Update from the Hills….
It is mind blowing how quickly time can fly. The first two months of this year is already at an end. It only feels like yesterday that the New Year began. At the moment it is very hot here in Madikwe and very little rain fell so far since January. This resulted in hot dry weather not too dissimilar of something you might experience in the Kalahari. All the plants in the bush are still nice and green and the animals are well fed, but if we do not receive decent rain before the winter it will be a very long dry season indeed. This country runs roughly in a 10 year cycle of wet followed by dry. For the last ten years it has been very wet in most areas, so it looks like we might be entering the dry time pretty soon.
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We have been reducing our lion population over the last year or so and at the moment we have just over fifty lions on the reserve. The ones that have been removed were all young males and rogue females with no real part in the lion infrastructure on Madikwe and they were all exported to other reserves all over southern Africa. This now done it basically means that we can now look again at trying to introduce cheetah into the reserve. We are looking at about a dozen or so and once the permits have been processed, they will be on their way. This is cause for lots of excitement for us and we cannot wait to see cheetah on a regular basis again.
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Our two packs of wild dog are still doing well on the reserve. The large pack consists of about 19 animals now with most of last year?s pups still alive and the smaller pack is about eight animals strong. I was privileged enough to witness quite a spectacle on Valentine?s Day. I was not on game drive but on my way to town to do the routine town trip for the lodge when I stumbled across the small pack of wild dogs. They slowly jogged down the road in front of me and I patiently followed close behind. All of a sudden the lead dog sped away and went chasing after something into the bush and the others followed in close pursuit. They chased down a warthog piglet and when they caught up to it you could only imagine the result (This all happened in plain view for me right next to the road). While they were busy eating I started to hear this almighty squealing. At first I thought it was the piglet that was still alive, then I realized as the sound got louder and louder that it wasn?t the piglet but his devil enraged mother charging down on the dogs like an out of control freight train. She burst out of the bushes right next to them and at first glance I could see that this was no ordinary warthog. She was huge with tusks at least 12 inches long and the look in her eye was one of horror stories. She plowed straight through the dogs and managed to get a glancing blow on one of them. The dogs burst into every direction and were mostly in disarray since they did not expect such a violent and deliberate attack. The female warthog went after 3 of the dogs and then turned around to go after another two. It was incredible with what speed she was moving and the determination to get one of them could be clearly seen. She eventually gave up and went to sniff the blood stain on the ground where her piglet died and soon trotted off. Once again it showed me the incredible instinct of motherhood and how she would do anything to save her youngsters, even though nothing can be done.
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The 3 new boys in the reserve are getting bigger every day and since they took over the land here they have changed remarkably. They have become bigger and bulkier and their manes have developed remarkably turning black as per their ancestry from the Kalahari and Etosha. Four new cubs have been born and although they aren?t theirs they have not killed them and I think it is mostly due to their monstrously big and aggressive mother. They should survive if she can keep them safe and the males eventually accept them.
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Leopard sightings on the reserve have been awesome the last two months in the reserve. Our male in the North West of the reserve has been seen on many occasions and gave us some excellent sightings to be proud of. In addition to this is a female and cub in the central part of the reserve. All are very relaxed and we just love these animals. The female once took us to a Gemsbok carcass, don?t think she killed it but they definitely enjoyed the free meal.
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Until next time
Jaco Becker (BSc. Hon. Wildlife Management) and the Madikwe Hills team