What’s in a bird call? Sometimes, the best way to learn the various bird calls that make up the summer choir is to associate them with easy-to-remember phrases. Here are some examples:
Red Chested Cuckoo – Well-known for its “Piet my Vrou” call.
Black Cuckoo – calls “I’m so Sad”.
Emerald Spotted Wood Dove – calls “ My mother’s dead, my father’s dead everyone on dead dead dead dead”
The onset of the summer has been marked with the return of the large majority of our migratory bird species, creating a chorus of calls that makes the bush feel truly alive.
In this special newsletter to celebrate the summer season, we will focus on the theme of Myths and Folklore: tales from long ago. Sit back, relax, and enjoy our favourite stories from around the bush fire.
This month’s highlights include the exciting activity of our beloved wild dogs around the concession, the impressive elephant bulls who are entering their seasonal Musth, and a visit from the team of the renowned Mabula Ground Hornbill Project.
LIONS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION
Quick Lion Update: Two unknown male lions have been hanging around Imbali for the last couple of days, scent marking and roaring all the time. We wonder how their presence will affect the future pride dynamics around the Concession.
“The Lion and the Hare”
After the coming of man into the world, Lion became the most feared of the predators. In the early days, Lion still had a gentle voice, not very loud at all, and so he was able to catch the other animals without much trouble. This of course, greatly worried the other animals since they never knew when Lion was on the hunt…. They decided to hold a meeting to find a way of somehow making Lion less dangerous. They talked for a long time, but none of them could think of anything. Hare, always the imaginative one, the had a bright idea. “I know of a way that would make Lion’s voice like the terrible thunder of a summer’s storm”. The other animals all agreed that this was a marvellous idea. But how was Hare going to manage such a thing? Hare just winked and set off on his difficult task. Eventually, Hare found Lion resting beneath a shady umbrella tree, and approaching him carefully saying, “O Great One, I am truly most unhappy to bring you bad news, but your brother is very ill, and requests to see you at once”.
Lion was dreadfully upset to hear this news and he told Hare to lead him to his brother as fast as possible. Hare took Lion for miles and miles around the Bushveld and after several hours Lion who, after all, had been disturbed during his morning sleep was now weary and could go no further. He lay down in a shady spot and slept. Now, with the help of a honeyguide bird, the crafty Hare found an old bees’ nest in a tree no too far away. After following the required custom of leaving a good piece of the honeycomb as a “thank you” for the little bird, Hare took some of the honey and dribbled it all over the paws and head of the sleepy lion. Hare then ran off to some thick bushes nearby and hid. When the bees returned home and saw that someone had raided their hive, they were terribly angry. They soon found lion sleeping nearby, with the honey all over his paws. In a raging swarm, the bees attacked him, and Lion was stung so many times and was in such pain that his cries soon swelled into a thunderous roar that could be heard for miles around! That is the story of how Lion’s voice was changed forever. The animals were very grateful to Hare because, from then on, they could hear Lion’s roar from a long way away, and be warned that the King of beasts was on the hunt.
LEOPARDS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION
Quick Leopard: The unknown Female with 2 cubs was seen again. Wabayisa was spotted in a fleeting glimpse as he disappeared around Hamiltons. Nkhanye, unfortunately, seems to have lost the cub she was seen with. Tiyasela has been moving around the concession much more than before, even moving as far as Imbali Access—one starts to wonder if she is looking for a mate of her own.
“The Lion and the Leopard” – Bura Folktales Legend from Nigeria
Long, long ago the lion and the leopard sat down to talk about their strength. The lion said, “Nothing in the bush can overcome me. If I wanted to, I could catch any of the animals in the bush, because they are not as strong as I am. But there is one thing which walks through the bush, this one thing I greatly fear. He has two legs and there is something on his shoulder. If he takes that thing down from his shoulder, the next thing he does is to make fire. He alone frightens me. In all the bush I fear nothing like I fear him.”
The leopard said, “Yes! This is nothing to fear. I catch him almost every day.” Then the lion said, “But I know that you cannot catch him. Even I fear him, not to mention you. Or are you greater than I?” “Let us sit down here, and maybe he will come after a while,” said the leopard.
While they talked, suddenly a hunter appeared. The lion said, “Aha! leopard, there he comes, sir. Let me see what you can do.” The leopard said, “Sit quiet and watch me, ad see what I do to him.” Slyly the leopard made his way toward the hunter and hid himself near the hunter’s path so that he could spring on him and catch him. But the hunter saw him. As the leopard sprang to catch him, quickly the hunter seized his axe and struck the leopard over the head and killed him.
When the lion saw that the hunter had killed the leopard, he ran and climbed into a leafy tree. He wanted to see what the hunter would do with the leopard. The hunter took the leopard and built a fire and roasted him. Then he began to eat him. “Oh” said the lion, “this thing is awful, isn’t it?”
The lion jumped down and ran away.
If the leopard had caught the hunter that day, by this time not one of us would be left. Because of what the hunter did, we are alive. Even to this day, when a lion sees a man, he is afraid.
CHEETAH OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION
“The Cheetah, the Tsessebe, and the Wild Dog”
Once upon a time, the Creator decided to find out which of His animals could run the fastest – and so He entered the cheetah into a race with the Tsessebe, which is the swiftest of all the antelopes. The cheetah had soft paws then, and he realised that they were not suited for real speed. So he borrowed a set of paws from the obliging wild dog.
The race started from a high baobab tree. The Creator himself was in charge, and the two contestants were told to run right across the plains to a hill on the far side. The animals lined up, and then – GO! They leapt away. The tsessebe soon took the lead, and by halfway, he was so far ahead he seemed sure to win. But suddenly – disaster! Tsessebe stumbled on a stone and crashed to the ground, he had broken his leg. The good-natured cheetah, instead of running past and winning the race, stopped to help his opponent. The Creator, seeing this, was so pleased by the cheetah’s unselfish act that He bestowed upon the cheetah a gift: He made him the fastest animal in the land; and what is more, allowed him to keep the paws of the wild dog.
WILD DOGS OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION
Wild Dog Update, in the words of Julia Keates, our General Manager:
“If you can sit and imagine this in your mind, you would be able to know what we experienced right in front of us. Wild Dogs have been very scarce as you well know over the last months, I can now confirm that is no longer the case. In my 17 years on the Concession, I have only ever seen a pack of Wild Dogs of this size outside of the Kruger, in Hluhluwe. This month, we counted an astonishing 32 Wild Dogs including adults and sub-adults! I was utterly speechless, it was one of the most incredible memories that I will have for a lifetime.”
SCAVENGERS ON MLUWATI
Scavengers on the concession are very busy with the beginning of the calving season for the Impalas. Hyena, Jackals and even Vultures are making the most of the leftovers.
Vultures seem to be spending most of their time following the Impalas and Dogs – Flourishing on the leftovers after the birth of the new impala lambs and also just in case there is one calf which is stillborn it will not take them long to descend on the carcass. White-Headed breeding pair are still being seen often around Hamiltons Middle Road/Southern Cutline area. Projects being done through SAN Parks to prove the scientific fact that Hooded Vultures are associated more often than not either with the calving season as well as with the Wild Dogs.
A lot of calling happening Sunset and Sunrise with the Jackals now having pups of their own to take care of the parents are spending a lot more time being active trying to catch sufficient food to feed the little ones.
PACHYDERMS ON MLUWATI
“The Elephant and The Crocodile”
The Elephant used to only have a small snout in the Beginning. This didn’t bother him much; in fact, he was rather proud of his small nose because it never got in the way of feeding and drinking. Because of his great size, mealtimes were very important to Elephant, and he had to eat and drink a great deal in order to keep his great strength up. However, he did find it uncomfortable, because he had to go down on bended knees to reach anything. One day, Elephant was at the river and was kneeling down drinking from the fresh water. The crocodile swam past and saw Elephant at the water’s edge. Crocodile was very hungry and saw an opportunity for a nice big meal. Crocodile swam stealthily up to where the Elephant was, and suddenly lunged out of the water and grabbed Elephant by the nose. Elephant was surprised and tried to pull away, but Crocodile had a firm grip on his nose. Crocodile used all his weight and strength to try to pull Elephant into the water.
However, Elephant was also very strong, and he dug his feet into the bank and fought back. They battled for hours, and with every pull and tug, Elephant’s nose stretched a little more. Eventually, Crocodile became too tired to pull any more and let go of Elephant. Elephant ran off, with his now very long nose hanging down in front of his feet. He was distraught and hid in the bush as he was too embarrassed to face the other animals. Soon, Elephant realised that his new stretched nose was more useful than his previously small snout. He was able to reach food and drink without kneeling any more, and could even reach high branches and pull them down to eat the fruit and leaves. All the other Elephants soon realised the benefits of having a long trunk, and one by one they too visited the river and taunted the Crocodile to try and pull them into the water. The Elephants always won the tugs-of-war, and all ended up with lovely stretched snouts, but Crocodile remained hungry. To this day, Elephants have their long trunks rather than a small snout, and Crocodiles have learnt that it is a waste of time and energy attacking Elephants when drinking at the water’s edge.
SIGHTS AROUND THE MLUWATI CONCESSION
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
We thought that sharing some beloved folklore and bush tails would be a fitting way to conclude our monthly newsletters for 2020. Each story, passed on from generation to generation, evokes a deep sense of belonging and warmth—reminiscent of the crackling of the bush fires under the shimmering stars, of those early mornings accompanied by a welcomed hot chocolate, and of that rush of adrenaline when you spot your favourite animal on safari. This year has certainly presented challenges and uncertainties that have certainly moulded the way in which we live as a collective society. Covid-19 has unquestionably changed the way that we want to travel as well. It has also certainly made everyone mindful, and cautious, about whom we would like to travel with and about the people we may encounter on our travels. As 2020 ends, this uncertainty will creep into the new year, and we will resolutely continue to evolve to meet this challenge.
The Mluwati Concession has always been emblematic of a meeting place—a place to connect not only with each other but with the environment around us. In 2021, we will continue to strive to be the idyllic sanctuary for you to reinvigorate yourself, reinforce your bonds with your trusted circle, and reconnect with the healing powers of nature inside one of South Africa’s crown jewels.
“Why is it you can never hope to describe the emotion Africa creates? You are lifted. Out of whatever pit, unbound from whatever tie, released from whatever fear. You are lifted and you see it all from above”
– Francesca Marciano
“Africa has her mysteries and even a wise man cannot understand them. But a wise man respects them.”
– Miriam Makeba
“In Africa you have space…there is a profound sense of space here, space and sky.”
– Thabo Mbeki
THE GUIDES OF THE MLUWATI CONCESSION