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Ulusaba

#SofaSafari - Episode 12

We began this episode of #SofaSafari from Ulusaba in the copper-hued surroundings of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. With Tom, Brandon and Ryan on camera, we descended the 'Rock Lodge Rollercoaster', the elevation allowing us to take in the beautiful views and an incredible vantage point to observe the wildlife around Ulusaba.

The Ulusaba rangers then began with a bit of tracking trivia, the 'Guess the Animal's Track' game:

  1. First up, they showed us a cloven-hooved animal which had been jogging along the dust road. The clue that Brandon gave us was that both the males and females of this particular species of animal have horns.
  2. Next up, was a track of an animal that appeared to have been dragging something along. This species has four toes with a back pad with three lobes - this is key to its identification!
  3. Finally, a conical hole in the ground belonging to an insect predator which waits for its prey to fall in.

Any guesses? Read on to find out what animal these tracks belong to.

Impala - a flagship species
The rangers stopped by a big breeding group of impala made up mainly of females, with one male amongst them. This is the secret to the impala’s success: to have most of the females pregnant at the same time means they'll give birth simultaneously leading to a huge impala baby boom! As we've come to the end of the rutting season, we now need to wait 6 to 7 months for the gestation period. This breeding strategy is probably the reason for their success as a species, however, they are also highly athletic and can jump great distances; the rangers referred to them as a flagship species. They are also extremely valuable to the environment as they aerate the soil and provide food, being so low down in the food chain.

We then moved over to Stuart, Brad, Trevor on camera and Janine taking care of comms. In the glorious late afternoon sun, a herd of elephants was on the move. Being in the midst of this large group, the rangers observed that this was a large breeding herd with a number of calves of different ages.

As bulls mature, they leave the herd and form bachelor groups. It's the mature bulls which move between herds seeking the reproductive cows. The presence of a dominant bull will often supress the hormonal release - or musk - of a younger bull until they can strike out on their own. This is when we will often see these 4 or 5 tonne titans clashing for breeding rights. The rangers explained that this state of musk can last a varied amount of time, in some cases a couple of decades, where they come in and out of that heightened release of testosterone.

Third time lucky?
The rangers explained that they had come across fresh tracks from the Ottowa pride of lions earlier today and were heading back to the spot to find them. As we joined them heading out to find the pride, the group spotted the Fever Bush which grows predominately around river beds. This plant has been given its name because its leaves can be boiled in hot water and can open up airways - the perfect remedy for a stuffy cold!

Soon, the group found three members of the Ottowa pride: two lionesses and an old male lion who was fast asleep. There was no sign of the other members of the pride - a female and her cubs. The female lions had recently arisen from their afternoon nap and were meticulously grooming themselves.

As one of the lioness stood up, the older male lion quickly awoke and tried unsuccessfully to mate with her. As the team continued to watch - just metres from the pride - the older lion tried again to mate with the female lion but, again, was unsuccessful. Stuart remarked on how imposing the male lion still is, even at this ripe age; he still has a full mane and his teeth are still in fairly good condition, not being rubbed down to stumps. We watched with bated breath as the lion tried to mate with the lioness a third time. Would she repel him again? Sadly, yes. Seems third time wasn't a charm.

And here's the part you were waiting for: the results of the tracking trivia!

  1. The first one was a hooved animal, an ungulate, which was a wildebeest.
  2. A female leopard
  3. An antlion

See you next Monday at 3pm BST on our Instagram!

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