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.
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.
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.
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.
So that’s it for now from the Olare Motorogi. More news on the happenings around us in the next months report when we hope to be able to write of some storms, greening grass and a time of plenty and action.
Lion cub- Richard Pye
Zebra- Lorna Buchanan Jardine
Cheetah- Lorna Buchanan Jardine
Orange-tipped whites- Lorna Buchanan Jardine
Old kill- Richard Pye