Live from Masai Mara – Elephants, Wildebeest and New Cheetah Cubs…..

 Cool mornings with some overcast days and low cloud. Latterly there has been some pastel sunrises as the day warms up from a cool crisp early start. On the 3rd of June we had 18 mm of rain. The latter end of the month has brought on clear skies with crisp early morning temps being low as 12°C and average at 16°C, although midday are 24°C evening temps at 22°C. Good grass growth still prevails within Bila Shaka, Paradise Plains, and some areas of Topi Plains, Emarti and Musiara Marsh grasslands. The Mara River level has maintained a reasonable level although a little rain at the end if the month brought the river up. The rainfall at Governors Camp for this month was 52 mm; much of this rain was in the first week. At Little Governors the rainfall was 43.4mm.

sunset
Photo courtesy of Katie McLellan

  

  Elephant are being seen regularly in the grassland areas, lion sightings and good leopard viewing despite the long grass.

Gnus: Wildebeest were seen crossing the Sand River on the 24th and sightings from various sources in Serengeti confirm many more have been seen 60 Kms from the Sand River.

  Cheetah – Malaika has two cubs that are two months old near the double crossing area.

  Bibi – the Marsh Lioness is lactating we have not seen anything yet!!

Elephant are spread out within Bila Shaka, Musiara and Paradise Plains; there are many young calves all spread out within these small family units. Large bulls move within the Mara ecosystem looking for females in estrous who will cycle for up to 16 weeks. Older Bulls come into Musth and will stay in this condition for up to two months depending on their physical condition. On the 12th a large bull with a radio collar called ‘Heritage’ was treated by the KWS vet due to a large abscess on his right front leg. He was treated again on the 19th and is improving with the vet saying that he hoped for a full recovery. Once he had been treated he woke up and quickly crossed the river to the Mara triangle, before returning to the Eastern side on the 27th. This Bull was seen again in the west side of the Marsh on the 31st. The bull elephant called Blossom that frequents the camps and in particular Little Governors he was last seen crossing the river at Private Camp and he is in full Musth.

elephants

Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira Il Moran guide

The large herd of Cape Buffalo can still be seen along the Bila Shaka river bed and on the north bank of the Musiara swamp; there are many very young calves in this herd. Last count showed that there were nearly 400 animals. Lion from the Marsh pride and spotted hyena have killed and eaten some of the cows and young calves.

buffalo

Photo courtesy of Colin Welensky

Cokes Hartebeest can still be seen in small pockets throughout Paradise Plains; Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka plains, the few females close by Private Camp can still be seen. Topi that were on Topi Plains: many have been seen to have moved out to the conservation to the north east of the Talek River. A few can be seen on Paradise Plains. Near the main crossing points there is a flat area of short grass where topi congregate in good numbers. Topi prefer pastures with green grass that’s medium in length with leaf-like swards as opposed to the long grasses that still prevail in most areas that are in the reserve.

On the 24th 3 Hyena were seen chasing a topi all over the Topi Plains and at the same time in a shallow river bed 4 lionesses of the Marsh pride and one male were looking on, the hyena were so engrossed in this chase they managed to chase the topi into the waiting lionesses. The lioness ‘Modomo’ quickly took the bait and the hyena lost out.

Impala herds with young fawns within the riverine woodlands and woodland fringes with the Bachelor herds being spread out. Defassa Waterbuck are being seen again in the Marsh, male bachelor herds are scattered.

The large troops of Olive Baboons can be seen in between the camps, and there are still more young infants being born, seemingly to increase the number of mouths. Female baboons stay in the same troop their whole lives and male baboons leave the troop when they are mature enough to search for a mate.

Warthog and sows with two or three piglets that are 9 months old now can still be seen throughout the grassland plains of Bila Shaka and Musiara. Although the shorter grass plains of the reserve and conservation areas are better places to see them. Sows have up to 4 piglets at birth. Giraffe will be seen through the open plains and a good sight is a herd of them crossing a wide open plain on the skyline. Two females have been seen to give birth and this is where the calf drops from quite a height, the mother stands while giving birth and calves at birth weigh in at about 100kg. Females have a gestation of 14-15 months and usually have a single calf. Male herds can be seen together. Bohors Reedbuck can be seen in long grass areas that are close to water and have coarse grass cover. Good places to see them are in the Musiara Marsh and the Bila Shaka river bed.

Thomson and Grants Gazelles will be better seen on the shorter grasses of the reserve and conservation areas, such as Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. The social structure of gazelles consists of several types of groups. Male gazelles are territorial throughout their adult lives, though not usually before 2-3 years of age. During the non-territorial periods males usually spend their time in bachelor groups or as part of a mixed herd. Likewise females will form migratory female groups that travel through the males’ territory. As the female groups pass through, the territorial males will try hard to herd them to prevent them from leaving and one can see this vividly.

Spotted Hyenas are being seen more frequently, with clan numbers rising to over 20 to 30 members as they congregate when hunting and feeding. Topi Plains is a good place to see them and early mornings are a good time for it and also to get a glimpse of them hunting prey. On the 10th at 1.00am in the morning at Il Moran Camp a large clan of Hyena came through the camp and passed via the dining tent taking the ostrich eggs and knocking the ostrich bowl to pieces; before ending up behind tent number 3 where they fought for about 30 minutes, in this fracas they managed to knock down two water pipes which gushed out fountains of water which we think finally dispersed them, one hyena was found killed, looking at it in the morning light it was an old female whose teeth were well worn. This activity was probably the removal of a queen who has had her time by a daughter takeover.

Serval Cat sightings have improved this month. Two male Black Rhino have been seen near the crossing points on Paradise Plains often and the younger male had fought with the older one and suffered a few scratches around the face and horns. On the 18th the KWS vet had a look at him and cleaned up his wounds which were more superficial.

Cats

Lion

 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Marsh Pride – There are up to 21 lion in this pride to include the four males. The four Marsh males (Musketeers) namely Morani, Hunter, Sikio and Scar (whose right eye lid is still not quite healed, pictured above), will move between Musiara Marsh, Bila Shaka and Topi Plains. The four young females are also being seen spread out. With the long grass they have all been seen recently between the Marsh and Topi Plains. They have been feeding off the resident buffalo, Grants Gazelle and two wildebeest that had come in from the conservation areas. On the 4th they killed a male buffalo near Bila Shaka under a Balanites tree and another one again on 11th near the airstrip area of Musiara Marsh and ate off it for three days. On the 28th early in the morning the four males and four females had killed a male buffalo on the eastern side of Bila Shaka, 4.00pm they had eaten all of it and hyenas were left eating the remains. On the 24th Modomo and two other lionesses were seen on a Topi kill near the dry river called Kreys Lugga between Topi Plains and Bila Shaka. This topi they were eating was chased for them by a group of Spotted Hyenas that came in from Topi plains. On the 30th six females including Modomo (lioness with lip ulcers) were seen eating a wildebeest near the windmill area of the Marsh. The next day on the 31st they killed a warthog near the Musiara airstrip.

lions

Photo courtesy of Bernadette Simpson

Notch and the four males are being seen on the Talek River and the double crossing area. On the 9th near the Talek river crossing on the north bank they had killed a large male buffalo and were with three females. They had killed a large male hippo on the 15th near the Olkiombo sundowner tree and ate off it for three days with the Olkiombo pride of 8 lion. They kill hippo and male buffalo frequently. They are often seen on the south bank of the Talek River near to fig tree camp. Notch the old male is looking his age now and is often seen on the Talek River below the Olkiombo airstrip. The Lioness Nyota and her male cub Moja who is 6 months old can be seen between Rhino Ridge and Talek. Nyota is often seen on the west side of Rhino ridge at a place called Miti ya Nyuki. Joy and her 5 cubs were being seen near Topi Plains and in the conservation area. She crosses between here and the conservation areas often. Two of the older male adult cubs have moved on. With long grass in the reserve lion are struggling to feed themselves, when their main prey species is well dispersed.

Another great shot from Bernadette of Joy and her cubs at 8 weeks old (Below)!

lions

Photo courtesy of Bernadette Simpson

The Olkiombo Pride of 12 lion including their 2 cubs which are 8 months old, 8 females and 2 males which are about 2½ years old are being seen on the south bank of the Talek River. On the 1st July at 11.00am the four Notch males killed a Buffalo. The Olkiombo pride was also feeding off it at a later stage and we understand that one of the young sub adult males who were feeding on the buffalo was killed by the Notch males a few days ago. Two nomadic males at least 3 years old have been seen near Governors Private Camp and as far as Paradise Plains. These two are suspected to be the two males that were originally with Joy. On Paradise Plains near the main crossing points seven females are often seen.

 

Cheetah

Malaika and her two cubs that are approximately two months old are very active; with Malaika regularly getting onto cars and with the young cubs looking on. She is seen feeding off Thompson Gazelles and impala females. The short grass areas within the Ntiaktiak and Olare Orok rivers are good places to see them. There is another female within these areas that is also feeding off Thomson Gazelles.

 cheetah

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Leopard

Olive and her two cubs that are 10 weeks old have been seen on the Talek river area briefly this month; due to a slow season and wet conditions sightings have been poor. The male leopard near the croton thickets at Paradise and also near the mortuary crossing point on the Mara River has been seen often this month. The female leopard on the rocky hill close to the Serena pump house on the Mara River with her one male cub that is approximately 8 months old is being seen regularly. She had two cubs of which one was a female and it appears that this female has vanished in early May. She is feeding off Impala and Thompson Gazelles. On the 9th she was seen with a Thomson gazelle up a Boscia tree. Another male and female has been seen in the Governors BBC camp on the Mara River and Lake Nakuru area of the Marsh.

Walking in the Mara North Conservancy

Cool morning starts the day although the day warms up quickly. Elephant are spread out across the open grassland plains and as the day warms up they move into the acacia woodlands or the riparian woodlands that abut the Fly-Over ridge, there are good stands of Euclea Divinorum which they also like being in. Good numbers of Eland on the Eastern side with the short grass plains and there are also many Zebra here as well. A few more resident Wildebeest have been filing in form the east towards the Loita Hills. On the 30th an estimated 100 Wildebeest were seen to cross the Olare Orok River.

Thomson and Grants Gazelles will also be seen on these short grass plains and it is here on these plains that we conduct the walks. Topi and Cokes Hartebeest will also be seen along with good numbers of Impala with some large breeding herds particularly in the north east acacia Gerrardii woodlands, bachelor herds are also seen close by.

Recently there has been much activity from Aardvarks, as can be seen from the diggings into termite mounds from the night before. The Aardvark is nocturnal and is a solitary mammal that feeds almost exclusively on Ants and Termites (formicivore); the only fruit eaten by Aardvarks is the aardvark cucumber. An Aardvark generally emerges from its burrow in the late afternoon or shortly after sunset and forages over a considerable home range encompassing 10 to 30 kilometres, swinging its long nose from side to side to pick up the scent of food. When a concentration of Ants or Termites is detected, the Aardvark digs into it with its powerful front legs, keeping its long ears upright to listen for predators, and takes up an astonishing number of insects with its long, sticky tongue – as many as 50,000 in one night have been recorded. Aside from digging out Ants and Termites, the Aardvark also excavates burrows in which to live: temporary sites are scattered around the home range as refuges, and a main burrow is used for breeding. Warthogs and Porcupines will also use old Aardvark holes.

Spotted Hyenas have been seen in small numbers as they come back from their night time activities on the northern plains, there is a large clan of Hyena in this area. Two lionesses and a male have been seen in the croton thickets close to the Olare Orok River although the viewing was good they moved away quickly. One of the lionesses has been reported being seen near to Masai villages. Black Backed Jackals are also being seen in monogamous pairs. A pair was seen eating the remains of a young Thomson Gazelle fawn on the 22nd, more than likely they caught this themselves.

We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Masai Mara with you sometime soon.

 Governors' Camp Collection
Tel: +254 20 273 4000-5

reservations@governorscamp.com

www.governorscamp.com

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One thought on “Live from Masai Mara – Elephants, Wildebeest and New Cheetah Cubs…..

  1. Shirley

    Thank you for the update about the Masai Mara. Can you please inform us about Zawadi, the old leopard. Has Joy new young cubs. When the takeover took place, she left with 5 cubs, how these cubs are doing now. And how old are the now? I realy love your blog.

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