Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ranger diaries March 2013

Autumn is approaching fast and the nights in the bush are getting nippy at times. The afternoon rains are not as frequent anymore and the grass is tall and taking on the beautiful golden colours of Autumn. 

Our animals are well fed and looking very healthy, all ready to brave the approaching winter season.
Our Lion pride have been seen all over the place and the old female and the old male have been mating over the last few weeks, which means we can hopefully expect a litter of cub’s around mid-year.  The gestation period of a lioness is 110 days and that is about the time the mother needs to get her four older cub’s (now 15 months old) self-sufficient and ready to hunt for themselves.

Mom will kick the 4 older cubs ‘out’ before she gives birth to the new litter and will then find a safe and secluded den-site where the babies will be safe until they are old enough to accompany the mother on her hunting trips.

While the cubs are very small they are in danger to get killed by other predators such as Leopard, Hyena and even Cheetah or other Lions.  When they are about 3 to 4 months old, the mom will start to take them on short adventures and show them the big world and this is normally the time we get to see the cute little “kitties” on our game drives.
Female Lions normally stay with the same pride their whole lifetime and are unlikely to go and find another pride. Young male Lions get kicked out of the pride when they are about two years of age and will then go off, roam the land and eventually try to challenge a leader of another pride to take over his pride.

The Elephant herd has got a new addition, again, and the little fella is now about three weeks old and too cute to describe.  Its mother, aunts and siblings are protecting it very well and one of them has got a re assuring trunk around the youngster.  But every now and then we get a glimpse of it as mom shows it off to us.  Elephants are very protective over their young and all members of the herd will go out of their way to protect it and keep it safe.

We are also very excited to have a pair of Blue Cranes as well as a pair of Crowned Cranes that are raising their chicks on our Reserve.  The Blue Crane is South Africa’s national bird and both crane species are on the endangered species list.  Due to poisoning, illegal trade, power line collision and loss of grassland breeding habitat, both species have declined rapidly.  They mate for life and display a wonderful courtship dance.  They usually lay two eggs and both, male and female, incubate the eggs.  The chicks are able to fly at about 3 to 5 months.  The parents are very protective of their young and will guard them aggressively.

It was a very, very sad day when we discovered just over two weeks ago, that two of our young Rhinos have been poached and the horns have been taken.  As mentioned in the previous report we had dehorned all our Rhinos to protect them from poaching. The two that have been taken, were young Rhinos, where the horns were just long enough to be dehorned and we had applied for the permit to do so.

Unfortunately, the rhinos were killed before we could dehorn them. Investigations are on-going and we will hopefully have results soon.

Rhino horn consists of grown together hair and is the exact same material as any hoof of a cow, horse, antelope or any other animal as well as human fingernail. It is scientifically proven that there is absolutely NO medicinal value or property in rhino horn, but some cultures still believe that rhino horn powder cures cancer and acts as an aphrodisiac.

158 Rhinos have been poached in 2013 in South Africa by today (19.03.2013), this equals about 2 rhinos each day! Since the start of the poaching epidemic in 2008, South Africa has lost over 1600 rhinos, a figure that, despite so much effort, increases daily.

We really hope that people come to their senses and stop the pointless killing of one of our most historic and special animal’s and stop it before they become extinct.
Till we meet on the Plains of the Nambiti Private Game Reserve …

Your Springbok Lodge rangers
Nicole, Jonathan, Michael and Holly