This Rangers Report is courtesy of Leopard Mountain Lodge as told by their rangers rangers, Chase, Andrew & Adam…
Another exciting week in Zululand Rhino Reserve, with creatures big and small, surprising us around every corner. The breeding herd of Elephant has wandered south again followed by a massive bull. Squarelipped (White) and Hooklipped (Black) Rhino have also been spotted regularly displaying a range of interesting behaviour. Our Lions have been seen in various spots and the lionesses are still hanging around quite close to the males. Buffalo have been plentiful, making for great drives and some exciting walking safaris. The Leopards have been elusive with all our sightings being by staff outside of game drive times.
Our birding for the last month has been awesome as usual, adding a few rare species to our summer list. The scenery has been breathtaking! The lush vegetation has filled our forests and riverbeds and the summer greenery has gone from strength to strength with all the rain. With all the abundant grazing around, our Elephants have been sticking to some of their favourite summer spots, taking full advantage. The youngest member is doing exceptionally well – at almost 3 and a half months old, he is getting to grips with using his trunk and is looking a bit more comfortable amongst the herd. Staying very close to his mum, it’s interesting to see how knowledge is being passed down from the older members in the group on to the youngster.
Our Rhino have been a highlight of many a drive lately. We have been witnessing lots of movement with bulls scent marking their territory, scraping and drag marking as well as rubbing their horns on trees and stumps. All of this typical territorial behaviour has given us some great opportunities to inform our guests of the inner workings of the habits and social structures of our Rhino. As our population grows, we can only hope they have a solid place in the future of Southern Africa’s reserves.
Lately, the weather conditions have been rather erratic. This has resulted in our river filling and draining and our vegetation turning into the dense summer thickets we had almost forgotten about through the winter. Our Buffalo seem to love the fresh green plains, making for some entertaining sightings. The walking safaris have been at the forefront of finding them as the guides use their skills on foot to track down the herds as they move throughout the reserve. There’s nothing better than witnessing the power of one of Africa’s big 5 from a safe distance with nothing between you and them but nature herself.
Some of our smaller encounters have been lovely, with Genets being observed on our night drives as they move through the trees hunting birds, scorpions and other small creatures. An African Rock Python of around 4 metres crossed in front of the vehicle with a very full stomach, amazing guests by it sheer size. We have been lucky to see lots of Spotted Eagle Owls this week accompanied by a flurry of bats and the occasional Nightjar occupying the night skies in search of food. A Narina Trogon, breeding pair of Broadbilled Rollers, a pair of Woodland Kingfishers, as well as a nesting Redheaded Weaver have been some birding highlights. Ayres’, Longcrested, and African Crowned Eagles have been lovely to see but for me the most special of all has been the African Fish Eagle seen soaring through our riverbed. This shows that the high rainfall is doing wonders for the area and keeping all of us at Leopard Mountain happy.