Chitabe Camps - August 2017

Aug 5, 2017 Chitabe Camp, Chitabe Lediba Camp
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Climate and Landscape
August played us, weather-wise, delivering exceptionally warm weather at the beginning of the month, and then dominating the middle of the month with cold and windy days. However, towards the end of August it started getting warmer again. The variable temperatures were greatly enjoyed though, because guests arrived prepared for the cold, so the warmth was a bonus.

The other aspect of this time of year which guests really enjoy is the stunning sunsets, with their vivid red and orange colours emblazoned across the horizon. Temperatures were comfortable with an average minimum of 7° Celsius and an average maximum of 27° C accompanied by a slightly chilly wind in the evenings and early mornings.

Game viewing was all about cubs and puppies this month. As I mentioned last month, we located the dogs’ den, but followed the protocol of not visiting it until the cubs are at least eight weeks old or so. We recently started visiting the den just once a day until the puppies get used to vehicles. We counted 14 puppies at the beginning, but they have been reduced to 13 after a pride of lions stumbled across the den. The puppies were caught off guard playing around outside the den, and before they could sense the danger and run for safety into their burrow, one unlucky cub was caught and killed by a lioness. This forced the dogs to relocate their puppies to another den which they quickly prepared the following morning. A good decision.

As much as it might seem revolting to witness, guests observed one of the dogs’ unique behaviour of regurgitating food to the puppies and the alpha female at the den after a successful hunt. With the puppies still den-bound for most of the month but now eating meat, the dogs have added pressure on their need to hunt as they now have these additional mouths to feed – consequently many wild dog kills were witnessed this month.

One of the lionesses that broke away from the pride recently was found with four little cubs at the beginning of this month. Our guide Gordon watched her disappearing into a thicket and wondered what she could be doing in there. As he drove closer to investigate, he was welcomed by a typical “meowing” cat sound coming from the inner part of the den. Upon closer inspection he saw two pairs of shining eyes. He estimates that they might be two weeks old. Later in the month the lioness was already walking around with them, changing dens before the current den could build up any odour and attract predators like hyaenas and other lions. Later in the month she was spotted carrying her cubs one at a time across the water, picking one dead, bleeding cub out of the water – possibly the reason she moved them from the den… we suspect they might have been attacked there. Some guests wondered if the cub had been attacked by a crocodile in the water; certainly that could be the case with an older animal that could defend itself and get away, but in this case if it had been a crocodile, the cub would have been taken.

One morning our guides tracked the Chitabe Pride, which was following a herd of approximately 400 buffalo. They caught up with the cats at the perfect time – as the lions had just isolated one heifer from the rest of the herd. There was nothing much the buffalo could do on its own versus six lions and it was taken down as guests watched and photographed. The sub-adult cubs in this pride are growing rapidly and were seen chasing after some impala. As much as their hunting efforts were unsuccessful, these fairly large cubs showed that their development was not just in stature but also in maturity. One imagines that they consistently botch their hunts by showing up too early or not doing the right thing, but it is a learning curve for them and they have to learn by going through these different stages.

There were three sightings of the legendary elderly lioness from the Chitabe Pride who is well known for being a super hunter. Every sighting of her is special as the inevitability of her demise draws closer. She is very old, very hungry and can hardly keep up with the pride. She has lost some of her teeth and the others have become blunt. On one occasion at beginning of this month she was seen catching a honey badger that fought for its life, escaping from her mouth. Her claws seem to be very blunt too as she caught this honey badger and hung on to it for some time, but could not inflict any deadly bites; she just kept licking it and the badger escaped with no claw or teeth marks or injuries, just very wet from her saliva.

The frequent visits of two nomadic male lions recently landed them in trouble with the dominant Chitabe males of the area. A high-speed pursuit broke out one day and the dominant males spent the better part of the morning chasing the intruders. No physical contact took place but the event reminded them not to be too comfortable on someone else’s estate. The following morning, after a hard day’s work protecting their territory and pride, the Chitabe males were found being pampered by the lionesses with a baby giraffe kill. We consider the dominant males to blame for the encounter, because they have not been focusing on the northern part of their territory and this led to these two new males feeling comfortable in the area, becoming a bit complacent and ignoring the regular cacophony of roars from the dominant males.

Cheetah sightings were brief this month, but their presence in the area is very evident because their tracks were seen quite often. On a number of occasions the guides tracked the female cheetah with her two sub-adult cubs but inevitably had to abort the mission, despite the tracks getting fresher and fresher, as they came across other more exciting sightings during the tracking process.

The other female, believed to be lactating, was very close to camp around month-end. We had three sightings of her looking very relaxed with vehicles around her; on another sighting she had killed a sub-adult male impala and was feeding on it.

As the month slowly became warmer, we enjoyed seeing more birds and a variety of animal interactions at the available water sources, since these are drying out and some are actually already dry.

Recently we took a drive along the Gomoti River and watched many elephants swimming across from the Moremi Game Reserve onto our concession, and vice versa. For the little calves, this was not just a crossing to the other side but also a fun occasion, and they splashed around in the water, some even fooling their parents by pretending to be stuck and unable to get up the river bank so they could be helped. They also seemed to delight in running around and chasing the birds that were wading in the water in search for food – typical childish behaviour.

Some of the wildlife highlights of the month included...

  • A honey badger with a sub-adult cub walking across the wooden bridge in front of the vehicle
  • A four-metre (12-foot) python basking in the sun on an early morning drive
  • A caracal running across the road, stopping for a 30-second photo-shoot then dashing into the bushes
  • A herd of approximately 600 buffalo frequently drinking water in front of Lediba Camp
  • A couple of Verreaux’s eagle-owls nesting in camp and seen on a daily basis in the open, good for photography
  • A flock of seven sub-adult ostriches frequently seen
  • A (rare) serval cat with a mouse kill
  • A flock of knob-billed ducks seen at one of the pools (summer migrants, just arrived)

 Staff in Camp
Our guides during the month – Gordon, Ant, BB, OD, EBS, Luke and Phinley – entertained us with their wonderful personalities and impressive guiding skills. A common delight is the way they always track animals cooperatively, involving the guests in following the tracks while they manoeuvre through bush; guests really love the participative game spotting that our guides include them in.

We look forward to the new month, September, as the temperatures will be slightly warmer. We also look forward to seeing how our wild dog puppies are doing as they ventured into their new life of not being den-bound at the end of this month.

News from Moalosi @ Chitabe

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