Memorable safari moments at Madikwe Game Reserve

We did a round up with our team at Morukuru Family Madikwe on some of the interesting safari highlights of the past year. Conservation and birding are two key themes that stood out… The Tswalu Lions: Rob Harrison-White from the Predator Research Project, that Morukuru Goodwill Foundation has supported since 2009, gave us an update on the Tswalu lion brothers that were relocated to Madikwe Game Reserve. “The young lions (around 2 years 6 months) were brought into the reserve in May 2021 initially together with an older and more experienced male lion, Madimo. Everything went very well and the Tswalu brothers became territorial in the southwest and the northwest of the reserve by about August 2023. Sadly, one was killed on the 8th of September 2023. The surviving Tswalu brother was now on his own meaning he was vulnerable to other male lions. We needed to bond him with another lion which we did in February 2024, with a slightly younger male, Shemega, who was also free roaming. And that bonding has been an absolute success. They've stuck together like glue since their release and have moved straight back to the northwest of the park. They are now moving around with two females, and one of the females now looks like she's pregnant. The whole idea of bringing the Tswalu’s into the reserve was to increase the genetic diversity, because we had very few introduced lions since 1995. It's taken us almost three years to get to a stage where it looks like the Tswalu will likely be able to impregnate some females in the northwest of the park.”
(c) Damien Ivan
(c) Damien Ivan
We have various lions that we see at Madikwe Game Reserve, and it is exciting to know that their diversity will be strengthened. If you have been following our social media you would have seen the Ashia cheetah female with her cubs. The three cubs are now around a year old and have headed out on their own so we will be watching their journey closely. Birding beauties:  We caught up with our field guide, Dean Pieters, who is a keen birder. “Madikwe has experienced one of the lowest rainfall patterns in the last few years, meaning it has been extremely dry. The rainfall we did have attracted the interest of various birds, and we had our fair share of interesting visitors on the reserve. One of the highlights that stands out was finding a pair of Burchell’s Coursers (Cursorius rufus) on the eastern side of our airstrip, which was a real surprise for me, almost pure disbelief when I found it. This bird enjoys dry and harsh habitats and normally occurs in Namibia, the Kalahari Basin, all the way up towards Angola. Madikwe Game Reserve sits on that transitional belt, between the Kgalagadi and the Kalahari Basin itself, so we are close enough for those birds to venture into this area, but it is incredibly rare. So that bird drew quite a bit of interest for the month or so that it spent time on the reserve. Other birding highlights on the main reserve that really stood out over the past year was, seeing Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), which is a species that we don’t get to see every single day. Another was seeing a flock of about maybe 15 Lesser Flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor), over the last few months. With our Morukuru Family guide luck, they landed on our watering hole just in front of our hide, spending almost two weeks there. Most of the guests that slept at the hide or that enjoyed a hide breakfast or a sundowner had the privilege of seeing these flamingos. This would have been the last part of their migration before heading back to the northern parts of Africa where it is slightly warmer.” “One of the best sightings was around Morukuru Farm House where we had the privilege of watching a pair of Southern Red-billed Hornbills, using a hollow tree trunk as a nesting site. They have managed to raise a beautiful little chick. It took about eight weeks (two months) for them to finish the process and it was a constant joy to watch the male flying up and down daily. Every couple of minutes he would come back with either a katydid or a grasshopper, or a moth or something that he's found surrounding our staff village. You could hear the chick’s excitement, with a whole bunch of high-pitched little squeals and squeaks that came from the hollow tree trunk. We couldn’t get photos of the whole process, as we did not want to disrupt the birds, and frighten them from their current nesting, so we admired it all from a distance. Another big highlight, around Morukuru Farm House was having three pairs of the beautiful multi-coloured Mocking Cliff-Chats (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris). A monogamous breeder, it typically occurs in very rocky, boulder strewn environments. There was initially one breeding pair that showed up out of nowhere, and then shortly after, two other breeding pairs followed suit. It's been a blessing having them around and seems like they might just become common residents.”
Mocking Cliff-Chat | Dwarf Bittern (c) Dean Pieters
“One of the female birds would often hop inside, giving the housekeepers a bit of a headache because she would leave a present on the furniture, but it's a small price to pay for being able to see them on a day-to-day basis. Very noisy little birds, and very, very, busy. It was an absolute pleasure just spending time with the guests watching them hop around. A lot of our guests this season have been interested in bird watching. We hope to have a better rainy season next summer which will result in an even higher diversity of bird life. I still hit 300 species this past season, which is a victory in my book.”
Woodlands kingfisher (c) Dean Pieters