Masai Mara Game Report
With rainy season in full swing it has been wet, wet, wet, over the last month. Most days this month we have had evening and night rain showers. Some storms came in the afternoons, calmed to begin with and then were followed by strong winds. The Marsh filled up considerably with many hippos being seen either basking on the Marsh banks or in the deeper water pools of the Marsh. The Marsh grasses and reeds are flowering and this is a sign of good rainfall. There were also good rains up country to the east and north east of the Mara that caused the levels of the Mara river to rise quite high. The grasslands are healthy with a good leaf structure showing, some plains areas grasses are getting long and those short grass plains that were looking parched have improved tremendously, it is amazing how resilient these alluvial environments can be. Temps have been generally warm with morning temps averaging 18°C and evening temperatures 24-26°C. Rainfall for the month is 267 mm. Last Year 2012 the rainfall was 337 mm.
Due to the good rains many elephant can be seen within the Marsh and riverine woodlands. A few large solitary bulls that are in Musth wander across the grassland plains. The BBC leopard is a regular resident near the BBC campsite; she is being seen often with her male cub. The Marsh Pride has been within the Marsh and Lake Nakuru area of the North West side of the Marsh. Large troops of Olive Baboons move near the camps.
Game drives have been a challenge with wet conditions and heavy rain. The ground in many areas is saturated so the drives are slow as our driver-guides carefully navigate the mud.
Defassa Waterbuck with solitary territorial males and impala are close to all camps. There are quite a number of young waterbuck and the Marsh lions have fed on many of these young calves. It was thought through African myth that lion would not eat waterbuck due to their oily skin and smelly meat; this is quite untrue and we have noticed that in the marsh area during lean times waterbuck are eaten regularly.
Olive Baboons spread out along the riverine fringes as they forage for food, by evening they are often strung across the road either foraging or last minute grooming with their favourites as they slowly head back to the their habitual roosting sites. Olive Baboons will roost and live where they were born as long as they are not disturbed. Some of these savannah troops are large in size and can be up to over 100 individuals.
Giraffe are more spread out at this time of year; females live in loose associated herds with group members being well spread out; young calves are closest to their mothers; calves will be in a crèche of varying age groups. The Coloration of giraffe varies from region to region; some are almost chocolate brown to very pale, although the main colour is gray. Despite its length the neck is actually too short to reach the ground. When they drink they have to spread their legs in order to reach the ground. When they have to reach to the ground for either water or herbs there is tremendous amount blood pressure that is pumped from a large heart. At the base of the brain there is a complex network of arteries and veins lying very close to each other known as the rete mirabile which act like a sponge absorbing the blood flow when the giraffe puts its head down. On the other plane there are one way acting valves in the main jugular vein that also slows down blood pressure on the way back.
Large numbers of elephant can be seen through the Marsh and Bila Shaka plains. The Warburgia trees have stopped fruiting and this means there are less elephant visitors in camp. Occasionally the two old Bulls; George and Blossom will move in between the camps and have been feeding off Teclea and Capparis.
Topi in large herds are found on the shorter grass plains where the water drainage is better and leaf structure is more suitable. In the same areas there are Cokes Hartebeest and Grants Gazelle. Thomson Gazelles are more commonly found on the short grass plains often where there is more livestock movement.
There is a small breeding herd of Cape buffalo near Lake Nakuru and the large herd is in the eastern flow of the Bila Shaka riverbed. The ground is very saturated by water here so the buffalo tent to occupy the higher ground the coarse grasses also grow here and Buffalo love this type of grass. The solitary and habitual bulls can be seen near the bridge area of the Marsh and also in between the camps.
Small breeding herds of eland are on top of Rhino Ridge and also small herds are near the conservation areas close to Topi Plains. These herds average 18-24 animals.
Warthog are well spread out throughout the Mara ecosystem. Early mornings and evenings are good times to see them as they forage on their calloused knees. Lion eat warthog readily and will subsist on them during wet and lean time of the year. Warthog live and reside in holes in the ground preferably dug by an Aardvark and then modify for their use. In other areas of Africa where temperatures are warmer warthog will live in thickets above ground as opposed to a hole in the ground.
Bushbucks are commonly seen in open glades within the riverine woodlands. Early mornings and evenings are good times for them. Bohors Reed buck are also seen near watercourses with long coarse grasses, a habitat they like.
Wildebeest can be seen in the conservation areas with calves that are now a month old. Small herds of zebra are also in these short grass areas. Large numbers of wildebeest and zebra returned further south east towards the Loita hills which is where they were from.
Black back Jackals are often seen in the early mornings and evenings; in the last few days we have seen four Jackals on a daily basis near the airstrip and these are be two older pups together with their parents. Jackals are extremely effective carnivores and will work in pairs, hunting young fawns of impala, Grants and Thomson Gazelles. They will also eat insects and some fruit to compensate their diet. The male plays an important role in the rearing of the pups while living in monogamous pairs.
The bat eared fox family near paradise have moved from the hole that they were in to another area perhaps that is better drained. With the rains, sightings of these little foxes have been slim. There was a large den with three males and four females and three, four month old pups. Bat eared fox’s of all the canids have the most teeth with up to 52 teeth and with a well developed digastric muscle they are able to snap 2-3 times per second!! They are insectivorous and will also eat small invertebrates.
Since the rains the marsh has filled up considerably and this has brought in many hippos that would otherwise be in a river watercourse. In the mornings are early evenings the hippos bask on the edges of the Marsh. Hippos do not have any epidermal layer and are a susceptible to high levels of ultraviolet light or sun shine so they will rest up on a sand bank and quickly go back into the water when they get too hot. They release a secretion known as Hippo sweat or Hipposudoric acid. Bulls can hold pods for a number of years, there is a bull at IL Moran Camp that holds a territory of 300 meters of river and he has been here for over three years; recognized purely by his squeaky honking sound and his left ear is lazy and flops rather than being erect. All Hippos are herbivores with a three chambered stomach and can be termed a pseudo ruminant; with a large cecum they digest slowly during the day in late evening they come out to graze using their lips to crop the grass.
We have had lovely recent sightings of the Narrow green banded swallow tales and Citrus swallowtails.
The Pride now consists of the 4 males, commonly known as the ‘musketeers’ (Scar, Morani, Sikio and Hunter), 7 lionesses and 15 cubs of varying ages. They spend most of their time between Bila Shaka and Musiara.
Siena, Charm and Bibi and their 12 cubs are within the Marsh, airstrip and the Musiara plains areas. Bibi’s 3 cubs are five months old, Charms three cubs are 7 months old and Siena’s cubs are now 11 months old.
Another of the four sisters has three cubs that are now four months old. On the 29th of April one of the sisters emerged from the forest giving the nearby foraging baboons a huge fright. Instinctively the baboons all stood on their hind legs to get a better view, once they confirmed to each other that it was a lioness they passed the message amongst themselves with loud barks ad then they all scrambled to get up an old dead Warburgia tree that had few branches many of them kept falling down rather like over ripe fruit.! The lioness looks to be lactating which indicates that she has cubs, if this is the case we will hopefully of see them in perhaps a weeks time.
The males have been seen as far as Silanga and also close to Topi Plains. The lionesses and cubs have spent most of their time near the Marsh and airstrip. They have fed off many warthog who seem to be a staple food source at this time of year, and three young waterbuck calves have been taken.
One morning two young marsh lionesses surprised a male warthog who was having a mud math near the marsh calvert. The lionesses were walking along the Marsh edge when they saw that a warthog boar was making a hasty run towards a mud hole near the road, it did not take them long to work what was going on, within 30 minutes they had killed and were eating the boar.
Modomo – three lionesses and four cubs of which the four cubs are ten months old, there is another lioness that has two cubs who are four months old; they have been seen near Grey’s lugga and Rhino Ridge. Lately all have also been seen near the large fig tree on Rhino Ridge. There are many warthog here in this area and that of Topi Plains, Grey’s lugga and Rhino Ridge. They subsist on these warthogs as well as topi who are well spread out and eland who are in reasonable numbers.
Nyota and Moja her sub adult male cub were last seen at the end of March, unfortunately we have had no recent sightings over the last month.
There are 4 females and 6 cubs of varying ages, two that are ten months old and one lioness has three cubs estimated at four months old. This pride was last seen near the main crossing point. Grass is long on the Paradise Plains so drives have been slim in this area.
The Female with the three cubs that are 11 months who were seen on Paradise Plains last month, they have been seen on a few occasions near Topi plains and further east and towards the onservation areas there are many Thomson and Grants gazelles here luring them in this direction and we have watched them trying to hunt warthog.
There is a young male being seen near the Musiara gate and also Bila Shaka. On the 27th he was seen near Governors Camp hunting Impala. He had taken a Thomson near Musiara gate on the 24th but was soon run off by four jackals. This male is approximately 20 months old and is the only son of the MNC female. It now appears they have both gone separate ways.
Malaika and her 12 month old male cub have been seen near the double crossing area and also towards the Ntiaktiak River we have had a couple of good sightings of them over the last month.
We have had a few reports of sightings of the Serena Pump House male leopard over the last month.
The BBC female Leopard with her two cubs estimated at six months old, the female cub earlier on in January has been suffering from a prolapsed rectum, sadly for the last two weeks it has not been seen; this female was very stunted and not doing too well and we suspect that she has passed on. This female and her cub is being seen nearly on a daily basis.
The male that also frequents these woodlands has been seen near the junction to Little Governors; he was seen mating with another female in the evening of the 23rd.
A large male was seen near the Bila Shaka vehicle track into Paradise Plains a shallow crossing called the managers crossing. He has been seen more often this month and it is assumed that it is the same male that moves up and down the Bila Shaka riverbed. Early on in the month we had a lovely sighting of him in the woodlands close by to the mangers crossing with a young topi in a croton thicket.
There is a another male that is resident near the Bila Shaka crossing and Diospyros copse on Paradise Plains, he was seen on the 30th at midday with a young warthog kill up an Olive tree and the mother was still in a hole beneath the tree.
- Patrick Reynolds Il Moran Camp Manager
We hope to share the magic of our corner of the Masai Mara with you sometime soon.
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