Sunday, May 29, 2011

Happenings at Djuma since being off line.

The cubs on the 9 May

Hi everyone, it's good to be back!

My word! I can safely say I have never experienced a storm like the one we had on the 17th! We were all convinced it was a mini hurricane! Interrupting our film with a power cut, the thunder and lightning intensified as the wind continued to build and the heavens opened causing a flash flood to cascade between the rooms and down the drive way. Incredible! 

The morning after the huge storm, we found Karula a couple of metres off the road leading down to the lodge, sleeping next to a carcass. Our lady once again had taken advantage of the impala being disorientated by a storm. We sat watching her for a short while and noticed the female cub a little way from her. There was a lot of movement at the lodge, fences were leaning over, huge branches were thrown a few metres from their home and even whole trees had been blown over completely, so there was a lot to clean up before the guests arrived. Karula wasn’t too concerned she had experienced these sounds before, but the cub became nervous, when the chainsaw started to hum and she took cover under a bush, ignoring Karula’s comforting calls. 

Karula on the 19th May.
Being the competent mother she is, she went to join her cub, who immediately relaxed in her mother’s presence.  All the time we spent with them, I was getting concerned we had not seen the little male. I thought maybe the female had gone to join him under the bush, but when she joined Karula, he still didn’t appear. I was worried something might have happened to him during the strong winds the night before.

We left Karula and her cub hoping the little male was hiding somewhere safe and just waiting for the commotion to subside. PM drive came and went and there was still no news of the male, but a second carcass had been discovered in a tree, down by room 3, which is where we had left the family the morning of the 17th. Maybe the male cub was still there, but I was still extremely anxious.

Female cub on the 9th May
With night fall, there was less movement around the lodge, the ciaos had been re-organised, the guests had arrived and myself and Marc joined them for dinner at the lodge. We had a very pleasant evening, a little worried about the weather as the wind started to pick up, thankfully it didn’t mount to anything! In the back of my mind I thought Karula might be searching for the male, as we sat enjoying our meal. I did wonder if she already knew where he was and it was just me that was concerned because nobody had seen him!

Whatever the situation was, relief washed over me when one of the guides reported they had seen the 2 cubs together at room 8 the following morning! The hyena hadn’t even found the carcass that was still on the ground. We even spotted a third impala in a tree a few meters from where she had been the previous day, bring the total to 3! What a lady!

Male cub on the 9 May
As far as we know she was around the lodge for a further couple of days. Apparently the total number of impala carcasses found is 5! The last report I have had was of the cubs being left at the MMM and Impala plains junction again on the 23rd May and Karula making another kill a couple of days later on the Western side of MMM not far from that junction.

We have also been told by the guides Yambilu-Jordaan was seen fighting with another male close to baboon pan, although there are conflicting stories as to who he was fighting with, either Mvula or Mafufunyane on the 21st May, most seem to agree it was Mafufunyane.

The cubs on the 9th May
Lastly on the baboon front, Shirley, Genesis and the troop seem to be doing well, sadly I still don't have any pictures of the new arrival as yet! Thankfully though we have stopped the baboon break ins, since Daniel put the curtains up in Inga's house! 

My camera is still being temperamental working sometimes and not others, so some of the pictures are not great exposure and focus wise, but hope you enjoy them all the same!

Written by Tara 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back to live

Folks, another update for you in the long running saga of the Djuma Tower.
Good news- the tower has been repaired and we have restored the radio link. Final testing is being completed but all looks good.
While we have been off air we have taken time to service both the Ganda and wait for it....yes the Jigga.
I know how many of you were keen that we brought the Jigga back into service so we have assembled some spare parts and we're close to having her back available.
To be honest we had assumed that the mast repair would take a little longer and had planned accordingly. So for example Marc has gone on early leave which means we are a bit short handed. With this in mind we will only be operating the PM drives for the next couple of days as we also need time to complete some of the outstanding vehicle servicing to bring us back to full operations.
First return drive will be PM tomorrow Saturday 27th.

Some more good news. I have been talking with Jacques this week to see if we can persuade him to join the team at Djuma. We have a verbal agreement and I hope to put pen to paper on a contract over the next few days.

Even more good news. I know that many of you were wondering what would become of Siphiwe once the Djuma water hole camera was handed over to the zoomies. Rest assured we don't want to loose Siphiwe, she will stay with the team working behind the scenes in a new admin role that she is keen to grow in to. This new role fits nicely with her own ambitions and is a direction that she wishes to go in, so its another win win.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Let's use the time

Folks, as you know this weeks storm has caused us some significant problems. Pete has blogged about the damage, so I figure you are all up to speed.
As you know, we are not able to transmit our drives, but I figure the big question is how long before we are back. It's a very hard one to call, as it is not in our control. What I can tell you is that a crane is urgently being sourced to allow the Engineers to carry out structural repairs to the damaged tower. Only then will we be able to climb the tower and assess the damage to our equipment. Hopefully it will be as simple as just realigning the dishes, but you know how it is in Africa, nothing seems to be that simple.
Anyway, to look on the bright side, nobody was hurt in the storm and we have some time to carry out repairs and maintenance.
It was while considering what maintenance work we should do, that it struck me that we have an opportunity to see if we can make some improvements at the same time. I'm always keen to improve our service and I have listened to, and read with interest, all of your comments and suggestions over the last year. So, it makes sense to make best use of this short break to make improvements if we can. I can't promise anything but we'll do our best.
Of-course it's hard to forecast how long the down time for tower and radio repairs will be, but if I had to guess I figure that we may be off line until next weekend at the earliest (28/29), but we'll see how the repairs go.
I can only ask for your patience, understanding and support. Although the storm is something which we could obviously do nothing about, I want to apologise to you for the inconvenience, please bare with us. We will be back as soon as we can and when we do, my hope is that we can bring you an even better service.
Written by Will Fox

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Presenter try-outs

Today WE were supposed to see another try-out arrive for the position of presenter for WildEArth Safari. Unfortunately a family emergency has resulted in a cancellation and at this stage, there are no new prospects coming in this week.

I would like to thank everyone for the input WE have received regarding the guys that have been here to take a few drives. This input is important for us to get a feel four how the presenters come across to international viewers and how well they are understood.

There have been a few queries as to why some are given multiple drives whilst others are only here for one or two. In the past, we have made decisions on only a short try-out by prospective presenters and this time round we decided to have the try-outs spend a few days here so that they could work through nervousness and first time jitters.

For some this has been helpful, as they relax after a couple of drives. However, when we are confident that a try-out simply does not have what it takes to fill the position, we have made a collective decision to stop the audition, knowing that the person still has a long way to go to have a presence on camera.

All guides in the country go through rigorous training programmes as well as tough theoretical exams to qualify. This means that anyone coming in to interview will have a great pool of knowledge to share. However, it is the manner in which this knowledge and experience is imparted as well as the interpretation and understanding of animal behaviour and how, with an individuals personality, this all makes up the presenter package that we are looking for.

WE do not have anyone else lined up for this week but I will keep our viewers informed of when we will be continuing the search.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Karula's movements over the last week!

The family treed, on the PM drive of the 7th May

Hi everyone!
I hope you had chance to read Marcs Blog on the wonderful drive with the Nkuhuma females and cubs and the remarkably quick kill made by Karula, highlighting how swift and deadly she can be. For those who may have missed what has been happening with the lady I follow on from Marc's morning drive from the 7th May.

Karula had taken the kill into the drainage line, which is where Ruan caught up with her on PM safari. A lone hyena wondered in scattering thankfully the cubs and Karula made it into the tree in time!

Two notched female on the prowl, May 8th
In the morning of the 8th, Ruan made his way back to the place he left Karula and found the small family enjoying the early golden sun rays, but the tranquility was interrupted once again by the hyena clan charging in. The female with the two notches in her right ear was on of the culprits! The cubs scattered and in a nail bitting moment, one cub only just managed to make it into a tree after running towards one of the hyenas!  Karula to leave the area, she made her way to Impala plains, taking refuge on the huge termite mound with the false marula growing out of it.

One of the cubs finding an awkward perch 
 I made my way there in the afternoon, but had no joy finding them. WE left the area for a bit and returned after someone had seen the cubs on MMM at the junction with Impala plains, but by the time we got there the cubs had gone into hiding once more, possibly because there was a hyena snooping around further up the road. I looked in the area they were last seen in case they made an appearance but didn’t want to go into the bush to look in case it would draw attention to their hiding place,  better to leave them be than risk detection. The light was fading fast so WE left them to their own devises.

Karula and cub AM drive 8th May
She was seen with the cubs the following morning with Marc on May 9th Vuyatela access heading towards the open area, where we later learned she had made a kill and was in the process of taking her cubs there.

Sadly we were not able to broadcast in the afternoon as somebody mistook our mast equipment for someone else, quite how I don’t know, but that was why! My self and Marc decided to head out to see Karula and get some footage of her as she was sitting right on our doorstep! She was resting in a dead possibly Marula tree, with the cubs just where our drive way joins Vuyatela access! What a priviledge it was to sit with her for nearly 3 hours, enjoying the peace and tranquility. Both of us were hoping the cubs would play in the sunlight, but they kept to the bush!

Female cub on the left, the male on the right! 9th May

Once the sun set we left them and found Karula had move the kill from the ground to a nearby tree as we drove passed to the house for dinner!

Since then WE have heard she treed her mother Safari who was seen hunting by Baboon pan around the 13th. What the reason for this was, I doubt we will ever know!

Shirley, one of the female baboons, has finally given birth to a baby boy, Graham has named it Genesis. It is just about 2 weeks old now! Evelyn is enjoying having a new playmate which is smaller than her! I have tried to get pictures as they walk through camp, but she is very shy! Graham has managed to get some good shots though!

Karula and Male cub PM 9th May.
Lastly WE found 2 of the Styx on drive this morning on Phillamon’s cutline. On AM drive I thought they were from the Nkuhumas from information gathered on the radio, not seeing them too well, from what I saw it looked like one of the mothers and the alpha female. It was only on PM drive did we see the young female properly who was not lactating and the older female with her right ear bent, could we see clearly it was the Styx females!

I hope you enjoy reading the update, sorry for the delay, I have finally managed to get pictures of the right sides of the cubs, so will be sharing those with everyone soon! 

Thank you once again to everyone sending in pictures of the Karula, the cubs and Hyenas. Please keep them coming in! They always help! 

Written by Tara

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mother's Day Weekend

A truly magical weekend was experienced here at Djuma Game Reserve, it was Mother’s Day weekend and WE had no shortage of moms and kids on our game drives. Our guest presenter, Ruan, was very lucky on Friday evening when he was on drive as we finally had the Nkuhuma pride cross over into Western Gowrie. They had made an appearance during the week but circumstances were such that we could not get to film them.

It was late in the afternoon and they were found near Zoe’s Road, lying in the long grasses, six little heads poking up out of the sward as they began to wake and, getting restless in the late afternoon light, began clamouring for attention from the lionesses. In attendance was a young male of about 6 months who towered over his little siblings.

I was in Final Control directing the drive and turning greener by the minute. It had been a long time since we had the opportunity to watch such small lion cubs and sitting inside and watching through a monitor seemed like I was so far removed from their presence. I guess I had a taste of what all our viewers have to settle for.

I tried to sleep that night. I tried to listen too, to the sounds around us hoping to hear the cats, or perhaps sounds of other animals as they shouted in alarm as the pride moved around. There was a lot of lion talk. Not exactly roaring but contact calls and I found myself willing the morning closer.

It was still dark when we took the vehicle out for drive and learned that there was a kill on the open area near camp. With the sun barely making an appearance above the horizon and dawn light wrapped in chilly air, we arrived on the scene to find the Nkuhuma females with all their cubs on a wildebeest kill. The cats had brought the animal down right next to the house of the owner of Djuma, Jurie Moolman and almost under the sleeping trees of the resident troop of baboons, the Gowrie Gang.

The baboons were not very happy with the predators below them. They must have had a sleepless night with the sounds and smells of the kill so close. They taunted the lion pride and the cubs seemed very uneasy about this, constantly moving away from the kill only to be called back as soon as they were a bit far away.

Two of the lionesses seemed to have had their fill for the time being and were watching the little ones with interest, sometimes following them some distance away onto the open area. We could hear hyenas in the distance and at one point I was sure I had heard the sounds of a young wildebeest in distress but found that it was more than likely the calf of the one that was killed crying out for its mother.

Since there were a few hyena sniffing around, the lionesses were a bit uneasy about the young cubs venturing out on their own, calling them back and trying to get them back to the kill where the older lioness was guarding it after dragging it under cover and out of sight of the keen eyes of aerial scavengers.

At one point, a nosey hyena came a bit too close for comfort and it was then that I noticed the determination of one of the lionesses. She ran it off with no mistaking her intentions were she to catch up with it. I have seen lion chase hyena before and usually it is a half-hearted chase to get them away from the kill. This time, however, little cubs were in danger and she wanted the hyena far away.

After some time, the pride moved to the western side of the open area, leaving the older lioness guarding the kill. They made some contact calls and often turned in that direction hoping to have her join them. The sun had started to break through a very high layer of cloud and we watched in awe as the little ones played on the road in front of us, the young male from an older litter being a little rough with his smaller siblings.

It was at about this time that we learned that another cat and cubs had been found, also on the edge of the open area. Karula and her two six month old cubs were on their way up from the dam and, I am sure, well aware of the commotion that had taken place as well as the presence of the pride. She was taking a chance but I have no doubt she knew what she was doing.

By the time we made our way to see her, she had stashed the cubs on the ridge and had settled down in some very long grass just off the open area with a herd of impala grazing and browsing close by.

We hardly had a view of her, she was so flat. All the other vehicles had moved off and I decided that we were to be patient and would have to be content with a view of a few spots on the top of her head. Since she never lifted her head, I was under the impression she was waiting for the impala to come a little closer, which they were.

A warthog abled by behind her (and us), forcing her to look up and watch it walk by. It was a huge male and I think perhaps a bit too much for her to take on as she turned away from it and looked towards the herd to see where they had gotten to.

The ram was in full rut and every now and then herding a female that wanted to stray. At one point he ran after a ewe away from the herd and at this the herd turned to follow them, giving Karula a chance to take advantage of them all looking away. She stalked closer, belly to the ground, tail low and ears flat. There was a small open patch of grassland no more than fifteen feet wide that she had to cross unnoticed. She did this with incredible skill, disappearing behind some Bushwillows. There was incredible tension in the air, I knew what was about to happen but we couldn’t see her and had to wait for her next move to be heard.

The herd alarmed and scattered. No more than a few seconds later, Karula reappeared, jaws clamped over the throat of the unfortunate antelope. I don’t think it was even dead yet as she dragged it past us and down towards the drainage line. I kept looking at the trees around us expecting her to take the kill up one of them, forgetting that she has enough experience in these matters despite the presence of lion and hyena within a hundred metres or so.

We watched her awhile, dragging the kill further down into the lush vegetation of the drainage line that runs along the western edge of the open area, the same drainage line that the lionesses had now sought refuge with all the cubs.

Shortly after signing off for the morning, as we were heading back to camp, I noticed an impala ram shouting at something in the area where she had supposedly left the cubs and noticed a blur of spots and a white tip to a tail disappear into a thicket when I investigated a bit more. I was sure she would be there soon to collect them.

In keeping with the Mother’s day theme of the weekend, we spent some time with some elephants, in particular a cow and calves and although we didn’t spend time at the den, the hyena and cubs were in our thoughts. So too were all the mothers out there, our viewers, our mothers and, on a personal note, to my mom, the best mom in the world, thank you for all you have done for me, I love you!


To watch karula's amazing hunt, follow this link:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Try-outs continue

We have had a serious internet problem that has taken a couple of days to sort out and it is due to this that the blog has been delayed.

Today WE are expecting the arrival of Jan-Francis Vorster who comes from a town called Hectorspruit. His training was at a very reputable organisation called The Bushveld Training Academy and I have no doubt that his knowledge will compliment that of the current presenters. Jan-Francis has had experience from several areas in the country and I am sure he will share these with the viewer’s when he is out on his try-out drives. WE look forward to welcoming him in camp and hope you will give him the support that we have enjoyed from you over the years. Jan-Francis will be doing his first drive on Wednesday 11th May but as yet we will need to assess whether he will be ready to present in the morning or in the afternoon. WE will keep you posted on the safari Channel Page on Facebook and the calendar.


Photo by Marc Weiner

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Presenter Try-outs

WE continue with presenter try-outs today with the arrival of Ruan Schutte who will start with this afternoon’s PM safari at 15h00 CAT.

Ruan is a qualified FGASA level 3 Trails Guide who has studied architecture and herpetology. He has gained experience in several wildlife areas of the country including Madikwe Game Reserve, Thaba Phuti in the Northwest Province as well as Hluluwe and other areas of Kwa-Zulu Natal. We are looking forward to his drives and hope the viewers will enjoy his knowledge and personality.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Meet the cubs!

Female, 12 April, Weaver's Nest road.
Hi everyone!

We had word from the guides this morning, Karula's cubs were found just West of MMM opposite the junction with Impala plains. There is some confusion as to whether Karula was with them or not though. For now they are just outside our traversing area, she may bring them back to Western Gowrie this evening!

I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the distinguishing features of Karula's cubs for future reference! 

Male, 12 April, 5 months old, Weaver's nest road
The little male, apart from being larger than his sister, has 2 large spots above his whisker line and at the corner of his left eye a "Z". Leopards don't change their spots, but they do grow as the cub grows. It will be interesting to see how big this feature gets!

Male, 1 April, Chela Pan road.

Interesting pattern between the eyes, but you may notice next to the two arrows the line of spots are parallel to each other and the same is true for the opposite side! I wonder if the fainter third line below the red arrow will become a bit bolder as he gets older? I have concentrated on the left and front for now until we have clear shots of the right side!

On to his sister! If you look next to the blue arrow in the picture below, she also has 2 spots but they are verticle from the whisker line and next to the black arrow, a small chevron. I found the mark above her right eye to be an interesting squiggle too! 

Female, 12 April, 5 months old, Weaver's Nest road

You may have seen the behind the scenes clip myself and Seb managed to film, pf the cubs in the rain. If you haven't here is the link. Karula was found by guides on the Western side of MMM, with the cubs safely in a tree out of reach from the jaws of a hyena. Once the threat had disappeared, she continued to move the cubs towards Western Gowrie, where Ganda was trying to catch up with them, but sadly mother nature had other plans and down came the rain, so the Ganda returned to camp!
At this stage WE had only seen the cubs twice, so myself and Seb decided to head out and get some footage and pictures to share with everyone, which is where the video came from! When we arrived Karula was lying on the ground with one cub visible in the tree. It turns out that cub was the female looking very miserable in the rain!

Female, 17 Feb, 3 months old, MMM
I have pointed out the vertical spots above the whisker line again and a small, almost complete, ring between her eyes which I think will be quite distinctive as she grows! Again I don't have any clear pictures of her right side, but hope this helps!

Male, 12 April, Weaver's nest road.

The features I have pointed out are the most striking to me, you may see different ones! As for the names, it is  usual in the Sabi sands for leopards to be given names after they reach a year old and the honor is usually given to the guide who is first to see them. The reason being cub mortality is generally high and it gives a chance for personalities of those that survive, to develop. For the previous 2 litters WE have been allowed to name the cubs earlier. This time we have been waiting to confirm the sexes and now WE hope to have names for the cubs as soon as we know a bit more about their particular personalities!

 Written by Tara