Welgevonden finally has a free roaming lion again! Our solitary lioness that survived the Canine Distemper Outbreak was released on the 11th of May from the predator boma on the reserve. Before release she was vaccinated against the virus and other potentially harmful pathogens, and was also collared so that the reserve can monitor her well-being. While she is still slightly skittish, a few of our guests have been lucky enough to spot her roaming around the south of the park enjoying her new found freedom.
Our guests have been treated to elephant sightings galore this month. The breeding herds have been using the west of the park and have been out in the open for a few weeks. Some new babies have swelled the numbers of the elephant herds and we have been lucky enough to see these new arrivals frolicking next to their mums. A few elephant bulls visited the lodge and gave our guests the full African safari experience by wandering between the rooms and drinking out of the swimming pools!
For a change this month, we have some fantastic leopard sightings to report. A large male was spotted in the Sterkstroom valley making an impala kill and a few vehicles were able to view him for a while before he dragged his kill behind a rock. A second sighting of a large male with an impala kill in a tree one evening delighted guests. Lucky for us, he remained in the area and the next morning we were able to view him again, along with a young female that had joined him on the kill and to mate. Hopefully we will be seeing some cubs soon!
Guests have all been startled at night as out of nowhere a bright flash blinds them. This is thanks to the work of an organization called Panthera who are conducting an annual leopard census on the reserve, using the camera traps to photographically identify individuals on the reserve using whisker patterns and facial spots.
While buffalo have been scarce this month, the breeding herd has been spotted twice near bullfrog pan in the breeding camp. On one day guests were treated to a beautiful sighting of a large dagga boy lazing in the grass next to the road in the morning, and a separate sighting of a second male on broken bridge in the afternoon.
Sighting for the month
This month, a family of five jackals feeding on a wildebeest carcass at sunset takes the prize for our most interesting sighting. While the smell was not too pleasant, guests blocked their noses and soldiered on in order to watch the interactions between the families and experience these normally shy animals at close quarters. An absolute treat was to hear the tiny canines callings and others answering in the distance. Now that’s the sound of Africa!
Cheetah sightings have once again been fantastic this month with the absence of a large number of lions on the reserve. On one morning guests were treated to two separate cheetah sightings on opposite ends of the reserve. The first was a young female in the middle of one of the borrow pits playing on a mound of sand in the open. The good news is that she appears to be pregnant! The second sighting was of the young female and her two cubs on an impala kill right next to the road. They were again sighted a few days later as they hung around Caracal Plains and crossed the road in front of our vehicle. They went on to kill a young zebra foal and spent the rest of the day lounging in the grass.
News from the reserve
Reserve management has decided to push general game species out of the breeding camp and into the main reserve. A large number of impala, wildebeest and zebra will be pushed out into the reserve, leaving the breeding camp with more feed for the buffalo herd which will remain within the fences.
Welgevonden will be starting with cutting fire breaks around the reserve to lower the risk of bush fires breaking out on reserve during the dry winter.
Rare and unusual sightings
A pair of blue cranes and a Roan antelope bull enter our list of unusual sightings. Our guests were also treated to the spectacle of watching a spotted eagle owl on the ground hunting one night. A black mamba crossing the road and a common egg eater were added to our reptile list.