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News from Botswana

22 June 2011 | Jo Jenkins | Safari and Beach News, Botswana

Kwara Concession

As we move into the what is traditionally known as the ‘flood season’ , the slowly rising water levels may be the reason that the lions stay close by, allowing us to see them pretty much every day. Lions in the Delta are known to swim across channels, if the situation requires it, however it is not their favourite past time – as can be seen when they hiss and hesitantly put their paws in the water. We can expect to have them around for a while!

The five cubs are delighting us with their playful behaviour, and one could spend hours watching them – as some of our guests do!

The lion highlight this month was perhaps the Battle of the Giants: one, of the famous seven males was caught in a fight with the Splash boys, and the noise could be heard in camp the whole night! He survived, but with a few ugly cuts and scratches to show for the ordeal.

A male leopard made a quick escape into a tree with his warthog kill, before the hyenas were able to catch up with him.

Great news on the cheetah front: a female with three cubs has been sighted and she seems to be doing well, with the cubs being in good condition.
We see more and more large breeding herds of elephants, especially in the early mornings and afternoons. Solitary bulls and bachelor herds are also seen very often.

Good sightings of general game, like herds of zebras, giraffe, tsessebe, impala, baboons, red lechwe, wildebeest and tracks of buffalos have been spotted.

Night drives were productive this month. Aardwolf, spotted genet, serval, African wild cat, hyena with pups at the den, and a chameleon! One group of guests had a lucky sighting of honey badger – moving with purpose straight down the road towards the vehicle, the badger seemed completely oblivious of the car that he was heading towards. Only at the last minute, when he was about to bang his head on the tracker’s feet did he suddenly look up and realise what he was about to walk into – at which point he made a swift exit to the left!

Rarely seen even at night, one serval is becoming accustomed to the vehicle, and is being seen regularly around the airstrip, even during day time and this serval also has 2 kittens!

Frogs are competing with each other, and sing their arias every evening. The one sound that dominates is from the painted reed frog, also called the bell frog, and when you hear them you will understand the name!

Sightings of water birds are very good. Lots of egrets, herons, ducks, and geese can be seen swimming and feeding in the floodplains.

Lebala

Sadly we got news that the pride of 17 is now down to 15. Two of the cubs are missing, and we don’t know what happened to them. The mortality rate of lion cubs is high, so it is not overly surprising, but it still makes it a little sad. Lack of food is certainly not a problem that the lions are facing at the moment: the pride was seen with carcasses of giraffe, zebra and on one occasion they were found with three wildebeest!

Magician, the leopard well known to the Lebala guides made an appearance this month, as well as other more shy individuals.

The three cheetah brothers are doing well, and have been seen with full bellies having a well deserved rest in the shade.
“Our” pack of wild dogs was around, but in the beginning of the month we saw only their tracks. At the end of the month though the guides and trackers were able to track them down again and we had some wonderful sightings of that endangered predator.

Massive herds of elephants are now in the area – breeding herds with babies of all sizes. They are all coming out of the woodland where they spent time during the rains. But now the floodplains are filling up attracting them in great numbers, due to the abundance of nutritious grass growing there.

Buffalo are also coming out of the woodlands for the same reasons as the elephants. Apart from small bachelor groups, we see more breeding herds now.
As in the Kwara concession there are plenty of water birds in the floodplains. Raptors are a common sighting too, with lots of eagles and hawks.

There are regular sightings of both species of jackals – side striped and black backed, and occasionally spotted hyena can be seen, especially close to camp at night.

One night two chameleons made a surprise visit, sitting in a tree just next to the dining area.

Zebra, kudu, giraffe, impalas, wildebeests added to the number of species seen this month.

Lagoon

The two male lions that are recent arrivals to the concession have banded with two lionesses – one of which is now heavily pregnant. The lionesses killed a buffalo to share with the males.

The pride of 13 lions were lucky hunters too, killing a giraffe and a zebra – all well fed and happy lions this month at Lagoon!

Guides are reporting that they had more than usual leopard sightings, most of them on kills. Perhaps interested in a form of nouvelle cuisine, one leopard was observed hunting dwarf mongoose – a slightly small snack for the leopard. The mongoose, however, was swifter and got away.

The three cheetah brothers were seen on several occasions. One time they had an ostrich kill, and the other time they tried to hunt a baby zebra. The zebra mother defended her baby very well though, and after one of the brothers got kicked they decided to give up. The cheetah’s body is build for speed, not for strength, and risk of being injured in such a challenge is high.

The pack of 11 wild dogs has been seen several times. They look fit and healthy, and were followed on a couple of hunts, some more successful than others. No sign of them denning as yet, but it should be within the next week or so.

As in the other camps, the elephants are coming out of the woodlands, and entertain us watching them feeding and bathing. Some of them seem quite happy to enjoy the camp as much as the guests, and one of our walkways needed a bit of repair after an elephant decided to have a closer look at a particularly interesting tree one night. Everyone was tucked up in bed when this happened, so only the evidence was found the next morning – perhaps he was heading for the pool?
Herds of buffalo up to a 100 strong come out of the woodlands into the floodplains, and to have a drink at the river.

General game was good too. Giraffe, zebra, impala, tsessebe, steenbok, hippo, ostrich, warthog, eland and maybe the highlight roan and sable antelopes!
Lagoon had some of the rarer sightings this month like, porcupine, aardwolf and quiet a few chameleons. The two jackal species, side striped and black backed, and also the spotted hyenas were found. African wild cat, civet, honey badger, serval have been encountered on the night drives. Sitatunga have also been seen on the boat cruises.

Lots of water birds, but also numerous raptors, like the brown snake eagle, bateleur and African fish eagle. Along the river banks we find a lot of kingfishers and bee eaters, both known to excavate holes into the bank for nesting.

Nxai Pan

It was a month with lots of lion sightings. One morning, a male lion was at the camp waterhole, so nobody had to go far to see them.   The four lionesses had 2 cubs last month…..this month there an additional three, only a couple of weeks old!!

There is a female leopard around and the guides did see her several times at the same spot. She is relaxed and provides us with beautiful sightings.
The two male cheetahs were also found and the one female cheetah was seen in camp one morning.

Wild dog tracks were seen near Baines Baobab, and even though we don’t expect to see them in Nxai Pan, you never know!

Lots of bull elephants, who congregate to big groups around the waterholes.

General game has been good with lots of giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, oryx, steenbok, impala, kudu and zebra.

On the birding side, we still get excited by the numbers of raptors, big and small. We also see kori bustard, secretary bird, violet eared waxbill, flycatchers and
numerous guinefowls.

Black backed jackals never disappoint, and are seen every day.

Tau Pan

The lions went into hiding for a little while, but luckily, towards the end of the month, they were back drinking out of the waterhole in front of the camp. It takes quite a bit of effort for lions to start moving if they are really quite happy where they are…. Such as, right next to the airstrip with planes landing. One guide was driving his guests to the airstrip for the flight out, got to the strip, found the plane and the lions, but no pilot! Concerned that the lions looked a little well fed, he radioed back to camp to ask for assistance. Luckily, the pilot had been picked up by an earlier vehicle, and was enjoying watching the lions from a different vantage point!

Cheetah were consistent throughout the month – several kills were observed, by several different cheetahs. It was a bonus that they were found often at Tau Pan, so we didn’t have to go far to find them!

Amazingly, wild dogs were seen too. Again, we do know that they are around, but do not expect to see them. Central Kalahari Game Reserve is immense, and the dogs home range in this arid country are huge, so it is extremely lucky to see the dogs there!!

Still no elephant to be seen, but plenty of signs around.

Tau Pan always has a lot of black backed jackals, and in the evening you can hear them in the camp.

A more rare sighting was the one of a cape fox, hanging around room1 early in the morning.

General game sightings were of springbok, wildebeest, oryx, red hartebeest, steenbok and giraffe.

Honey badgers were also seen and a black mamba. That mamba is not called the black mamba because of its body colour, but for the colour of its mouth – not something everyone wants to see close enough to tell!

Written by Jo Jenkins

Jo’s enthusiasm for safari as a child when her parents worked in Zambia, then Kenya. Jo quickly fancied herself as a safari expert and has been a keen game tracker ever since. Although, more recently, she is very keen to trial many of the (more luxurious) beach lodges we now offer.

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