Saturday, April 30, 2011

Time Changes for Drives

Hi everyone,

With the day length shortening and temperatures dropping here at Djuma Game Reserve, once again drive times are due to change. They are adjusted to coincide when animals are most likely to be active. In the summer this is during the cooler temperatures early in the morning and later in the afternoon. This is the reverse during the winter, animals are more likely to be moving in warm temperatures. These can still be quite high over mid-day, so drives go out later in the morning and earlier in the afternoon. 

The change in our times as of the 1st of May are as follows:

Morning drive : 6:30 - 9:30am CAT.
Afternoon drive : 15:00 - 18:00 CAT.

Written by Tara

The cubs meet their father!

Hi everyone,
I am back from a short but sweet leave which I took on a game reserve in Hoedspruit with friends! It was home from home and enjoyed the relaxation!

I thought I would write a quick Blog up dating on Karulas movements while I have been away for anyone who has missed them!

After such a fantastic morning drive with the family on the 12th April, she must have been successful in hunting, as no sign of her was found of her after that! Craig was lucky to catch a glimpse of her on his way to work on the 20th, strolling towards Phillamon's cutline. Sadly she disappeared before the Ganda could see her on drive! 

Sydney, our second tryout guide, had the next encounter with her on PM drive the following day, much to his and our delight! This was the first time in his career to see a leopard for so long! He was beaming when he returned to camp! Responding to a radio call about her, he caught up with our lady on Twin dams road heading towards Gowrie dam, marking territory along the way.

As the sunset, it looked like she was eying up the usual roosting spots of the guinea fowl, but instead of climbing the trees, she continued on towards the lodge where we were unable to follow.

On the 23rd, Karula was found with an impala carcass just West of MMM, which is out of our traversing area, but it is great to know she has been successful in providing her family with food! What has made this a special sighting was the presence of the cubs probable father, Yambilu-Jordaan! He was seen with them the following day sharing the kill! 

He visited Karula and the boys a few times while they were growing up and it looks like he might do the same this time! Lets hope the next visit will be on Western Gowrie! 

The last news we have of the lady was today during Marc's drive. She was seen walking passed Sidney's dam in Buffleshoek. If she is just over the boundary, WE might have a chance of seeing her tonight! 

Written by Tara

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sydney PM drive

Hi Folks
As you may know Sydney arrived in camp a few days ago and after some induction training is ready for his first drive, scheduled for this afternoon.
That's the good news. The not so good news is that Sydney received a call last night with some bad news from home, and although he has insisted that he be allowed to complete this afternoons drive, he will need to leave tomorrow to be with his family.
It goes without saying that we will hold a try out spot for him to come back when he feels the time is right to complete more drives.
Thankfully Jacques has offered to stay on for a few more days and cover some more drives. His must be the longest try out session we have ever had, but Jacques is enjoying his time with us, so all is well.
We have a series of other candidates who wish to join us for try out and are making arrangements to be with us in May. The Easter holiday means that most guides tend to be busy for the next week, but we have a lot of great folks who are keen to try out after that. I'll pass on the details when we have confirmed the dates throughout May.

Written by Will

Monday, April 18, 2011

Next Try out

Hi Folks
Our next try out candidate is Mikosi fhumulani Sidney, or as he prefers just plain Sydney.
Sydney is currently a Snr Guide at South African National Park (Marakele). He achieved the 2009/10 award of best Guide of Limpopo as well as Best Provincial Guide of South Africa and overall best performer of the whole sanparks, chief executive award, so we have very high hopes of him.
Sydney arrives on Tuesday (19th) and will be assessed and given some training first before hopefully appearing in drive on Wednesday or Thursday.
As ever I look forward to your thoughts and views.

Written by Will

Sunday, April 17, 2011

12 April, what a day to remember!

Karula and the cubs 7 April
Hi everyone,
Sorry for the delay in the Blog, but it seriously was a day to remember and a wonderful 30th birthday present for sure!

Jacques, our tryout presenter, was lucky enough to bump into Karula and the cubs on the evening of the 9th heading North from Gowrie dam. Sadly WE couldn't spend too much time with them, but thankfully we didn't have to wait too long for our lady to appear again!

Young male rolling in dung on the 7th April
I was busy checking the Ganda first thing as Herman and Craig arrived for the set up for AM drive on the 12th. Just as they pulled in, they shouted to me saying they had just seen Karula heading into the bush on the driveway. We rapidly finished getting everything ready and with the sun starting to rise, I noticed her fresh tracks just outside my room on the pathway! I must admit I did wonder if I had missed her passing outside my room by minutes! With excitement in our veins we raced to the spot where she had disappeared! 

The count down to drive had begun and we hadn't been successful in relocating her. Just as we went live, I was saying hello and suddenly Karula popped up! She was walking a few meters from where I was standing on the opposite side of Ganda with a francolin in her mouth! I immediately jumped aboard and shadowed heras she strolled towards the lodge!

The lady of Djuma, Karula, April 12.
As she arrived at the car park, the other game drives were just heading out and they joined us as she cut between the rooms down to the Northern side of the dam to sit and eat her breakfast. WE had no view of her in the thick vegetation, so after a while we left and hoped she would show herself again at some stage!

A short while passed as we sat on the dam wall watching hippo and to my amazement Karula meandered towards the overflow! She stopped just at the crossing, seeming to decided which direction she should take. She diverted her course and walked right towards us on to the wall! Keeping a look out for a larger meal, she  continued to the Western side and took a well used game trail which ran parallel to twin dams road. WE stayed with her as she chose the route. Just as I thought we might loose her into the drainage line, she gave a soft "ugfh". Shivers ran down my spine, I could not believe it, she was calling the cubs! 

She called again as the thick bush swallowed her. We tried an open area ahead of her in the hope of seeing the cubs. WE waited, but there was still no sign. With wall to wall trees, she had picked a great place to hide them! I was so sure she was not too far away, but with the bush being so thick, there was no way in. I must admit I was slightly disappointed but thought we would give the place we lost her before again just in case she turned around. As I pulled back, she materialised in front of us, where only seconds before there was bare ground! She was busy grooming herself as if she had been there all the time! Movement drew my attention to where we had just been minutes before. It was the cubs!

Karula joining in the fun!
It was magic to sit and watch them as they frolicked about, jumping and chasing each other. Karula even joined in when one of the cubs launched itself on her! After a while she decided it was time to move on and melted back into the bush! I was extactic, what a wonderful morning WE had already! I didn't think it could get any better!  

Later on drive a radio call came in about Karula making her way across the quarantine open area with the cubs, sadly this time we couldn't respond as vehicles who didn't have chance to see her earlier took the opportunity this time. 

WE enjoyed spending time with Giraffe at Chela pan while Karula made her way through Phillamon's dip and to my surprise a couple of vehicles left the sighting, which meant we could join! We timed it perfectly as she approached the junction of weaver's nest road and Chela pan road. The cubs were not bothered by our presence at all! The little female followed mum closely, while the male was happy to have a bit of space at the back!

Karula being joined by one of the cubs!
Once again we fell in behind the family and enjoyed their antics! The end of drive was looming and they disappeared towards tree house dam. Just as WE were going to say goodbye, Herman frantically exclaimed "she's in the tree!" Sure enough she was using a Marula tree to scout out a possible meal! The cubs were also utilising the grand tree, but they had other ideas how it should be used! 

Practicing their climbing skills, it looked at a stage one was struggling, but a slight adjustment to the paw and the cub came right! Meanwhile Karula had spotted something of interest and proceeded to the Southern side of the dip on Weavers nest road, leaving the cubs unsure if they should follow or not.

To our astonishment, instead of the cubs going to hide in the bush once the call to follow Karula never came, they sauntered out just a couple of meters in front of the Ganda! The young boy sat in the shade just on the road and his sister joined him, watching Karula until she could no longer see her. Once out of sight, this was the cue to go and seek cover! Leaving us speechless!

WOW! What a family and what a morning! If you missed joining us for that amazing drive here is the link to the diary on you tube!

Written by Tara

Friday, April 15, 2011

New water hole camera

Sorry that it has been a while coming, but we are finally in a position to upgrade the Djuma water hole camera.
We have a new state of the art camera to install in a new location about 50meters from the current site.
This will mean that we will need to take the exiting camera offline for several days starting on Sunday. That will give us time to re route the cables, dig trenches and build a new base for the camera. We have a team of guys who will start work early on Sunday (17th). Pete arrives later in the week to complete the wiring and commissioning and then we'll be back up an running with an Internet protocol camera. This new system allows for remote operation from anywhere in the world and we'll be developing this element over the next weeks.
Of-course working by a dam is not as easy. The camera is located in front of a five star lodge which means we must have care and consideration for the lodge guests and then the team who are working there need to keep an eye on the wildlife. As you know there are several Hippo in the dam right now and I can tell you that a couple of them do not take kindly to people. While Craig and I were scouting the area yesterday one large female was getting a little too close for comfort so we kept the Jigga close by, just in case we needed to make a dash for it. Nothings easy in Africa.

My apologies that it has taken so long for us to get to this point, but it is something we promised and we aim to keep our promises.

Written by Will

ILP researchers drop in to at Safari TV

Hi Folks
As you may know, as well as my being CEO of Safari TV, I also manage the Ingwe Leopard Project, which conducts research into leopard behaviour outside of formally protected areas.
It so happens that two of the senior researchers from the ILP (Anton and Emma), will be in the Hoedspruit area over the next few days and so I have asked them to pop in to Djuma.
Anton will be going out on drive with Tara tomorrow afternoon (weather permitting). He has offered to demonstrate how we build up ID kits on leopards, one key element of this being making plaster casts of an animals spoor. The spoor as you know is just like a finger print and Anton hopes to show you how we have developed a unique system for measuring and recording the spoor of individual animals.
I hope you will find this interesting.

Written by Will

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Return of Jacques Human

Following on from my earlier blog regarding Jacques Gouws, I am pleased to say the Jacques Human (who was with us last weekend) has asked to come back for some extra days try out.
I know how popular that Jacques Human was, so I am very pleased to give him some more time with us.
Towards the end of his time with us, there was a question raised about a hunting photograph he had on his private facebook page.
To put this in context, I think it would be unfair to think of this as any more than something that a young man tried and not the definition of his character. His work in guiding and the passion he has shown for nature conservation show the true Jacques.
Let's not forget that many conservationists historically and today have hunted, but that did not define them, indeed it was often the key for them to change path and go into conservation. I have many friends who are well known and dedicated conservationists who have hunted in the past and then taken a different path. I for one would not hold such an indiscretion against a young man and not allow him an opportunity to change.
I hope you will join me in welcoming Jacques back. I know the crew are all looking forward to seeing him again.
Written by Will

Jacques Gouws not ready yet

Hi Folks
I know that many of you are wondering why the next try out candidate Jacques Gouws isn't on drive.
Well, the bottom line is that when he arrived in camp he felt that perhaps his experience and knowledge was not up to scratch. Of-course we had reviewed cv's and the normal vetting, but you know reality is sometimes different.
I didn't want to risk safety or compromise our standards, so I thought it prudent that Jacques did not lead a try out drive. It would not have been fair. I hope you will understand.
We have more try outs coming soon and I'll keep you up to date with that. I'll also be letting you know more about the new water hole camera installation happening next week.
Written by Will

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Jacques

Thanks to every one who has sent comments regarding our first try out presenter Jacques Human.
We have several more candidates to try out before making a decision and I hope you will understand that I cannot make comment on an individual before we have seen everyone, but I have noted your views.
Next (and here is where its going to get confusing) is another Jacques (Jacques Gouws).
Jacques Gouws is a free lance guide who is also studying Nature Conservation. He arrives in camp today (Tuesday 12th), for training and then a few try out drives. He'll be with us for six days and so you will give us all have ample opportunity to watch his drives and also (importantly) for him to relax into the role.
As with all candidates we wish Jacques G, good luck and look forward to his drives.

Our new internee Daniel also arrives today. He will be training and assisting with both Camera and Editing over the next few months, with the prospect of full time employment if all goes well. Daniel has not lived in the African bush before so he may take some time to adjust to bush living, but he is very keen and has a passion for the art of wildlife cinematography. Once he has settled in then he'll introduce himself on Sundays FSC.
Written by Will

Friday, April 8, 2011

Recent camera changes

Hi everyone.

Just a quick blog to inform you that two days ago WE changed back to using our previous camera on our live safaris. The reason for this temporary change is that we needed to send our 3D camera in for general maintenance in Johannesburg.

We will be operating this camera up until such time that our 3D camera returns from Johannesburg.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Back to full strength

Hi Folks. As you know we're looking for a new presenter and as part of that will be conducting some try out drives again. Although this time things will be a little different. I know a lot of you let me know that you would like to see more than one drive from each candidate, such that the candidate gets chance to relax into the role and show us what they can do. So the next batch of try out drives will be 4-7 days depending on how much time the candidate can spare.
First off will be Jacques Human, who arrives in camp on Friday and will stay with us for four days. His first drive will be on Saturday, following training with Tara and Craig.

Jacques is South African and has been a big five guide for the last three years. He has a passion for wildlife and loves all sports. Look out for Jacques on Saturday PM drive.
As some of you have noted Pat has not returned to Djuma after we gave him time off to attend a conference. He sent us a note to say his new job meant he was unable to return and wants to apologise to all our viewers for breaking his promise to return.
I hope that you will not think unkindly of him, I know he would have continued if he could have, but his new project needs him full time and we wish him well.
Cat has returned to the UK after her internship with Safari TV, she will be missed by everyone in camp and we very much hope that the time she spent with us will benefit her in her future career.
We have another internee who will start with us next week on a three moth training assignment. Daniel Snyders is a South African camera person who wants to learn more about wildlife film work, he is a good friend of Sebs and we are looking forward to welcoming him to the team.
Written by Will Fox

Confirmation on the sexes of the cubs!

April 7 2011
Hi everyone!
What an absolute joy to see Karula and the cubs first thing this morning! WE have managed to confirm what everyone has suspected! She does have one male and one female cub! What made it even more special was being in the sighting with a couple of viewers all the way from Australia!

Her tracks were seen heading South across Gowrie Main from Twin dams, so another guide was following up as we headed south on twin dams road. As we were approaching Chela pan, he called to say he had just found Karula on Weaver's nest road and the cubs were with her!

Lucky for us we were in the right place to pull over as she made her way along Chela pan road towards us! The cubs were bouncing about, rolling in buffalo dung, trying to climb wide tree trunks, pouncing on mum and each other! They were so full of energy! The young male seems to be eager to check out new things, wondering from mum, but his sister seems to prefer staying closer to Karula!

Karula and cub 7 April 2011
Occasionally they would stop and stalk some francolins while Karula watched, but still being young they may have the instinct but not the skill yet to be successful in catching one.

We followed as she slowly made her way to the dip on twin dams road, north of the pan and we all hoped she would continue towards Gowrie dam, but she had other plans! Some of you might remember a sighting a couple of months ago when we had Induna lying down in the bush off twin dams road, barely being able to see more than a spot! WE found him due to the alarm call of Impala further North on the road. After finding him we pulled out of the sighting to allow other vehicles in and later returned as he made his way in to the bush off twin dam road. Where he lay down it was difficult for us to see him and it was here where Karula took the cubs into the bush this morning!

April 7 2011
Unable to follow due to a ditch, or donga as it is called here, in front of us, I tried to find another way in.  Having had rain in the last couple of days and a game viewer getting stuck in the mud just a meter off the road, I was taking it very carefully! We made our way in at the same place I had tried previously when Induna was there, but as we did the calls of the squirrel died away. Knowing the area now, I knew it was too thick to try and follow, so left her to her own devices!

It's great to know she is right in the center of Western Gowrie, which is the area we traverse. With her being here it should increase the opportunity of seeing her and the cubs on drive! I am so excited to see them again and I am sure I am not alone in that!

Thanks again for the pictures that were sent in, please keep them coming in!

Written by Tara

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mixo and Induna together!

Mixo Feb 2010
Hi everyone,

What a wonderful surprise to find Mixo by tree house dam yesterday! I just happened to notice a golden streak on the Northern side of the dam as we approached from the Southern side. Not seeing leopard for a short while, I wasn't about to let this one slip away with out seeing who it was at least! WE rapidly climbed onto the dam wall and tried to keep a look out for where our rosetted friend went. Just as we reached the opposite side, I spotted the leopard to our left and Herman shouted, "there's some warthog!" 

My focus on the cat was diverted as I tried to see where they were, so as not to interrupt what I realised could be happening right in front of us, a hunt in progress. As I pulled the vehicle forward to view where Herman was pointing, the sounder of warthog appeared to our right. I stopped immediately, not wanting to influence their direction in anyway. I had noticed the cat, WE later found to be Mixo, sneaking behind the termite mound to our left and so the stage was set!

As quickly as we were comprehending what could happen, there was another flash of gold as Mixo raced in to the center of the family, which then exploded into pandemonium! Warthogs were running in all directions as WE heard an ear piercing cry. He had caught one.

Male warthog seen around camp
On hearing the call an adult female, I can only assume was the mother, stopped dead in her tracks and came charging in to rescue her piglet! With canine teeth around 12cm long and a protective streak, the female warthog was a force to be reckoned with! I doubt Mixo was expecting the assault and dropped the piglet on impact. It couldn't have been badly injured, as it took the opportunity of being released and ran for it's life! Unsatisfied the mother then gave chase, tossing her head under her adversary. All we saw was the Mixo jumping a meter high to avoid her!

Putting the leopard in his place, she turned tail and ran, leaving him to ponder on what had just taken place! What a drama and as much as I hope he eventually found a meal, I was so glad for the piglet to have survived. The bravery of the mother shows how strong the bond between mother and child can be, even in the Warthog world! 

Mixo continued to look around possibly checking if there was any sign of an injured piglet or scent of one still in the area, but it looked like this time his it wasn't his lucky day. WE stayed with him as he followed a game trail. Every so often he sniffed the ground and check the trees. Which made me think he could have been following the scent of another leopard, possibly with a kill. We had heard a leopard calling around Phillamon's dip the night before and he was heading that way! It could be he was already on the trail and just happened to spot the family of warthog and thought it looked like a good hunting opportunity! 

As he approached the pump house in the dip, he took his time in the area, looking like he was trying to find which way the scent had gone, crossing this way and that over the junction with Weaver's nest road. Sadly the rain set in as he decided on Rebecca's road. So we left him to continue his search and made a mad dash back to camp. Look out for the diary!

Induna April 2010 
Hearing the alarm call of the baboons the following morning, they guided Marc to both of Karula's boys sitting on the open area of quarantine! Induna was busy eating a leg of an antelope while Mixo watched! He gave his brother a snarl every so often to remind him that it was his meat! Could it have been Induna who's trail Mixo was following last night? I do wonder! The boys didn't interact directly with each other, no fighting broke out, but where Mixo went, Induna walked parallel with him! Even the presence of floppy ear and 2 of her hyena clan didn't deter them! 

They approached the road leading to our camp and melted into the thick vegetation. I believe they are somewhere at the back of camp by now and I would love to know how long they were together last night and today! With them being nearly 2 and half years of age, they are likely to start seeing each other as competition soon, but it also just goes to show blood is thicker than water. One question I will never have the answer to is, did Mixo and Induna work together to hunt? It is not the normal scenario for leopard, but hey it's nature, anything is possible! Leopard family members have been known to hunt together, it could have been this is what happened! It could have been one of the boys hunted and the other came to get the scraps! Who knows! What ever the situation is, it was brilliant to see the 2 brothers together again!

Blue Wildebeest
Sadly it turns out it was one of the wildebeest calves that was hunted last night. It only became clear this was the case when Marc observed the behaviour of one of the cows later on. As the herd moved towards Phillamon's dip, she kept turning back towards the open area, possible checking to see if the calf was going to return. It was sad to see her reaction and it was certainly a stark reminder of the fine balance that exists in nature. One mother saves her offspring, while another losses hers, so another can continue to live.  

Written by Tara

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Welcome Siyabonga

Hi Folks

I would like to introduce you to our latest arrival in camp Thusi Comfort Siyabonga.

Siyabonga has joined us as Melusi’s replacement and will be looking after all things technical in camp. Of-course our systems are not something that he has seen before (after all no-one else does what we do) so he will take some time to get familiar with the systems. Pete is coming up from Cape Town soon to provide detailed training and Alex is (as ever) available on Skype and email to offer support, so he has back up if he needs it.

Siyabonga only arrived yesterday and I hear he is enjoying being in camp and getting to know the team.

Please join me in welcoming Siyabonga to the team; I hope he has a long and fruitful assignment with Safari Television.

Written by Will Fox

CEO Safari Television

Monday, April 4, 2011

My the cubs are growing!

Hi everyone!

What a great treat to see Karula on the first and it not being a April fool's!

Karula and cub on the first April.

We had a been watching a collared female elephant and her young son, who was just over a year old on the junction of Zoe's road and Phillamon's Cutline. She spent some time with us and then meandered off over Gowrie Main, so we turned around and headed North to check Impala plains and road to for any leopard tracks. Little did I know it was us who was being tracked by leopard!

After 30-45 minutes of leaving the area, WE had a radio call to announce Karula was at the same junction we had just been at with the elephant! She was heading West in to the bush and calling the cubs. As we started to make our way over there, we had another call saying she was with the cubs on Mala Mala main (triple M) heading North! Everyone in the area was excited to see her so responded, with us being a distance away we were the last in line, but this is not necessarily a bad thing! Once everyone has had a view of her it gives us chance to spend a bit of time with her! So we made our way along Vuyatela access out on to triple M where signal is intermittent. WE waited for our turn, which came very soon after we found signal to fill everyone in on the situation.

As we arrived at the crest of the hill, WE were able to look down towards Karula and the cubs and we could see a private vehicle was also in the sighting. With it being the main road to the gate, it can happen. So instead of putting pressure on her by being a fourth vehicle, we stayed back on the crest of the hill and waited for our lady to chose where she wanted to go. Thankful she continued on her Northern route and walked right passed us! What a fantastic moment! (But still no luck on confirming the sexes!)

Taken on the 22 March
Once the family had passed us, I wanted to make sure the private vehicle didn't get too close to her. The other game viewer had continued on at this stage, so we followed at a distance enjoying watching the antics of the cubs, pouncing on each other, chasing after the dwarf mongoose who were alarming at their presence.  The cubs are looking great, well fed and full of life! They took their time, which told me she was fine with us being there.

They stopped briefly to drink from a pool in one of the dips before continuing on their late afternoon stroll. The other game viewer had left by this stage and there was a large enough gap on the right of the road to be able to over take Karula once again without getting close to her, so we took the opportunity and sat waiting for her. 

Seen on the 22 March
The signal dropped just as she approached so I was unable to move at this point. As they were walking passed, the darker cub noticed something moving behind us and ventured over to investigate, while Karula patiently stood watching, allowing it to expand it's knowledge of life! It was such a heart warming moment to see she was relaxed with her cub approaching so closely to us! Incrediable!

The cub ran down the side of the vehicle back to mum, missing the scrub hare who had been sitting a couple of meters away to our right. I wonder if this is what caught the cub's attention in the first place, it was a very lucky not to have caught Karula's eye that is for sure!

Just as we regained signal she had turned off the road and headed West, possibly to a kill she had made earlier. I have now learnt she has been spending time on parallel road, safari and red dam. Areas which are not too far from MMM road. I think this has always been part of her territory and the more I learn about that area, the more I am convinced she is utilising good hunting opportunities. 

Taken on the 22 March
She was seen briefly around Impala plains the following morning, but from there, she has become discrete again! When she is ready to show the cubs again she will!

Thanks for all the pictures sent in from the previous sighting of her and the cubs, please feel free to continue  sending in any pictures of the cubs and the date they were seen for future Blogs!

Written by Tara