Beho Beho Bushmail – End of Season 2016/17

Another season draws to a close and we are able to revisit the events of the year to get the bigger picture of life in the Selous for its myriad inhabitants.

 

The season has, for us witnessing events, provided some ongoing stories, punctuated by spates of sightings of particular species.

 

The season started with a very welcome spate of leopard sightings, normally particularly elusive in Selous. The first 3 weeks saw more than a dozen sightings which included leopardess successfully hunting a scrub hare, leopardess and her cub on a few occasions, and stalking prey through the Msine dry riverbed. 3 sightings of 3 different males either nonchalantly walking by us or draped over the branches of a sausage tree completed a great start for the predators!

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The story of the lion prides provided us with a season long mystery and the saga is anything but clear still. Bibi’s pride, our resident pride of the Beho Beho area was spotted twice at the beginning of the season, never to be seen again! Likewise with the 2 musketeers, our 2 dominant pride males, disappearing in July and we have not seen them since. Whether they have fought and been killed by other lions or simply pushed out is unclear, but the mystery remains as to who is going to stamp their authority on our prime territorial area here. The Black panther pride would have been the favourites, but have not done so. The elusive lions of the Phantom pride have been in and out of the area frequently from their usual base in the north, but seem reluctant to stay. And who will take over as pride male in the area is yet to be seen. Apart from seeing some relatively young male lions, on and off over the course of the season, there seems to be no clear candidate up to the job. We shall have to wait and see what the new season brings to find out.

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As the dry season drew on, we were treated to a period of a couple of weeks with the wild dogs taking centre stage! Using our Msine valley as their hunting ground they came through in a whirlwind of excitement, disrupting the lives of our resident impala herds especially and showing the hyena clans who’s boss! Numerous instances of us trying to follow their frenetically paced hunts took place and sometimes we would get to see the whole hunt and the subsequent fight for the spoils.

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The dry season went on and on – October no rain, November and December (the short rains) nothing but drought. And it took its toll on the animals. Impala lambing season this year, a bit of a failure. Ewes did not have the valuable nutrients available to them for good milk production and so lots of weak lambs became easy prey. The same for the warthog. The herds of buffalo descended daily to the only water available in the area directly in front camp and as the drought continued they were the most visible to be losing condition and the hyenas noticed! Usually an adult buffalo is too big for hyena to take down, but not in times of drought. The hyena started taking down buffalo every couple of days, camping out at the buffalos favoured drinking point and plucking of the weakened animals fairly easily.

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The hippos did not escape the crisis either with every week or so a new hippo carcass being found succumbing to malnourishment and fights with other hippos under similar stress and strain. This continued all the way until late January/early February when at long last some good rains brought some fresh vegetation and much needed relief to the struggling herbivores of Selous.

 

During all of this a very important event occurred: the centenary of the death of Captain F.C Selous on the 4th January 1917. A great man to be remembered for his achievements and for his part of the history of Tanzania and the making of what it is today.

 

As we wrap up the season and prepare to go home, we should of course give an update on the friends of Beho Beho as most guests always wonder how they are:

Tina Turner – our funky-haired airstrip warthog – is doing fine after successfully avoiding attention from the wild dogs recently.

Fred – our bushbuck – is as always in and around camp, in good condition and drinking all the water from the bird baths as usual. Our two favourite bull elephants are still visiting regularly; Titan ruling the roost as usual and the Gardener living up to his name pruning camps’ trees and grasses.

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We would like to thank all of our guests this season for sharing in our experiences; we hope to see you again here in the wild heart of Africa.

 

All our best wishes and see you in the new season!

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Phil, Tricia, Roel, Nico, Godlisten, Saning’o, Idrissa and the whole Beho Beho family.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Roel – 23 February

roelblogEven though we had given up on them, the rains have arrived (better late than never). So finally the trees are starting to grow a more vibrant green and are flowering, the grasses are regenerating and the herbivores do not have to travel long distances between food and water-sources anymore. The large carnivores however will have to work just a bit harder for their meals as they cannot lie around the sparse water sources anymore and wait for their prey to come to them.

The weird thing is the amount of dead and dying hippos that are being found all over the place just after the so-called life giving rain. This is a result of what is called the Re-feeding Syndrome. This basically means that in times of prolonged low calorie intake the body changes the way it functions and starts utilizing fatty acids and amino acids as fuel in place of carbohydrates. This is actually just a small part of what happens but I do not want to go into the full medical details of it all as that is way too complex. When food becomes available again and the hippos can feed on nutritious grasses the changes in the internal workings of the body can be detrimental to the animal and in the worse case lead to death due to stresses on the cardio-vascular system. So they over-eat after the dry season and that can be very detrimental to the weakest individuals in the population, with this season having a prolonged dry season the number of stressed individuals was very high and so the amount of carcasses we find is quite large.

But for the most part these are the good times for the herbivores and they are quickly replenishing their fat-reserves in time for the mating seasons that are just around the corner. We can already see the changes in their behaviour as the males are becoming more and more territorial and aggressive towards other males. This is easiest to see in the herds of Impala where almost any disturbance will cause the males to start displaying and where the bachelor herds are not allowed to intermingle with the females anymore.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Saningo – 21 February

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We have been witnessing an extended dry season tormenting some of the games for the absence of water and grass to feed on. Although for some animals, mainly predators, this seems to be a good thing to have a good dry season, as they can simply roam around the few permanent water courses, like springs, lakes and rivers, knowing their potential prey has to come to them.

Predators like lions and hyenas seem to have been waiting at the water courses for their prey to come anddrink water so they can hunt easily. One of the sightings I have had was when I just arrived from home after my leave and with our operations director Alwyn whom was visiting from Dar. We landed at one of the airstrips bit far from the camp, so we had a nice little drive back towards the camp and as we were passing lake Tagalala we saw a pride of lions under the bushes. Driving a few meters forward we saw another lioness trying to hunt buffaloes. As we realized what we had encountered, the buffaloes got spooked and ran away, this was the opportunity the lioness had been waiting for, a chance to pick out one to catch in the confusion, everything started happening, but it was in the dense bush and we could barely see through to them, but in all the stampeding and confusion they ended up running right into the open where we could see that a lioness had caught hold of one. It was quite a battle as the buffalo would not fall down and the lioness was still clinging on the back side trying to drag it down or lodge her teeth into its spinal cord. At some stage lioness released the buffalo and started chasing it toward the rest of the pride, we saw a few more lions coming to join including one I am call a “super hunter” for the pride. Unfortunately they finally ended up back in the thick bush and we couldn’t see anything, just hear a huge battle and it seems that the buffalo was pulled down and killed there.

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While all that was happening over at Tagalala side, our local hyena clan was busy raiding the Msine spring right in front of the camp. Every night we’ve been hearing some buffalo stampedes and hyenas cackling and from the noises it was clear the hyenas were busy hunting. At that time the buffalo and other general game were so skinny and weak, they became easy prey for the hyena’s lurking at the spring. That dry period was a huge starvation time for the general games. The good news is at long last we have had some few huge rains, it has made a lot of the vegetation green up and some few water puddles appear all over the plains areas and add some water to some seasonal rivers. So now that is allowing the general game to thrive and they seem happier now as we see them fighting and playing with each other, impalas leaping all over the plains and chasing each other, elephants taking enjoyable mud baths as mud wallows start to appear. The weather also is not too hot and humid as would normally be the case in this season; it is sort of less humid which is so good for us too. After the start of the rains the wild dogs also popped out once, to make an appearance, it was a great morning when we saw this pack of wild dogs at the Beho Beho airstrip.

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Beho Beho Bushblog – Godlisten – 25th January

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Lake Manze is almost completely dried out now, but it is still a good area for game drives! My last drive there was very interesting and we had a lovely time, because it was like watching a movie. This movie was about two young Lion and cow Buffalo.

 

Our first sighting was Two Lions with a baby Warthog {piglet}. We heard the baboons making a lot of noise and running away very quickly, my first thought was predator although I couldn’t tell if it Lion or Leopard. We decided to drive closer to see what was going on, we found out it was a Lion who had caught a little piglet, it was very small, I may say it was something like one week old. It was interesting to watch the Lion try to figure out how to eat it, but finally he manage it.

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But the piglet was just a snack to that King of the jungle, so the lions decided to move close to the water and wait for more of their mobile food, which would be coming down to drink. The first one to show up was Elephant but it was too big for only two Lions, second one was a Wildebeest followed by Zebra but they didn’t reach the water, then a small heard of Buffalo came to drink, and that is where the show started.

 

The Lions waited until the Buffalo reached the water and they were now very close to each other. The Lions stood up and start to chase them, unfortunately one of the cow Buffalo got stuck in the thick mud and because the young Lions were not that experienced in hunting they ended up just looking each other, it took about five to ten minutes for the Buffalo to get out of the thick mud and only then did the two species, predator and prey start to chase each other, first the Buffalo chased the Lions for a few meters before the Lions turned around and chased the Buffalo back, this continued until one of the buffalo’s charges was a serious one and the Lions were forced to climb into a dead tree. This gave a chance for the Buffalo to run away and join the rest of the herd, most of the time it does happen that the Buffalo protect each other or rescue one of their members from a difficult situation, but this time it was different, the cow Buffalo was forced to fight for her life and the herd was just watching, even a Hippo joined us to enjoy the show but not give help.

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Elsewhere on Lake Manze it is like party time for the Pelicans, after water level drops it makes fishing easy for them.

On the other side, at Lake Tagalala the water level is still good which makes this a perfect place for the Hippo to stick to at this time of the year until rain comes, though some of the Hippo’s have lost their life and this has happened because there is not enough food for them and also due to fighting, especially between the bulls.

 

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Beho Beho Bushmail – End of year 2016

Since the last Bushmail in October things have changed in the Selous. While the area directly around Beho Beho has received little rain other parts of the Selous have had some decent showers already. This makes for a hard life for the local herd of Impala and the resident male Gnus, whereas most of the Buffalo herds have moved towards the areas with good rains to find fresh grass. The stragglers of those herds have been getting into trouble with our local clans of Spotted Hyena, who now have the numbers and confidence to take down adult buffalo when they come down to the Msini River to drink.

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In recent days we have had more rain though and hopefully that will encourage the grass to grow and give our ‘locals’ some reprieve from the hardships of a prolonged dry season.

But every cloud has a silver lining and the waterhole has been spectacular during the days and nights attracting animals to our doorstep to come for a drink. Almost every day will bring at least one Elephant bull into camp but otherwise there is a succession of Impala, Warthog, Waterbuck and Yellow Baboon coming in for a sip or two. But the nights have really stood out with large congregations of Hippo, Buffalo and Elephant vying for a spot at the waterhole with good numbers of Hyena skulking around waiting for their turn.

Although no new Lion pride has taken the area around Beho Beho over since the mysterious disappearance of Bibi’s pride in the beginning of the season, we have been getting good sightings of them. From time to time the Phantom Pride, whose matriarch we nicknamed “The Bus” (yes, she is that big), comes through the Msini Valley and into camp. One morning, Phil and Roel came to camp early to investigate and found the entire pride in between Banda 4 and 5. We had also heard rumors that the Black Panther Pride had some additions and luckily Roel found a small part of the pride at Lake Tagalala recently where one of the older lionesses showed off her three new cubs.

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After the usual dry spell of the Wild Dogs during their denning season, various packs have been spotted roaming around. Sometimes we see them from camp on the plains at the big Baobab and from our vantage point we really get a good view of their tactics when chasing game. It can also be fun to watch them amble up to a territorial Gnu bull to see if he is willing to run away so that they can give chase, only to be chased themselves. The lone bulls do not survive out there alone because they do not know how to defend themselves!

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So we look back to another year with so much happening around us and we are happy that we can welcome our guests to visit us in this little piece of the world where time almost stands still.

Greetings from Phil, Tricia, Roel, Nico, Simba, Saning’o, Godlisten and the rest of the Beho Beho Family. We all hope you had a festive season filled with joy and loved ones.

 

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Centenary Blog Sir Frederick Courteney Selous DSO 31st Dec 1851 – 4th Jan 1917 ….Part 2

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Sir Frederick Courteney Selous DSO

31st Dec 1851 – 4th Jan 1917….Part 2

During this second stint in Africa, Selous formed an association with Cecil Rhodes, whom was at the time one of the richest men in the world and was premier of the Cape. Selous used his knowledge of the area to lead an expedition of pioneers up in to Mashonaland and formed a colony in the area and was later instrumental in the formation of Rhodesia. Working under the employ of Rhode’s chartered company he was paid in De Beers shares and hence need not worry about money anymore.

Selous returned once more to England during which time he married Gladys Maddy with whom he had two sons. However Selous soon went back to Africa to fight in the first Metabele war. He was shot and injured but survived a flesh wound to the chest. This uprising was eventually quashed and Selous bought land near Bulawayo and settled there with his wife in 1896 – though not for long.

When Leander Jameson, with the full knowledge of Cecil Rhodes, attacked the Boers (Colloquial term for the Afrikaner people) in the Transvaal, with whom Selous had always kept good relations, in an attempt to gain control of the area where gold had been recently been discovered. Selous was disgusted with Jameson and Rhodes.

Then the Mashona (tribe) uprising along with the 2nd Metabele war, which Selous fought in, put Selous and his family in great danger and resulted in a disappointed Selous moving back to England. It was though during this time that Selous met 2 men of consequence fighting alongside them in the 2nd Metabele war. One Robert Baden Powell and Frederick Russell Burnham, who were both extraordinary men in their own right and were the inspiration for and in essence the founders of the International Scouting movement.

Upon Selous’s return to England he and his wife settled on an estate in Surrey, where Selous continued to write and enjoy the life of an English country gent. His writings found their way into the hands of US President Theodore Roosevelt and the pair became firm friends.

This friendship lead to his return to Africa through Mombasa as he accompanied Teddy Roosevelt, beginning his famous African hunting safari in 1909.  Selous did not lead the safari as he felt the party was too large, but was involved in its logistics and out-fitting in addition to joining as a member from time to time along the way.

In 1914 the First World War began and Selous was repeatedly turned down in his requests to be drafted. It is said that even Lord Kitchener himself turned him down.

However in February 1915 following a disastrous attempt to land near 10,000 men at the coastal settlement of Tanga and the ensuing slaughter by 120 Germans aided by 1,000 local Askaris (soldiers), Selous was eventually accepted into the 25th Battalion of Royal Fusiliers, or as they were otherwise known: “the old and the bold” this description however is a bit misleading – these may not have been young recruits (although some were) but they were a wide range of adventurers, bushmen, outdoorsmen and overall tough characters. Selous was initially brought in as Lieutenant and company commander. The Fusiliers first mission together was a success, even though they took heavy casualties, when they attacked a German radio station way up in the North East of Tanzania in a place called Bukoba and remained this the only British victory in East Africa for months.

Selous now promoted to Captain and having been in early 1916 awarded the Distinguished Service Order for excellent service, moved south, marching from Morogoro and then Kisaki and crossing the Mgeta river arrived to our beloved Beho Beho area. The engagements that followed have had many versions told about them, however what we know for sure is that:

On 4th January at around 1030am, Selous, in the area we now call the battlefields and leading his men from the front, moved slightly out of cover to scout a nearby wooded ridgeline with his field glasses (binoculars) whereby he was shot by a German soldier in the neck the projectile hitting his field glasses on the way.

He was buried were he fell.

He was in life awarded:

The Founders Medal of the Royal Geographic Society for his surveys and explorations over: 20 years in Zambesia.

The British South Africa Medal.

Distinguished Service Order.

In 1922  several smaller sections of game reserve were amalgamated into one and named Selous Game Reserve posthumously in his honour. Frederick Courteney Selous’s death was greatly and sincerely mourned, such were the man’s achievements in life and his character.

His legacy lives on here in Selous G. R.

Two quotes I like pertaining to Selous and his death are as follows:

Theodore Roosevelt said of him:

“There was never a more welcome guest to the White House than Selous. He told us stories of his hunting adventures. He not only spoke simply and naturally, but he acted the part, first of himself and then of the game, before the whole scene was vivid before our eyes. He led a singularly adventurous and fascinating life, and he closed his life as such a life ought to be closed, by dying in battle for his country, while rendering her valiant and effective service”

Major Philip Jacobus Pretorious DSO was Chief Scout for General Smuts (then in overall command of the British East African campaign) and in his book Jungle Man Pretorious  wrote:

“Captain Selous, of the 25th Royal Fusiliers, who had hunted big game north of the Zambesi  even before my time, was buried close to were he fell in the African wilds, where the lions serenade the spirit of a great shikaree. I think he would have liked to die, in the face of the enemy, and to be buried where he sleeps his long rest in the remote jungle land”

The picture in this blog contains Selous’ actual field glasses, which he was lifting to his eyes as the fatal bullet hit, first the binoculars and then Captain Selous. The binoculars were picked up by Frontiersman Jonathon Taylor whom was with Captain Selous at the time.

Taylors grandson (also a Jonathon) and his wife Rosalind, we are privileged to have as our guests this week, they brought the binoculars with them and we have spent the day today piecing together the events of those fateful days, on site at the battlegrounds and at Captain Selous’ grave. What we have pieced together really is deserving of another blog in the next weeks.

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Centenary Blog Sir Frederick Courteney Selous DSO 31st Dec 1851 – 4th Jan 1917 ….Part 1

philblogOn the 4th January we celebrate the life of an extraordinary man whom died fighting in the service of his country just a few kilometres from our beloved Beho Beho and whose simple grave still stands there today.

F.C. Selous, by all accounts was an athletic man with striking blues eyes, a man whose presence dominated the room. He came to be known in his time as a great explorer, adventurer, naturalist, one of the first conservationists and, late on in life, a soldier. The books he wrote surrounding his exploits inspired people across the western world. He was what we might now call a “great white hunter” and he also represents what we would see as the classic English country gent of the late 1800s.

In order to give justice to the life of such a great man, I shall split this blog into 2 parts, the second of which we shall post on the anniversary of his death.

The name Selous dates back to 1600s Jersey, when an Englishman, Philip Slow married a Jersey girl and in their son’s name, on the birth certificate Slow was transliterated (because Jersey was francophone at the time) into Selous.

Fredrick Courteney Selous was born into a well off family; his father was, for a period, the chairman of the London Stock Exchange.  He attended the English private school of Rugby, but he was not the most academic of students and never graduated. Sent then to Switzerland and Germany by his father to complete his schooling, he was inspired by the works of Dr David Livingstone and more interested in exploring the wilds of the continent, hunting and collecting. He later had to flee Prussia to escape imprisonment after knocking a game warden unconscious who caught him stealing buzzard eggs for his collection.

Following this his father relented to his son’s childhood dream to become a hunter in Africa and so in 1871 Frederick landed in what is now Port Elizabeth in South Africa with £400 in his pocket.

He quickly made his way north to Matabeleland (now part of Zimbabwe) and presented himself at the court of the Matabele king, Lobengula, requesting permission to hunt big game in his kingdom. Lobengula laughed at Selous, being just a 21 year old boy. The King told him to go where ever he wished, most likely thinking he would never see Selous again.

The following 7 years were spent in high adventure and hunting, notably for elephant, with which Selous met initial success. However towards the end of this period, he had a bad run, encountering very few elephants, suffering disease, swiftly dwindling funds and nearly being trampled by an elephant cow fuelling his decision to return to England in 1880. It should be noted here that these were different times and that although it would be easy to see Selous’s hunting of elephant in a negative light due to the state of elephant numbers today (mostly due to illegal poaching and habitat loss), Selous actually hunted rather few elephant compared to his contemporaries and it is believed that this is because he was one of the first of his generation to voice the opinion that the hunting of elephant at those levels was unsustainable to the overall population.

Selous used this interlude to write a book about his adventures – A Hunter’s wanderings in Africa, published in 1881. The book was a big hit and sold out 3 separate editions. This was just the first of Selous’ many literary works based on his African escapades. The epic nature of his adventures captured the imagination of many, both in the UK and USA. Today you would have to part with a good few hundred pounds to get yourself a 1st edition of one of his books.

As we all know though Africa gets into your blood and Selous was soon back in Africa and back at the Lebengula’s court. This time he wished to engage in African exploration and to collect and hunt specimens for the British Natural History Museum. Selous collected in his lifetime over 5000 plant and animal specimens, including 524 mammals from 3 continents, greatly adding to the understanding of natural history at the time….To be continued.

Acknowledgement:  

I used numerous sources in the research of this blog but chief amongst them was the wonderful book Wild Heart of Africa: The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. Featuring numerous authors and edited by Rolf D. Boldus

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