The Southern Pride and her four very healthy cubs. Soon we won’t be referring to them as cubs anymore as they are now going on hunts with mom. Every day learning new methods on hunting, stalking and being cunning as an adult lion should be.
I am not sure why but we have been seeing the Southern Pride up in the centre of the reserve more frequently. As a matter of fact in the valley that Clifftop is situated in. I think it might have to do with the fact of the two Marakelle Lions that broke into the reserve maybe threatening the young ones or maybe because of Welgevonden reducing the park size in the South with a new boundary fence. We not complaining that they visiting us all the way up here im just a bit worried that the Western Pride males might pick up on their presence and maybe kill the young ones. There is one young male in this pride so the Western Pride males might sense a future threat and kill him to stop any possible intraspesfic competition. We will monitor this strange movement very closely.
(Loxidontas Africana) the African Elephant.
Largest land mammal on the planet. Yet one of the most graceful and social animals known to man. Gentle Giants as I know them (most of the time). Extremely intelligent and with a never forget brain follows their ancient old elephant foot paths all the way to us here at Clifftop.
The night is rather cold in the valleys of the Sterkstroom so a lot of the herds come up to the higher elevations on the hills and cliffs. Although in day time getting nice and warm and a well deserved cool down session with mudd bath is enjoyed as you can see the guy on the picture above. Their 4500 – 6000 kilogram bodies overheat very easily. Even if we as humans feel the cold of the winter they don’t as much and can still take a bit of punishment from the sun in the day.
At my sundowners drink stop today I saw a new born calf with two cows crossing river nearby. Possibly a day or two old. When the realised we were out the vehicle having a drink they immediately changed direction away from us as to protect the young one. Almost like humans a mother’s love for her young is also seen in these magnificent animals.
Welgevonden is certainly becoming a world contender for Leopard sightings. In this passed month various sightings of these mystical and extremely elusive animals has been reported from all corners on the reserve. This makes me so excited as this is also my favourite animal on the planet.
In a natural area such as this with lots of rocks and hills all over it sets out for a perfect biome for Leopards. They are at home in tight spots in-between crevasses and rocks. The smaller the area around them the safer they feel. But with saying this makes our lives as rangers very complicated as it is so difficult to find them due to the topography of the reserve. This is where tracks and tracking plays a huge role. Unlike in the Kruger Park, you have to work to find them in Welgevonden. This is why it is so much more appreciated when you do find them in the end of the day in a place like this.
Yesterday morning I found a half eaten Impala hanging over a branch of a Rock Fig tree in the West of the park. I did get audio of Leopard but did not see any movement. Was disappointed but none the less still got on the radio and let all the other rangers on the reserve know about this.
In the afternoon everyone on the reserve went into this area and can you believe they found a young female with two beautiful cubs on the kill. I was at a lion sighting when I heard they call it in but was too far to respond for pictures. At least we gave them the update so at the end of the day was worth it even if we did not get to see this fantastic sighting hence me not able to take pictures.
The few Buffalo that we do have in Welgevonden is very rarely seen. It almost feels like we have more Leopard sightings than Buffalo. This I think is mostly because of the terrain once again. The rolling hills and dense bush and shrubs allows for them to hide in the undergrowth and make it a serious challenge to see them from the roads where we drive. The occasional sighting is always appreciated by us and most of the time so much that I could spend almost my entire drive with just one Buffalo.
I did however have a lovely sighting 2 weeks ago where the old man was wallowing in a mudd bath in clear view of all my guests. Packing the mudd as thick as possible on his comb and soon turned to a colour that looks like cement. Red Billed Oxpeckers had a feast on this chap this day as the mudd started drying and ticks and fleas jumping in all directions.
Although one of the most feared of all Big 5 still one of the most picturesque of all.
Sighting for the month
What a sighting. Folks a cannot even start to explain my feeling I had inside me when I witnessed this very very rare sighting.
Can you guess what this is?
Yes it is an Aardvark. This is one of the most nocturnal animals you could possibly find in Africa. We saw this chap in broad daylight busy scratching and digging a burrow and looking for termites.
With the extremely long and sharp claws that it has it can dig a 2 foot trench in less than 10 minutes. They are the ultimate excavators of the animal world. With four claws, two that digs and two that clears the loose soil. Finding termites and ants in a rock hard mound is no problem for these absolutely fascinating and prehistoric animals.
The picture above is the best one I could get as it was starting to get to dusk and light was getting bad it was also at some distance however this did not stop me and the guest from enjoying my sighting of the month.
We were spoilt with this beautiful male Cheetah a few days back simply strolling down the road on the look for an afternoon snack. Every time I see these creatures my toes goes into a curl. Such elegant creatures with their spots and their elongated bodies for speed. And the extra long tail used as a rutter to turn left and right at speed of well over 100kilometers per hour. Non retractable claws to give extra grip at those high speeds and a head that is like a heat seeking missile that moves independently from the rest of the body as to keep their eyes firmly locked on the target whilst the body does the movement.
Unfortunately early farming in Africa almost completely destroyed Cheetah populations in Africa but with the help of some very successful breeding projects was able to reintroduce many into the wild which has allowed numbers to double in the passed decade.
Saying above mentioned, lion unfortunately still targets them as they compete for food but at least this is nature’s way. So Lion is a big cause for these animals number depleting again.
I know we do come across many rare sighting in Welgevonden as the likes of Aardwolf, Bat Eared Fox, Serval and also Caracal and just the other day some Honey badgers but I still think that the rarest sighting for this month has to be the Aardvark and simply because this was seen in the day time and not at night.
This sighing will definitely go down in my books as one of the best yet in Welgevonden.
Not always about the Big 5 there is also so many smaller and rarer creatures that also deserves a mention on my Newsletter every month.
Rhino Poaching Update
Total Rhinos poached in for end of July 2015: 862
Total poacher-related arrests this year until end July 2015: 112