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