Stories from the Bush….Governors’ Camp Game Report, Masai Mara,

Early on in April it looked like as though the rain was gone with clear skies every day, then in the first two weeks the weather broke, bringing rain and with it an abundance of growth in the grasslands. Most days showed a similar pattern with overcast mornings, sunny late afernoons followed by evening rain which would fall until the early hours of the morning. We received most of our heavy rainfall towards the end of the month. All this rain caused the Marsh to fill up and the levels of the Mara River to rise considerably.

We have enjoyed good sightings of lion and leopard this month, some impala fawns were born and leopard and cheetah were preying on these fawns.

Elephant with small calves are now spending more time out of the woodlands in the grassland plains and in the Musiara Marsh. There are also a few large bulls that wander back and forth and some are now in Musth. Some of these bulls have very worn tusks (upper incisors) of which a number of them can be seen with broken incisors. The permanent tusks (incisors) begin to protrude beyond the lips of an elephant at around 2-3 years of age and will continue to grow throughout its life.

elephants

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 There are still are good numbers of eland in the Marsh grasslands and also on the Musiara plains. On the short grass plains on the south side of Rhino Ridge and Topi Plains many topi have congregated, due to the recent rainfall which brings on a good leaf structure. Many impala females are pregnant and there are many young fawns around too, guests have also witnessed some of these births. Defassa Waterbuck remain throughout the Musiara Marsh grasslands.

When the Mara River leves were low hippo were being seen in large pods as they were forced to congregate together into the remaining deep water pools, there were many places on the Mara River where pod densities exceed 100 animals. Within these pods there were calves of varying ages and, one was born at IL Moran Camp very recently. Hippo gestation is 8 months and the calf is generally born in shallow water and introduced slowly to the main pod where the mother is from. With the onset of the rains peak births occur toward the beginning of the wet season. Weaning starts between six and eight months after birth and most calves are fully weaned after a year. The hippo with pink feet we call “socks” is seen regularly at Il Moran and this hippo is around 3-4 years old.

hippos

Photo courtesy of Maina

 Good sized troops of Olive baboons can be seen foraging between the camps, young infants are very playful, and they start riding jockey style when they are about six weeks old.

Baboons being terrestrial and omnivores they have quite a diverse diet consisting of meat, grass, berries, seeds, leaves, roots, bark, insects, fish, birds and small baby antelopes.

 Cokes Hartebeest can be seen in small pockets through Paradise, Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka Plains. Male Cokes Hartebeest will also advertise their presence on termite mounds. The Cape buffalo breeding herd has been seen on Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka. There are also some young calves in this herd; calves at a young age are vulnerable to predation from both spotted hyena and lion. Earlier on in the month there were good numbers of zebra within Bila Shaka and Musiara, many fell prey to the Marsh Pride of lions. Thompson Gazelle or commonly called ‘Tommies’ are seen particularly on the short grass plains and these are favoured prey for cheetah. When cheetah succeeds in subduing their prey they tend to eat very fast due to competition from other predators such as Spotted Hyena, lion and leopard. On the 16th guests saw that very scenario with hyena stealing a freshly killed Thompson Gazelle from a female cheetah near the rocky hill on Paradise Plains.

Thompson Gazelles have also given birth and these fawns have been preyed by cheetah particularly those with cubs. Female warthogs with two or three piglets still will be seen through the grassland plains; females spend most of their lives in groups called soundings, the female offspring may stay within the sounding for up to two years or more. Males do not play a role in parental care. Warthogs have started mating and will go through until early next month. Sows then have a 172 day gestation which brings them into September to see the first piglets. Lion still feed off warthog regularly and the Marsh Pride have subsisted on warthog recently.

Giraffe are well spread out, good sightings of them in the riverine woodlands between the camps and also within stands of Acacia which they favor. Some guest have seen that Giraffe are eating or sucking on pieces of bones, this activity is actually often seen in areas where calcium and phosphorous are perhaps deficient in the soils and vegetation. Giraffe have a large demand of calcium and phosphorous in the compromise of skeletal build to support their large and dense bone structure. This was seen in the extreme north of the Mara, where as generally speaking these trace elements in many areas of the Masai Mara are more apparent.

A spotted hyena was seen on the 3rd April eating the remains of a Black backed Jackal, close by their were lion on a topi kill so perhaps this Jackal got too close to lion while they were feeding and was swiped by a paw from a lion which has the impact to kill a jackal.

hyenas

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 There have been some good sightings of Aardwolf on Rhino Ridge and Paradise Plains. Good times for seeing them are late evenings or early mornings. In the first weeks of April there were some good sightings. There is a den near the bottom end of the Bila Shaka River, this female has been seen frequently. The aardwolf has modified cheek teeth and lives on open, dry plains and bush land, avoiding mountainous areas. Due to its specific food requirements, the animal is only found in regions where termites of the family Hodotermitidae (harvester termites) occur. Termites of this family depend on dead and withered grasses and are most populous in heavily grazed grasslands including farmland.

Black Rhino have also been seen recently this month mainly on Paradise Plains and also occasionally near Bila Shaka. With one male in particular being seen on Paradise Plains.

The four marsh males move between Bila Shaka and Topi Plains. The four young females are also being seen spread out. With the recent rains they have all been up on Topi Plains and the almost as far as Rhino Ridge. They have been feeding off warthog and topi. There is still no sign of white eye, she was last seen early on last month north of the Marsh and a driver guide from the conservancy said he thought she looked like she was lactating.

Scar was seen on the 19th at 9.00am being treed by a herd of buffalo, such a large lion in the fork of an Olive tree seemed a little precarious. Buffalo if they work together will chase lion in some circumstances where if lion take flight buffalo will have the upper hand and will make a concerted effort to chase them until an individual will often opt to climb a tree.

lion

Photo courtesy of Mary Lau

 Notch and the four males were seen near the saltlick on the Ntiaktiak River where they had killed a hippo. These lion have killed and fed off three hippos this month two of which were close apparently a few days apart. They were seen moving close to the Talek River area where they had killed a male buffalo on the 16th. Later, on the 19th they were seen far up the Talek River. On the 29th they were all seen near the fig tree area and on the 30th they were seen closer towards the Ntiaktiak River. These males cover a large home range.

A lioness is often seen on her own from Bila Shaka and also on Topi Plains, this lioness was part of the Marsh Pride and broke away in early 2006.

Another lioness with one cub was seen on Rhino Ridge on the 25th at 8.30am and this lioness is from the Olkiombo area and the cub is about 3 months old. On the 29th the lioness and her cub were seen closer to the Talek River.

The Maternity pride of 12 lion including their 3 cubs which are 3-4 months old, one of the cubs early on in the month was looking unwell and thin according to guides from other areas of the Mara it is improving substantially now so perhaps this cub was not feeding well. On the 25th they were seen on the south bank of the Talek River were they are still now, the one young cub that as look malnourished is much improved.

The four notch males and the maternity pride killed a male hippo the other side of the Talek River on the Burrangat plains.

 lion

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 Three females and a sub adult from the Ridge Pride are being seen near Emarti and on the southern fans of Rhino Ridge where they have been feeding off warthog and zebra.

 The two males have been active, feeding off Thomson Gazelle and impala. They move about in big circles form Rhino Ridge and as far as the conservation areas on the short grass plains of Koiyaki. A female is being seen on Paradise Plains and also near Bila Shaka. On the 15th she had killed a Thomson Gazelle but was robbed of it by spotted Hyena soon after she had killed it, they suffer from competition from other predators. Another male has been seen near Topi Plains, on the 21st at 7.30am he was seen feeding off a young Thomson Gazelle with two Jackals harassing him, after 20 minutes of feeding the cheetah got up and left when a spotted Hyena turned up.

 cheetah

Photo courtesy of Maina

Olive and her two cubs that are 7 weeks old have been seen briefly on the 2nd, 5th and 7th in the thicket on the Talek not far downstream from where the Olare Orok River flows into the Talek, due to a slow season and wet conditions sightings have been poor. She has been seen feeding off young impala and Thomson Gazelle. On the 20thshe was seen again on the south side of the Talek River, during the low river she must have crossed over. Olive’s daughter has been seen often the other side of the Talek River to where her mother is.

 

leopard

Photo courtesy of Mary Lau

 We have also enjoyed lovely sightings of the female leopard near the croton thickets at Paradise. She has been seen frequently in this area. This female has two cubs a male and a female which are estimated at 7 months old now. The young male near the Mara River has been seen often, on the 19th it was seen near a Boscia tree where it was resting on seeing a troop of Olive Baboons it ran off into a croton thicket.

There have been no walks this month due to the onset of the rains. Two drives have been done in the conservancy. The female cheetah with the young 5 month old cub has been seen on both occasions near the ‘fly over’ plains and she has been feeding off impala and Thompson Gazelle. Elephant have been seen in the Acacia woodlands and grasslands. Many zebra can be seen throughout the conservancy. Impala with young fawns of which one very young fawn was taken by a pair of Black Backed Jackals near the white highland ridge. On the 20th 5 lionesses were seen on the plains beneath the fly over. There are still 8 cubs of varying ages, 4 are 7 months old and 4 are 8 months old. Last month there were 9 cubs seen, it appears that one has gone missing it is suggested that it may have been caught up fleeing from a herd of buffalo that frequent this area from time to time. These five lionesses and 8 cubs are being seen frequently.

There are two male ‘white’ lion of the river pride in the north of the conservancy near the Mara River there are also four cubs of which two are estimated at 3 months old and the other two are merely one month old.

With the onset of the rains many termites’ species are active as can be seen with the continued building of their mounds. After a rainfall pattern the worker castes of many subterranean termites break open the nest walls and the alates or reproductive’s take flight and are known as ‘flying ants’. These alates are eaten by most mammals and birds of all sizes. A termite mound is the by far the oldest and organised community found between all organisms. The winged (or ‘alate’) caste, also referred to as the reproductive caste, is generally the only termites with well-developed eyes.

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

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One Reply to “Stories from the Bush….Governors’ Camp Game Report, Masai Mara,”

  1. Shirley

    Thank you for the update about the Masai Mara. I really enjoyed it. I really am curious if White eye will be found and if she has cubs. please do inform us about her and again thank you.

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