Game Reports

December in the Masai Mara 2018

Weather

Over December we had cool, clear and sometimes windy mornings, becoming hot later in the day with occasionally light rain showers in the late afternoons or during the night. We received a total of 113mm of rain during the month. Some evenings there have been spectacular thunderstorms but very little rain fell in the Governors’ Camps area. The Mara is looking green and the Musiara Marsh is attracting large herds of zebra, many elephants and numerous birds including a pair of Grey-Crowned Cranes taking turns sitting on their nest. The Warburgia Trees are heavy with fruit which are being enjoyed by elephants, baboon and many fruit eating birds. Interestingly many local people believe the elephant get intoxicated by eating too many Warburgia fruits, while they certainly do get very excited and high while eating them, Scientists tell us that it impossible for an elephant to get intoxicated. Similarly in Rwanda the Mountain Gorillas get excited and high while eating new bamboo shoots, again scientist tell us that they are not intoxicated, but if you witness them eating the new bamboo shoots you would not believe this.

Open Plains

The plains are still green with large numbers of Topi, Coke’s Hartebeest, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelle’s all with young. Also large herds of Common Zebra and wildebeest are still in the area which is reminiscent of July to September when the famous “Migration” is here. Herds of elephants are enjoying the grass in areas where the grass is long, while numbers of single bulls some in musth are mostly in the Marsh area. (“Musth” is a periodic condition in bull (male) elephants, characterized by highly aggressive behaviour and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be as much as 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times. They can be very dangerous during this time.) Musth males can be recognised a secretion of a blackish oily liquid issuing from their temporal glands. They also have an unpleasant smell as they constantly dribble urine down their hind legs.

elephants masai mara

Dave Richards

Many clans of Spotted Hyenas live out on the plains and occasionally can be seen hunting during daylight hours. Many of these clans have young of various ages. Hyena babies are born with their eyes open and are black and are sucked by their mother for a year or sometimes more. This is because hyenas mostly make their kills or scavenge far from the den and don’t regurgitate food for them. Occasionally hyenas do bring bones and skin back to the den for the young. Silver-backed (Black-backed) Jackals are mainly scavengers but are also opportunist hunters catching birds, sometimes large birds such as Abdim’s Storks that sleep on the ground, rodents and even gazelle fawns. Out on the plains Steppe Eagles, join Tawny Eagles and Vultures scavenging at the remains of lion kills. Steppe Eagles, Steppe Buzzards, Lesser Kestrels and Montagu’s Harriers are also being seen on the plains, these birds are migrants from Eastern Europe and Russia. Also on the plains are flocks of Caspian Plovers which migrate to Africa from the Caspian Sea area. 

Steppe Eagle courtesy of Dave Richards

Riverine Forest

Along the edge of the forest there are many herds of Impala, it’s not unusual to see one dominant male with over fifty females. These herds have many young ones of various ages. The dominant males can often be seen fighting and chasing bachelor males away from their herd. There are also many bachelor herds in our area and they can be often seen fighting among themselves in the attempt to become number one. This fighting is good preparation for the day when they get the chance to challenge a herd dominant male. Along the edge of the forest is where the Masai Giraffe spend most of their time and there have been many males necking (sparing) for dominance. Also along the forest edge have been small herds of Eland with young, normally Eland spend most of their time in bushy areas out on the plains. Eland are both grazers and browsers.

The Mara River

Water levels in the Mara River continue to drop forcing some hippo pods to move while other pods are forced closer together causing clashes between individuals. At Il Moran Camp a Crocodile appeared with eight recently hatched babies. The mother croc is keeping very close to them and does not leave them even to feed. Crocodiles lay between 10 – 60 eggs, which hatch after 3 months. Interestingly the temperature of the eggs determine what sex the hatchlings will be. If the temperature is below 31.7 all the hatchlings will be female, Temperature between 31.7 and 34.5 will produce male hatchlings, temperatures above 34.5 will again produce female hatchlings. Only 10% of crocodile babies survive 1 year.

Black Rhino

Our guests had a nice surprise early morning of the 28th when a Black Rhino was spotted very near to Il Moran Camp. Unfortunately it did not stay visible for long as it quickly disappeared into the forest.

Lion

Yaya and her 2 female sub adult cubs are residing in the Bila Shaka with Siena’s two daughters and the six males. The legacy of the Marsh Pride moves on and this has all the makings of a new super pride for the Marsh Pride and so near our camps. This pride are often heard roaring at night close to our camps. The large Madomo Pride with their cubs of various ages are providing great photographic experiences for our guests. Unfortunately earlier in the month one of the females and her cub were attacked and speared. The female’s injury was slight but the cub sustained worse injuries. The veterinary team was called in and the cub was treated, the injury appeared to be not too serious. The cub was seen for 2 days after but has not been seen since. The two males Blackie and Lipstick are often seen on Topi Plains.

 lion masai mara

The Paradise Pride and their 12 cubs are also providing great photographic experiences for our guests although they often split into 2 groups. One group living around the main crossing area while the other move to the “Chinese” Hill area. The 2 groups though often come together to share a kill. The big male Scar and his companions move back and forth across the Mara River.

Leopard

Siri the female Leopard that resides near the Serena Pump House gave some of our guests a nice surprise present on Christmas morning when she appeared carrying a small cub. The cub is thought to be about 2 months old.

The male Suja has not been seen so often and the most recent sighting of him was across the river.

Saba the female Leopard that lives in the Kaboso/Olare Orok area is being seen quite often but mostly she is keeping her 2 cubs hidden. There have many sightings of a large male Leopard in this area, unusually he is very tame and allows good views of himself. Normally male Leopards are very shy and quickly run away when approached. Another female Leopard in the area has 2 small cubs. She is mostly found along the upper reaches of the Ngiatiak River.

leopard

Female leopard Saba. Dave Richards

And finally Romi the female Leopard that lives in the riverine forest along the Mara River close to our camps has been occasionally seen close to Il Moran Camp.

Cheetah

Malaika and her two cubs are being regularly seen in the Talek River area. The two immature sister cheetahs have often been sighted on the plains near our camps. It is interesting that these two sisters are still together as normally sisters go their own way soon after leaving their mother. Another immature female cheetah has also been seen, in the Serena Pump House and Chinese Hill area.

The coalition of five male cheetahs have been seen from time to time. It is quite normal for males to join up with other males, usually they are brothers, but a coalition of five is unusual although it does happen occasionally. On Christmas day they were hunting near our camps. Unfortunately they do not stay in one area to long and move regularly quite long distances to different area. One day they were observed trying to mate with a single immature female.

Back in the camps we had a very festive Christmas and plenty of celebrations with our guests for New Year. We wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope to welcome some of you to the Mara in 2018. 

Dave Richards, Governors Il Moran Camp Relief Manager. 

 
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