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March 23, 2012

White Elephant Safari Newsletter March 2012

White Elephant friends,

Autumn is here…our favourite time of the year at White Elephant: tall green bush, beautiful balmy days, silent windless nights, shiny well fed animals, everything so perfect. Sometimes we wish we could push the pause button so everyone could have a chance to experience this special season at White Elephant. It is also the start of rutting season. Rutting provides for spectacular scenes of impala clashing horns and the sound of explosive snorts breaking the quiet of moonlit evenings. Full moon dates are: 6 April and 6 May (peak of impala rut).

We are most grateful to Disney Animal Kingdom, who has again provided funds to continue the vasectomy research & monitoring programme in Pongola Private Game Reserve. Three more immature elephant bulls have been identified for vasectomising by a South African team of veterinarians in June.

(See the EPMP website We will also be re-collaring most of the 2008 vasectomised bulls that have outgrown their collars. Please contact Stephanie at our Reservations office should you be interested in participating in one of these planned events.

Last week, there was much excitement amongst the Msindi community members on top of the Lebombo mountains: One of our sub-adult bulls crossed over the ‘isihlalo senNlovu’ (“saddle of the elephant”) in the Lake Jozini gorge whilst on a walkabout on the Phongolopoort Nature Reserve.

Our black rhino, giraffe and leopard encounters continue to cause much excitement amongst our field guides and guests. The following encounter titled “From one extreme to the other…” was written by Head Ranger Adriaan Crous:

06h30 am 3 March 2012 – prior to the rhino walk, procedures are discussed with the guests and confirmed that they understand what is to be expected. We set off from safari lodge as there has been a lot of rhino activity in the lodge area. 15 minutes in to our walk we find our first set of tracks igniting excitement and heightened anticipation. I re-assure guests of their safety. Conditions are perfect and in our favour. Then we discovered three fresh sets of black rhino tracks moving in a northernly direction…the slight breeze blowing from the mountain and across the dam feels fresh on our faces….

07h20 – The smell of black rhino fills the air as we come across a dung midden. The tannin odour from urine territorial scent marking is overwelming.

07h35 – The sighting…three black rhino: mother, sub-adult male and calf, in the open, moving from the shoreline towards the treeline. We take position behind a grevia bush and allow the animals to pass in front of us with the wind in our favour. The guests compose themselves. I remind them that ‘now’ is a good time for photo’s.

08h00 – The rhino move into the thickets to our north and I decide to abort the sighting with the intention of leaving the animals as we found them. Confidently and relieved we turn south, whispering as we walk, sharing our excitement and appreciation for the power of nature…and the incredible black rhino.

8h15 – With the morning sun on our backs, I spot a herd of giraffe to the west…the passive nature of these animals with their huge comfort zones allows for an experience contrary to the one we had just had with the rhino. We openly approach the giraffe making sure that they can see us. We slow our pace as we approach to about fifty meters, stopping, as I quickly scan our surroundings for any other activity. I instruct our guests to lie flat on their backs out of giraffe visibility. After ten minutes we hear the first thump of a huge hoove hitting the damp soil…thump…thump…closer and closer. I turn to look at the guests’ reactions as they lift their heads in absolute amazement at the approaching female giraffe. I smile as I wonder who is more confused: The guests or the giraffe? I truly don’t know what to say as the guests look at me for an explanation: The giraffe’s behaviour is a mystery; perhaps curiosity or…could it be concern…surely not? Closer and closer…the giraffe move, turning away but unable to move away from us, closer…and eventually four giraffe stand ten meters away, looking down on us…now seven meters…then we hear giraffe sounds…a long blowing sound followed by a short rumble, similar to that of elephant. This communication continues between the 2 females closest to us, confirming that giraffe, just like elephants communicate with infra sonic sounds…incredible, and not something one has chance to experience everyday. The guests’are concerned, afraid that the giraffe might step on them. I tell them to sit upright slowly so as not to spook the giraffe. Our UK guests are utterly amazed…What an awesome morning…from one extreme to another in a few hours…dangerous black rhino to passive giraffe but equal in the adrenalin rush.

To follow our up to date sighting reports you can link up to our White Elephant facebook page.

Our Facebook sunset/sunrise photo competition winners are Carmen Blumrick (1st price) and Karen Pretorius (2nd price), both from Durban. Congratulations to Carmen and Karen, we are looking forward to having you at the lodge! We would also like to thank everyone who entered the competition and helped us to make it a success.

Category: Blog

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