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Low Season Sightings Report December 2014 - June 2015

early morning zebraearly morning guestsearly morning photographyearly morning giraffeearly morning sunriseearly morning electras cub

LEOPARDS

graph of sighting stats leopard

Electra - came out on top this Low Season as the most sighted leopard with 69 sightings. After losing both of her cubs last year she kept going strong and holding her territory in the South Eastern part of the 200km² Okonjima Nature Reserve. She was seen mating on a couple of occasions with Nkosi as well as with newly-collared Madiba in December. During the end of March this year she kept on returning to the same place for several weeks - a hole in a termite mound. Was she having cubs again? On 10 April it was confirmed that Electra had given birth to two cubs when she was sighted moving den sites. But disaster struck again for this poor girl on 5 May when one of her cubs was found dead outside the den. Post mortem results showed bruises on the body, a half bitten off tail and severe lacerations of the tongue which led to her inability to suckle and eventually to starvation. We are not entirely sure what caused the lacerated tongue or the bitten off tail - and can only assume it might have been a result of a jackal or honey badger attack when Electra was away from the den, out hunting?

Due to the fact that her previous litter looked malnourished, Electra was darted by Dr. Ulf Tubbessing in May to test the production and composition of her milk. Results showed no abnormalities, and Electra and her remaining cub - who is now approximately four months old - are doing fine. Let’s hope that she will be third time lucky in raising this cub to adulthood.

MORE ABOUT ELECTRA: Electra a first time mother

electra densite termitemound
Electra's den site.
electra densite termitemound
Electra's den site.
electra cubs spotted1
Electra's cubs spotted.
electra moving dens1
Moving den sites.
electra moving dens
Moving den sites.
electra cub postmortemCub post mortem.
electra cub tongueCub post mortem. electra remaining cub2
Electra's remaining cub.
electra remaining cub1
Electra's remaining cub.

 

MJ - Okonjima’s oldest leopard, lady MJ was seen 64 times this Low Season. She had a rough time for the last six months trying to protect and defend her territory from the other resident females Jo Jo, Lila and from Shanti - her cub from her last litter. On 3 June she was found limping heavily and so needed to be darted in order to treat and clean her wounds properly. She had deep bite wounds on her front left leg - most likely inflicted by another leopard - maybe even by her own daughter Shanti that was also seen in the area? The wounds were cleaned and MJ was treated with a long-acting antibiotic. During the procedure Team AfriCat noticed that MJ was lactating - perhaps indicating that she has given birth to a 5th litter? Three weeks later and, coincidently, during the annual AfriCat Health Checks (29 June to 9 July), MJ had to be darted again due to another injury on her left front leg. Fortunately, the wound was found to be minor and she recovered quickly.

At the end of January and beginning of February, MJ was seen mating with Mafana and Madiba - leaving us in the dark about the sire of her current litter. A couple of weeks ago it was confirmed that MJ had given birth to a single cub - when both were sighted by the Okonjima guides and some lucky guests. MJ has turned 15 this year. It would be great if she can raise one more cub for us, because no one does it better than MJ (aka – MAHA JUNIOR in honour of her mother, Maha, one of the first leopards AfriCat recued)!

MORE ABOUT MJ: Legendary cat in the Okonjima Nature Reserve

mj the leopard
MJ
mj and mafana leopards
MJ and Mafana.
mj injury-
Leg wounds being treated.
mj injury
Bite wounds on MJ's leg.
mj female leopard
Okonjima’s oldest leopard, lady MJ.
mj female leopard
Okonjima’s oldest leopard, lady MJ.

 

Nkosi - has also been through a tough year so far. Competing for his territory in the eastern part of the reserve against Madiba and another big, non-collard male leopard, Nkosi has been sighted in the last couple of months in unfamiliar terrain. On 19 April he was spotted with a swollen foot. He was barely able to put pressure on his right front foot, but still covered immense distances. Over the next weeks we monitored him closely and observed a slight improvement. Nevertheless, he wasn’t able to hunt and consequently we had to help him out with food every 4th day. On 8 May Nkosi was darted by Dr. Ulf Tubessing to get a closer look and to determine the source of the swelling. The foot was still swollen and the injury was most likely caused from a bite by another leopard. To be sure that the foot didn't have a fracture, Nkosi was transported to Otjiwarongo and X-rays were taken. No fractures were detected and he was treated with a strong antibiotic injection to stop any infection. About three weeks later Nkosi was found on his first warthog kill again.

nkosi injured
Nkosi being examined.
nkosi health checked
Nkosi being examined.
nkosi foot pad
Nkosi's foot pad.

 

Mafana - still seems to be the ruler in his territory. He has been seen mating with MJ over the last few months of 2014 and in the beginning 2015. Could he again be the father of MJ’s new litter, or is the father his new competition, Madiba? Mafana is turning 11 years old this year. For how long will he still be King of Okonjima? Only time will tell.

mafana1
Mafana
mafana2
Mafana
mafana3
Mafana

 

Jo Jo Farque - has become very relaxed with vehicles. She is now regularly showing off her two beautiful cubs to our lucky Okonjima guests. Jo Jo gave birth last August, and so her two cubs are approximately one year of age. Leopard cubs are usually accompanied by their mother for about two years before they have to go their own way.

jo jo female cub
Jo Jo's female cub.
jo jo female cub
Jo Jo's female cub.
jo jo female cub
Jo Jo's female cub.

 

Shanti - is still popular with the guides, but she spends the majority of her time in the mountains or thick bushland which makes it rather difficult to get a sighting on her. Thus, Shanti was only seen 29 times during this years’ Low Season. Still trying to move into MJ, her mother's, territory, fighting between the mother and daughter has been observed a couple of times. Shanti being younger and stronger than her 15 year old mother, caused heavy leg injuries on MJ.

At the end of July, AfriCat’s research team will be starting a comprehensive leopard density study to determine the exact number of leopards in the 20 000 ha Okonjima Nature Reserve. Based on the results, we will then decide if we are going to take action to control the number of leopards in the reserve; this would be done by giving contraceptive hormones to a certain number of females.

shanti2 july2015
Shanti
shanti anthill
Shanti
shanti leopard
Shanti
shanti lying down
Shanti
shanti scratching tree
Shanti
shanti july2015
Shanti

 

Ishara, MJ’s female cub from her previous litter, was seen mating with Madiba on 11 October 2014. On 17 May 2015, trail cameras revealed that Ishara had given birth to her first litter comprising one cub. Finally, MJ has become a grandmother! Ishara is part of the rather shy and rarely seen group of collard leopards - together with brother Bwana, Lila, Isaskia, Nuka and Mafuta. All of them have been seen less than 10 times within a period of 6 months.

ishara and her leopard cub
Ishara and her cub.
lila leopard
Lila
mafuta male leopard
Mafuta

 

CHEETAHS

graph of sighting stats cheetahOkonjima's infamous Sibling trio - Coco, Spud and Bones are still going strong after five years in the Okonjima Nature Reserve (released from captivity in May2010) and are still the most popular cheetahs with the guides with a total of 97 sightings. In December 2014 their collars started to give problems and it was about time for a new set of collars. On 22 January 2015 AfriCat’s Vet, Dr. Roberts, darted Coco, Spud and Bones to re-collar them and perform a health examination. Despite their age of 10 years, all three were found to be in excellent shape. The two males, Spud and Bones, have always been very dominant - especially towards any newly released cheetahs. Also, being the suspects of killing at least two of Dizzy’s cubs and "harassing" Spirit (and the unsuccessful rehabilitated Dash, Ruff, Tumble, Mulder and Abbey), it was decided to put them on hormonal contraception in order to lower their testosterone level and, consequently, their level of aggression towards their conspecifics.

Coco - the only female - has always been on contraceptives, due to her weak back leg. Coco, Frankie (who was sadly killed by a leopard in 2010) and Spud are siblings. They were captured from the wild as tiny cubs and kept as pets and due to being fed the incorrect diet, they were all suffering from a calcium deficiency when they came into AfriCat’s care at the age of 3 months. As a result of the lack of calcium in their diets, their bones were very weak and each had a broken leg and had to undergo surgery, but it seems Coco was the only one who’s leg did not heal perfectly and she has a permanent limp. Frankie was the original leader and Bones took over after Hammer was killed by a spotted hyaena – both became brilliant hunters despite their set-back as cubs.

During this years’ health check, Coco was re-contacepted by Dr. Henk Bertschinger. Spud was injured in January 2014, breaking his front, left leg during a hunt. He has recovered brilliantly and the vet reported that he had a high bone density, which proves that a bad diet can be rectified and the carnivore can recover completely with time.

MORE ABOUT COCO BONES and SPUD: The siblings - Coco, her brother Spud and their leader Bones.

siblings guest tracking
Always a favourite with guests, tracking the siblings.
siblings bones
Bones
siblings coco
Coco
siblings spud
Spud
siblings coco bones
Coco and Bones.
siblings when hammer alive
The Siblings when Hammer was part of the group.

 

On 9 July 2014 the decision was made to relocate Dizzy and her second litter into Alcatraz - a 5 ha soft release camp located in the Okonjima reserve - to give her the opportunity to raise her cubs in a safe environment. We wanted to give her the opportunity to raise her cubs to an age where they will be strong enough to run away from danger; at the same time it is a fine line, because they need to be taught to hunt by their mother before she abandons them so that they can live independently. On 15 May 2015, when the cubs reached an age of 10 months, the gates of Alcatraz were finally opened . . . .  Time for them to leave. It was a big day for Team AfriCat. Despite some hesitation to leave their home, Dizzy and her three cubs eventually entered the real wild world again. Before this big day, on 24 March 2015 - two months before the release - Dizzy had been darted and put on contraception as we do not want her to breed again . . . . At least until the 20 000ha Nature Reserve has got more open plains. Allowing cubs to be born in our park however does slow the captive cheetah rehabilitation programme down and by placing all our park cheetahs on contraception does enable more cheetahs from the Carnivore Care Center to be released back into the wild in the future.

As always, Dizzy has been very popular with the guides and has been seen almost on a daily basis since her release in May. Unfortunately, Dizzy lost two of these cubs within the first months after their release . . .  the only female cub, Aci, died after a leopard attack early in June, and Nyx sadly passed away after complications occurred due to a broken leg and pelvis, after being kicked during a hunt. Dizzy, now only accompanied by her male cub, Juba, quickly adapted to the ways of the wild and is making regular kills to sustain her little family. (The 3 cubs names were taken from the cheetah’s Latin name - Acinonyx jubatus).

 

Dizzy’s only surviving wild born cheetah cub from her previous litter, Spirit is now two and a half years old. She was only seen 24 times through out this years’ Low Season. Spirit is constantly on the move, covering great distances, mostly moving from the eastern part of the reserve to western part, then heading far north and back again. Despite the fact that Dizzy left her at only 13 months of age, Spirit became a phenomenal hunter, who is mostly seen on steenbok and duiker kills.

MORE ABOUT SPIRIT and HER MOTHER DIZZY: Dizzy, a story about a rehabilitated cheetah mother

dizzys aci nyx juba
Dizzy's Aci, Nyx and Juba.
dizzy and aci cheetahs
Dizzy and Aci.
dizzy and nyx
Dizzy's Nyx.
dizzy juba hunting
Juba hunting.
dizzy and juba
Dizzy and Juba.
dizzy and juba
Dizzy and Juba.

 

WILD DOGS and HYENAS

graph wilddogThe Wild dogs are, as usual, covering the whole of the Okonjima Nature Reserve and were seen 36 times by our guests.

For the last few months we watched Rex with growing concern: For unknown reasons Rex’s condition deteriorated rapidly, and in the end not much was left of the brave and exceptional, 3-legged wild dog we had known, instead he became only a mere shadow of his former self. He lost a considerable amount of weight, his fur started to fall out and he simply appeared to be tired and very, very exhausted. His sisters Ricky and Raine kept on moving long distances and for a long time Rex managed to keep up with them despite his physical disability. At times they would return to where they had left him behind, making sure he never lost out on a meal and during the last few months they changed their normal route and stayed close to him, covering only a small area. Ultimately - after he had learned and adapted to live with his disability for more than 3 years - he lost his strength and struggled to keep up with his sisters. On the morning of the 16th of March we eventually decided to release him from his misery. His body was left at the site for a while to give his sisters the opportunity to mourn for him.

Rex will always be remembered for his extraordinary courage and unconditional loyalty towards his siblings, and we will always remember his bravery and irrepressible will to contribute to the success and safety of his pack - in spite of his impediment.

On 31 May, we lured Ricky and Raine into Alcatraz - our 5 ha soft release camp - which had been split into two sections in preparation for their planned introduction to our three wild dog pups - Yogi, Messi and Robin. Team Fifa was placed on one side while Ricky and Raine were placed on the other side so that the two packs could be introduced to each other.  Team Fifa and the wild dog management plan.

wild dogs rrr
Wild Dogs, Ricky, Raine and Rex.
wild dogs rrr
Wild Dogs, Ricky, Raine and Rex.
wilddog packs plan
Soft release camp.

 

Our Spotted Hyena, Pooh, has been seen 19 times, while his shy brother, Paddington, has only been sighted once. Their dad, Rupert, who is still un-collard, was occasionally spotted on our trail cameras in the reserve. Lately, the guides report a lot of brown hyena sightings and it seems that they are becoming less shy of vehicles. During the beginning of May we were able to collar two brown hyenas, however they are still rarely seen due to their nocturnal activity.

pooh 248h
Pooh
pooh standing
Pooh
pooh with kill
Pooh with a kill

 

SEE PREVIOUS LOW SEASON REPORT: January to June 2014

SEE LAST HIGH SEASON REPORTS: 2013 and 2014

 

 

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