, stalking, killing and feeding. Also, just the daily interaction of her and her cub was spectacular to watch.
With all the lions and leopards having so much to feed on, hyaena have also had a good time and were able to feed their cute babies from all the available kills.
Nature is an incredible equaliser, and so conditions actually favoured both prey and predator.
The two dominant male lions in the area faced a challenge this month as the new coalition of two young male intruders continued to make their presence known while they attempted to establish a territory within this long-held area. Some of our guests heard the two coalitions’ challenging, harrowing roars in the early hours of the morning when the encounter disturbed their deep sleep. Not only did the lions make themselves heard, they moved further into the territory, which could have resulted in a fatal physical contact had they not fled once they had visual contact with the territory owners from a comfortable distance.
One lioness has proved to be an exceptional mother, moving her two cubs from an area concentrated on by hyaenas (which was also near to where the intruders were being so vocal). She moved her cubs very close to camp and also stopped being as mobile with them. Now she leaves them behind when she goes out hunting, and later leads them to her kill and back to the den afterwards.
This is the same behaviour the rest of the pride manifested last year – and they managed to raise all nine of their cubs around Chitabe. These nine cubs are now almost sub-adults and are very energetic