HI, and welcome to my blog! I am a field guide in a private game reserve in South Africa and below you will find stories and pictures of my amazing job!

November 6, 2010

Belated Update

The rains have come!   Ok, so we’ve only had one storm but what a storm…  Each year it’s the same and each year I am taken by surprise by the shear force of Mother Nature’s cycles.  6 months of drought had left the veld looking dry and desolate.  Skeletal tree trunks littered the landscape like forgotten gallows.  Grass crunched underfoot as though walking through a giant bowl of dry cornflakes; and the animals were pushed to breaking point in their daily struggle to find food and water.  Oh how one night can change that.  The rain fell with such force that visibility was almost zero.  Roads became waterways as the massive volume of water jostled its way to the lowest points.  Lighting bolts shot from cloud to cloud as the sky was lit up, leaving their images momentarily burned on my retina as I struggled to see the road.  Thunder boomed, echoing all around me and I could not help flinching with each shot, pulling my shoulders up and my neck as far into my (alleged) waterproof as possible, rather like a child does when hiding from an unseen night time monster.  The hope of keeping dry a long lost memory as I negotiated the waterways back to the lodge. 
The first downpour of the season was however welcomed by all, as finally the areas of the reserve ravaged by fire during the winter will be able to transform themselves from lifeless patches of blackened ground into lush blankets of green grasses.  These first drops of nature’s blood will also prompt the trees from their winter torpor and encourage them to break out in a cacophony of greens.  Insects have begun to emerge from their winter hiding places and are already being a nuisance on night drives as they are attracted to the spot lights.  Along with our invertebrate contingent, the migratory birds are returning in their droves.  Their enthusiastic calls echo through the bush from about 4am as breeding rights and territories are established.  Even conducting a conversation over dinner has become an ordeal as we compete with the chorus of frogs jostling for the best acoustics in the lodge water features.  After just one night’s rain, the bush has come alive!
Ok so I may have got carried away a little - the last few days its been 40 degrees in the shade and I have melted like a Mr. Whippy in a microwave but it will be back….
Anyways, enough small talk about the weather.  So, what else has been going on?  We have seen a spate of baby elephants of late.  One was even seen still with afterbirth clinging to its baggy grey skin.  I make no illusions that they are my favourites and any of you who have been on game drive with me can probably attest that I spend more time with them than any other animal.  I find them fascinating to watch, so emotive and intelligent. These little elephants always put a smile on my face – they are so determined to be like Mum and attempt to copy her every move.  Unfortunately, they spend more time stumbling over obstacles in their way as they try to keep up with the herd.  No matter how unstable and uncoordinated they may be, they still find time to try to intimidate the land rovers, approaching purposely with ears outspread, only to lose their nerve and race back to the safety of Mum.  If only they stayed so small and cuddly forever!
The big news within the lion community is the return of two males last seen here a year or so ago.  We think they have come from the Kruger park side and the other night attempted to stake a claim on our property.  Unfortunately for them, they chose to let out their first territorial bellows about 300m from our current dominant male.  He is huge and in his prime, muscles rippling like a lava lamp on a spin dryer!  No sooner had he heard the calls of these trespassers, he tore across the open area between them at an impressive speed and went crashing into the intruders.  We lost sight of him as he crashed through the bushes between them but left no doubt in the beating he handed out as the two interlopers fled in his wake.  Uninjured but beaten, they have been lying low the last few days but have not left the property.  Only time will tell if these pretenders to the throne of Sabi Sabi’s lion pride have what it takes to depose the current king.
The saddest news greeted us mere minutes before the downpour hit us.  An omen perhaps, but as one of our guides rounded the corner, he was met by the sight that we all feared might come.  In the road stood a, before now, unseen male leopard.  Clamped in his powerful jaws and being shaken like a rag doll was one of our resident male leopard cubs.  At 9 months, his chances of survival were improving by the day but sadly, nature had other plans for him.  The likelihood of any predator cubs getting to 1 year old is around 10% so his demise was not unsurprising.  I was unfortunate enough to pull into the sighting as the male began to pluck its prize – leopards being one of the few predators that will eat their own kind.  It was a harsh lesson in the ways of the bush and in natural selection.  Here we sit, surrounded by the glory and beauty of the natural world, but one tends to forget the more unpleasant, but necessary processes that make it all possible.  We have since seen the mother and the other cub alive and well so hopefully she can give all of her attention to ensuring its survival in the months to come. 

With the bad weather and a lack of significant skill, I don’t have any really good photos to share but have tacked on a couple I quite liked.  Will be in touch again soon!