These buffalo came strolling out the woodland but only till they saw me and then froze. But when the wind changed and they got my scent they high tailed it out of there. And the herd just kept coming and coming. It didn’t take them long to forget about me and settled down.
From cooking in temperatures over 40 degrees C yesterday and now down to 22 degrees C, suddenly I’m freezing. Well that’s freezing for an African!
Low cloud and strong winds had moved in this morning accompanied with the occasional little drizzle. All ideal hunting weather for the wild dogs.
They moved back past Khyaneni pan and again the pups went through the whole process of discovering water. That big water monster had them on edge for some time before they drank.
Then it was back hunting with mom and dad. Puzzles disappeared and when the rest of the pack found her she’d killed an adult female impala. As usual it was a pup take over and the adults had to wait their turn. Being a big female impala the pups weren’t able to finish all, so the adults at least managed to fill their tummies. But little was left for the waiting vultures.
What an interesting day with the wild dog pups.
Picking them up at dawn the pack had just arrived at Khayeni waterhole. It was the first time the pups had seen water and while the adults lay around the pups investigated this water thing. They just couldn’t seem to make out what it was and were nervous to approach, jumping back whenever another made a quick move. They treated the water like an unknown carcass and were very nervous of it but also incredibly curious.
It was only after about half an hour of this nervous interaction that one pup dared to lick this strange thing. Hmmmmmmmm………..it tasted so good. Others followed and then all were drinking in a tight huddle. And they drank for ages. But even after drinking they were still unsure of this new thing.
I’m sure it won’t be long and they’ll be running amok in any water they can find.
Thankfully today was cooler, which meant the dogs were a lot more lively. And when a herd of impala ventured towards the water the pups gave chase. But they were too young and too slow. The adults followed slowly after them.
The male moved ahead and had only been gone a couple of minutes when the pups found him on an impala carcass. They took over. But had the male killed this? If so it had only run about a 100m. And it didn’t make a peep when dying as the other dogs didn’t respond to anything.
I think what happened is the male came across the impala carcass stashed under a tree by a leopard. Whoever’s kill it was the dogs made short work of it and spent the rest of the day chewing on bones.
Heading south we got to Hwata pan just as 8 elephant bulls arrived. They had their own little party drinking and playing in the water. The Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest were having a hard time trying to drink with the elephant dominating the waterhole. Only once the elephant had left about an hour later did the hartebeest move in to drink.
Down at Chiloveka dam we were lucky to find the Nyari Pride. I was surprised to see Manyari there as this is very far from the hills where she has her cubs.
But then it all became apparent. She no longer had cubs, she was mating again with Sjambok and her teats had totally lost their swelling.
So what happened to her cubs? Did she abandon them? Did the males kill them?
I’m beginning to think the males could be the murderers as Magwaza also lost her cubs when they were around. At the time I suspected she had abandoned them. But it could now be possible the males are the culprits.
We were back with the wild dog pups just before the sun was setting. The cool weather soon got the adults active as they moved south into ‘impala country’. But by the time darkness had fallen they were still unsuccessful.
I was up flying at dawn. Flying into the rising orange ball of the sun is always stunning. We picked up the elephant herds south of Nduna scattered all over. The flew over the management burns checking how successful they had been.
Suddenly I realised I’d been flying for over 2 hours. Time to get my feet back on the ground as temperatures started to soar.
As I came in to land, some of the scouts were training on the airstrip and as disciplined as they are they weren’t going to move until given the command. I didn’t know what was going on on the ground and was sure they’d move out the way. They stood to attention and only at the last second realising they weren’t getting a command AND that I was serious about landing, they fell to the ground. Thankfully their discipline gave in at the last second.
Heading east we searched for the elephant herds but they’d move into the hills. So we took some time out at Nduna dam. I was sure they’d be swimming there some time in today’s heat. But by mid afternoon there was still no sign of them.
It was now time to head to the dogs. Arriving at Lojaan dam there they were. Some 50 elephants loving the water but as soon as they got our scent they stampeded. But almost straight towards us. Even Mandlovu got caught up in the panic and raced past us. It was like what I imagine to happen in a football stadium stampede where everyone suddenly panics and the panic grows until you have a mass stampede.
But how sad to see these huge beasts in such numbers stampeding cos of a tiny little me in my vehicle.
The dogs were still right up in the north west and didn’t look like they had fed this morning. As the sun was setting and it got cooler they tried to move, but it was too much for all of them and not even a 100m away they had all collapsed again.
The dogs must have been hungry and taking advantage of the cool dawn, were on the hunt early. When I encountered them at first light, they had already killed a female impala right up in the north and the pups had just arrived when I got there.
Of course the carcass was theirs. But it wasn’t long and they were full and strangely moved off to let the adults feed. The pups never chased them off, but watched them feed in peace. Bored with nothing going on they left to find a place to rest.
With the adults well fed now too, the pack were off and hadn’t moved 200m when Puzzles spotted some impala and gave chase. Why girl when you’re so full? She didn’t catch anything and took the pups to rest up south at a Baobab they’ve now used several times to rest up in the shade of.
When I joined them again late in the afternoon they were all still chilling out and had no plans on moving.
The rest of my day was spent on the dam waiting for elephants that just weren’t coming. I later heard they’d moved a long way east to Nduna. Except for this big bull hanging around the dam on his own.
The good news is the wild dogs haven’t been near the fence today and it is being repaired!
I was up flying at dawn but it soon got very bumpy as temperatures soared.
I wasn’t with the dogs first thing but still got there fairly early and already they had taken up their shade for the day not having fed. They really feel the heat and will often lie up in water but there isn’t any in the vicinity. Actually I don’t think the wild dog pups have encountered water yet.
Because of it being so hot, over 41C (106F) in the shade, and probably at least another 10 degrees hotter in the sun, I was sure to find the elephant herds at the big dam. They were there swimming and feeding on the sedges growing along the upper reaches of the dam. And then back in the water again to cool off. And I just had to sit it out in the sun.
It eventually got too much and I took cover in the shade of my vehicle for a while. What a relief.
I dream about the day when I can swim with the elephants and they’ll keep the crocs and hippos away. But unfortunately that will always be a dream.