Southern Africa Bush Tails

Bushlife Conservancy

Our work with the Painted Dog Conservation group has finished its second year now. As mentioned in the newsletter, we have identified and named 6 packs of dogs in Mana Pools numbering abo t 120 dogs, pending pup survivorship. There are now 4 dogs collared. The Vundu pack has 3 collars presently, the Alpha male and female and a 2 year old. The collar is due to come off the alpha female so that the data accumulated over a 2 year period can be down loaded. The collar on Cochise, the 2 year old was placed as he is a possible candidate to disperse from the pack and join another or start his own. READ MORE

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Mike & Marian on Safari: What a Life – Davisson’s Camp | Hwange National Park
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It was on the evening drive when we found the pride of lions with the little cubs that we also found Nathan Pilcher and Carl Ruysenaar who have been in Hwange for nearly two months now filming lions. Mike knows Nathan well as they had spent time recording the release of the white -eye birds on North Island in the Seychelles in 2007. We wanted to catch up with the guys and find out what footage they had managed to collect during their stay here.

On one afternoon we all decided to get together to film and photograph elephants wallowing at the new mud wallow at Davisson’s Camp. Great plan, the only problem is no -one bothered to tell the elephants. So we had tea instead and chatted about what these guys have been up to.

Nathan has been with Aquavision for over six years now so he has had a lot of exposure and experience in wildlife filming. Wilderness and Aquavision have enjoyed a wonderful working relationship for many, many years now. Nathan’s brief was to film lion and elephant interaction during the dry season. This was based on the fact that there was a huge pride of lions in the concession last year, but now that pride has unbundled into smaller prides and they no longer are the monopoly of the area.

It is quite tricky to have a brief or plan in your mind as to what story you want to tell in terms of wildlife, because usually what happens is that another story develops instead of the one you want to tell. Just like animals and raising teenagers: the way you think it is going to work out doesn’t always go that w ay. C’est la vie.

There is a pan to the south west of Davisson’s called Ngamo. Mike absolutely loves this area. It is almost like a world of its own because it has different vegetation and in the dry season it looks flat and desolate. You can see the heat haze rising from the sandy earth off this flat moon -scape pan that stretches almost more than five km’s from one side to the other. In the middle there is a windmill that looks like a single lonely tinsel decoration on a Christmas tree as it glistens in th e heat and reflection of the sun.


It is here that Nathan and Carl discovered a new story. A lone male cheetah who is a unique and cheeky character. It appears he fights way above his weight. They filmed him trying to take down a waterbuck – this is amazing. Normally cheetah would form a coalition to take on such a large antelope, but not this guy. And while this was all going on, elephant and baboon were going about their normal business of getting to the water across this vast pan before moving on to sear ch for feed in this drying landscape. A heady capture for wildlife filming for sure.

Apparently, this cheeky cheetah is not scared to take on kudu and scoffs at impala – a mere snack not worth the energy to take down! He is a big boy and Mike and I had the great pleasure of seeing him at Ngamo. We photographed him taking a sundowner at one of the pools there’¦it was pure magic to see.

And now back to the brief of the lions. The interaction that Nathan and Carl are hoping for is not apparent as yet, but there is another month of dry season so we will wait and see. In the meantime, the guys are up early and out late. Putting in a fourteen hour day in this magical office is what a lot of people dream about. It is hard work; physically and mentally. There is a lot of waiting and a lot of nothing. But when something magical happens -what a life! – Marian

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Who is Marian Myers?
Mike and Marian Myers have embarked on an exciting new adventure! Follow this bushwhacker and city girl through news, views, videos and photos posted weekly on their blog “Mike and Marian on Safari’.

Mike & Marian on Safari: Getting to Know the Roads – Davisson’s Camp | Hwange National Park

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When we first arrived, Ron Goatley, MD of Wilderness Zimbabwe, took us out and showed us the concession and the main roads. We all know that main roads in the bush look absolutely nothing like main roads at all. They look like bush roads that are bumpy and windy and look exactly the same as one another. In fact, I could just be driven round in a massive circle and probably wouldn’t know my way back to camp.

But on Thursday, it was our turn to ‘˜fly solo’. As Mike has guided for many, many years, being in the bush is so natural for him and it didn’t take long to get the feel for where we were heading. So we set off for Madison Pan which is on the way to the airstrip and then to the second pan past the airstrip, with the intention of landing up at Broken Rifle Tree.

Everything in the bush has a story behind it. So you can imagine the intrigue about Broken Rifle Tree. Whichever way you think about it, it doesn’t sound good. Once upon a time, way back in the day when the concession was first secured by Wilderness; Ron Goatley, Brian Worsely and Duncan Edwards were scouting the area and took a rest under the tree to ponder. Duncan decided to get a better look around so he climbed up the tree. Although Brian told Duncan exactly where the riffle had been placed, Duncan managed to jump down from the tree, straight onto the rifle and break it. And that is how the pan got its name.

When we got to Broken Rifle Tree, there was nothing happening. It seems if you just settle down in the shade of one of the trees there, something will happen. And it did. Elephants started to file out from the bush across the pan. Two bulls: one old bull and one Askari. In elephant terms an Askari is a young elephant bull that hangs around with an older elephant bull to learn about life. The word is derived from Arabic and used in many ways, but most usually it means ‘soldier’ and was used in central African colonies where local soldiers served with European colonial troops.

It was like watching theatre: elephants enter stage left; elephants enter stage right. Baboons everywhere filling in the gaps and from front left came three beautiful sable antelope. Birds also came in to drink: lots of yellow-billed kites and an African hawk -eagle. It was a pantomime – which is always fun.

When the show was over for us and we had enough magical footage, we left to find the road to Davisson’s Camp. Mike was delighted with his first video footage as it seemed to look good for a first attempt. Lots of exploring and learning ahead! – Mike & Marian

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Mike & Marian on Safari: Getting Grounded – Hwange National Park | Little Makalolo
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If you practice yoga, you will have heard instruction to keep yourself grounded in any of the poses that you go into. But even if you don’t practice yoga, you will have heard the expression to keep your feet on the ground as a way to say that you need to be in touch with who you are, where you are and what you are intending to do. Little Makalolo in Hwange, Zimbabwe has five classic safari tents on the ground. One of the five tents is a family room which takes an additional two in twin beds in a second room adjoined to the main bedroom.

Little Makalolo is an uncomplicated experience. The main area is very comfortable. There is a lounge and bar to the right as you walk in; and to the left is the dining room. In front is the fire pit and to the right of that is the swimming pool. In front of the main area is the most glorious outlook over Little Makalolo Pan. Because of the time of the year, this pan is active just about all day long. Elephant stream in from all over in small breeding herds of between 10 and 20 at a time to come and quench their thirst. They usually don’t stay that long because they have to move great distances now to find browsing in between visits to water holes.

I find it so hard to see the baby elephants and the young elephants following their mothers and the matriar chs. Some of the babies are so little they easily fit under their mother’s stomachs which means that they are under a year old. I worry about whether the mother has enough food and water and rest to be able to lactate to sustain her baby. The harsh truth is that she probably doesn’t.

I know that, despite the fact that the elephants’ hip bones are starting to show as an indication of the dry season stresses, I keep myself grounded in the knowledge that this time will pass. The rains will come. Most will survive, and some will not. I watch these elegant silent giants pad with languid steps until they smell and see the water; then they can’t help themselves. Despite the tiredness and the sore bodies from covering such large distances, they run and they trumpet with delight for a drink of water.

As an experience to get in touch with Africa, Little Makalolo offers just that. The camp gives you comfort that you need and the area gives you the entertainment that wild Africa offers. At this time of the year, game i s aplenty in large herds. Despite the fact that it is the dry season, you have your feet on the ground and can reach for the stars!

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Mike & Marian
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