Wildlife Report: Spring 2023 (August – October)

In most parts of the world, Spring implies a slow thawing of the winter chill accompanied by longer
days, soft breezes and an abundance of colourful blossoms. In our beautiful corner of northwestern
Zimbabwe, we tend to launch head-first into summer, skipping the gentle transition almost entirely
and going straight to fierce heat and shimmering horizons.

By the end of August, the hottest time of year had well and truly arrived, with one extremely hot day
(35ºC/95ºF and upwards) officially marking the end of winter and foreshadowing the sweltering tail
end of the dry season. September and October were both hot and dry, as is expected before the
cooling rains arrive in November, scorching the landscape and concentrating the wildlife around
permanent sources of water, like our solar-powered boreholes.

A few sprinkles of rain in late October caused an eruption of green shoots – a harbinger of the
dramatic transformation we can expect next month when more consistent rainfall transforms the dry
leaves and red dust into a lush, verdant oasis.

Photo: Steven Lake

Wildlife Movements & Sightings

The star of the show over the past few months has been vast herds of buffalo dotting the landscape. In
an area which was once, prior to the establishment of Matetsi Private Game Reserve, practically
devoid of wildlife, we now see buffalo in their hundreds and thousands – remarkable for a species
whose numbers had dwindled dramatically prior to the creation of the conservation area.

The migratory birds – most conspicuously the yellow-billed kites – have started to make their way to
the Southern Hemisphere for the summer. We expect to see more sightings of European Bee-eaters,
Red-backed Shrikes, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Broad-billed Rollers and European Rollers (amongst many
others) in the coming months, many of them in their full breeding plumage and enjoying the profusion
of insect life on offer.

Photo: Steven Lake

Among the other interesting and particularly noteworthy sightings this season were:

  • Three dagga boys (older, usually solitary buffalo bulls that have been ousted from their herd by more virile youngsters) quietly feeding on the Westwood Vlei when one happened to move over to a honeybadger burrow. Let’s just say it didn’t end well for the buffalo, who has promptly chased by two screaming ratels incensed at having their peace disturbed!
  • A fishing trip on the Zambezi with guests was continuing without much success when suddenly a crocodile popped up with a large bream in its jaws and a rather smug look on its face… We’ll have to have a chat with him about good sportsmanship.
  • In a “circle of life” moment, three hooded vultures were watching a match between two jackals and a brown snake eagle, in which the bird received a broken wing. A day later it was eaten by the jackals.
  • More drama on the Westwood Vlei when a lone buffalo began making its way from Mabuza Pan towards the rest of the breeding herd, inadvertently walking into four lionesses lying in wait along the way. Luckily for the buffalo, it was particularly tough and managed to evade the attempt on its life before rejoining the herd.
  • Two elephants quarrelling over a tasty branch when one, rather unceremoniously, turned and gave the other a hard kick to the face. Note: Will invite to sportsmanship seminar with the crocodile.

Victoria Falls

As we approach the conclusion of the annual dry season in northern Zimbabwe, the water levels of the Zambezi – and subsequently of Victoria Falls – are at their lowest point for the year. Despite this, there is still a full curtain of water across the main falls with excellent visibility, light spray and lots of rainbows. No wonder it is a favourite season for photography this wonder of the natural world!

Conservation Update

Snare poaching – the practice of laying indiscriminate wire traps for unsuspecting animals, usually as a form of subsistence hunting – continues to be the most common and devastating poaching method in the African bush. While our in-house anti-poaching unit successfully undertakes round-the-clock desnaring operations to ensure the safety of our wildlife, animals from neighbouring reserves often wander onto the property having already been trapped and injured.

In such cases, as with a young lioness who was found on Matetsi Private Game Reserve in October with a wire snare cutting into her neck, our team works with Zimparks, the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust and other partners to locate and sedate the patient, remove the snare and treat the animal for any infection before releasing them once again into the wild.

Unfortunately a similar incident unfolded in September, when a young bull elephant was found with a snare tangled around its back legs while the other end was tied firmly to a tree. Luckily, the wire had not yet broken the skin so it was a fairly straightforward operation to remove and a positive prognosis for the handsome young elephant.

We are incredibly grateful to our conservation and guiding teams, as well as our partners, for helping us to ensure that both of these stories had a happy ending.

Guest Testimonial

“Andie and the entire team made us feel welcome from the moment we arrived. Our bush drives were memorable, the food was out of this world, the staff accommodated any request and the views were outstanding. Our group took advantage of spa treatments, a visit to a local village, a tour of Victoria Falls, ziplining, bush breakfasts, dinners under the stars, fishing, sunset cruise, plunges into our pool and of course our bush drives. Thanks to the entire staff for a truly memorable bucket-list visit!” – KF, October 2023


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