The early part of 2015 in iSimangaliso Wetland Park brought some tremendous excitement as far as visitors and staff of this world heritage site are concerned
As the Park takes solid shape and grows its game population and species range, the discovery of lion cubs heralded the beginning of the next generation of these predators which were reintroduced in December 2013.
A lioness and two of her cubs were caught on camera traps in the uMkhuze section of iSimangaliso Wetland Park in January. Judging by their size in these pictures they were estimated to be three months old at the time. Excited visitors and staff have subsequently confirmed the presence of three cubs, as well as another pregnant female. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Patrick Mbathe who guides trails and game drives at uMkhuze also reported the exciting sighting of four cheetah cubs recently.
Social media is buzzing with fantastic photographs posted by visitors to iSimangaliso, in particular kuMasinga Hide in the uMkhuze section which is gaining something of a cult status as the place to see an ever-changing show of animal behaviour. iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis said, “With summer 2015 being noticeably drier than usual, game at the permanently-watered hide has been prolific. Lions, a perennial favourite, have been particularly accommodating in showing themselves for regular photographs, as well as much other interesting animal activity.”
Amongst his numerous incredible images captured from uMkhuze’s kuMasinga Hide, regular park visitor Romano Volker recently witnessed a moving drama when a young wildebeest calf became trapped in mud. The mother and other members of the herd rallied around to nudge the baby free. He also witnessed a similar scene with a zebra and her foal. “I have seen this in birds, lions, elephants especially… all animals care. It is too awesome to watch,” he said.
Another of Romano’s great sightings at kuMasinga Hide was of a Woolly-necked stork playing tug of war with a terrapin over a frog. (The terrapin got the prize!)
Patrick and Dominic Rollinson, participating in one of iSimangaliso’s Birding Big Day teams in November 2014, reported that their highlight was seeing an aardvark in uMkhuze, while also clocking up an impressive list of bird species that saw them placed in the top 5 nationally. This prompted Rusty Lupton to send us this great photograph that he took at kuMasinga Hide in 2012 – an incredibly rare and wonderful sighting.
uMkhuze visitor Jasper van Vessem sent us this photo of a breeding herd of elephants at uMkhuze. Jasper, who took part in the dry run for last year’s iSimangaliso MTB 4 Day through the same area, quipped that he was “very pleased not be on his (single speed) bicycle this time”!
Not to be outdone, the Eastern Shores section has also produced some exciting discoveries for visitors. Stacey Farrell, a guide with iSimangaliso concession-holder Heritage Tours and Safaris, took these pictures of a Grey Crowned crane at Nsombiza Pan – a most uncommon sighting for the area. Stacey said she last saw a pair of these birds about four years ago. “It was truly an amazing experience sitting with this bird,” she said. “He seemed to have made some friends as he was surrounded by Spur-winged geese and wherever they went he was sure to follow. Slowly the restoration of the Eastern Shores is proving to be fruitful as more birds find their home where there were once plantations”. Spur-winged geese have also been seen grazing on the Western Shores’ newly rehabilitated grasslands.
St Lucia resident Dennis King, well known for his outstanding underwater images, has also sent us a great shot of an African finfoot on Lake St Lucia estuary. The bird caused great excitement for the 37 Mtubatuba Bird Club twitchers on their Sunday estuary boat cruise.
Mtubatuba Bird Club Chairperson and iSimangaliso staff member, Ingelore Taylor took some spectacular pelican photos at the False Bay section of the Park recently. “We saw huge flocks of Great White and also a few Pink-backed pelicans,” she reported. Pelicans are regularly seen in various parts of the Park, including Kosi Bay, uMkhuze, Charters Creek, Lake St Lucia Estuary mouth and the uMfolozi River mouth near Maphelane.
For more information on the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, visit our website at www.isimangaliso.com. .