Monday, May 9, 2011

Marloth's Pythons



At approximately 5pm on Sunday 17 April, Johan from Field Security told Rudi Schoeman, a Marloth Park Snake Handler, that a large Python had caught a fully grown impala ewe in the Parkland off Renoster Street. Rudi and our Municipal Game Ranger, Jaco Minnaar, saw the large snake wrapped around the ewe. Johan had thought the impala was caught in a snare as it was bleating. He was so was surprised to find an approximately 5m python (weighing about 60 kg) constricting a fully grown impala ewe. The python’s constriction restricts the prey’s circulation and nervous system as well as its respiratory system. The next day Rudi found the python which had already swallowed the whole impala. Note on photo of the snakes scales how the scales have separated to allow the skin to stretch to make space for the enormous meal. The python swallows its prey in the following fashion:

The python disengages its bottom jaw from the top jaw. The bottom jaw then separates into two sections and operates as a ‘scoop’. The swallowing process begins with left hand incisors embedding in the prey and then and holding it, then the snake turns its head to engage the right side incisors. Releasing the left hand incisors, it turns its head again and embeds its left incisors further forward into its prey. Thus it slowly swallows its already dead prey. Note: the python’s teeth are not called fangs as they do not inject venom. So you cannot be poisoned by a python bite but it does have a vicious bite which can then become infected.

This python will take 2 – 3 weeks to digest this impala – it will not move at all for about a week, unless disturbed. Then it will not need to feed again for 2 – 3 months. It is very important not to disturb a feeding python or it will regurgitate its meal in order to be able to ‘escape’ what it sees as potential danger.

Pythons are beautiful, protected snakes and we are privileged to have this magnificent creature in Marloth Park and Lionspruit.

Prepared by Joce Gordon and Rudi Schoeman 18/04/11

Monday, March 28, 2011

Leopards in Marloth ! Be aware.......

Leopard Spoor.

Leopard spoor on a drive way in Naboom Street. Sunday Morning 13 February 2011.

Length 100mm long x 90 mm wide.

Leopard {Panthera Pardus}

The Leopard

The most secretive and elusive of the large carnivores, the leopard is also the shrewdest. Pound for pound, it is the strongest climber of the larger cats and is capable of killing prey far larger than itself.

The coloring of the leopard varies from white to bright golden brown, spotted with black spots and rosettes. The rosettes consist of groups of 5 to 6 spots arranged in a tight ring.
The tail is longer than half the body length measured from head to tail. This fierce animal has small round ears and long whiskers growing from dark spots on the upper lip. The size of the leopard varies considerably. The leopard differs from the cheetah in having shorter legs, and rosette-like spots and is without the cheetah’s black “tear” marks from eye to mouth.

Quick Facts

Name: Panthera Pardus
Size: The leopard ranges in size from 1 to almost 2 metres long, and weighs between 30 - 70 kg. Females are typically around two-thirds the size of males.

Diet: Carnivorous; Small animals and medium size antelope.
Habitat: Bush and riverine forests. Usually in or near thickets on mountain sides or along streams and rivers. Leopards are mainly nocturnal animals but are also seen during the day, especially in the early mornings and late afternoons. They usually forage alone except in the mating season.

The Leopard

Leopards are shy, cunning and very dangerous, especially when wounded. Leopards are very good tree climbers and can pull large prey up a tree to protect it from other predators or scavengers in the vicinity. They return later to feed again. Leopards still occur outside conservation areas.

Socialisation: Leopards are basically solitary and go out of their way to avoid one another. Each animal has a home range that overlaps with its neighbours; the male’s range is much larger and generally overlaps with those of several females. A leopard usually does not tolerate intrusion into its own range except to mate. Unexpected encounters between leopards can lead to fights.

Reproduction: Leopard breed throughout the year.
Gestation: The gestation period is 3 months. Number of young is 2 to 3 although more have been recorded.

Life Expectancy: 20 years.
Predators: Humans.

What happened to Marloth's Cheetahs???

A Cheetah has recently been sighted in and around Marloth Park. Of the 4 Cheetah previously seen in Marloth Park :

* One died in Lionspurit of unknown causes,

* One was killed by a train at Mjejane and

* The other 2 were darted and released at Afsaal in Kruger Park.

Good News :

About 8 ostriches will be released in Marloth Park soon. There has been a sighting of a Nyala family as well.

Khaya Umdani's Genet

Khaya Umdani's new pet -

a spotted genet!


The Small-Spotted Genet is slightly smaller than the Large-Spotted Genet, and the markings are more distinct black and white and without a rusty tinge. The tail is white tipped, as opposed to the black tipped tail of the Large-Spotted Genet. Overall body colour is more a dirty white covered with black spots and forming lines from the head to the tail. Along the spine is a crest of erectile long black hairs. It has distinct white patches on the face below the eyes, which is less prominent around the mouth and on the forehead. They have retractile claws. Tails are long and ringed black and white.


The Small-Spotted Genet has a diet which consists mainly of small mammals and insects. Bats, birds, reptiles, amphibians, millipedes, centipedes and scorpions have been recorded as their food source. It would appear to eat less fruit than the Large Spotted Genet.


Two litters are produced per year, respectively of two to three young. The gestation period is between 70-77 days. The ears and eyes of young only open after 5-18 days. Canines erupt within the first month. Young take solid foods only after a few weeks, but continue suckling for several months.


Almost entirely solitary, pairs are seldom seen, probably only during the mating season. Habitat preference tends towards drier woodlands, although it is also found in riverine habitats. It often lies up in trees during the day, but is more commonly found in holes in the ground and in rocky refuges. It is less arboreal than the Large-Spotted Genet.

Where they are found

Although this species appears to have a wide range through most of Southern Africa, within that it has a disjunct occurrence coinciding predominantly with the drier districts or areas of Southern Africa. It is absent from the west coast of Namibia as well as the west and southwest coast of South Africa.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our visit to Marloth February 2011

Me and Danie were fortunate to visit the Khayas during February for 2 weeks. Needless to say, another great 2 weeks in our lifes. During the summer months the bush was blessed with more rain then last year, turning it into one lush, green paradise! A lot of animals were removed earlier and this action caused them to have a lot of babies this year. Almost all the warthogs have more then one baby and they are just so amazing. At Khaya Romantica's back door a mother warthog came to feed her young every afternoon around 15h00. I have been sitting there with my camera every afternoon waiting for them.

The actual problem to me seems to be that the warthog population will not be curbed by culling. They definably have bigger litters...up to double as big, than last year before the culling. It would be unnatural for humans to have a permanent culling process in place. One gets so attached to the resident animals and it is quite a shock when you realise that a specific old regular visitor does not come around any more. The solution that we all would much rather have is to have the fences lifted and let the cheetahs, lions, hyenas and other predators do the natural culling. As they say... Africa is a tough country and the cruelty only reach an unusual level when man takes part in the battles.

On that note we were sitting at the newly built outside fireplace at Khaya Romantica one evening waiting for the bush baby to show his face. We could hear the laughter of a hyena and the far off call of a jackal. That is what naturally cause one to keep conversations down to the bear minimum short questions like: "did you hear that?" or a hushed: "listen!". The next moment the bush baby appeared and for some or other reason its normal nervous movements seemed to be in turbo action! It only hanged around the yogurt that we placed out for it for about 15 seconds before it leaped into the treetops and disappeared in the darkness. It must have been at the most after the third leap since it disappeared that we heard an anxious squirming which was muffled almost instantly. Within split seconds we could see something quite large flew away in the dull light of the small moon. The owl also needs to eat. We know that bush babies have a very close knit family life. One cannot help wondering whether this specific one had babies or not.

Sorry for such a tearjerker. It is reality though, and that story, together with the zebra mare and her newly born foul that lingered around Khaya Romantica for about three days and many other incidents adds up to what we've come to love about this place. The African bush !!

Bush Babies - one of the cuties animals!


Its fingernails are rounded like our own, with the exception of the second toe which is modified as a toilet claw. This pointed claw is used to groom the head and neck fur and to clean the ears. The fingers and toes have flat disks of thickened skin which aid in grasping tree limbs and slippery surfaces. The index finger of each hand is degenerate (much shorter than the other fingers of the hand) in order to facilitate a better grip around larger branches. The Mohol, or South African Lesser Galago is characterised by the presence of a tooth-comb.

The coat of this species is brownish grey to light brown. However, the sides and the limbs always have a tendency towards a distinctly yellow colouration. There are markings between the eyes as well as a dark ring around each eye.


Insects and the gum of trees, they will lick dew and rain water from cracks and crevises.


They generally give birth to twins before the rainy season, which is immediately followed by a second oestrus. Well before the onset of the next dry season a second set of twins are born. Gestation period is 125 days. A female will mate with up to six males during the peak of her oestrus cycle. Females ‘park’ their infants in constructed nests while they search for food, moving them away from danger by carrying them in their mouths. Males will mark females by urinating on them.


The Lesser Bush baby, known to scientists as Galago moholi, is a small, tree-dwelling primate active by night. They are capable of leaps of remarkable distance between trees. At times they may venture on the ground, when they walk either on their hind legs or on all fours. Apart from adult males avoiding confrontation with each other by maintaining individual territories, their social system is similar to that of the Thick-tailed Bush baby. Adults are solitary foragers, but companions do meet at night to interact, and congregate before going to sleep during the day in groups of up to six.

This species has at least 18 different calls, that can be correlated with definite modes of behaviour. These belong to 3 functional groups, those being, social contact, aggressive, defensive, and annunciatory behaviours. Their great reliance upon vocal communication is part of their survival strategy upon recognition of an enemy. A Bush baby's eyes cannot move in their sockets, and so the head is continually active when searching for prey. They have highly developed hearing, and their ears have a complex series of folds, which enables them to position the source of a sound very accurately. Hearing is acute enough to hear the gliding of an owl.

Their movements are extremely quick, and they can catch grasshoppers and moths in the air with their front feet, while holding onto a tree with their hind legs. Also nocturnal, the Lesser Bush baby is very particular about its appearance, grooming conscientiously before embarking on a night's foraging expedition.


Within these locales its preferred habitat is the savannahs, woodlands, riverine bush and the fringes of forests. In particular, near the Limpopo River between points of confluence with the Marico and Notwani Rivers. Being a South African species, it has a relatively high tolerance for temperature variation.

Where they are found

They can be found in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mocambique, Transvaal and Swaziland.


They are preyed upon by the larger Owl species, taken by snakes, servals, African Wild Cats and genets. The main threat to the lesser bush baby is fire. These animals are not capable of moving over very large distances and may face severe consequences if fire sweeps through their area as this may destroy their available food supply in the areas they frequent. This may help to explain why they are found in the moist and short grass habitats, a form of protection from fire.

Interesting facts

Many African tribes are superstitious about this little primate - its laughing, chattering sounds are attributed to a mysterious giant snake with a feathered head, arrayed in rainbow colours, which kills evil intruders by pecking a neat hole in their head!

Thick tailed Bush baby - Appearance

The thick-tailed bush baby is the largest galago species. Head and body length ranges from 297 to 373mm, and tail length, from 415 to 473mm. Body size is sexually dimorphic with males being significantly larger than females.

The coloration of the fur is silvery brown to gray with the underside usually lighter in colour. The fur is dense, woolly, quite long, wavy, and usually described as without luster. They often furl and unfurl their ears giving them a quizzical expression. The eyes are forward pointing and large.

As with most galago species, there are flat disks of thickened skin at the ends of the fingers and toes useful in grasping limbs. The fingers are long, and the toes are flattened with flattened nails.


Thick-tailed bush babies are mostly gumivorous and frugivorous, they are known to eat insects as well. In a study in South Africa, approximately 62% of their diet was gum, supplemented by fruits and insects. Thick tailed bush babies varies with locality.

In Gauteng, South Africa, insects were estimated to comprise 5% of the diet, while in Kenya insects may account for 50-70% of the diet. One insect that may serve as a seasonal food supply is the large termite, Macrotermes falcigar. When these termites are in the winged form, thick-tailed bush babies have been observed eating them off the ground without using the hands. Generally their diet includes, insects, fruit, leaves, flowers, lizards, eggs and birds.


The birth season of the thick-tailed bush baby varies according to locality. It is restricted to November in the Gauteng and occurs in August and September in Zambia. Pregnancy peak in August in Zanzibar and Pemba. The female estrous cycle lasts approximately 44 days. Gestation is 133 days.

Litter size is generally 2 individuals but can be 3. Females reach sexual maturity at 2 years of age. After birth, females will leave their young in the tree while they leave to forage. They produce a rich energy-dense milk especially in comparison with anthropoid primates. This may be related to their lifestyle as anthropoid primates carry their young during lactation and this galago does not.

This species gives birth once a year, when vegetation is thick. Although in captivity it has been reported that this species has continuous estrus cycles, thus being able to give birth all year and not have a birth season. Nests are made in the tangles of vegetation.

One infant is born at a time for this species with twins being rare. Young are weaned at the beginning of the driest season. Infants become independent from their mothers between the fourth and fifth weeks of life. Both sexes reach maturity at about 20 months of age.


This is the most social of all known bush babies. This species, unlike other galagines, moves quadrupedally through the forest and bush. When this species jumps, it lands with hind limbs first. When it has to move on the ground in open spaces between the canopy, this species will hop.

They are active for an average of nine and a half hours a day during summer and twelve hours a day during the winter. This is a nocturnal species, with both sexes dispersing from the birth territory. Males will disperse further and at a younger age than females, so male membership in a given population changes more than females.

Males may disperse further than females so as to reduce the complications from inbreeding. Males and females have ranges that do not overlap with same-age individuals, but do share ranges with younger or older individuals. Males have home ranges that overlap one or more females. This species has a promiscuous mating system.

Thick tailed bush baby shows a social network without the structure of a foraging group. Females are dominant in this species. Adult males were found to follow adult females more in captivity than females followed males. Females also in captivity were found to act aggressively towards males.

Social play in thick-tailed bush babies consists of exaggerated walk, chasing, tail pulling, wrestling, non-aggressive biting, and pouncing. In infants these play behavioral patterns are found on the first day of life. Infants play more when they develop independence from their mothers during the fourth and fifth weeks of life.

They sleep in nests that are 5-12 meters off the ground. thick tailed bush baby sleep together during the day, but split up at night to forage. They have been found to move up to one kilometer through the night. They live in small groups of 2-6 individuals.

The composition of this group varies. It could be an adult pair with young, two adult females with young, or one adult female with young. The adult males are territorial and they seek home ranges that overlap several female home ranges. Thick-tailed bush babies take their hands and cup them, and then deposits urine on them.

Next they take that urine and spread it on the soles of the feet. When it walks, it leaves a little bit of urine on the substrate. Males urine-wash more frequently than females do, and when the female is in estrus, the male will deposit the urine directly upon the female, but all age classes perform this behavior. A thick tailed bush baby will urine-wash when foraging in a new area, looking at a strange object, during aggressive encounters, and social grooming. This behavior occurs more frequently in dominant individuals.

Where they are found

Thick tailed bush babies are found in the countries of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and on the islands of Zanzibar. This species lives in highland and coastal forests. This species also lives in riverine forests. The thick-tailed galago, or bush baby, is found in East Africa from southern Sudan to eastern South Africa and through southern Angola.

Prior to 1974 only six species were recognized, but by 1995 research has shown that in fact 17 species warrant recognition in Africa. As more of Africa’s forests are being scientifically explored and as scientific technology improves, the discovery of more new species is likely to continue.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Game Drives and other activities!

Khaya Umdani and Khaya Romantica's Activities and Rates for 2011

  • Full day Game Drive to Kruger 8 - 10 hours, including pick up and drop off at the lodge, entrance fees, packed breakfast and lunch - R770 per person
  • Half day Game Drive to Kruger 4 - 5 hours, including pick up and drop off at the lodge, entrance fees, packed breakfast - R550 per person
  • Morning walk in Kruger 2-3 hours, armed guide, pick up and drop off, entrance fees and snacks - R650 per person
  • Swazi Cultural Experience, pick up and drop off at the lodge, entrance fees, traditional village tour and dancing, buffet lunch, cash bar - R650 per person
  • Panorama Tour, Blyde River Canyon, Sabie, Hazyview, Graskop, waterfalls, Burk's Luck, etc. pick up and drop off, entrance fees, lunch - R950 per person or special rate for more then 5 guests. We can tailor make this activities to suit your needs.
  • Maputo day trip, pick up and drop of, city tour, museum, fresh food and seafood market, coastal drive and lunch at Casa do Sol - R1 500 per person
  • Chimp Eden, pick up and drop off, entrance fees, 2 hour show and lunch - R650 per person
  • Night Drive in Kruger with a bush braai, pick up and drop off, entrance fees, buffet braai in Kruger, cash bar (min 5 guests) - R750
Airport pick up and drop off available on request. Game drives can be done either in an open safari game driving vehicle or a luxury, air conditioned 14 seater Quantum bus.