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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Ximhungwe Pride Of Lions


One of our resident pride of lions is known as the Ximhungwe pride, here is a condensed history of the pride together with some videos from le last couple of years:

Ximhungwe pride feeding on a wildebeest after the mapogos had been kicked out.

In 2004 the 6 females of the Castleton pride were taken over by the Sand River Male aka Dzunani and soon were producing cubs all over the place. Due to the fact that the pride seldom crossed onto Castleton property anymore it was decided to rename them after the large open area that they were now spending most of their time - Ximhungwe clearings.

The youngsters of the Ximhungwe pride face an uncertain future

18 cubs were born between 2004/2005 but the numbers dropped to 16 then 12. Such a large pride struggled to feed all their members and were often seen in bad condition. The times when they did get good food their condition improved overnight.

The pride in more stable times, together with the Mapogo males

Sadly a combination of Bovine TB and the arrival of the Mapogo males meant that the pride went into freefall in 2006, 5 of the six lionesses and Dzunani were all gone by the end of the year. The cubs were also reduced to a group of 3 young lionesses and a young male. The Ravenscourt pride (once originally part of the Castleton pride) was also in decline for similar reasons and the pride male (the brother of the remaining lioness) came across to spend more time with the Ximhungwes, when one of the youngsters was killed by a hyena we were all surprised to see the pride numbers were unchanged a few days later. The last remaining member of the Ravenscourt pride - a young lioness, had also been integrated into the group. The pride now spent most of their time trying to avoid the Mapogo and the Castleton male was trying hard to forge a bond with the young male, a bond that we hoped would last.

The youngsters were very interested in some of the debris that the floods bring every year

In 2008 the Tsalala pride (2 adult females 1 sub female and 1 sub male) started to be seen in our traversing area, another breakaway from the Castleton pride, they had moved in under pressure from the Mapogo. The young male soon moved off to become known as Solo and the 2 lionesses started to be seen mating with the Mapogo males, the sub-adult female was seen alone a couple of times.

When the cubs were a bit younger, together with the Mapogo males on a kill

One morning we came across the Ximhungwe pride on a zebra kill and noticed that there were now 5 instead of 4 lionesses in the group, the Tsalala youngster had joined with her distant relatives!

Some of the cubs that did not make it. This is the first female to mate with the Selati males

It was not long after this that the 2 males were put down after being found eating a dog which tested positive for Rabies, a week or two later and they would have been inoculated against the disease as the authorities were busy with all the large predators at the time :( .

The pride members in this video are no longer with us

This then opened up the pride to a takeover by the Mapogo, all the lionesses were almost of breeding age so there was no threat to the group. Cubs were born in 2009 and early 2010 that did not survive, the current crop of cubs from late 2010 and 2011 stands at 4 (3 males and a female). the pride is now down to 4 lionesses after the death of the last of the Castleton females, they are now truly the Ximhungwe pride!

The last castleton lioness showing what a good mother she was

With the vanquishing of the Mapogo males by the Selati coalition in March 2012 the pride is once again under threat from a takeover and it will be interesting to see if these four lionesses will be able to raise the cubs despite the new males being around, the same way that they themselves were raised…

The following videos are all from when the various cubs were small, some didn’t make it but the four youngsters remaining are in the clips too:












An finally, turn your sound up as the youngsters bid you all farewell:


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Selati Male Lions Down a Buffalo on the Soccer Field!

A few weeks ago the early morning game drive started off with the news that the Selati male lions were moving along the banks of the Sand river. As the sighting was not too far from the lodge we started making our way in that general direction, then came the news that they had seen some buffalo bulls in the reeds. As we got closer the call came in that they had taken down a huge bull on the soccer pitch, we arrived as the buffalo was on the ground in the last throes of life!

This video shows the buffalo in its final struggle and then the beginning of the feeding, the lions were irritated with the baboons and monkeys and were very aggressive, they could also see the movements of the staff in the nearby lodge. By afternoon the carcass had been moved into the shade and the big males were almost too full to continue eating.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Rhino Poaching In Today’s News:

A male white rhino marking his territory in the wild, a pretty good representation of most peoples views on poachers...

Rhino poaching is again in the news today, but for once it seems to be some better news:

Firstly from the Times Live news site:

SA rhinos at mercy of global smuggling network

Petty hunters, corrupt wildlife officials and Asian traffickers have all been snared in South Africa's crackdown on rhino poaching as special prosecutors battle syndicates feeding the trade in horns.

More than 160 people are currently before the courts, exposing the complex supply chain stretching from South African parks to Southeast Asian consumers, said Joanie Spies, a prosecutor with the Rhino Project.

"Slowly but surely we're moving upwards and getting higher people who did not pull the trigger," Spies told AFP.

The National Prosecuting Authority set up the team to help combat the dramatic surge in poaching that has seen more than 200 rhinos killed so far this year.

The cases have exposed corruption within the systems meant to protect the animals.

Private game owners, national park rangers and veterinarians have been arrested. Authorities have also caught pilots who flew helicopters to spot and dart the rhinos, and both small-time and professional hunters who shot them.

"There is a great level of organisation involved," Spies said.

Some rhinos are shot by small-time hunters hoping for a lucky break by capturing a horn that sells for more than its weight in gold in Asia, where it is used in traditional medicine.

Not all of these hunters know what they're doing. One man in April sawed off a horn from a fibreglass rhino serving as decor at a safari lodge.

Other rhinos are killed by professionals who have helicopter support in tracking and darting the animals before hunters shoot and de-horn them.

Whoever does the shooting, the horns can end up in the hands of the same Asian kingpins, Spies said.

Vietnamese and Thai nationals have been arrested for trying to smuggle horns abroad.

In one case, Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai faces trial for colluding with a South African game farm owner to stage legal trophy hunts.

He is accused of hiring Thai strippers and prostitutes as hunters who posed with the massive beasts' carcasses to document the kills to obtain some of the handful of legitimate export licenses for mounted rhino horns.

Authorities say he bought horns at around 65,000 rand ($8,400, 6,400 Euros) a kilogramme and resold them for up to $55,000 a kilo.

Horns typically leave the country through Johannesburg's international airport, or through the port of Beira in neighbouring Mozambique, where oversight is lax.

The horns may transit in shipping containers or air travellers' hand luggage in Asian cities like Hong Kong.

Customs officials in Hong Kong say they have seized 52 horns over the past five years. Last November 33 horns were found in a single container marked as carrying "scrap plastic." It had come from Cape Town.

The biggest market for the horns is currently Vietnam, watchdogs say.

"The resources that you would require to coordinate getting poached horns from South Africa to Vietnam means there is little doubt there are large, organised syndicates involved in that," Naomi Doak of conservation group TRAFFIC told AFP in Vietnam.

So far, prosecuting the top levels of such syndicates has been an elusive goal. Cracking a syndicate requires piercing through three or four layers of crime, Spies said.

Cases that have gone to trial in South Africa have landed stiff penalties.

Three Mozambican poachers were handed 25-year sentences in January after they were detained with fresh horns, rifles and an axe in the world-famous Kruger National Park, where much of the poaching happens.

Spies said South Africa is stepping up its efforts by creating a combined task force of police, military, prosecutors and environmentalists.

"You get better convictions, better sentences," Spies said.

And from Eyewitness News:

Hawks raid home of alleged rhino kingpin

Jacob Moshokoa | 09 May 2012

POLOKWANE - A team of police officers gathered outside the home of alleged rhino syndicate kingpin Dawie Groenewald in Polokwane on Wednesday morning.

The Hawks and national police are seizing Groenewald’s assets as part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged rhino poaching charges laid against him.

The home of Groenewald located in an upmarket Polokwane suburb, is busy with police recording each and every appliance as part of the ongoing investigation against him.

Police said they will now visit the alleged rhino syndicate's other property in the hope of seizing valuable assets including a helicopter and luxury cars.

Police plan to recover R55 million worth of assets.

(Edited by Clare Matthes)

All this is still only makes a small dent in the amount of poaching but at least it is a start…

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Idube Safari Highlights #142: 18 - 21 April 2012

In this Highlights video:
The title sequence features a Nile or Water Monitor.
Elephants feeding on a termite mound.
Xikavi female leopard, who we found by following tracks and her distinctive roar.
Two of the Othawa lionesses, the third was reportedly in the company of the Selati males, east of our boundary.
A crocodile sunning itself on the riverbank.
A musth bull elephant pushing down a tree to show off his strength.
A Ximhungwe lioness in front of the lodge, we found her there after a long time tracking.
Female giraffe.
A lone buffalo bull close to the lodge.
Xikavi female leopard with an impala kill, we spent most of the drive with her.
Hyena coming to check us out first thing in the morning.
A huge herd of elephants. The female with the even, curved tusks is known for chasing the vehicles and sure enough, when we left the sighting she followed at speed!