Low Season runs from December till June. This low season has seen many sightings of our resident leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and hyena along with game, birds and other wildlife that inhabit the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
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.
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)!
A run down with pictures of our other leopards can be read on our full report on the AfriCat website.
Cheetahs are regularly seen by our guests. The Siblings still get the most sightings. 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.
The Wild dogs are, as usual, covering the whole of the Okonjima Nature Reserve and were seen 36 times by our guests and 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.