Saturday, 27 October 2007

The story behind the Mapogo males.

With dark grey clouds hovering above the Sabi Sands in Djuma, I bring to you the history of six of the most notorious male lions in our area ... the Mapogo Males. Nobody in the area really knows how many there actually are, but I've asked around and have tried to put together the pieces of a vague puzzle. During my quest I've uncovered some rather interesting and exciting facts about our dark pride of six.
The Mapogo Males originated from a game reserve called Ulusaba, to the South of Djuma, bordering the reserves of Inyati and Singita. Little is known of their mother, but they are six brothers, all about 7 years old. A Couple of days ago 4 male lions were spotted on AfriCam's Nkohro Cam. A reliable source confirmed my suspicion that it was them. But what about the other two? This is where it gets interesting. One of the two missing pride members is thought to be somewhere in the west close to Elephant Plains and Simbambili, but I am not exactly certain. However, the whereabouts' of the sixth member I am sure of. Aparantly, two weeks ago the Mapogo Males were drinking from the Sand river in Londolozi Game Reserve when a crocodile attacked and killed one of them at the waters edge. This is a rather rare occurrence, but it does happen and it did happen to one of or Mapogo's. So we are down to 5 males, maybe 4.

The Mapogo's are frequently seen in neighboring farms Londolozi, Mala Mala and of course here in Djuma. On 26 October 2007 the 4 remaining males tried to kill a buffalo on Quarantine ( just a stones throw from here). Unfortunately they were unsuccessful and headed east into Torchwood, which is outside of our traversing area.
Another interesting fact about these magnificent male lions is that they are rather choosy hunters. They are well known for hunting young white (or square lipped) rhino calves, there have been a few recorded sightings where this occurred. How they actually do this I cant say, but what an amazing, sad and horrifying thing to see. Only a couple of weeks ago, they killed a rhino and a giraffe in one day!!!
These Mapogo's are definitely the bunch to look out for, since their first appearance in the Djuma area almost a year ago, they have brought us amazing sightings and have been the source of many conversations and questions, which WE appreciate. I hope I have shed some light on the history and wonderful lives of these mysterious Mapogo's.

WE want to keep you up to date on the murder mystery of the impala carcass, so we have been talking to some of the rangers around Djuma. They have said that it must have been killed by a leopard called Jordaan. WE don't know much about this leopard yet, all that WE know from our not so frequent sightings of him is that he is very skittish and that he likes to remain unseen, and stays hidden in the neighbouring reserve Buffelshoek. Only seldom popping over to our side to hunt or to find a mate or mark his territory.
The reason why the rangers blame it on him is because of scratch and claw marks on the impala's rump area and also puncture marks on its neck. Also, this is not the first time that Jordaan has done this. Charles, a ranger at Djuma, said he has done this several times before. He makes a kill and as soon as he hears a vehicle he dashes off to hide away close by and maybe come back later when its dark.
The rangers who investigated the scene of the crime, couldn't find any tracks because the rain washed everything away. When Pieter and Rob returned they found two black backed jackals scavenging the carcass. Pieter thought that they may have a den close by, and possibly some pups!!! He was right; they do have a den which is close to the Kruger gate and is unfortunately outside of our traversing area. Apparently they have two tiny pups only a couple of weeks old. WE are looking forward to seeing a family of four Blacked Backed Jackals moving around the area.
Written by Jan Harm Robbertse.

Murder mystery.

While driving near Buffelshoek dam, Pieter came across a dead impala. Now this was a bit strange, because usually when you find a dead impala, you also find a predator. But in this case there was nobody eating the impala. Then when Pieter went back to look at it properly on the next drive there were jackals eating so he couldn't get close enough to see if there was any evidence of how this impala died. He thought maybe it could have been a snake that had been the murderer ...
Then today Jan was talking to Charles (a Djuma ranger) who said that it was a leopard that had killed the impala ... we're not yet sure whether or not Charles is certain about the leopard theory or if it's just what he thinks may have happened. I wonder if we will ever know for sure what happened? Obviously there is no evidence left now.
Rex is still on leave and will be until the end of the month. He is building an after school care centre in his home village of Dixie. We heard today that construction is well underway and although it may not all be finished by the time he gets back to work, it won't be long before the kids of Dixie have a great new place to spend the afternoons.

Below is a picture taken recently by Pieter of one of our favourite Cape Buffalo's. He has officially been named 'Seesaw' because his horns are not symmetrical. WE know him quite well. When we were putting in the Buffelshoek camera in September of last year he was always near, or in, the water and he had a huge injury on his left hind leg. the injury was so swollen and infected, WE were quite convinced that he wasn't going to make it ... really for sure. Everyday he would spend hours in the water worsening the infection. Anyway the old man made it through and slowly the infection went away. Then a few months ago a buffalo bull was killed just below Gowrie dam and for a short while we were convinced that the Kahuma pride of lions had killed old Seesaw. A few days later we saw Seesaw chilling out at Buffelshoek and WE knew that he was obviously a bit tougher than we had given him credit for. Anyway, old Seesaw has watched more trenching, camera installing and tower climbing than any other buffalo ... he knows us better than WE know him.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Lion Hunt

WE caught up with the Kahuma Pride last night and once again they were trying to find food to feed the numerous mouths that now make up this huge group. This time it was seven of the females but WE noticed that two of the females were limping. This is very likely to be a hunting accident. These girls need to take down buffalo in order to get enough food to feed everyone and so far they have been extremely successful. However,a problem is emerging. The rains started early and as a result the grass has flourished. The buffalo have become a lot more powerful and can easily fight off a group of lion. WE reckon that the Kahuma pride have probably not eaten anything substantial for four or five days. Last night the buffalo got away but WE think that the lions decided that they looked too strong and healthy and that it wasn't worth getting injured. The lions are looking lean but it is not a crisis situation yet. They were seen this morning by Djuma Rangers on an area that WE cannot traverse and apparently they did not kill last night. If they haven't killed by Thursday we are sure that they will be getting desperate.
As successful as the Kahuma Pride have been in taking down Buffalo, we can re-assure you that 'The Judge', 'One Horn' and 'See Saw' are all healthy and well. All three have been seen within the last week.
Djuma is in desperate need of rain again. There has not been any rain for two weeks and the dams are drying up. By the end of the week WE predict that Gowrie will be completely dry. The grass is starting to look unhealthy and it won't be long before the animals start feeling it. Lets hope that we get rain soon and lots of it.
We are looking forward to impala lambing season. Most of the impalas mate within a two month window in April and May and therefore give birth in the two months of November and December towards the main rains. This is the optimum time as there is more food for the mothers so the babies can be healthy. As you can imagine the predators have an absolute field day but this is the main reason why they all give birth at the same time. The huge numbers of young mean that they are more likely to survive. It is amazing to see so many babies running around and WE look forward to it immensely.........'it's in our nature'.
Finally, WE have changed our drive times as summer is fast approaching. The evenings stay light for longer and the days are hotter. Drives now start at 4pm and finish at 7pm.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

... it was Tyson!

Well after speaking to as many people as possible, and all your help and thoughts WE are confident the leopard sighted on the afternoon drive of the 10th October 2007 was: Tyson. Which means the leopard that stole Karula's kill on the morning of the 18th July 2007 was probably not Tyson. WE are not yet sure who that was, but one theory is that it could have been Mtimba.
A big thank you to Aquila for all the research that she did as well as for sending in all the above photos of Tyson. Well done.
WE are going to build up a collection of photographs and positively identify all the leopards in our area, you can help by mailing us any, and all, information you can gather to info@wildearth.tv
Djuma Game Reserve is one of the best places on earth to view leopards going about their daily business and WE want you to get involved in helping us to build as accurate a family tree of these beautiful cats as we can. So get clicking, search the web and send us your pics/videos and identifications. When we have photographed and can identify all the leopards and know all their local names WE will begin photographing their tracks. Each track is unique, like their spot patterns, and after a while WE'll all know who has been in the area ... really for sure. (One day y'all will be the first virtual trackers.)
Whether we like it or not, it is very definitely ... in our nature to get to know these special animals as well as we can ... coz WE love them.

Friday, 12 October 2007

... is this the changing of the leopard guard?

WE really for sure have had some great drives recently ... it's in our nature (thankfully).
Yesterday we watched as a couple of elephant bulls came upon the buffalo carcass, that the Karuma pride killed a few days ago. The elephants touched, sniffed and moved the bones around ... what were they thinking? They have no need of the carcass and showed us their intelligence as they were obviously thinking intently about it. They have the ability to understand death and it's meaning in relation to their own lives ... just like us.
Shortly thereafter Pieter and Rex came upon Tyson (not pictured above) a big male leopard who is relatively new to the area (Note: WE are not absolutely certain that this is Tyson. If you have images or theories of who this leopard is please mail to info@wildearth.tv).
WE have heard that Tyson had a fight with Mafufanyane (another male leopard) on Arathusa, next door to Djuma, which he won. The current theory is that Tyson may be making an attempt to take over Mafufunyane's territory, which is borne out by the fact that WE have not seen Mafufunyane, the father of Karula's cubs, for more than 3 weeks.
If a male leopard was to take over Mafufanyane's territory he may not necessarily kill the cubs (infanticide) as is very common in lions when a takeover occurs.
WE now have confirmation that there are another 5 cubs born to the Karuma pride of lions, bringing their total to 14 cubs. WE haven't seen the 5 new babies ... yet. However, it is only a matter of time before the pride bring the new additions to Djuma to meet the world. WE'll be ready when the pride are ready ... it's in our nature.
Rex goes on leave for two weeks next Tuesday and Rob gets back from his break on the same day. The bush is going super green, WE continue to try and sort out the odd difficulty on the 'tank' like sound, points, starter, batteries, etc.
(Note: The photograph above was taken by Mike Moss at Lion Sands in the southern part of the Sabi Sands. Mike if you know anything about this leopard please post the information as a comment. Thanks for letting us use your pic, clearly it's in your nature to share.)

This is a snap of the leopard from last night. Please email any other photos you know of to info@wildearth.tv
Lets try to identify this fella. Note the distinctive heart shape between his eyes.

Monday, 8 October 2007

It's summer time!!



WOW it is raining a lot ... really for sure! The bush is budding and flowering everywhere, even the animals seem to have an extra spring in their step. So far WE have been lucky in that non of our equipment has been fried by the huge lightning storms that we have been experiencing in Djuma. Looks like all the effort and expense of installing fibre optic cables everywhere is paying off.

WE have had to cancel the odd drive due to rain, but it is a small price to pay for such a great start to the rainy season. However, the battery system is certainly working better, which is great news. WE apologise for the fact that you have had to miss the odd drive, but rather that than destroying the equipment that would then take weeks to repair.

The camera at Buffelshoek dam has been giving us endless trouble and finally gave up the ghost the other day. So we went out to take a look, and we found a whole nest of ants had taken up residence inside the camera!! Needless to say the camera had to be removed and is now in Johannesburg where it is being repaired.

The drive this afternoon had to be cancelled because Pieter and Hayley had to go into Nelspruit to fetch Jan, who will be officially back from holiday tomorrow morning.

I know that a lot of you have been asking when WE are going to have more slots on the server and when the quality of the stream is going to improve. Well I have no concrete news, or at least none that I can officially announce. What I do know is that WE are working on a monstrous upgrade that will make all your dreams (and some you didn't know you had) come true. It won't happen quickly, but I can guarantee that it is coming. Hang in there, your patience will be rewarded ... really for sure.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The rain has begun ... and WE survived!



Well on Saturday night the rain began to fall and it went on and on. By midday on Sunday more than 40 mm of rain had fallen ... really for sure that is a good start to the summer. The bush is in full transformation, there is water everywhere, which is why the waterholes are so quiet. The rate at which the trees and grass turn green surprises me every year.

WE have put a lot of effort into figuring out what has been going on with the batteries, which is why WE missed a couple of drives, but we think that we have found the gremlins. Turned out there were a few bad connections here and there on the old vehicle and WE fixed those. Now we also have a new charging regime. Hopefully WE will be back up to at least 3 hour drives again.

Rob is heading for Cape Town tomorrow for two weeks of surfing and diving, and probably a fair bit of partying ... its in his nature!