Mluwati Concession March 2021

It has been a month of the most incredible sightings! We have been very fortunate to experience sightings that were simply amazing—from the smallest insects to the largest elephant. While one can expect the unpredictability of the wild, we have been lucky enough to have our only difficulty being in trying to decide the daily routes to be taken for the best viewing possible, North, South, East or West depending on where the animals are.

Despite the heavy rainfall and subsequent lush, green vegetation, the grass is beginning to show signs that winter is well on its way. Our guests, therefore, have been thoroughly spoilt for choice throughout the month of March.

The lasting benefits of a plentiful rainy season is that we can rest assured that there is going to be plenty of water around for all the wildlife, which will definitely see them through the winter months.

From updates on our favourite residents of the Mluwati Concession to a deep investigation into the types of animal camouflage, our March newsletter captures the abundant diversity of sightings that month that we had the privilege of experiencing on the Concession.

LIONS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

Most of our guests will know this pride as the Imbali Pride, which used to consist of 4 adult females and their offspring. The pride now has a male lion with them and his new offspring, which he actually looks after a majority of the time when he is not patrolling. One night, under the cover of faded light, they managed to pull down a wildebeest on Predator Plains. The females took centre stage with the cubs feeding hungrily and contrary to what the “norm” would be for male lions where they always eat first – the new male walked onto the scene and lay day down a short distance away while the other ate. Even when he did start eating, he allowed the rest to eat with him. He loves playing with the youngsters and very seldom will you find him growling or reprimanding them in the form of a snarl or large paw.

The Hamiltons Pride is still doing well with a couple of the females with new cubs again. Unfortunately, they are still keeping the cubs pretty well hidden by taking advantage of the dense vegetation. The male is looking old and thin each time we see him—he generally lies a distance away from the females whenever they are together.

Countershading

This refers to concealing colouration where the back and belly colours of the animal are different – each colour being used for concealment when viewed from above or below. The dark ground matches the back when seen from above, while the light sky matches the belly seen from below. Countershading is a characteristic that is shared by both predators and prey. Some noticeable examples would be Lion and Impala The shading also tends to “flatten” the animal against the ground when seen in black and white making it more difficult to see.

LEOPARDS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

Wabayisa was found lurking behind the Imbali staff village, trying to hunt impala. He has been spending a considerable amount of time back on the Concession recently, not disappearing as often into the Sabi Sands as he used to in the previous few months.

Tiyasela has again been showing signs of being in heat. She is moving around quite a lot at the moment. It is only a matter of time that she will continue to her mother’s legacy of producing spectacular leopards inside the Mluwati Concession.

Unfortunately, Nkhanye seems to have definitely lost the one cub which we saw toward the end of last year. She has been seen on a few occasions relaxing up in the trees and scent marking quite a lot.

S125 Female and her cub. The young female and her cub, currently being referred to as S125 female, have also been spending quite a lot of early mornings playing on the road. The young male is very relaxed with vehicles while the female is still very skittish. Over time, we hope that she will relax as she spends more time around the Concession.

Disruptive Colouration:

Mammals use spots, stripes, or other patterns on the coat to “break up” their body outline so that it blends onto the background. Its overall shape is disguised to be all but invisible. Because most mammals have only black–white vision, relying on movement and shape, this can be a very successful strategy for prey and predator alike. Kudu, Leopard, Bushbuck, Zebra, and serval, among others, are classic examples of this camouflage.

WILD DOGS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

This month has been, both, a good month and a bad month for our favourite canine predators. The Pack of 29 that we spoke about last month returned to the Concession and spent a few days with us. Unfortunately, due to a severe run-in with what we can only presume to be lions, the Pack is now down to just 22 members. Our Imbali Pack also made a very quick appearance this month, but again, they seem to have also encountered some trouble as the Pack is now down to just 9 members.

Ever wondered why wild dogs drink so little water? Did you know that this adaptation is actually thanks to their large and long intestines? Furthermore, by eating quickly, they can absorb plenty of vital fluids from their prey. As with all species, however, when water is in abundance wild dogs are more than happy to play and bath for hours. Most animals avoid detection by a type of deception called camouflage (also called disguise). This strategy is not only used by prey in defence, but many predators also use it in order to hunt effectively. Four basic types of camouflage are generally recognised, and each has a slightly different function, although they all disguise the presence of the animal.

BIRDS DOGS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

Dust Bathing : Exemplified on the left by this Lilac-Breasted Roller, dust bathing is an extremely important part of a bird’s daily activity. It makes up part of their preening and plumage maintenance, which keeps their feathers in top condition. The dust, which is worked into the bird’s feathers, will absorb any excess oil which prevents them from becoming greasy or matted. The oil-soaked dust is then shed easily to keep the feathers clean and flexible for more aerodynamic flight and efficient insulation.

A true sight for sore eyes this amazing specialized nighttime hunter is known as the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. This owl is large and globally the third heaviest owl when weighed on a scale. It can grow to over two feet in length, its wingspan is also impressive with some being measured at 2 meters. These owls hunt anything from genets, hares, small monkeys, squirrels, bats, rats, birds, and mice. They are formidable and powerful hunters catching a wide range of birds and bird sizes, they have been known to kill other raptor’s nestlings.

Other interesting facts about owls:

  • In African folk law, owls are associated with superstition, often with evil connotations.
  • Owl body parts are used in traditional healing and potions.
  • An Owl’s hearing is remarkable, and their biggest aid when hunting to pin point prey.
  • Owls are light sleepers and awaken easy during the day.
  • The so called “ear tufts” are ornamental and have no association with their hearing.
  • Some owls can inhabit a wide range of altitudes.
  • Allopreening is common in some owl species.
  • Larger owls are subjected to persecution, considered as potential small livestock thieves.

This little wader is thoroughly enjoying the puddles all around the concession – Wood Sandpiper – non breeding migrant with southern African birds originating from Finland east to the Ural Mountains, departing the breeding grounds in June and eventually arriving in southern Africa in July. It is widespread in the region by the end of August with adults leaving late February and March, while immature birds will often leave in the period from late March to early May.

Another well know little wading bird that needs little introduction would be the Three Banded Plover, little known, although often moving away on the onset of seasonal rainfall at Zambia and Zimbabwe, while it travels away from arid areas at the beginning of the dry season. It mainly eats invertebrates (both terrestrial and aquatic), doing most of its foraging on open shores using the typical plover technique, running, stopping, and searching for prey then repeating the process.

This red billed hornbill is actually dust bathing. Can you tell us which bird is photobombing the dustbathing hornbill?

NOCTURNAL PREDATORS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

The white tailed mongoose is the largest in our mongoose family which also includes the Dwarf Mongoose, Slender Mongoose, Banded Mongoose that we have here on the concession. Body measures approximately between 48 and 71 cm long with an additional tail measurement of 47cm. Mongooses live in burrows and feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, eggs and occasionally fruit. A number of mongooses especially those of the genus Herpestes will attack and kill venomous snakes. They depend on their speed and agility, darting at the head of the snake and cracking the skull in one bite. Mongooses are occasionally bitten, however, the possess a glycoprotein that binds to proteins in snake venom, deactivating them and making them harmless.

The African Wildcat is also active predominantly at night. It relies predominantly on its hearing to locate its prey in the dense vegetation. The Wildcat, like its big cat relatives, also relies on stealth to approach its prey and relies on the vegetation to hide. African Wildcats primarily hunt rodents, birds, reptiles, and insects, which also provide them with enough water. As a result, African Wildcats rarely go to drink water. When confronted with a threat, the African Wildcat raises its hair to make itself seem larger in order to intimate its opponent. In the daytime, it usually stays hidden in the dense bush. However, as an opportunist, it will sometimes become active on dark cloudy days. As with leopards, both sexes of African Wildcat are territorial. The territory of a male will usually overlap with that of up to three females.

SPECIES FEATURE: THE BABOON SPIDER

Sometimes we are lucky enough to come into contact with these amazing creatures, although the name can conjure up images of giant, hairy, eight legged creatures that could be the stuff of nightmares or even cheesy Hollywood movies. But to the contrary baboon spiders are placid, enigmatic animals that would rather keep to themselves that rick and encounter with human beings. And believe it or not there are people in this world including myself who are fascinated by them……..

Did you know a female baboon spider can live up to 15 years in the wild, due to the severe destruction of their natural habitat and over collecting of them through the pet trade they are extremely rare, hardly ever seen outside of our parks and reserves.

Buffalo: we are still seeing the big herds moving through the concession which is a huge help to us as the flatten the now long grass which make it much easier to see the other animals who are making use of the grass to hide away.

Elephants: Hamiltons, Imbali and Hoyo Hoyo are all seeing herds and bulls elephants returning to the waterholes due to all the smaller puddles and wallows have now started drying up.

Hyena: always unpredictable but never going hungry, incident at Hoyo Hoyo where hyenas killed a kudu on the deck this was quickly resolved by our Head Ranger and Hoyo Hoyo staff. It just goes to show that hyenas are just as capable of hunting and killing their own prey without having to wait for a predator to do it for them.

Chameleons : I am not sure if it has something to do with the above average yearly rainfall but the chameleons are being seen in large numbers all over the concession from tiny little ones to adults, incredible we counted 25 one evening between KNP Corner and Imbali Staff Village.

Frogs: the nightly chorus is spectacular, also very helpful when guys are viewing off road as they know where they hear frogs there is water and should not be driving in the area. Banded Rubber Frogs are extremely active right now I personally have had 6 or 7 encounters with them on my veranda.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

Head in the Clouds

Have you ever spent time just looking into the clouds and even using your imagination to find shapes in the clouds. Here we have Cirrocumulus clouds these are typically thin and sometimes patchy, sheet like clouds. They often look like they’re full of ripples or are made of small grains.

Have you ever spent time just looking into the clouds and even using your imagination to find shapes in the clouds. Here we have Cirrocumulus clouds these are typically thin and sometimes patchy, sheet like clouds. They often look like they’re full of ripples or are made of small grains.

Storm clouds – the last of the amazing build ups for the year our summer rainfall has been amazing this year for which we are most grateful.

“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne – bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive” – Karen Blixen

THE GUIDES OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

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