Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sunday's last drive for Safari TV

Hi Folks
Well that time is approaching rapidly now. The last Safari Television broadcast will be on Sunday afternoon (31st July 15:30 -17:30 CAT). Sadly there will not be a Sunday evening Fire Side Chat, however we do want to go out with an upbeat last drive and say thank you to all of our loyal viewers. So, if you have any messages, reminders of special drives past or such that you would like to share with us and to be read out on air, then please send them to lastdrive@wildearthsafari.tv. If possible, please send them before 12:00 on Sunday otherwise it may not be feasible to deal with them all. Marc and Tara will take our last drive together and take you to some of their favourite places around Djuma. This last drive will end early and in daylight at 17:30 CAT with all the crew and directors (even dear old jigga) together at the end as we have been throughout. I hope you will all join us for what we hope will be a celebration of the good times we have had together with Safari Television.
As you may know some of the staff have been able to find employment with Djuma Game Reserve which is a great relief, but not all have been so fortunate. I very much hope that the others can all find employment very soon. The world is going through some hard times but this is the best group I have ever worked with so fingers crossed.
Will

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So glad Karula and the cubs have been out and about!

Karula's daughter 24th July
Hi everyone!

We have had a wonderful few days with Karula and the cubs! I am so happy they have been gracing us with their presence!

20th July, Prince and princess of the castle!
The first time since the 15th July WE caught up with the cubs was on the 20th. Marc found them sitting on top of a termite mound on the firebreak by Buffleshoek cutline and Galago shortcut. The little female continued sitting pretty, with the look of her mother about her while her brother decided to explore the base of the mound. I think there is a pattern forming as to who is the boss. He seems to be more adventurous if either lady in his life is around! The sun sank below the horizon, so we had to say goodbye for the day.

July 20th Karula's little girl.
Evidently Karula hadn't returned to fetch them the following morning. The young male was a little distance from where we had seen them, but still on the firebreak on Buffleshoek cutline. He was bounding after a few scurrying creatures, but didn't have any luck in catching any of them. Eventually he gave up and scaled a termite mound of his own and settled down to sleep. We left him to his dreams and had a drive around trying to locate the lions which had been seen early morning on the Waterhole camera.

Karula waiting for the response of her daughter! 21st July
With no visible signs of the tawny cats WE returned to the cubs to find Karula had joined them on the mound. At first we thought both cubs were there, but it soon became clear Karula was still calling for her wayward daughter. Her son on the other hand was just pleased to see his mum! She was getting quite irritated with him as he was rubbing against her and wrapping his tail around her. Thankfully he took her snarl as a sharp warning and left her to call in peace!

21st July, Karula and son!
We followed Karula's gaze and as the male crossed the road in front of us looking in the same direction, his sister appeared on the northern side of the firebreak! A couple more reassuring calls from mum and she was by her side within moments. Reunited, they headed South, making it a challenge to keep up as they frolicked about. With the help of the Francolins who had been disturbed WE relocated the excited family on Galago short cut for one last glace before they disappeared further down the road. This time the bush was too thick to follow but luckily it wasn't long before we had an update of her whereabouts! 

Styx Male
With a special appearance from Sebastien as our guide on the 22nd, WE heard Karula had caught a duiker south of Twin dams on PM drive. Unfortunately with it being just outside our traversing area WE didn't get to see her, but instead Sebastien was able to spend time with the young male from the Styx pride who was sleeping next to the hyena den on Zoe's road!

Induna out for the count! 23rd July
Although tracks had been found of the lady and the cubs on the 23rd, she only turned up later on PM drive on Vuyatela access road, after her son Induna had stolen the spot light for a while! She disappeared just as WE arrived possibly with a view to hunt the impala close by, so we left her to her business. 

Karula's son and the hippo! 24th July
Going back to Chela pan the following day during AM drive, Marc heard the commotion of Francolins, babblers and squirrels in the drainage line and went to investigate, as a duiker burst out of the bush heading towards us, both myself and Marc caught sight of the little male cub in a tree! So that was what the creatures were complaining about! What was even more interesting was the presence of the injured hippo who looked to be pursuing the 8 month old cub, but not in an aggressive manner! Karula's son on the other hand was not too sure what to make of it all and kept his distance! The hippo's cuts seem to be clean and healing well at least.

Karula's Son, approx 8 months old.
Once again the female was no where to be seen and it was only on the PM drive on the 24th did we find her lounging on a termite mound at the junction of Chela pan road and Weavers nest road. A good distance from where her brother was! Every bit her mother's daughter, she is so independent already I wouldn't be surprised if she leaves Karula earlier than the boys did!

Karula's daughter approx 8 months old. 24th July
Yesterday morning she was relaxing under a weeping bore-bean, taking an interest in a herd of giraffe who strolled by. They were watching her as much as she was watching them! It was the male this time who was keeping a low profile after other guides found him close to Chela Pan again.

She has the look of her mother! 25th July
WE were still searching for a coalition of 6 male lions called the Matimbas, thought to be from the Manyeleti in the North. 5 of this group had been hanging out around Gowrie Dam in the early morning. Having heard their roars in the West at the beginning of drive, WE searched for tracks only to find they were still on the open area by the dam! By the time WE caught up with them they were just disappearing into the bush.

The Alpha male of the Matimba lions.
The big "Induna" or chief of the group has the tip of his tail missing. The rest are golden maned lions and could possibly give the Majingilanes a run for their money, only time will tell what will happen!

Thank you for all the great pictures and collages sent in, they always help to make the Blog and rekindle the memories!

Written by Tara








Friday, July 22, 2011

More Q&A around the end of Safari Television's drives

Hi all,

I've been reading your posts and messages and have extracted some more topics that appear to require a bit of clarification. I've tried to answer at least some of these below in the form of another Q&A. If you have any other questions or remarks, please feel free to send them to lastdrive@wildearthsafari.tv so I can include them in a future one.


Q: Are the drives ending because all the money has been spent on 3D?

A: No, they are not. Without the creation of Safari Television in late Februari of last year, and the investment that came with that, WildEarth would have had to stop the drives soon afterwards for the same reason Safari Television has to now: Internet advertising alone does not yield enough revenue to keep this going. While in the time since then we have not been able to complete our vision for 3D (which would have allowed drives to continue into the future on both TV and the Internet), this investment and the revenue generated from 3D sales has kept them going at least this long.


Q: Can the drives be saved by dropping everything related to TV and 3D and going back to the way things were before March of last year?

A: Unfortunately not. One of the reasons WildEarth searched for alternatives, which led to the creation of Safari Television, is that then as now internet advertising revenue alone can not sustain the operation of LIVE game drives.


Q: Is this all Torsten Hoffmann's fault?

A: Definitely not, Torsten became WildEarth's Distribution Director and chose WildEarth as project for his Oxford MBA thesis only after we had embarked on this course.


Q: In a previous blog you mentioned the opportunity to give tips to the Safari crew. How can we do this?

A: You can use your Paypal account to send these to crewtips@wildearthsafari.tv or you can click this button to use your credit card:





You can also send questions about the process to the crew at the same address.


Q: If I send a tip, who will benefit from this?

A: The current crew at Djuma, who have brought you the safaris: Marc, Tara, Herman, Sebastien, Siphiwe and Craig. They will divide whatever comes in between them.


Q: Why does Peter Braat's name show up on my payment receipt? Isn't this supposed to be for the crew?

A: It is. To get money out of PayPal, the account needs to be linked to a bank account. The options for this are very limited in South Africa due to Exchange Control regulations and none of the crew have a qualifying account. This is why they asked if my PayPal account could be used for this. The email crewtips@wildearthsafari.tv is set-up specifically to be used for this so there will be no confusion.


Q: Who will be monitoring what comes in?

A: The crew at Djuma. I have shared my PayPal account password with them and they will monitor what comes in and respond personally to everyone who does decide to tip them. I am not involved in that beyond offering them the use of my PayPal account to make this possible and to afterwards forward the money to them.


Q: Can I check whether this is true with the crew at Djuma?

A: Yes of course! Feel free to ask them.


Q: Will any tip money coming in be in lieu of Safari Television's obligations to the crew?

A: No, certainly not. Safari Television will meet all its obligations to its employees as part of the close down and this is a completely different and totally separate process. Safari Television is not involved in anything to do with the tips aside from me (Peter) offering the use of my private PayPal account to facilitate the process.

--Peter

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thanks be to the zoomies!

Nkuhuma brothers. 15th July

Hi everyone!

I definitely say a huge thanks to the zoomies for some great sightings, but especially the zoomie on duty on the 15 July! 

Karula on the 15 July
The sharp eyed camera operator had Karula and the cubs by Gowrie dam just after 15h00. As we were getting ready for drive, Siphiwe exclaimed, "there's a leopard at the dam"! Of course human nature took over and we all crowded around the the monitor to see who it was and where! Sure enough it was one of the cubs and not wanting to waste anymore time, we dived onto the vehicle and headed down to the dam. 

Karula and the cubs, 15th July
As we arrived Karula and the kids were searching the edge of the water for possible light snacks. One being found, possibly in the form of a bird, in a small shrub right in front of Ganda. The female cub was interested in what mum had found and tried to see what it was, but Karula gave her a sharp warning and she thought better of it!

Karula on the 15th July
Once she was done, it was time to move on again. Heading into the drainage line in front of Vuyatela, she dropped the cubs at one of the rooms while she went to find something more substantial like an impala. The cubs went into hiding and we could attend the flat tyre we had acquired! This turned out to be a blessing, once we had finished, the other vehicles had already been to view Karula so there was space for us again!

Queen of Djuma looking regal!
She had given up hunting for the time being and was snoozing on the deck, but as the sun started to dip, she tried again and WE were able to follow. Unfortunately for her, circumstances were not right and her presence was highlighted by the arrow marked babblers chattering away. 

Arrow marked babbler
She even snarled a few times in their direction! Even though her cover had been blown by them, the antelope and even the banded mongoose seemed not to have taken too much notice! She began the search again and we left her to disappear into thick bush.

Banded mongoose
The morning drive had brought a sighting of 2 male lions, so we made our way back to where we had left them. It turns out the injured male and his brother are the Nkuhumas. They have lost part of their manes so look a bit younger than last time I saw them. The injured male seems to be in good spirits even though his left ankle is still swollen. In the morning he was nuzzling his brother and rolling around on top of him! It sounds like they travel far and who knows when we will see them again. WE left as they became ghost in the darkness.
Nkuhuma males 15 July 
Just as we thought the drive was over for the day, a white-tailed mongoose graced us with a wonderful view as it searched for food on Impala plains! It was so relaxed as it went this way and that following it's nose! I have never viewed a white-tailed mongoose for as long as we did that night!  

White-tailed Mongoose
I must add one of my favourite things to see is a rhino rolling in mud. For me it is so precious! I think it shows a softer side to these huge herbivores that some may feel just look threatening, when in reality they are actually very gentle creatures. It just reminds me of a 2 ton puppy! 

2 ton puppy! Skew horn
Yesterday afternoon, WE found the Short horn male rhino first and had a close encounter as he grazed to within a couple of meters and later on WE watched as the skew horned male rhino took a mud bath to help moisturise his skin in this dry winter heat!

Skew horn "Wearing his heart on his sleeve!"
I have a huge soft spot in my heart for these stunning animals, there is more to them than meets the eye! 
Thank you once again to everyone sending in pictures, I always try and put a representative from each person on the Blogs! 

Written by Tara


Friday, July 15, 2011

Safari Television to stop game drives after July 31st

I have some very sad news to share with you all today. Due to financial reasons Safari Television will have to stop operating and broadcasting game drives from Djuma at the end of this month. Technical issues related to various areas of the broadcast and its distribution have prevented us from generating sufficient revenue to cover our running costs. Without further significant investment in equipment this can not be changed and such funds are currently unavailable. We've explored many avenues to generate additional income, but running an operation such as we have based on mainly internet revenue is just not viable.

Stopping our activities and broadcasts has been a difficult and emotional decision to take, for ourselves, but mostly because of the impact on our crew in Djuma who are now unfortunately will be without a job despite having worked tirelessly to help us try turn things around. On top of bringing you two safaris each day, they worked hard on other projects before, between and after these drives. It's very disappointing that we've been unable to turn all this effort into sufficient revenue to keep operating the game drives and our main concern at this point is doing what we can to minimise the impact on them.

Then it's also sad to have to say goodbye to you, our loyal viewers, those who recently discovered us, and especially those that have been on drives with us from the very beginning. Our last drive is planned to take place on July 31st and together with the crew we are planning some events around that to make it a proper goodbye. (We will share more on this during the next week.)

One thing I already would like to announce now is that Peter will work with the crew to set up an online ‘tipping jar’. Just as lodge guests have the opportunity to thank their rangers and trackers for a great experience, we want to give you the chance to thank those that have brought so many great safaris and wonderful waterhole sightings into your homes and offices. The exact details around this will be shared with you early next week.

As there will undoubtedly be many questions around this announcement and what will happen between now and July 31st (and afterwards) we’ve created an e-mail to send these to: lastdrive@wildearthsafari.tv, we will receive and answer these. We also encourage you to post in the discussion area of Safari Television on Facebook or in a special forum we created on WildEarths Ning network. One thing to note is that this only affects Safari Television's operations, the Djuma waterhole camera and other cameras on WildEarth.tv will continue operating as before.


I want to end for now by once again expressing my gratitude to in particular our crew on site for all their hard work and to you, our viewers, who've stuck with us through all the challenges we've faced.


--Will Fox

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Latest news of Karula and the cubs and other Djuma residents.

Hi everyone,


I can't believe another week has passed by so quickly already! WE have caught up with our favourite leopard family since the last Blog. The first was thanks to the other residents around Gowrie dam insisting something was there to eat them! (They weren't far wrong!) As we arrived at the open area outside the lodge on July 7th morning drive, a blurred streak of black and gold ran towards some guinea fowl causing them to take flight, complaining at the indignity of by chased by a cub. The young male looked around and was eager to try his luck again, but realised all the birds were now out of his reach and with the monkeys continuing to call, there was nothing else to do but go and reflect. 


Caterpillars of the "procession worms" moth. 

WE noticed the little female walking in the same direction as her brother, eventually joining him not too far from Inga's house and both settled down to soak up the warm early morning rays. 

Little female enjoying the view from the branch.
Other vehicles were interested in seeing them so we left and joined them again later on dive as Karula arrived to collect her family. In typical Karula style, she strolled less than half a metre next to Ganda, not even batting an eyelid, with the cubs following! WE followed her progress around the shoreline of Gowrie dam as journeyed North, passed the rooms at Vuyatela and into the drainage line close to FC!   

3 Tree Squirrels
The cubs were seen the following day at Sandy patch, but it was already getting dark so WE didn't respond to the sighting. Towards the end of morning drive on the 9th July we found fresh drag marks of a kill and leopard tracks which looked to belong to Karula on the fire break close Sandy patch North. We had a look around the area but sadly couldn't find her. One of the Vuyatela guides had continued the search and found her and the cubs just West of where we had been searching in the morning!

Blunt horned female. 
It is possible what she had caught was small or they had eaten part of it before it was stolen as their bellies looked like they had seen some form a small meal! Either way she was determined to go and hunt again. Leaving the cubs once they were in the low signal area, WE caught up with Karula 10 minutes or so after she left them. WE found her on Buffleshoek cutline by Sidney's dam, taking her time, she eventually crossed over to the North. I hope she was successful in her never ending quest for food!


We have also had some great sightings with elephants, the 4 majestic bulls out on the open area were incredible, just chilling next to us! 

I think the 6th rhino in the crash is probably the blunt horned females son who we use to see her with. He looks to be the same size and horn length and he has joined the crash roughly around the same time she has had her next calf. He looks about 3 and half maybe 4 years old. I hope he stays with them for a while at least! WE also had a very rare view of 3 female ostrich!


Thanks to everyone sending in pictures again! 
Written by Tara
















Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The latest dramas in Karula and her family's life!

Karula
Hi everyone! 
I have only been back just over a week and it feels like a lifetime! There has been a bit of drama with Karula and the cubs, starting just as I arrived back. In case anyone has not managed to join the drives or may have missed out on the events here is what has been happening!

Male cub 7th June
Marc joined the sighting of the cubs at tree house dam still hanging around there with the remains of their mother's kill on the 28th June. I am sure Karula had eaten her fill before embarking on another hunt fairly soon afterwards. This seems to be her usual behaviour and may be why she is so successful. Leaving the cubs to continue feeding until there is nothing left, while she looks for the next meal, as there is no grantee when she will succeed again.

Mafufunyane
Later on in the morning, their grandad, Mafufunyane made an appearance and chased the young female cub, although he didn't pursue her far. It also looked like he had an injured leg possibly from a fight with Karula's mate of choice Yambilu-Jordaan. He had found himself a comfortable spot to take it easy and attend to his wounds. 
Little female, I love her sweet innocent look! From this week
The cubs stayed hidden from the old male until the afternoon safari. Marc caught up with them as Karula approached the dam and called for her cubs. Only the male responded, it didn't look like she had seen her father who was tucked away in the long grass. She sunned herself on the dam wall for a while and only seemed to notice him once she stood up again. I am sure everyone was on edge as she slowly walked towards him. Giving a hiss in his direction, his only response was to lower his head again and continue snoozing. Satisfied she had made her point, she moved off, but we still had no visual of the female cub.

Karula and the male cub on Tree house dam wall 28th June
Knowing everyone would be worried, I went back to tree house dam on the 29th morning drive, to see if there would be any sign of the family. I found a couple of cub tracks which looked like they belonged to one cub, heading West with Karula's. It looked like she had decided to move them, maybe because of Mafufunyane's presence. It was only when we were on Phillimon's dip did we found more tracks. It was difficult to be 100% sure, but it looked like both cubs were there and as usual they were running backwards and forwards, no doubt chasing each other and exploring the area!

Little female 
We had a confirmed sighting right at the end of PM drive on the 29th. Both cubs and Karula were seen heading West on Vuyatela access road. We tried to get a visual but she had already headed into the bush at the junction with Albury's road.

The cubs on Marc's drive 3rd July
From here I had my dates wrong! I thought it was the following day the cubs were found but it was only Sunday 3rd, they were discovered at the same junction. Marc had a wonderful sighting of the cubs playing in the trees on morning drive! I have been told a diary will be made at some stage, keep a look out for it on You tube, I will also post it on Karula's face book page, it was incredible to see, but their mother was still not present!

Waiting patiently for mum to return! 3 July 
Karula still hadn't returned in the evening as Marc caught up with them once again and I must admit I wasn't holding my breath to find them in the same spot. I thought  she would have returned and moved them again during the night, but sure enough the next day, July 4th, the cubs were as Marc left them, hugging the termite mound! 
4th July
I was hoping mum would return as we watched them frolic about, pouncing on each other, batting the other's tail, climbing the trees until eventually they ran out of steam and settled down! Sadly Karula didn't show, even the female looked like she might have thought Karula was on the way back as something caught her attention. Eventually she returned to a sheltered spot to sleep.

4 July Little female still not looking impressed mum hasn't returned.
Even the afternoon drive brought no news of Karula, the cubs were still waiting patiently for her to return. By this stage many were becoming concerned for the cubs. I had originally thought it was only 2 days but it may have turned out to have been about 4 or 5 days. It is difficult to say at what point Karula left them and when they last drank, but it is normal for leopards to leave the cubs for longer and longer periods. Karula will also know how long she can leave them before they need to drink again and at this age the cubs will be able to hunt small prey like rodents, lizards, even birds and insects. It could even be part of the learning process which forces them to hunt.


The following morning, the 5th, we found Karula's tracks with those of the cubs, they had walked along Vuyatela access road, past the dam (and probably stopped to drink), then onto central road, where we followed the tracks until just before the junction with Drakensberg drive. A set from one of the cubs headed North from there. It was almost as if mum had walked in that direction and cub was on the other side of the road occupied by something and suddenly realising mum had gone, so sprang in the direction she had gone!


While looking for any more signs of her we found fresh adult and baby rhino spoor, so decided to track them. It turned out to be the blunt horned female rhino and her 3-4 month old female calf!


It was magic to spend a bit of time with them and then the elephant herd who we were also looking for in the area, but Karula remained elusive! At least she had re-joined the cubs, I think to everyone's relieve! It doesn't look like she was successful in making a kill and it could be why she moved the family to another area to try her luck!

The last sighting to date of Karula was last night, she was found in Torchwood, the neighbouring property just East of Cheetah cutline. It was only after we closed down did we hear she had made her way back to Western Gowrie and disappeared in the thick bush where we lost tracks that morning!

Karula and one of the cubs 8 May
I also wanted to share with you the amazing sighting that happened South of Gowrie Main in another property called Little Gowrie, which involves Karula's father and mother and the pride of lions we sometimes see here! This happened also on the morning of the 5th, details came from guides who witnessed it.
Mafufunyane was found killing a warthog, the calls must have been heard by the 2 hyena who came running in, forcing Mafufunyane to take the kill into a tree. The hyenas were then chased off by 3 of the Styx females and a Majingilane male. At some stage Safari, Karula's mother, showed up and was also chased into a tree, either by the lions or hyena. One of the Styx females decided to climb the tree Mafufunyane was in. He retaliated and was seen hitting her on the head as she climbed, but couldn't prevent her from making it to his stashed kill. He was a couple of meters from her, in the smallest of branches, while she sat in tree and ate his meal! At one stage she skillfully caught the carcass as it slipped from the tree! Having eaten her fill, she descended, sadly not very gracefully, bumping her head as she came down! In a word incredible!

Thank you so much for the quick response sending through pictures, sorry for the short notice, but great pictures once again, thank you for sharing them!

28th June
My camera lens has been sent to Dubi to be fixed, the people at Sony have never seen the problem before! So it will be a while before I am able to take pictures again!

Written by Tara

Links to Karula's family mentioned in this Blog:
Yambilu-Jordaan: http://blog.wildearthsafari.tv/2011/03/karulas-family-tree-her-choice-of-mate.html
Mafufunyane: http://blog.wildearthsafari.tv/2011/01/karulas-family-tree-her-father.html