Governors' Camp Game Report, Masai Mara, July 2012Weather and grasslands:
Over the last month we have had cool mornings with many overcast days and low cloud. Early morning temperatures were as low as 12°C and averaged 15°C, although by midday we had warmed up to 25°C with balmy evening temperatures of 23°C. Grass growth is drying out slowly although protein level is still high, Bila Shaka, Paradise Plains, and some areas of Topi Plains, Emarti and Musiara Marsh grasslands have good grass levels. 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 46.5 mm; much of this rain was on the 20th of this month when we had 41mm which came down in a deluge late the afternoon. At Little Governors the rainfall was 12.5mm.
Photo courtesy of Colin Welensky
Giraffe and resident zebra have been seen in and around the Musiara Marsh and Plains areas. Elephant have come back again with good numbers of them being seen crossing the Mara river on a regular basis.
Gnus: More wildebeest and zebra have been crossing the sand river, on the 28th good numbers of them were congregating near look out hill, the Posse and Burrangat plains. Some quite large herds of resident wildebeest and zebra and been seen passing through the conservation areas.
Cheetah - Malaika has now one cub her other one was taken by Hyena, this little cub is three months old, they are being seen near the double crossing area.
Bibi – has one cub, she is in the Bila Shaka river bed, looks like Sienna is taking care of her
Sienna – has three cubs, on the 27th she was seen with Bibi’s cub, will she take this little one
Gnus and Zebra have been crossing the sand river continuously and moving towards the Mara River with good numbers being seen latterly in the month. Large herds can be seen scattered across the Burrangat and Posse Plains.
Topi in good numbers can be seen congregating on Topi Plains, Paradise and in the conservation areas to the East of the reserve. Grass levels here are short with good leaf structure which is what Topi like. There also has been much spotted hyena activity here with them killing topi regularly. Topi have a habit of lying down and hyenas have capitalised on this habit of the Topi. There are a few Cokes Hartebeest scattered across Paradise, Bila Shaka and Emarti.
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira
Elephant cross the Mara River almost on a daily basis spending more time on the grassland plains. Midday is a good time to see elephant crossing the river.
A few warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) sows have given birth and this is a little early for warthog, generally they start giving birth at the end of September/October, three litters have been seen now. When water is available, warthogs will seek it and often submerge to cool down. They will also wallow in mud for the same purpose and to gain relief from biting insects and flies. Warthogs will often utilize empty dens created by aardvarks. Rather than fight, they often choose flight, and use recognized bolt holes or used dens as an escape from predators. They typically back in, using their tusks to effectively guard the entrance.
Sows also use these dens to have their young. Females have litters of four or fewer young, females only have four nipples so anymore can be a problem, piglets will suckle for about four months.
Photo courtesy of Colin Welensky
The large breeding herd of buffalo have been seen within the Marsh and Bila Shaka, with this herd are many calves or varying ages, recently they have been in the Marsh grassland. Herd size is highly variable. The core status of the herd is with related females, and their offspring, in an almost linear dominance hierarchy. The basic herds are surrounded by sub herds of subordinate males, high-ranking males and females and old or invalid animals. The young males keep their distance from the dominant bull, which is recognized by the thickness of his horns. A characteristic feature of the adult bull's horns is they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as a "boss". Interesting to note is that the front hooves of the buffalo are wider than the rear, which is associated with the need to support the weight of the front part of the body, which is heavier and more powerful than the back.
Photo courtesy of Colin Welensky
On the shorter grass plains many Thomson Gazelle fawns are being seen. Female Thomson's gazelles give birth to single fawns after a 5-5½ month gestation period. They are unusual among ungulates in that they can give birth twice yearly, rather than just once. Thomson's Gazelles can live up to 10–15 years, although they are preyed on by most African big cats, hyenas, Black Backed Jackals and baboons. Half of all the fawns born will be lost to predators before reaching adulthood. Defassa waterbuck and impala are still regulars within the woodlands and grassland areas between the camps. Many giraffe will also be seen with males sparring or ‘necking’ with one another. Giraffe use their 18 – 20 inch (45-50 cm) long prehensile tongue and the roof of their mouths in order to feed on a significant range of different plants and shoots, most notably from the ‘Acacia’ species. Giraffes are the tallest of all living land animals and tower over all other living land animals. The reach heights of nearly 6 m (19 ft) their long neck consists of just seven vertebrae. This is the same number of vertebrae as occurs in all other mammals but in giraffes, each neck vertebrae is greatly elongated. Many prominent trees are well pruned by giraffe and these trees stand out from miles away, even the Warburgia leaves (African pepper tree) are eaten and these leaves are very hot so perhaps some giraffe like a bit of chilli in their greens!! There are a number of calves within these breeding herds; some lucky folk have witnessed a few sightings of Giraffe giving birth. A giraffe's heart has the formidable task of pumping blood at high enough pressure so that it can flow up the giraffe's neck to the brain. To accomplish this, a giraffe's heart is specially adapted. It can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb) and generates twice the blood pressure of other large mammals. Having enough blood pressure to pump blood to the brain when the giraffe's neck is extended upward is one challenge, but when the animal lowers its head it risks injury due to excessive blood pressure. To counter this, giraffes have a pressure-regulating system known as the rete mirabile which restricts the amount of blood that rushes towards the brain when the giraffe lowers its head. On the reversal of this action with the giraffe raising its head fast there is a one way valve in the Jugular vein that reduces blood flow back.
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira
A few Bohors reed buck have been seen and these are a shy quiet ungulate that like coarse grass habitat, there are few in the Musiara Marsh now that grasses are drying off a little these will be seen more often.
Eland in small herds can be seen in the Marsh areas and Topi plains, scattered herds can be found throughout the Mara reserve and conservation areas, large herds of zebra and a breeding herd of eland could be seen on the lower Topi Plains this month. Bushbuck favor closed and wooded habitat with males being relatively secretive and habitual in their movements, they also darken with age, one of these males whom we used to see often close to the entrance to one of the Governors Camps was taken by a Leopard who took it up a Teclea tree that was on the road and fed off it for a few days. We have had good sightings of
Serval cats this month even though the grass is long in some areas that they are found. Large numbers of Spotted Hyena on Topi Plains, Rhino Ridge and Musiara Marsh, on the Topi Plains hyena have been feeding off topi, they are more active than their competitors the lion in this area.
Marsh pride – Bibi has a cub that is five weeks old and so does Sienna who has three both of which are in the Bila Shaka river bed area. On the 26th we noticed sienna with Bibi’s cub; we all wonder if Sienna will take her cub over? Bibi is not a good mother with her losing young cubs last year.
Photo courtesy of Ian Francis
The four Musketeers have been fighting with Sikio and Hunter who have had numerous squabbles, in the evening of the 21st Hunter and Sikio had a dramatic fight above the windmill which was well documented by guests.
Photo courtesy of Steve Granger
Scar was chased out and for a time being was seen in Masai country, his eye is looking a little better and not so swollen, within a short time of these short encounters they were all recently seen quite close together and in good humour.
They have been mating with the young Marsh females. Modomo’s lip ulcers or growths seem to come and go, a few days ago she was seen close to the Marsh with what looks like these
growths have either fallen off or they may have been pulled off while feeding. They are all feeding off buffalo and a few resident gnus & zebra that have come through. The Marsh females and males are often between the Marsh and Bila Shaka.
Notch is being seen within the Talek River region with six females of the Ol Keju Ronkai pride, they are feeding off wildebeest and warthog. The four males have crossed the Talek River and are in the lookout hill area of the Burrangat Plains perhaps a change of diet with Gnu meat. Saying this they had killed and eaten many adult hippos from the Talek and Ntiaktiak rivers.
The Lioness Nyota and her male cub Moja who is 7 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. She has been feeding off warthog and the odd resident wildebeest that has moved through here.
Joy and her 3 cubs that are 15 month old are being seen regularly near the windmill area of the Marsh or just within in the conservation area she had four cubs and lost a cub earlier on in May/June, they have been feeding off gnus and zebra. Two of the older male adult cubs have moved on. The three cubs were scattered on the 22nd by three of the Musketeers with Joy being seen just on her own later on they were seen together again.
The Olkiombo lion pride of 12 including their 2 cubs which are 9 months old, 8 females and 2 males which are 2-3 years old are recently being seen near the Ol Kiombo airstrip and near the confluence of the Ntiaktiak and Talek rivers. They have been feeding off the resident buffalo here and zebra.
Malaika and her one cub that is approximately three months old are very active. Sadly Malaika lost a cub to hyena on the 19th very sad as she was a good and caring mother. Predator aggression with hyena being a dominant predator when in similar habitat as cheetah, hyena will do the same with lion cubs if they are found unattended. The short grass areas within the Ntiaktiak and Olare Orok rivers are good places to see them.
Photo courtesy of Maina Wachira
There is another female within these areas that is also feeding off Thomson gazelles.
A nice male cheetah was seen near Topi plains on the 21st and on the 22nd he had killed a Thomson Gazelle between Topi plain and Bila Shaka, there is short grass here which is ideal Thompson gazelle habitat.
Olive and her one cub that is 11 weeks old have been seen near the Ntiaktiak and Talek river area briefly this month; she lost a cub earlier on in the month and guides in this area are thinking perhaps this was from hyena activity again.
The male Leopard near the croton thickets at Paradise and also near the mortuary crossing point on the Mara River is being 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 9 months old is being seen regularly. She has been seen feeding of impala recently, a good sighting of here was seen on the 24th where she had killed an impala female and fed off it high up a Warburgia tree.
A female and her male cub have been seen near the BBC and Il Moran, she has been feeding off bushbuck and impala on the 19th they had killed a male bushbuck near to Il Moran Camp. On the 22nd the young male was seen carrying an impala ewe near the BBC camp on the Mara River.
Long grass still prevails in many areas below and above the ‘flyover’ of the MNC. There is very little ungulate activity here although until recently zebra will be seen on the plains above the ‘flyover’ ridge. On the plains to the east grasses are much shorter with good numbers of resident gnus and zebra that have come through earlier on in the month.
Elephant seem to be in smaller herds and they are concentrating on the Acacia woodlands. A few bulls can be seen on the open long grass plains.
Eland in small herds are being seen on the shorter grass plains to the east of the conservation area. Topi and a few cakes Hartebeest can also be seen in this area.
Thomson and Grants Gazelles are in good numbers here with two Thompson fawns being taken by Black backed Jackal.
Lion have been seen above the ‘Flyover’ on the 23rd a male and female were seen mating then two males being seen on the 24th and on the 26th early in the morning they were feeding of a zebra that they had killed, by 12.30pm there was not a item left. On the 26th 5 cubs and four females were seen at the point where we start the walk which is above a small ridge. Earlier on that morning we saw Zawadi and her 15 month old cub near to the start of Leopard Gorge. She looked in very good condition, on first sighting we mistook her for a male, and she is a big leopard as females go.
The female Cheetah and her one male cub were seen above the ‘flyover’ on the 23rd and they both looked in good condition. They have been feeding off Thomson Gazelles in the north end of the reserve where there are some very short grasses supporting good numbers of Thompson and Grants Gazelles.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds
There is continued nocturnal Aardvark activity as can be seen by the many holes dug into the roads and grasslands. We have also noticed more activity regarding the plated ant eater the
Pangolin who eat both termites and formicine ants; they will climb trees to get at the carton ants. Three types of pangolins exist in Africa—the giant pangolin, the tree pangolin and the most widespread, the ground pangolin. Pangolins have small heads and long, broad tails. They are toothless and have no external ears, although their hearing is good. Their sense of scent is well-developed, but with small eyes their sight is poor. The weight of the protective keratinous scales and skin make up about 20% of the pangolin's weight. The Pangolin preens itself by scratching with the hind legs, lifting its scales so the claws can reach the skin. It also uses its tongue to remove insects from under the scales. As pangolins have no teeth, the gizzard like stomach is specially adapted for grinding food. The process is helped along by the small stones and sand pangolins consume. They dig out insects from mounds with their sharp claws and use their extremely long tongues (up to 16 inches in larger pangolins) to eat them. In a resting position the tongue is pulled back into a kind of sheath that retracts into the chest cavity. Large salivary glands coat the long tongue with gummy mucus to which ants and termites stick to.