East Africa Bush Tails

April 2014

Leopard cub – Mara Toto
On the 15th of February, after having been watching, and waiting for two months we had the first ever sighting of the Leopard cub belonging to the leopardess who has been a regular around Mara Plains and Toto for the last 5 months.
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On the morning of the 15th, guests out with the morning drives from Mara Toto found the mother and cub on the edge of the plain not more than a kilometer from the camp. As they watched the leopardess picked up her cub and carried a few hundred meters it into the riverine thicket. Here she nursed her little one before getting up and moving back onto the plains in the light of the rising sun. Her cub, not need ing to be told jumped into the bush and disappeared.

On the evening of the 16th they were found again as the two played in the dark on the top of the riverbank.

Finally on the evening of the 17th of February, after a patient wait of over an hour we were finally rewarded with the first sight of the little one’s face as it curiously peered out at us from the safety of the tangled roots of its secret home. For a few seconds the little eyes, still slightly grey watched us before retreating and becoming one of the shadows in its home.

We wish this little one and its mother the best of luck and we hope to be able to send regular updates of the life of this little one as (hopefully) it grows up and follows in the paw marks of its mother.

 
Mara Plains
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This February has been a dry month in which we have watched the red-oat grass drop it’s seeds, thin-out and turn from green to brown. The temperatures have passed 30C on more occasions than not, and the wildebeest have had their calves, the first on the 4th Feb the most recent on the 3rd March. This collective calving (ensuring a maximum survival rate) is considered one of the best times to witness the migratory cycles of these beests. The majority of this happens on the short grass plains of the Serengeti thought we still have our resident populations here who not only have more chance of becoming a statistic, due to the fewer numbers of fawns, but they also have to deal with the reality of being born into one of the highest predator density areas in Africa.

Writing this report now after having had a truly spectacular day here in the conservancy we can really only guess that the 36 hours of rain which the area was lucky enough to get about ten days ago is the reason why we have had a huge influx of plains wildlife moving into the central conservancy from Motorogi to the north. Groupings of over one hundred topi seem to have lead the way, followed by multiple families of zebra and now close to two thousand head of wildebeest with more to come on the plateau above the gorge.
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This day started with Amani the cheetah being found above the rocky crossing. Then her three ‘cubs’ were spotted on the boundary of the new grazing area where they proceeded to kill a young topi and stuff themselves to maximum capacity (it is said that cheetah can eat 30% of their own body weight in half an hour!). Then a lioness from the elusive Eseketa pride (a branch of the core Moniko pride) was found with a wildebeest kill on the road onto the Olkuroto plains. A big family of elephant are currently moving through the Motorogi river valley; Fig the Leopard is digesting (again) on the river line behind Olare; and the Enkoyeni pride (never to be outdone) killed a wildebeest last night, and at 2:45pm had a another successful go at the 2000 wildebeest that decided to cross the Ntiakitaik River above deep crossing. It must be said they are looking very healthy.

On the same note of the Enkoyeni pride, some of you may have followed the thread of the Enkoyeni lion who was injured after his attempt to raid a Maasai boma. Well, he is still looking well and not limping despite having removed the stitches from both his wounds in his feet. The lion research, conservancy and guides will keep and eye on him and cross fingers that the wound will heal up. This pride is now up to 13 individuals in the southern part of the OMC (with two cubs) the other females are said to be with the seven young males in the north.

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Other characters of the story…. well, high on the scene this month have been Amani’s three ex-cubs from her last litter. These three spent the first past of the month hunting scrub hares. They then began terrorizing the reedbuck along the hammerkop steam, and they also had a go at a very unfortunate serval cat which was chased and very nearly tripped before being left to scamper to safety. These three killed an adult impala on the 1st (this chase ended up in the river bed after 200 meters) and then today a young topi. A very successful trio, well done Amani!

Other cheetahs in the soap opera… Narasha has been around, previous reports that she may have given birth were not true but by now we are sure she must have. The questions are ‘where?’ and ‘are they alive?’ The last time she was seen on the plains above the deep crossing she was reportedly lactating but this is unproven as yet. We do know however that she was in the same area as the Enkoyeni lions.

Another female cheetah came through this month with signs of mange around her eyes. After monitoring and follow ups it seems this mange may not be spreading so we will wait and keep checking on her.

The Moniko pride (the conservancies largest pride of lions) spent the first part of the month on their namesake hill before moving east to take advantage of the herds on the plains south of the Eseketa valley. Towards the end of the month part of this pride moved even further east following the herds onto the shorter grass plains of Naboisho, a few other members of the pride stayed in the area north of Kicheche and were recently seen on Naronyo hill presiding over the grazing area set aside for the land owner’s cattle.

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Slightly further afield the double crossing pride have been close up to the boundary of the conservancy for much of this month, although they are nowhere near in as good condition as the pride around the OMC they are making the most of the animals that are moving through the north of the reserve on the shorter grass plains. Interestingly, the two males from this pride have been pushing far north (and east) into the territories of both the Enkoyeni pride and the Moniko pride. These two males have on a number of occasions been found around Moniko hill – maybe this is part of the reason for the Moniko’s move east? Either way the other males around the OMC will have their work cut out for them in the future considering these two’s ‘crazy eye’ look and aggressive pushes.

Onto the leopards of the Olare Motorogi and ‘Fig’ who spent the first week of the month in her usual haunt on the hammerkop stream. She then disappeared again for a few days (possibly just hiding very well), then towards the end of February she appeared on the riverline behind Olare in what we would all have said was her mother (Acacia)’s territory. To all the Fig fans, she is still looking healthy and hopefully might start to develop milk glands soon.

Acacia has been very scarce this month only being found on a few occasions. She is still along her little section of rivarian forest and doing very well as always. She took a couple of days to eat (and more to recover from) a large male Thompson’s gazelle she had killed and hung in a tree. Then she was found with an impala fawn very close to the conservancy’s western boundary.

Namynak, Acacia’s youngest daughter, has also blessed OMC guests with sightings this month. She has only been found in the vicinity of her mother once and is obviously very confident on her own now though still in her mother’s range. We are very much looking forward to the day when we see her with her first kill of a mammal her own size or larger.

 
Some of the highlights of the month would include:
-Watching the vets treat a young male lion that was slashed by blades while (hopefully) learning that cows are not to be eaten.
-We have seen so many giraffe this month, seemingly more than usual, watching these animals helps one to slow down and feel the mellow motion pace of the African bush.
-Seeing the cheetah chasing (but not harming) the serval cat.
-Seeing the duo of Nguro (‘half tail’) and Jicho (‘one eye’) doing so well in the central conservancy despite not having a pride.
-Seeing the large groups of kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) around the conservancy when these animals are said to be in fast decline in the region.
-Finding the multiple groups of Eland who we have been following these past months.
-Watching the Enkoyeni pride set up and succeed in their hunt towards the month end after weeks when they were loosing form fast.
-Seeing the large families of elephant coming through this area.
-Watching the two families of bat-eared foxes (one east of the Ntiakitaik, one on Porini hill) as the pups grow and reach sub-adulthood.
-Watching Amani’s last litter succeed in the majority of their hunts.
-Watching Fig, one of our resident leopards, begin to expand her range. (Acacia has also been found again at the top end of the riverline behind Olare). The birthing of the wildebeest and seeing these little long legged fawns learning to keep up with the herd. We timed one from hitting the ground to walking – 4 minutes!!
-Witnessing the return of the large herds of wildebeest and zebra back into the area, promising a time of action ahead.
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Olesere / Ol Donyo Lodge
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February has whistled by and what a jam-packed month it has been! It started with a dramatic rise in temperature and in the first week we were absolutely sweltering. Afternoon siestas were an absolute must and our horse riders were mounting up before the sun had risen to escape the heat!
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The 7th sticks in our minds not only as the day that the storms broke but also as the tragic day that we lost one of our most renown resident bull elephants – Torn Ear.  He arrived at the waterhole after a long absence and was obviously in great pain with a huge swelling on his side. Big Life Foundation sprung into action and the vet was brought in but sadly the poison arrowheads had punctured his abdominal cavity and peritonitis had set in. It was a deeply moving experience for some of our guests to be able to be part of this process, many of them leaving ol Donyo with a new passion to spread the conservation message. That afternoon the storms set in and we had the most fantastic lightening displays and crashing rolls of thunder – we’d like to think that the Chyulu Hills were grieving for their old friend just as we were.
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Torn Ear

 It is not uncommon to get a little bit of rain in February, and these are often called the “Grass Rains” as they bring about a short flush of green grass. These are caused by the remnants of cyclones from Madagascar travelling up across East Africa. This year has been different in that the cyclone was much more intense and longer lasting, and so we had a good 10 days of heavy storms. The result is fabulous! Everything is a deep verdant green and most spectacularly all the Acacia tortilis is in flower, so the forest below the lodge is covered with the beautiful white blossom.

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A rare sighting of an elephant on the plains – clearly having enjoyed a very good mud bath after the recent rain!

 The lions in the area have been very busy and many of our guests have had fantastic sightings. Nemasi, a collared lioness whose home range includes the ol Donyo Sambu and El Mau areas, has been particularly obliging of late. With the help of the local Lion Guardian Lenga, we have been able to see a lot of her, the young male Melio and her cubs. Kasiyo, the big black-maned male lion who resides on the other side of the lodge towards ol Donyo Wuas and Crater, and his girls Nosi Noni, her sister and their cubs have also been very active. A giraffe kill near Stable Hill meant that we had some brilliant viewings. For the first time also we were able to approach the pride in the late afternoon and they were very relaxed with the vehicle and human presence. What a success!

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Melio displaying his impressive knashers!

 Jeremiah Kasaine, our fantastic guide, is now the first at ol Donyo to achieve his Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association Silver Award. We are incredibly proud of him and his achievement is spurring the other guides to study even harder for theirs!

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Our Silver Award guide – Jeremiah

 The end of January heralded the Year of the Horse in the Lunar Chinese Calendar, and for the stables at ol Donyo this February has been one of their busiest yet. The horses have enjoyed the flush of green grass and are looking in peak condition and the rains have also served to settle the dust so the riding conditions are perfect. The joy of riding in the bush is that one is able to go completely off-road and many animals, especially giraffe, allow you to get much closer than in a vehicle. It is also such a quiet and unobtrusive way of moving around the bush – just the odd clink off a metal shoe on a rock and the gentle whicker of a horse rather than any sort of engine!

 14Zulu heading out for a well deserved break in the bush after a long morning ride

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