Wildlife Report: Autumn 2024 (February – April)

Whether you’re a summer person or a winter person, the end of the warmer months always holds an element of sadness; days getting shorter and cooler, trees becoming bare and migratory birds making the journey north once again. The autumn season is marked by its own kind of abundance though, as wildlife sightings become increasingly prolific (thanks to better visibility in the bush and their concentration around permanent water sources) and Victoria Falls moves towards high water.

“Cooler weather” is all relative of course, as daytime temperatures in this part of the world hover around 30ºC/86ºF–not exactly frigid! Mornings and evenings out on game drive may require an extra layer or two, but all in all it’s a lovely time of year to be enjoying the great outdoors and making the most of the lower rainfall.

With fewer rain showers, the landscape begins its annual shift from the vivid greens of summer to the molten metals of winter; the wilderness transforming slowly to shades of bronze, pewter and gold.These earthy tones make for a spectacular backdrop for wildlife photography, as the colours complement the colouring of so many of our indigenous species, including lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants, antelope and more.

As we near the halfway mark of our tenth year of conservation at Matetsi Private GameReserve, we find ourselves contemplating the sweetness of these seasonal changes; how they chart the progress of our rewilding journey and the return of this remarkable wilderness to the beauty of its original, untouched state. It is truly an honour and a privilege to be the guardians of this very precious place.

Wildlife Movements & Sightings

Wildlife sightings continue to be both rich and rewarding at Matetsi Private Game Reserve,where the weekly reports abound with news of all the usual suspects – elephants, buffalo,lions, baboons, wildebeest, zebra… the list goes on–as well as little surprises in the form of species like pangolin, cheetah, honey badger and aardwolf.

The growing biodiversity of the region causes ripples of excitement across the property but none more so than in the conservation team, whose role in creating this extraordinary wildlife experience for our guests cannot be understated. As much as biodiversity benefits the ecology of the area, it also has a knock-on effect for the tourism economy by helping to put Victoria Falls on the map as an attractive safari destination. As more visitors are drawn to our beautiful corner of Zimbabwe, so too is critical funding for conservation and community projects, uplifting both people and animals and making the case for their peaceful and prosperous coexistence.

Noteworthy wildlife activity included:

  • Vast herds of buffalo across the reserve as well as the ubiquitous breeding herds of elephant
  • Big troops of baboons throughout the reserve, 60-80 animals in number
  • Consistent sightings of wildebeest; a barometer species for our conservation efforts as they were once extremely scarce in this area
  • A number of bat-eared foxes as well as servals, civets and genets
  • White-headed vultures at Gardiner’s Pan
  • Wild dogs accompanying our staff vehicle into work
  • Four lionesses with five cubs in late March
  • Pink-backed pelicans at Namakana Pan
  • Seven southern ground hornbills (considered endangered in Southern Africa) in one sighting at the vlei in early April
  • A bushbaby at Mpisi East
  • 12 hyena fighting two subadult lions over a fresh carcass near Namaqua Pan
  • Two hyenas stealing an impala kill from a leopard
  • A group of four cheetah, suspected to be a mother and her three sub-adult cubs, exploring the reserve from mid-April onwards (at the time of writing, they remain in the area)
  • Two jackals joining the cheetahs in a wildebeest chase
  • A pangolin crossing the road after dark as Head Guide, Paul Ngorima, made his wayto town one evening

Victoria Falls

Lower than usual rainfall has slowed the annual filling of the falls so while March signals thebeginning ofthehigh water season, levels aren’t quite as high as they otherwise would be at this time of year. While the volume of water making its way into the gorge is fluctuating, the overall flow figures are growing slowly but surely as we head into winter. And despite the fact that the peak of high water is expected to be a little delayed, the Falls remain extremely impressive, with water flowing across the full width of the gorge and a dramatic spray cloud casting misty rainbows across the chasm.

Conservation Update

It’s no secret that weather patterns around the world are becoming more and more erratic,and Southern Africa is no exception. This year’s unpredictable wet season has seen approximately 30% less rainfall than in previous years, although some late showers in April have helped to sustain the vegetation to some degree. The full effects of what looks to be a drought year will only be seen at the end of winter but there are also signs of hope. For example, the annual impala rut started a little early this year–often a sign of the equally early arrival of the summer rains.

The poor rains have not impacted wildlife numbers however, as young kudu, impala and giraffe were seen in abundance cross the reserve this autumn. Even zebra foals were thriving; a species that is usually first choice of our resident lions who seemed to be distracted by the sheer number of buffalo migrating between our pans and waterholes over the last few months.

As always, the bird life has been exceptional with pelicans and large flocks of spurwing geese seen regularly.Bee-eaters–including little, swallow-tailed and white-fronted – were everywhere to be seen, while the season’s other avian sightings included a very handsome female saddle-billed stork at Namakana Pan, a juvenile bateleur on repeat at the Y-junctionandanAfrican harrier hawk hunting in the vicinity of the camp. A pair of African fish eagles calling nearby also evoked the classic sound of the river for our guests.

Our anti-poaching scouts remained ever-vigilant through the tail end of the rainy season,with the main interventions being the reduction of illegal fishnets on the river. We are also delighted to report that no snares have been laid by poachers at Matetsi Private Game Reserve in months–an astonishing victory from a conservation perspective!

Guest Testimonial

“We had the privilege of staying at this amazing property, the attention to detail and commitment to first class hospitality and conservation cannot be understated. The staff and management of Matetsi are first class and take incredible pride and ownership of this amazing place.”–Anthony D, April 2024


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