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Ulusaba – Bush Telegraph


Welcome to the Ulusaba Bush Telegraph

Each month a member of our Rangers and Trackers team will share their bush experiences with you.

We're quite an eclectic bunch, with different interests and talents so the entries will vary from month to month. We'll keep you up to date with exciting and exhilarating happenings during the previous month and include observations on seasonal changes, updates on new cubs and animal births, news on our resident female leopard Makwella as well as providing a sneak preview of what guests can look out for in the coming months.

Many of the Ulusaba Rangers are fantastic photographers so apart from enjoying the news, there are always some great shots to accompany and illustrate each entry.

We're hoping the Bush Telegraph will evoke memories for all our previous guests and help other readers get a taste for game drives at Ulusaba.

If you saw something during your visit, please tell us about it, and make sure you share your photos and videos!

So here goes with October's report

Octobers 08 Rangers Report
Spring is definitely in the air. It has got a lot warmer with the temperature reaching the mid thirties. With this warm weather arriving, the bush has come alive. A lot of the migratory birds are back, some to nest and some just here to spend the summer. The night sounds are truly amazing after the silence of winter with the frogs, insects and the distinctive calls of the Fiery-necked and Mozambique (Square- tailed) Nightjars, all in search of a potential mate.

Beautiful Spring Morning

Unfortunately we have not yet experienced good rainfall, which is much needed for the dams and the rivers are drying up. The low water supplies are encouraging animals to move closer to the watering holes in front of the camps so they can drink. This is good news for some, but not for our poor maintenance team who are continually repairing pipes when the elephants destroy them in search of fresh water.

Our big cats have been very busy this past month. Makwella, our favourite leopard, has lost her three cubs which, although sad for her, is a blessing for us because she has now moved back into the reserve. Everybody was extremely worried about her future living outside the reserve as she was becoming a big problem, as she was killing the villagers livestock which is a lot of peoples livelyhood.

Now that Makwella is back she has already started mating with the new man in town, a male we call the Tekwane male. At first he was a bit reluctant to mate with her as she fooled him once into believing she was ready to mate, only for him to later discover that she had one remaining cub, it is a tactic big cats use to hopefully ensure the survival of their cubs. It took a lot of perservearance from her once her remaining cub died, but she eventually got her way and hopefully in 90-100 days we will have some new additions to our family.

Hlabinkonzi Female Leopard

Hlabinkonzi, Makwella's previous offspring, decided she was going to come around for lunch at Safari Lodge. She killed a nyala outside the kitchen as we were departing for afternoon game drive. A few nights later an unknown male leopard came around for dinner at Safari Lodge and killed a nyala under the deck of one of the Safari rooms while the guests were having dinner. Coming back to Hlabinkonzi, we witnessed something very strange with her mating with the Tekwane male which is very unusual as leopards generally only start mating at about 4 or 5 years of age and she is only around 3 years. We don't think that she had intentions of falling pregnant but more for experimental purposes and for her to aknowledge him as the boss.

We have also had amazing viewing of a few of the other leopards in the area. Stuart and his guests were lucky enough to see the Thai dam female kill a bushbuck as it was busy giving birth.

Thai Dam Female Leopard
My guests and myself were treated to a similar experience, we saw the Makubella female toying with a new born bushbuck until hunger took and she killed and ate it. It was not the prettiest of sightings but that is nature.

Makubella Female Leopard
The lion sightings have also been awesome this month. The female from the Ximungwe pride has taken on the arduous job of trying to mate with as many males from the coalition of 6 male lions we call the Mapogo. The reason she does this is again to hopefully ensure the survival of her cubs. If a male lion suspects the cub is not his, he will kill the cubs so he can spread his own seed.

****Again hopefully we will have some new additions within the next 3-4 months.
The rest of the Ximungwe pride are also doing very well, they are all around 4 years of age and as each day goes by they grow more and more confident. They were sighted west of Rock lodge trying to take down a fully grown dagga boy (male buffalo) which was part of a group of 6, needless to say the buffalo were not at all happy, and the lions eventually gave up as they were clearly outsized and outnumbered. They have also been venturing far out of their normal territory and deep into the Sandriver Prides territory, they have not crossed paths yet but who knows what the future holds.

Mapogo and Sandriver Female Mating

The Sandriver pride is also doing very well. The 5 male cubs or now sub-adults are getting very big. Each time the fathers get close the one female will entice him away by confusing him into believing it is time for her to mate and the other female with the cubs will make a get away. The fathers will probably chase their young heirs away to get rid of future competition. Another interesting strategy this pride has adopted is to do all of their hunting during the heat of the day; this strategy has been working very well for them as they always have food in their bellies. It is also good for us in that a few kills have been viewed during the day.

The Ottawa pride has also been visiting us quite often lately, which is always good as they have the youngest cubs in the area. The cubs are around 6 months of age.

Sandriver Pride Cubs
The highlight of this month's cheetah sightings was Greg finding a female with her cub. This caused quite a buzz, as we do not often see cheetahs as these poor animals are critically endangered.

Male Cheetah
With it being spring it is definitely time for a lot of the animals to start giving birth. A guest who was relaxing between drives at our tree house viewed a hippo giving birth. Stuart missed by minutes an elephant giving birth. It always fascinates me how these animals time their births to this time of the year, as they're pregnant for 22 months.

Elephant Calf
The nyala and bushbuck have also brought some new additions to the world. The impala, wildebeest and buffalo have still got around a month to go. So anybody coming to visit us in the near future will be treated to lots of babies, which always makes for great viewing.

Besides all the larger game, with the bush being so open we have been having great sightings of a lot of the smaller game including civets, honey badgers, serval and bush babies. You are always very lucky to catch a glimpse of these animals as they lead extremely secretive lives.

We look forward to sharing more of our amazing experiences with you in the future!!! From January2009 you'll be able to post your own comments and interact with us, so make sure to visit us again soon!

Many thanks!

The Rangers and Trackers of Ulusaba Private Game Reserve.