MOTHER NATURE: The word “Nature” comes from the Latin word, “natura”, meaning birth or character. Whenever an indescribable moment occurs in the bush—be it the irreplaceable beauty of wild Africa or the violence of a predator interaction that grapples with our moral core— we have a tendency to refer to it as mother nature.

For the Mluwati Concession team, mother nature encompasses all of the elements of our daily existence—animals, plants, weather, seasons,  our guests, and the interrelationships between these elements.

Mother nature challenges our preconceived notions on a daily basis. No matter how much we think we know, and no matter how much we learn, we are always reminded that there is still room for growth and acceptance. We continue to learn, and continue to grow, each and every day.

In our February newsletter, we will focus on the art of storytelling through photographs by sharing some of the stunning images taken on the Concession throughout the month. We will also update you on what some of our favorite Mluwati Concession residents and their changing dynamics.

LIONS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

The Imbali Pride has been very active around Imbali Safari Lodge. The best sighting that we were privileged to witness was of the Pride hunting and bringing down a wildebeest on Predator Plains. It was breath-taking to witness how the females set up for the hunt. In the beginning, when everything was set in motion, we actually thought that they had launched their attack too early and might have botched the whole hunt—but one of the females who had stealthily peeled off earlier had managed to put herself in just the right position!

The Hamiltons Pride have been kept quite busy with the arrival of new cubs once again on the S125 loop south in the drift. We presume the cubs belong to Blondie and Madala who spend the majority of their time around Hamiltons Tented Camp.

The recent heavy rains and flowing rivers in the southern parts of the Concession have prevented us from having frequent sightings of the Pride together, and a lot of the time we are seeing single females here and there. Vocals from them are heard from Hamiltons Tented Camp into the early hours of the morning.

Innate vs Learned Behaviours 

Innate behaviors are rigid and predictable. All members of the species always perform an innate behavior in the same way, regardless of environmental factors. Innate behaviors usually involve basic life functions, such as caring for offspring, which are often are necessary for successful reproduction. This is one type of behavior that is clearly controlled by genes and is often subject to natural selection. It occurs naturally within a species and does not need to be taught. Innate behavior is also known as instinctive behavior – the ability for an animal to perform a particular behavior in response to a given stimulus the first time the animal is exposed to the stimulus – in short, it does not have to be learned or practiced. It is generally accepted that there are two types of innate nature – Reflex and Instinct. Reflex is an automatic response that does not involve a message to the brain. Example sneezing, blinking, shivering, yawning. An instinct is a complex pattern of innate behaviors.

Learned behavior is something an individual of a species discovers through trial, error, and observation. Most learned behavior comes from the teachings of the animal’s parent or through experimentation within its environment. This comes from experience and is often not present in an animal at its time of birth. Through trial and error, past experiences, and observations of others, animals learn to perform certain tasks. This can change over time, in contrast to the rigid repetition of innate behavior. Learned behaviors can also be adapted to suit changing conditions, and they are progressive, meaning the behavior can be refined through practice.

Innate behavior of playing with offspring versus learned behavior of interacting with the environment. Though perhaps not the best idea to bite down on a hard, granite rock—these interactions are vital in building the cub’s understanding of its environment.

While it is important to consider learned behavior versus innate behavior as two separate developmental processes, they are interconnected. For example, the innate behavior of playing with siblings helps a cub to build up predator strength and survival skills. At the same time, environmental obstacles that it encounters during play will develop the cub’s learned behavior.

These behaviors are not limited to predators or big cats. Young antelope running around and chasing each other are ways that enable them to build up their strength and speed, which will assist them in escaping from predators.

In particular, Impala calves stay in large groups within the herd called creches. These groups of offspring are like nursery schools for the young and they play together and groom each other—thereby developing the skills needed for them to succeed in adulthood.

LEOPARDS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

Wabayisa had not been seen for about 2 months when a call on the radio announced that they had spotted him on KNP Corner heading into the Buffelshoek area of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Towards the end of the month, we found him calling across from the Imbali staff village—it seemed as though he had run into a territorial dispute and was found limping the following morning on Nyalungu, heading west back towards the Cutline.

Tiyasela remains an absolute star of our Concession when it comes to producing some incredible sightings. She continues to move around the entire concession, going all the way from Hamiltons Tented Camp to the Imbali waterhole and then follows the N’waswitsontso River line all the way back down to Hamiltons. We suspect that now at the age of 4, she is actively searching for a mate.

Nkhanye has been seen a few times around Hamiltons Tented Camp, lying on a tree on one occasion and then spotted again with a relatively older cub on the S36. She has become accustomed to ensuring the safety of her cubs and keeping them well hidden for months at a time until, all of sudden as it may seem, they pop out again!

The unknown S125 female leopard and her young male cub have been spotted quite often on the S125 loop and the Old S36.

Another unknown, and very skittish, female has been spotted on the center of the Concession on Middle Road. A very skittish young male has also been seen around Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge as well.

The Use of the Tail as a Communication Tool

The tails of female leopards and cheetah moving with their cubs curve slightly up towards the end. This allows the cubs to see the beacon clearly. For leopard, the upward-facing white end of the tail twitches when the cat sees prey or becomes excited. It is possibly a silent signal to the cubs to lie down and be quiet, although it is practised by all individuals throughout life.

Lions are generally light in colour and therefore have a contrasting black-tipped tail as a following mechanism. When they are angry they flick their tails which emphasises the black patch. They also turn their ears down, revealing the black colour at the back of the ear

When antelope such as Kudu and Impala dart through the bush with their tails raised and fluffed out, they reveal striking white beacons. This is a common sight and serves the same purpose. “White” is generally a ‘ warning signal’ in the wild, and causes animals to become alert. The spin-off of the follow-me behaviour is that each animal has a pathfinder (the animal in front) and another protecting its rear (the animal behind).

Migration 

This term refers to the long—range, seasonal movement of a species. It is an instinctive behaviour that has evolved over centuries and is generally caused by the changes in available resources—for instance, grass and water levels. Some species also migrate for breeding. For example, some bird species only come to Kruger either for breeding or during the months after breeding. Here inside the Kruger National Park, we see it often in quite a few species of birds and a few mammal species.

Southern Carmine Bee-Eater

Southern Carmine Bee Eaters are Intra – African migrants, arriving on the Concession around mid- to late-October and staying through until April. They do not breed here on Concession but rather head further north to Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe where they breed in tunnels built into the river banks.

Woodland Kingfisher

This kingfisher is also an Intra – African migrant. It can be found from just north of Pretoria in Gauteng, to south of the Sahara Desert, migrating north into Africa during the dry season.

Blue Wildebeest

Blue Wildebeest herds migrate seasonally as an effective survival strategy during the wet and dry seasons. This migration also spread the consumption of resources over large areas and curtails over-utilisation. Often on the drive, you will find the lone, territorial bulls who have taken up permanent residence all of the concession.

WILD DOGS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

Another busy month of sightings and time spent with our favorite canine predators! After the Alpha Female was recollared, the Imbali Pack have moved westward, operating between Pungwe and Djuma. A pack of 29 individuals, known as the Leeupan Pack, was also collared and have now moved into the block south of Hamiltons as far down as Rhino Post.

Pictured Above: the Alpha female now running away once the reversal drug has taken full effect – we hope that this collar stays working for a while longer than the other one! At round R65 – 70 K for a collar, this was an expensive glitch when the other collar stopped working. Thanks to Louis van Schalkwyk, SAN Parks veterinarian services, and Grant Beverley EWT for allowing us once again to be part of this incredible experience!

CHEETAH OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

A relatively quiet month for Cheetah, which was foreseeable due to the heavy rains and heavy concentration of larger predators around the Concession.

However, we were fortunate to spend some time with 3 males as they crossed out of our Concession on Manyeleti Cutline, heading across into Manyeleti.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION

For those of us who live in cities, traffic jams are a daily occurrence. However, here in the bush, believe it or not we also get ourselves into these situations— they just look a little different!

More often heard and not seen, this is a Levaillant’s Cuckoo. It is a brood parasite,  which means it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. This particular cuckoo commonly uses the nests of Bulbuls and Babblers.

This young male is from an unknown pride, he was found with Einstein and his females and cubs. Blind in one eye but still managing to keep in good health even after having a serious couple of scraps with two much bigger males earlier in the day.

Majestic and also amazing to see, these male kudus show off their horns that make them look majestic and regal. Since kudu often live in dense bush and are known to run from the first signs of danger, they will lift their heads back thus lowing the horns to line up with the back. The spiraled horns act as corkscrews ensuring the bushes do not get entangle them as they run through the dense trees and shrubs.

Why do animals have markings on their rear ends?

Tails, along with other physical features such as ears and facial expressions, are a good indicator of mood and behavior, and in many species, they also serve as a beacon to help members of a group to follow or stay together. Some predators have the same form of the following mechanism, Leopard, Cheetah, and Wild Dogs have darkish bodies with a lot of black, possess a highly visible, white contrasting patch at the end of their tail.

Why do hyenas have sloping backs?

Sloping backs are thought to be an adaption to a nomadic lifestyle or one where an animal needs to cover large distances on a daily basis. A flat back, where the front and hind legs are the same lengths results in more gravitational pressure and fatigue, whereas a sloping back as a consequence of longer front legs offsets this pressure allowing the animal to walk for longer periods and greater distances. The front legs are longer and larger, designed to carry the heavily muscled shoulders and neck, as well as the powerfully built head and jaws.

Do an antelope’s horns ever regrow?

If they are broken, they will not regrow, but if damaged they may continue to grow in an irregular, deformed manner. Antelope horns develop and grow from the frontal bones of the skull. The actual horn itself is solid bone which is then covered by a thin layer of Keratin – known as a sheath.

Above is a female buffalo, although males and females in this species both have horns, the female’s horns are thinner and shorter than the males and they do not have a thick heavy boss which you typically find in the males.

When the dry season comes it brings with it the Burchell’s Zebra in large numbers. Burchell’s zebras are commonly found grazing in close association with Blue Wildebeest, Baboons and other antelope on the open grassy plains. It must be noted that Zebra are extremely dependent on water and will never wander further than 10 or 12km from a permanent water source.

This yellow billed hornbill eyes were a little bigger than his stomach, even though in the end it managed to swallow this scorpion in its entirety it did take about 10 – 15 minutes to get it down.

This is where the scorpion stayed for about 10 – 15 minutes as it slowly disappeared into the hornbill stomach.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

As this Newsletter will be published during the week featuring International Women’s Day (March 8), we thought it would be fitting to discuss the imperative role of women in driving positive change in sustainable tourism and conservation. As a Concession, we strongly believe that women are the driving force for progressive and sustainable transformation in every society. According to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), women are the natural custodians of the environment since they pay the price when it comes to the social and economic effects of factors associated with the environment and its conservation. In fact, many of the livelihoods of African women rely directly upon the stability of the environment around them and its decline has, therefore, impacted women disproportionally to men. Furthermore, the role of women in empowering the youth to value wildlife and engage in conservation practices cannot be forgotten.

Driven by courage, and armed with empathy, the women of our Concession are natural leaders who are instrumental in making our products exceptional. From the spa ladies to the housekeepers, to all of the women working hard behind the scenes, the backbone of our industry is made of women who are passionate about sustainable tourism as well as conservation. We are also honored to engage in our work with Happiness Lubisi, the Director of the Mirantha Youth Development Project, as she champions youth empowerment in her community by directly supporting and empowering more than 80 orphans and vulnerable youth in Acornhoek, Mpumalanga. Wishing everyone a very happy International Women’s Day!

“One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world!” – Dr. Jane Goodall

THE GUIDES OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION