Sunday, 25 November 2007

Welcome Alex Sletten

This intrepid explorer makes a welcome addition to the WildEarth team. All the way from Norway this reptile enthusiast loves nothing more than messing with snakes in the bush. Not only is he a dab hand with all cameras, and has won many photographic competitions, he is also a self confessed adventure addict. He has walked across Iceland on foot and more recently spent time in the depths of the Congolese jungle. WE have high hopes for this Wild Boy.
In other news, Rex is back, Jan will be back in a week, Rob leaves on Wednesday ... the clutch cable is broken on the 'Tank' and WE will only be able to get a new one in Acornhoek tomorrow morning. As a result, WE, very apologetically, have to cancel both this afternoon's drive and tomorrow morning. There is unfortunately nothing else we can do.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Farewell Rob ... WE'll miss you.

Rexon and Jan will be leaving for a while. Jan is going on his two week break and Rex is going to Johannesburg where he will attend some presenter coaching. Pieter and Hayley return from their holiday and from Sunday morning Pieter will be presenting again.
On a different note, and harder to write about, Rob has decided to go and ride waves of a different kind. Sadly our surfer camera operator will be leaving WildEarth. Table Mountain and the cold waters of Cape Town have drawn him back and away from the bush. He also has plans of going to Europe early next year. WE and all of his great fans bid him farewell and hope that the road ahead will be smooth and productive. May the swells rise up to meet him and the wind remain at his back ... you will be missed Rob. Maybe WE will see you again on the game drive one day. Good Luck and thank you.
Rexon returns a week from tomorrow, he won’t make the journey alone, but will be accompanied by Alex Sletton. A man who has roamed the wild jungles of the Congo and walked across Iceland alone. Alex seems like a pure wild one and WE cant wait for him to come and wield the camera, and be our 'eyes' showing us the best that the bush here in Djuma Game Reserve has to offer. WE will welcome him with open arms, and are looking forward to great times and sightings ... its in our nature.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

WE will rock you.

The opening shot of Wild Earth’s live Game Drive on the 9th of November 2007 was a close up magnificent buffalo bull, otherwise known as a Dagga Boy. One Horn, a big old boy WE know well, was amongst the 20 odd other Dagga boys ... Rex knew it was going to be a good drive.

The hot air on this Thursday afternoon in Djuma, was soon filled with Rexon and the rest of the WE crew’s excitement when a couple of minutes later we had a quick sighting of four rhino’s on Buffelshoek Gowrie cut line. The Rhino were very skittish, by comparison to the two bulls we saw on this morning's drive, and WE could only catch a quick glimpse of them. There were two bulls, a cow and a youngster. It was the calf that probably made them nervous and so quick to dash off into the thick bush, because of the instinct to protect the young one and keep him out of harms way.
Rexon’s instinct also kicked in and he had a feeling that WE might have a big 5 drive ... again. His love of his job and passion for the Big 5 could be heard in the way he was talking, not by the words, but the way he said them! Rexon asked Rob what he would like too see next, Rob wanted lions and Rexon agreed…full of confidence Rexon took us towards Cheetah cut line. WE passed some beautiful kudu cows but there was no time to stop, what with two down and three too go!
Half way along Cheetah cut line and circling above the place where the lions were last seen was a vulture flying high up. Was there a kill? No it was too close to where WE left the lions the previous day ... they must still be there.

On reaching the place where we had left them, we were disappointed to discover that they had moved on. However, five minutes later Rexon found one stunning male lion escaping the afternoon sun under the shady cover of a bush ... flat cat!! WE spent some time with this male, who was not the fella who had been mating with the female we saw the day before. After a couple of minutes relaxing with this male, Rex reversed into the clearing next to the road ... and there were yesterday's lovers catching the light. The late sun shone on them and WE saw them in a light we all dream of seeing lions in. Especially the male with his glorious mane.

WE were not that fortunate to witness the spectacular scene of them mating again, but the whole atmosphere contributed to probably one of the best lion sightings we have ever seen. Bathed in the golden sunlight was the beginning of a love story ... with a twist. A scandal that writers of the best soaps in the world would love, and it was unfolding right here in front of our eyes, LIVE!
The male who mated with this female belongs to a pride called the Kahumas, and now his brother had joined them. These two naughty boys were not really where they were supposed to be (with the rest of the Kahuma pride), but with another rather foxy lady, who Rex calls "Salawexe" - the one who was left alone.
Salawexe belonged to a pride called the Sandy patch pride, who used to live on western Gowrie and Sandy patch, hence the pride's name. All the other members of the Sandy Patch pride are dead and only Salawexe is left.
Now the male from the Kahuma pride was mating with Salawexe ... what does this mean for the Kahuma females and their cubs? Or for the nomadic, and hopefully pregnant, Salawexe?
Apparently dominant male lions can operate between, and mate with, different groups of females. As long as Salawexe stays in the territory of the Kahuma males and out of the way of their females she will be relatively safe. If she does come across the Kahuma females she could be in big trouble. They will attack and try to kill her! Whats more, they will probably succeed as there are many more of them.
There are other threats to Salawexe. What if she wonders into males other than the Kahuma males? Are they going to try to kill her as well? Now this is where it gets interesting and where a female lioness pulls a hidden card from her sleeve, one which only she can do. The false oestrus. If a lioness , who has been successfully impregnated by a lion, meets another male she can display a false oestrus and allow the new male to mate with her. This mating session will not last nearly as long as it lasted with the first male, but it will leave the new male satisfied, he will in return offer protection to who he thinks are his cubs and their mother. And the female and her cubs can live in the protection of two totally different males with different territories.
Well done Salawexe, you go girl!! WE will definitely follow you in the days that come and are counting down the 110 days until you hopefully give birth to the next generation of the Sandy Patch Pride!
WE all enjoyed the breathtaking sighting but, we had to get moving. Still needed leopard and elephant! And I’m sure there were a lot of other just as eager eyes that needed to be blown away, so Rexon and Rob continued west in the great search of the big 5. The hidden wise one and the elusive and potent leopard!

The sun had almost dipped below the western horizon when Rexon was driving on Philemon’s cut line. WE don’t know how, but Rex spotted the elephants in the distance. They were very far away but Rex soon got us up close and personal when the matriarch and her two three week old babies passed meters from our vehicle.

Now we had only one to go and the possibility of seeing a leopard was growing every second, the radio confirmed that Karula was heading towards Gowrie main and into our traversing area. Racing to the spot that she might cross we postponed switching to infra red fearing that we might miss her!! There she was, walking parallel to Gowrie main, we had a glimpse of our most loved leopard.
WE had just done our second ever Big 5 drive. Thanks Rex and Rob ... its in your nature.

Written by Jan Harm Robbertse.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Hopefully they're here to stay.

3 November 2007, Pieter, Rob and the Wild Earth crew had the Great honor of bringing you a pack of four beautiful and rare; Wild Dogs ... LIVE.
Pieter's sudden outburst, filled with pure adrenalin, got me, and I am sure all of you, on the edge of our seats in mere seconds. It was really something to remember when he caught the first glimpse of this wonderful mother and her three youngsters. When WE saw them for the first time, we were a little bit worried that this pack would not make it, and that they would not be able to make a kill because there is only one adult that could hunt. But their full round bellies this time gave us a glimmer of hope as they must have made a kill somewhere. This may prove that the young ones are old enough to help in the hunting and thus contributing to the packs survival.
Wild Dogs operate over huge home ranges and because WE can only traverse on a relatively small area we cannot promise to see them as often as the leopards or lions that we see more frequently. It is estimated that this pack have a home range of approximately 30 000 hectares. Pieter photographed them and each individual has rather distinct markings. Therefore if they do come back into our area again WE will be able too identify the different dogs very easily and monitor the packs survival and success. Hopefully WE will get to know them well over time.
Two years ago they were a strong pack of 17 dogs, but sadly the cruelty of the bush prevailed. One day close to the Simbambili border, the Robson pride of lions murdered 15 members of the family. One male and female survived this terrible ordeal. Months later they mated and shortly after in a den in the Manyaleti five new pups were born. A Friend of mine later saw a hyena killing one and another one mysteriously disappeared just weeks after that. WE don't know what happened to the male, but assume that he also got killed by lions or another predator a while later.
I've added some pictures of the individuals and will highlight how you can identify those through different marking on they're bodies, hope you enjoy them.
This is the Adult female, also called the Alpha female. If you look closely; She has a gap in her left ear, a really obvious way too recognize her in future. Also she has what looks like an arrow marking on the tip of her tail.

This is a young one and again WE can use the markings on his/her tail to identify and recognize the dog. The tail starts with a black patch followed by a white one and then another black one. The tail ends off with a much smaller fluffy white tip. It looks like this dog also has a hole in its left ear, Pieter is not entirely sure but he thinks that it could be a piece of grass that got stuck to it. If you compare the size of the different hole on this one to that of the female it is obvious that the female's hole is much larger.
The second youngster has a big black spot on his/her tale.
The last picture is of the pup lying down in the road, he/she is a bit far but it's clearly distinguishable by its full white tail as she waves it around.
Wild dogs are very seriously endangered animals. What happened too the rest of the pack two years ago proves how easily they are taken out by other Predators and shows how threatened they are. Although it certainly is positive that in the last two weeks this pack did make two kills and that shows that they are doing OK.
Sadly WE are a little worried about the survival of this pack. Let's face it; the odds are just not in their favour.

Written by Jan Harm Robbertse

,,, WE aren't always on top!

Last night there was a massive electrical storm over Djuma. Although not much rain fell, the power went off and WE lost the Internet connection through which we send you the LIVE video stream. When we woke up this morning it was still down. As a result there was no drive this morning and there will not be a drive this afternoon ... and we don't yet know about tomorrow morning. Everyone is trying to get on top of the situation ... really for sure. If the connection comes up ... WE'll be on again ... its in our nature.

“Peace” vs “Power”

WE all know Karula, after all she is our favourite leopard. Rexon and Pieter have already told us what her name means, but for those who don’t know, Karula means "Peace". From her early day’s here in the Sabi Sands, she began to slowly but surely creep into the hearts of the rangers, trackers, guests and of course all who like to watch her on our LIVE game drive. WE know her to be a very relaxed leopard, especially peaceful towards the game drive vehicles. She became pregnant and it wasn't long before she had two little cubs who showed signs of being relaxed towards all the eager viewers of this beautiful story unfolding before our eyes!!
Karula "Peace"
Now you may ask why the title, Karula VS Matimba. First, who is Matimba and when have WE seen him? Maitmba is a young male leopard, much smaller than the big boys, Mafufunyane and Tyson, but stunning he definitely is. WE haven’t seen him much because his territory is to the west of Djuma. Matimba’s name is quite the controversy, it means the "Powerful One" or "power". Matimba is still young and relatively small, and he does not fit his name … yet. Matimba had a sister who was called Mbali wich means "flower". WE hope too see more off him and hopefully one day he will grow in to his name and carry it high up there like Mafufunyane and Tyson do.
On a couple of drives ago, the radio talk on the game drives got us very excited!! WE haven’t seen Karula for a long time and wondered how she was doing. A Ranger from the neighboring Reserve, Safari, called in saying that he was following Karula who was heading north, merely a couple of yards away from our border, it looked like she definitely was going to cross into our traversing area. Rexon dropped everything and turned around and headed straight towards were Brendan from Safari thought Karula was going to cross into Djuma … when Rex and the crew, (filled with excitement of possibly seeing Karula) finally got close to the place where she would cross, Brendan called in again and said that a young male leopard called Matimba had met up with Karula!!!The first thing that raced through my mind was , are the cubs going to be okay, are they in any danger from this threatening new young male. Brendan said that Karula’s cubs weren't with her at the moment, and that they are safe! What a relief!!
"Peace" & "Power" came head too head, unfortunately it was still in a neighboring farm so WE couldn't follow them. It was not a friendly confrontation at all. Witnesses said it was a short but brutal fight, our peaceful Karula rapidly turned into a ferocious fighting machine and in a flash overturned the young intruding male and defeated him with no evident scratch or bite marks on her body to show that she had even been in a fight.
Karula, turned back into Safari and headed straight for her cubs while Matimba came into Djuma … having learnt a lesson! Although WE couldn't see Karula, Matimba definitely was worth the watch and WE were able to spend a minute or so with a brand new growing male Leopard.
Written by Jan Harm Robbertse.