March was over in a blink of an eye and before we knew it we launched directly into Easter break – as predicted it was a busy few days.
There has been plenty of activity in the bush – bird life is abundant and the many of the birds have been busy building nests to raise their chicks. The fish eagles are a daily feature in camp life – they are beautiful to watch as they fly above their territory, calling to one another as they settle in a tree branch to spot prey – keen & excellent hunters. The eagle in flight symbolises the freedom in Zambia and the ability to rise above national problems.
The lions have been active, very vocal early in the mornings and at night. The pride that was 14 strong have now split. There were a lot of male cubs which generates competition and threat to the older male as they mature. So 7 young males of around 2½ years of age are now living separately to the pride. At that age they are still relatively inexperienced especially when it comes to successful kills. There is also a small pride that is often seen up near top crossing (Chongwe River) – they had cubs last season but they are quite shy and have a tendency to disappear into the thickest, dense bushes when approached!
On a boat trip up to Tsika Island, we spotted two herds of elephants having fun in the river. They were so absorbed in the fun they were having splashing and rolling about in the water, that we were able to approach and take some wonderful photos.
We’ve seen a few leopards in and around camp – one young male was spotted keeping a low profile in long grass, amongst a rather large herd of impala. The impala were blissfully unaware that there was danger lurking nearby. As the leopard was obviously hunting, he was left to it so that his chances weren’t spoilt.
As guests were leaving camp, one of the guides noticed the birds creating a merry racket. He determined that there was something causing the unrest so whipped out his binoculars and he spotted the perpetrator. Well disguised by a mistletoe bush was a baby python. It wasn’t until it struck that the birds noticed it and by this time it was too late as it had grabbed a bird. The others went crazy, fly bombing the snake in an attempt to get it to let go of it’s prey.
The impala are rutting which makes them easy prey; they do not eat during the rutting season and get very out of condition. They essentially wear themselves out and are weak and vulnerable as a result. The other day a male come down to the river to drink. He nervously approached the water’s edge and as he bent to drink he caught a glimpse of himself in the still water. Within seconds his head was down, horns on the defensive, he tossed his head at his reflection and satisfied that he had won, bent down to drink only to notice his reflection again – this continued for a good 20 minutes until he had finally quenched his thirst, although we’re not entirely sure that he realised that his ‘opponent’ was himself!
Guests continue to be lucky with leopard and lion sightings, and a fairly rare sighting near Chongwe House was a bush pig! So far in 2012 four elephant carcasses have been found in the Chiawa Game Management Area, of these one, found north of Royal Airstrip, has been confirmed as poached. Although Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) patrol teams were close on the heels of the poachers as soon as gun shots were heard unfortunately there were no recoveries. The three other carcasses died of currently unknown causes but one is suspected to have been a fighting related death and the other two are suspected poisoning. In the Lower Zambezi National Park one carcass has been found. The cause of death is as yet unknown but ZAWA vets have responded quickly to take samples and ascertain cause of death. This month we have also lost a hippo to poaching in the Park and ZAWA vets visited the area to take sample of another hippo carcass and buffalo carcass.
Another horrific victim of the increasing snaring problem in the Lower Zambezi was reported to CLZ last week. Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) vet Dr. Harvey Kamboyi flew in on Sunday 6 May to dart, remove the snare and treat this male lion. Dr Kamboyi is confident that the animal will make a full recovery. Snaring for commercial bush meat as well as subsistence poaching is becoming a significant threat to the wildlife of the Lower Zambezi. As a silent, indiscriminate killer it is hugely dangerous and CLZ will continue to assist ZAWA in protecting the precious biodiversity of Zambia from such threats.
Some of our guests felt privileged to have witnessed the whole treatment of the young lion, obviously delighted with the outcome.
May’s full moon was breathtaking. Rising in the horizon like the morning sun, a deep red in colour and then appearing to punch a bright hole in the dark, night sky.
Each sunrise seems to differ from the previous one, and on the morning of the full moon, day break was spectacular. The sky was an artist’s palette of colour, the horizon a deep, luxurious purple that gave way to azure that faded into a smoky pink that grew deeper and deeper in orange, as the sun made it’s slow ascent into daylight.