East Africa Bush Tails

Mara – Meru Cheetah Project

We are working with Mara – Meru Cheetah project to help them monitor and conserve cheetahs of the Masai Mara. We assist the project by providing them with field data to help them monitor the cheetah populations in our area of the Masai Mara. Clients can also get involved to help the project, by sending in your cheetah photos to  photos@governorscamp.com we will then pass these on to the project who will identify your cheetah and in return send you information on the cheetah in your photo.

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Masai Mara Game Report October

Weather and grasslands: Cool mornings with warm to humid temperatures towards midday. Temperatures for the morning averaged at 19°C and by mid day they were around 28°C. There have been scattered rain showers mainly in the evenings which have brought temperatures and dust levels down. The Mara River has risen with the recent rain upstream. Grass levels are short throughout the Musiara and Bila Shaka grassland plains with areas of longer grass on Paradise Plains and Rhino Ridge, much of the grassland plains now have a green tinge reviving the colour. Towards the end of the month we had a little more rain. The total rainfall for the month was 88 mm.

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General game
In the first week of the month crossings were slim and the Musiara and Bila Shaka grassland plains were seemingly emptied, then on the 8th and 9th there were large numbers of wildebeest that crossed at Paradise and the at the rapids upstream of the camps these Wildebeest came across from the conservation areas and started congregating on the Musiara Masai plains and on the conservation areas to the north. From the 14th there were some good zebra and wildebeest crossings in the Paradise region and crossing at the main crossing points. They are crossing from the Trans Mara conservancy towards the Paradise region and then onto the Musiara plains. On the 15th there was a reasonable crossing at the mortuary crossing point with one zebra being taken by crocodile; later that afternoon there was a large build up at Mortuary with none crossing until later at night; it is true that many wildebeest will cross at night. There were still large numbers on the Musiara plains and some of these were seen heading towards the east into the Masai conservation areas.
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In the Paradise region there are two Nomadic male lion that came after the Musketeers came and went, on the 26th one of the larger males was seen chasing spotted hyena as they tried to congregate over a kill in situations like this hyena will scatter, had it been a lioness at the kill site the tables would have turned in favour for the hyena. Vultures are abundant on the various kills made by lion and hyena so as well as Marabou storks who hang about ready to pinch a mouthful when the heavy and strong beaked white backed and Ruppels griffin vultures start to open up a carcass. The female cheetah and here two sub adult cubs have been very active on the Bila Shaka and Rhino Ridge plains. The Wattle Plover in full ‘wattle’ regalia are in all the water courses with the Mara ecosystem. We have had lovely sightings of Black Rhino and of the male leopard climbing down a large Boscia tree at paradise, this male had the remains of a Thomson Gazelle up the tree. Many Black Backed Jackals are being seen and they are one of the main predators of Thomson Gazelle fawns. Warthog are scattered across the short grass plains with sows having between 4 – 6 piglets at a time, Lion will predate on these suids frequently particularly during lean times.

On the 24th more wildebeest crossed the Mara River that morning from the Trans Mara at the main Paradise crossing point; this was an estimated herd of 1,500 animals. As water holes and Oxbow River courses start to dry up many catfish and Lungfish are unfortunately often caught up in the evaporation processes and are then plucked out of the water by mammals and birds such as yellow billed and marabou storks. On the 18th there was a large crossing at the Mortuary crossing pint and also at 3.30pm in the afternoon. Many more wildebeest are filtering down from the conservation areas and this shows that the grass coverage is not as good a previous years. On the 23rd there was a large crossing at the rapids at 10.30 am up stream of Governors Camp, large numbers crossed here and there was also some crocodile activity with one yearling being taken. Further downstream at Paradise on the same day at the main crossing point there was another very large crossing with thousands literally forcing themselves into the river. More rain brought on two fronts of wildebeest with some arriving in the Serena direction while the other flank was moving towards the Kichwa tembo area. By that evening and at first light the following day there were large numbers congregation on to the Musiara and Bila Shaka plains. The localized rain patterns have brought on some ‘Gnu grass for all’!!

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Many Zebra were seen massing on the 26th and 28th near the main crossing points, on the 28th at 10.00 am they crossed into the Paradise region. There are scattered herds of wildebeest and zebra on the Musiara and Bila Shaka grassland plains. On the 30th huge numbers moved onto the Topi plains and crossed the Ntiaktiak River in the Trans Mara Direction. Another large herd of wildebeest and zebra crossed at paradise late in the evening and probably more at night.

There are large concentrations of Topi in the Paradise area and also the Topi, Musiara and Bila Shaka grasslands plains. Those females on Paradise and Topi plains calved down earlier than those females in the Marsh and Bila Shaka regions with many females are still yet to give birth. Giraffe will be seen throughout the Musiara and conservation areas and often within the camp grounds. Herd sizes can be as many as 40 animals whilst males wonder between herds. Impala herds with many fawns of varying age groups are ever present between the camps within the woodland fringes. Many of these young fawns can be seen in Crèches on the roadsides as one enters any of the camps.

Small numbers of Cokes Hartebeest can be seen on Topi, Paradise and Bila Shaka plains and some on Rhino ridge, they generally will give birth close to the same time as Topi, and two calves have now been seen in the Masai Conservation areas.

Buffalo bulls are common residents within the Marsh environs, one particular bull loves frolicking in mud pools by rolling about back and forth on its back, and it is actually quite amusing in that he obviously gets a thrill out of it. Two large herds can be seen at Bila Shaka and also on Rhino ridge, the Bila Shaka herd comes past the culvert whilst residing in the marsh before moving back to the east end of Bila Shaka.

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Many more warthog sows have piglets, 4-6 piglets seem the average litter sizes. Lion, Cheetah and Black backed Jackal prey on these piglets. Two sets of Black Backed Jackal pups have been seen at Bila Shaka and paradise, the Bila Shaka pups are estimated at 2 months old. Large clans of Spotted Hyena at Paradise and Rhino ridge, these pose heavy competition to the other grassland carnivores, Cheeath suffer heavy food lose to these Hyena. Male lion would rather eliminate them if they have the opportunity.

Bat Eared Foxes are being seen more with Paradise Plains being good places to see them. These little foxes are the most insectivorous of all the canids.

Hippo pods in the Mara River vary in sizes and one large pod is near Governors Private Camp, there are many calves in these pods, there is cow Hippo with a two month old calf at Il Moran and she lives close to where a female crocodile has her eggs. Crocodile eggs incubate in 80-90 days, this female has now been 30 days she is an attentive female. On the 28th at 11.30am two hippo clambered out of the river and immediately walked up to where her eggs where so they could lay up for a while, the crocodile at the time was resting out of the heat under an Acacia tree, within seconds of the hippo standing over the eggs the crocodile shot out, roaring and hissing at the same time, the hippo funnil retreated quickly back into the river.

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White headed vultures are being seen again with the Paradise region, sightings here have been visual; this is rather a good note to relate.

We have had lovely sightings of small herds of Elephant. Serval cats are also being seen readily with Bila Shaka, Paradise and the Talek river regions being good places to see them.

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Across the Mara environs eland are resident in relatively small herds, some large males are seen and they are quite distinct from the females. With the large breeding bulls one will often hear a distinct metallic ‘click’ when they walk, there is much speculation as to what causes this some people think that this is caused by the Hooves that spay apart due to their weight whilst others speculate that this is from the front legs and possibly the knee joint. A large Bull will weigh in at 900-1,000kg and will easily clear a 7 ft fence or the back of its own kind. Although they are predominately browsers, eland will graze on fresh green and sprouting grass; they are also able to thrive for long periods with limited access to water and will obtain their requirements from what they eat.

Martial eagle the largest of the savannah raptors that have a reputation of being notorious lion cub killers, they are now turning their attention to Thompson gazelle fawns. Two fawns have now been seen taken; one on Paradise plains and the other in the Masai conservation area east of the reserve.
Early on in September the large female African rock python was seen again at Bila Shaka and not far away form where she had had killed that male Thomson Gazelle two years ago. She was also seen last month and in the same place that she was seen again.

 
Lion
Marsh pride – made up of the four Musketeers, Siena, Charm and Bibi with their 10 cubs of varying age groups. One cub that belongs to Bibi is 10 months old and the others are between a year old and 16 months and these can now almost be claimed sub adults. These lion spend much time between Bila Shaka and the Marsh. They have been feeding off the many wildebeest and zebra that have filtered in and out. Warthog and their piglets have also been taken. Buffalo with the help of the males have been prey at Bila Shaka and the Marsh. There has also been a little friction amongst the older cubs with factions and sibling friction starting up and them splitting up for short periods of time, the older 16 month cubs will be seen apart to the 10 month cubs.
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Scar has mated with sienna and also both of the two breakaways Lippy and Kinny. Late last month all four of the Musketeers went ‘awol’ into the paradise region, though more so expanding the gene pool. It was suspected that Scar killed both the little cubs that were barely three months old. This is typical infanticidal actively from big social cats like lion, generally within 10 days to two weeks females will ovulate again. On the 18th scar was seen mating with one of the Paradise females. Sikio went further into the Paradise region and met his match and ended up being a little scratched and ruffled up, it was suspected it could have been the two Nomadic males that come and go in this area. Morani since the 25th has been seen limping on his right front leg, he must have sprained it like what happened to Hunter some year’s back and he has since fully recovered from that injury. Scar on the 29th was seen at the Marsh culvert with a topi calf. In the evening of the 29th all members of the Marsh pride were seen at Bila Shaka.
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Modomo and the other three breakaways are being seen near Rhino Ridge and Kries Lugga; they have been feeding off the many wildebeest and zebra that have passed through here. There are three cubs that are 8 months old and two that are 16 months old. Latterly they were all being seen near the Fig tree on Rhino ridge, earlier on the month the Musketeers were seen with them mainly Sikio and Hunter. These cubs were sired by the Musketeers.

The Paradise pride; four females, four cubs two of which are 8 months old and two that are over a year old. The four musketeers moved into this region early in the month and dispersed any other male coalition; it was suspected only that Scar was involved in the killing of the two young cubs. They have been feeding off wildebeest, warthog and zebra. The older three cubs split up and were being seen with one of the lionesses the other side of the river, perhaps when the new males moved in these cubs separated off with one of the older lionesses.

On the 25th the two nomadic males were seen in this area of Paradise near the crossing point on the 26th since the musketeers had moved out, how long they will stay around is perhaps a short stint only? The lioness that lost her cubs is spending much time on her own; she was seen on the 26th at the main crossing point, she often hunts on her own.

Leopard
Romi and her 11 month old male cub were being seen frequently within the first two weeks of the month in the woodlands near the BBC camp and also the wooded areas near the Marsh. Since then they have not been seen and have kept very quiet. They have both have been feeding off the resident impala and bushbuck. There is suspicion that she may have crossed the river yet there are no confirmed reports on her movements. The female leopard with two 4 month old cubs was seen a few more time this month. On the 19th she was seen near the river bed they call ‘Kwa Nyoka’ and she had killed an Impala fawn. Close by to the mortuary crossing point the large male is still at large; this leopard was seen on the 26th up and coming down a Boscia tree which he often frequents. Also he will be seen in the croton thickets particularly at the mortuary crossing points. He covers a home range that includes the Warburgia thicket some 3 kms away; He has also been seen frequently walking within this home range.

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Cheetah
The two males that were being seen near Bila Shaka/Rhino ridge have been since seen in the Mara North Conservancy. The solitary female is often seen on Rhino Ridge, Bila Shaka and near Topi plains. She is active and has fed of many Thomson gazelles; on the 30th she killed a large male Thomson Gazelle on Topi plains. She has fed of numerous Thomson gazelles between Bila Shaka and Rhino ridge. The female with two cubs a male and female who are over one year old is another trio of Cheetah that is being monitored; on the 26th they were seen near Rhino ridge, whereby at 4.30pm they killed a female Thomson Gazelle. They all are very active and have fed off Impala, warthog piglets and Thomson Gazelles. The three sub adult’s one female and two males crossed the river on the 11th September at 11.30 am and are now in the Trans Mara. The mother is still at large in the Masai conservation areas.
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Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.
Some clouded days have given us a cool start to the morning walk. By 8.00am the sun is out and warming fast, grasslands here have been grazed down by the bulk of wildebeest and zebra. There has been some varied rainfall patterns which has certainly added colour to many areas of open grasslands.

Many wildebeest and zebra have passed through here and good numbers are still at large. On the 19th there were many that crossed the Olare Orok and moved on south to the Musiara grassland areas. Warthog piglets are now well spread out with average numbers of 5-6 piglets. There is not the predation value here in this area as there is in the Mara Reserve so many piglets may have a greater chance of survival.

Eland can be seen in small herd sizes, throughout the Mara North although there are some large males being seen on the Eastern boundary. On the 26th three large males were seen on fringe of the Acacia woodland on the eastern plains, one of them emitted an audible loud click when it walked, there is much debate as to here this click comes from.

Many Thompson fawns have been born with one of them being taken by a Martial eagle on the 12th at 9.30am, it is rather sad to see when something like a fawn or Hare gets flushed up as there is often something above that takes note.

Large clans of spotted Hyena have been seen feeding off wildebeest and topi, On the North and Eastern plains there are two large clans and these spotted hyena are very active predators; on the 19th hyena had taken a bull wildebeest near to the ‘Fly Over’ and had it finished in 30 minutes, not surprising when there are over 30 hyena competing.

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Elephant signs have been seen at the best although twice we have seen four Bulls being the only visual sighting on the Olare Orok. On the 26th one of them was in ‘Musth’ so best with these animals when they are within close proximity to humans is to give them a wide birth.

Good numbers of Topi and Impala with fawns within the Acacia woodlands are common sightings. Very good sightings recently of giraffe as they browse their way through the acacia woodlands, on the 26th there was a scattered herd of 32 Giraffe with one large male pursuing an estrus female.

The large buffalo herd was being seen near the salt lick and latterly they were near the Mara River north of the conservancy. A few solitary bulls will be seen in the Euclea Divinorum thickets that are adjacent to the saltlick. Grants Gazelle are common sightings on the open plains to the East and North of the Conservancy.

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