Deteema Springs Wildlife Stories June 2022
Winter in Zimbabwe brings dry, cold nights and clear, warm days. In this area, summer rainfall prevails and we are starting to see the pans and waterholes dry up. This means wildlife must travel further and share the few water sources available with each other.
An Elephant in Musth
Close encounters are always a thrilling experience and this particular meeting with an elephant bull in musth was especially exciting. To start, we should explain the term musth. Musth is a biological change in male elephants. Seasonally, older males secrete a hormone called temporin, which affects the behaviour of the animal as testosterone increases. The bull elephant becomes aggressive and sexually charged.
On a game drive, our professional guide David spotted a large male approaching the open-air vehicle and explained to our guests the state of the elephant, emphasising that the process is a natural one and that they can expect a bit of a show. This, being the first time our guests were experiencing this behavioural phenomenon, was an exciting moment that clearly bought great joy to everyone on the scene.
Getting closer to the vehicle, tensions ran high and one could feel the nervous excitement as the elephant’s every move was scrutinised. The elephant shook his head and kicked dust in our direction but when he noted the stillness of the vehicle, he continued to move on disappearing silently into the distance.
A Moment of Panic
During our winter months, we see various wildlife sharing the scarce water available. Peace prevails and usually, the various species get their turn at the waterhole and move on without causing too much commotion.
But every now and then, predators need to be put in their place. A herd of elephants and a pride of lions were on their way to drink at a waterhole near Deteema Springs. Unaware of the pride of lions, the breeding herd of elephants headed towards the waterhole.
Catching the scent of the pride of lions, an attention-grabbing trumpet brought the herd together and they started towards the pride. This resulted in the pride retreating in our direction, running directly towards the vehicle for safety which stunningly exhilarated our guests.
Expect the unexpected in the African bushveld. Even though our guides are well versed in the behaviours and movements of the wildlife and the landscapes in which we roam, every sighting is unique and each game drive is full of opportunity and newfound excitement.
On a recent morning drive, we found a pair of lions seemingly separated from the rest of the pride and while we had some time we stopped to watch them. After a few minutes, we realised that we had stumbled onto a mating pair.
Mating in lions is intense and a pair will mate every 15-20 minutes for a few days. A male’s barbed reproductive organ makes the process painful for the female and may result in irritable and aggressive behaviour.
Tracking wildlife is a specialised skill and our expert guides are trained to spot the smallest and most insignificant differences in the bushveld. Learning the language of the bush is imperative to giving our guests the best possible experience so we are overjoyed when a guest exhibits interest in learning the mastery of tracking.
During a morning walking safari, we identified and followed the tracks of a lion. Tracing the route the lion walked, we looked for other clues. As we reached the top of the hill, we noticed a few more tracks and identified them as the rest of the pride joining the lion on his route. Eventually one of our guests noted the tracks turning off the elephant path and into the thicket, which brought our adventure to an end.
A Rude Awakening
As pollinators of our precious plants, birds play vital roles in the African bushveld. Watching them hard at work is a relaxing pastime for us bird watchers and, for the smaller prey in the wild, their alarm calls warn of predators nearby.
A member of our resident pride of lions had been relaxing in front of one of our tents when a bachelor herd of impala entered the scene. The lioness saw the opportunity and readied herself for the chance to attack.
An alarm call from nearby francolins startled the impalas and off they ran, ruining the lioness’s chances of her next meal.
An exciting month made up of amazing close encounters and a multitude of wildlife sightings the excitement builds up, we cannot wait to see what the next month at Deteema Springs brings.
Until next time,
Guide, Deteema Springs