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Among Aardvarks and cats

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Very productive safari you had @Antee.     You must be living right with your good fortune picking up your target species.  


Honey Badger, Aaardvark, Aardwolf, Black-footed Cat, on-demand wild dogs - wow.


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This will be a fairytale. A story about two places. Far between.  But connected in the way of wildlife and for some rare sightings.    Part one will be a story about Marrick in Sou

MARRICK DAY 1   After a 2 hour delayed flight between Johannesburg - Kimberley I was very much going from the airport right on my first nightdrive. Trevor, the owner of Marrick safaris

MARRICK DAY 2 NIGHTDRIVE   Oh man, this night was even more chilly. A cold wind swept across the grass plains. The animals seemed not to care about it as much as I did though...  

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Until I heard about this place thanks to ST, I’d barely believed it was possible to even see a black-footed cat never mind see them as well as that, what an extraordinary place.


I had meant to reply a bit earlier when the subject of wildcats and hybridisation came up


I think it’s bad form to turn someone’s report into a debate unless invited to do so, so I don’t really want to do that. However I entirely agree with you @Antee on the subject of feral cats. 


On 28/07/2017 at 1:31 AM, offshorebirder said:

"Half a feral cat" is something I had not considered before - it's not really something we have in North America. 




No you don't have this is problem, but we certainly do here in the UK and it is a very serious problem, once upon a time (European) wildcats lived throughout mainland Britain but habitat destruction and persecution had by the 20th century confined the species to Scotland, such that they are now always referred to as Scottish wildcats (whether they are genuinely a separate subspecies Felis sylvestris grampia distinct from mainland European wildcats is debated). In 2004 the Scottish wildcat population was estimated to be around 400, in 2012 a new estimate put the number at fewer than 35 purebred animals making this species the UK’s rarest mammal without urgent intervention extinction is imminent. The greatest threat to their survival is hybridisation with feral cats that figure of 35 is just an estimate and no one really knows for definite that any of these animals are completely pure, it may be that none of them are. Feral cats will never revert back to a wild type, because their population is always getting a fresh injection of domestic genes from new strays, that have either been abandoned or just from roaming pets, since many cat owners allow their cats to roam freely at night. Here in the UK feral cats behave quite differently to wildcats because the latter are always solitary, whereas the former will quite often form colonies and they hunt a wider variety of prey. It’s therefore important to understand that (in the UK) ecologically feral cats and wildcats are different and that hybridisation doesn’t just mean that we will still have a population of wildcats but they just don’t look like proper wildcats. They will have been transformed into an altogether different animal. I have not heard of feral cat colonies in Africa but maybe they occur somewhere I don't know.


In my book the only good feral cat is a dead one or maybe here in the UK a neutered one, but then my love of cats has never really extended to the domestic kind that might be in part because I’m a birder. The only cats I love are true wild ones of all shapes and sizes.


The situation for African wildcats may not be quite as dire as it is for European/Scottish wildcats in the UK, but I think this issue should still be taken very seriously and feral cats and obvious hybrids should ideally be captured and euthanized or at least neutered. Particularly in parks/protected areas that are close to significant human settlements, that are likely to have a significant population of domestic cats. In large very remote areas pure wildcats have a much better chance of surviving, because there will be very few if any feral cats turning up and the odd case of hybridisation won’t really matter. Our problem is that our wildcat population is completely dwarfed by the population of domestic cats (estimated at 8 million) ensuring that there’s a very substantial population of ferals, without intervention their genes will just swamp the wildcat genes that make the genuine article such a wild and special animal.


I could say a lot more but I don’t wish to hijack this report.


One day I’ll make it to South Africa, it looks like when I do I’d better include a visit to Marrick to try and tick off a black-footed cat, what a special little animal and such great views of it, if I can tick it off my list that would leave me with just two African cat species that I've never seen anywhere in the wild, golden cat and sand cat, but finding them might prove a lot harder. I've been lucky to stumble upon aardvarks a couple of times but I've never taken a photos of one it looks like Marrick would be a pretty good place to try and do so.


Lots of great sightings from the Okavango too, I'm looking forward to whatever appears next.



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@inyathi No worry. You are more than welcome to give your opinion regarding hybrid/feral cats.
You also know what you are talking about and that is always interesting. 

Actually I don´t care at all that some ignorant people have left the Trip report. They don´t know what they talking about and probably don´t even like the wilderness nor the animals in it. 
They can play with their domestic cats or whatever. 
I like wilderness and species conservation and if you do that you also know about the feral cats/hybrid problems. 

Like you said, areas close to humans is more exposed to this Feral cat -problem and Marrick is one of those places. There will be no African wildcats left if no one take the Feral cats/hybrids away.

It's no coincidence that Australia has a project that is about to kill 2 million Feral cats... 

I have only the Sand cat and African golden cat left amongst cats in Africa. 
I will give a try in December for Sand cat. In Western Sahara. Hopefully I will only have the Golden cat left for next year :) Then I have to go to Gabon... 

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Today we skipped the Wilddog den. 
We concluded that the wilddog puppies is still too small to come out. 

We drove to the Leopard territory instead.

Halfway we noticed some vultures and yes, the wilddogs had make a kill in the very early morning. Nothing was left, only some blood on the ground.
However, one of the Hooded vultures had a tag on him. Like all stars he had number 10...

Does anyone know where I can send the picture to get some info?




Obviously I am not the only one who like to watch Lilac breasted rollers... 

Red Lechwes also adore them. I didn´t know... :)





Then we met the Female Leopard again. She was patrolling her territory and we followed her...









She has a rather big area and it as fun to follow her. Amazing how they exactly know their borders.








We left her when she stopped in the shadow under a bush. Nothing more would happend here for a while.


We spent some time with a group of Chacma baboons when they took advantage of the extraordinary waterflow in Khwai this year. They are a bit anxious about the water but I guess the water lilies is so damn good that it´s worth getting soaking wet :) 














The big boy had a presence of mind to eat on dry land.





Another guy who was soaking wet and drying up... African darter.




While another fished...

Grey heron.




Then we ended up in a Hyena den. My guide knew the den from early years but was not sure if it was active or not. But it was. 4-5 Spotted hyenas spent their days here and we were welcomed with a cup of coffee...











What more this day?

Well, in the afternoon we came across another Leopard.
This is a young male, offspring from the old Female Leopard. 

He still hang around quite close to his birth territory and the female is often forced to chase him away. Life is though when you are forced to move but don´t want to :) 


He stalked some geese in the water...

Alot of vegetation around so it was hard to see it. 









He was sentenced to fail, as he did.





He ended up soaking wet in a tree instead. 








When you are a cat then you have to clean yourself for half a day when you got wet so that what´s he did... 





Then went even higher...





For a new lookout point. 

We left him as the sun went down and the light disappeared.





The nighdrive was a success.

First a quick glimpse of an African civet and then my first ever Caracal! 

My 11th cat species in the world.

I couldn´t believe my eyes how relaxed she was. Yes, it´s a she which you can see on the size.

In fact we almost drove over it... 





Such a beautiful cat! 





I have searched for them (if you can by any means search for Caracals...) for so long and finally, there it was. Just beside us. It was not that hard, right? :) 

My guide use to see them 1 or 2 times a year in different parks/concessions in Botswana. Most common in Central kalahari. So we were lucky, no doubt about it.

I was the one who did the spotlighting so some cred to myself as well :) 








We spent maybe 5 minutes with her before she moved inside the bush.

YES, don´t need to look for them anymore. Well, not that i don´t want to see another one but the first one is always the most important :) 


We were close to our camp and a great day was over. 


Edited by Antee
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Fantastic Caracal sighting - congrats!

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wow, Caracal, that is also the one I am missing! (Well I'm missing a lot more, but of the "common" ones lol.) Fantastic and great photos too!

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This morning we took a big drive to another part of Khwai. In alot drier area, far away from the water with the hope to see Roan or Sable Antelope.
There were still water ponds from the heavy rains earlier this year so it would hopefully be animals around...


But it was very slow. 


Great white Pelican waking up in the early sunbeams.





We did see some creatures on this long drive in the dry area but unfortunateley no Roan and no Sable.

I got another lifer, I do not know how I could have missed them before but I have managed to...

Slender mongoose.





Also a couple of Steenbok´s

They love drier areas so no surprise they were here. 








The only Giraffe´s of the trip was also in this area. No pics of them as all of you have seen them before :) 


Very nice to explore the area and a new environment but slow in wildlife. 


When we turned around, then the animals started coming back as we approached the water again and we immediateley bumped into another pack of Wilddogs. Smaller pack with only males.

They were shaking of the dirt, looking around, and did what Wilddogs use to do in the middle of the day...absolutely nothing. 








Wildebeest´s in typical Khwai habitat.





These Zebra youngsters looked and learned...





After some visit from a group of Banded mongoose´s outside my tent i fell asleep...


Just to wake upp for another visit to the Wild dog den.

They were at home.





No signs of the puppies but we could hear them. They were just behind the sand wall. Probably not enough power in the legs to climb above it yet. But any day now... 

The problem is that I only got 1½ day left after this... 

The pack did the greeting ceremony and went out to hunt. 

We followed.











The Zebras was safe and they knew it. 





We lost the dogs somewhere in the thick bush.


Well, No Wild dogs eating Impalas but an Elephant eating a stick. You have to be happy even with the small things...





The Pelicans in the morning were still around and took off for the nightly sleep...














...and so did we. 

But first a nightdrive which gave us a few Side striped jackals, Bushbaby and Springhare.

For the second time we also saw the same three Honey badger´s as we saw a couple of nights ago. 

Once again they were too quick to disappear in the bush before I even thought of the word camera.



Edited by Antee
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I am sure you enjoyed that fabulous caracal sighting even more than the red lechwes enjoyed the LBRs!

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Awesome stuff, great pictures, magnificent sightings! I don`t dear to hope for most of these species for my upcoming trip, but leopard i cross my fingers for this time :-) 


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Fantastic caracal photos!  I've never seen one, but if (when?) I do, I hope it's half as good as yours.  Very interesting report. 

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All fantastic sightings and excellent photos. The caracal tops them all, IMO.

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4 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

Fantastic caracal photos!  I've never seen one, but if (when?) I do, I hope it's half as good as yours.  Very interesting report. 

The hard thing with Caracal is that you don´t really have a certain place to look for them. There is a couple of places in South Africa with more or less regular sightings but not really reliable. They  have a huge distribution but despite this, very hard to find. It took me 9 Safaris... 

Only 2 species of cats left in Africa now after this trip. Sand cat and African golden cat.
Going for the Sand cat in December... 

I´m sure you will find a Caracal if your are like me and never stop going :) 


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@Antee your'e so fortunate to have seen a caracal !!  They have long been high on my list of dream animals to see while on safari. I have already been on 12 safaris, the longest of which lasted no less than 2 months but I have never to seen one. Hopefully, I'll get lucky and see one on my upcoming trip to Tswalu Kalahari in South Africa because it enjoys a good reputation for sighting, however, they are by no means guaranteed. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some excellent sightings on this trip. 



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During the night, the resident Lion pack had crossed the creek and managed to kill a Wildebeest. 

Not much left of it when we arrived but cubs with different ages was still feasting.








The Lionesses was already full and they seemed only interested in protecting the cubs.








But why don´t have some dessert, Wildebeest stomach...





The Lionesses, I think they were three, wanted to leave but the cubs was really into feeding. They always eats last and this is there time. Why leave when you finally got your own carcass? :) 








Okey, time to leave! For both the Lions and me. 

But remember to never ever leave a hoof behind...











There were more kills from other creatures today.

Tawny eagle with a Francolin breakfast.





We decided to go to the Leopard area. No one had seen them for a while so we started tracking them. Listening to the Francolins calling, tracks in the sand etc. etc.

A male Red lechwe watched us and probably wonder what in the world are they doing... Leopards should be avioded, not approached!





It took around 45 minutes to track them down and then we had a fantastic morning together with this old female Leopard and her cub.

They were suckling when we found them. 





We kept a good distance not to disturb their intimate time together and we could witness some fantastic interaction between this old female Leopard and her last cub in her existence. Lets hope he/she will make it to adulthood. 








The 3 months old cub is like all other youngsters, very curious about the surroundings and loved to explore the area.








They had killed some kind of bird earlier and it's just a pile of feathers left.





The cub directed his/her attention to a squirrel who jumped at some dead branches close by. The hunting instinct took over immediately. 





Hey, where is that Squirrel? 






The female noticed that something was going on and followed her cub and while the cub started to climb the dead trees and went off after the Squirrel, she laid down just under the tree.

The Squirrel was att the end of the branch and cornered. He jumped...

...only to land right on the female Leopard under the tree. 

A quick move with the paw and the Squirrel was trapped and the cub got his first kill! 


He/she was so proud and ran away with it in the bushes and started to play with the poor Squirrel.

Very cool hunt to witness and it´s not always about hunting big Antelopes.





It was almost midday and we left them and started to go back to the camp.

On the way back nothing spectacular happend.


Nice male Reedbuck.





Some birds as well.

The ever present Great white pelican.





Spur winged goose with a good view point.





And the always beautiful and powerful Bateleur eagle.





In the afternoon we went to the Wilddog den again. 

At first everything was as calm as always but then some movements inside the den made everyone very overexcited.

Something was really going on...


Could we be so lucky that for the first time ever the puppies would come out?


The reason for the overexcited pack you can see if you look very close half a meter behind the dog.





One brave guy saw the world for the first time. 

The Dogs went totally crazy. They were apparently as excited as me to see the puppies for the first time.








Only 10-12 days old with barely open eyes and still wrinkled ears he got a rough start with all the attention from the rest of the pack. 

The strange thing is that he was alone. The Alpha female was unaware of what´s going on here and she were inside the den with the rest.





He got some rest at last. Obviously very disorientated and unable to find his way back inside the den on his own.





Say hello to your fellow pack member. You are going to spend alot of time together in the struggling to survive.








Then it started to get out of control. 

The pack was so overexcited about this.

Where is the Alpha female??





Everyone started to tear him, run over him, drag him... 

The puppy was now in big danger for his life.





Everything was out of control and the puppy totally finished and exhausted. He hadn´t the strength to move anymore and the pack was still throwing him around...

Very weird that the Alpha female didn´t react on this. She must have heard what was going on outside.





After a very long time the Alpha female came out and barked out the members. Took the little guy in her mouth and brought him down inside the den again. 

At this point, he was not moving but I hope he will recover with some love from his mother.

I do wonder what he really was thinking about the world he saw for the first time? 

Quite rough start in life...





The calm again prevails around the den and we left for some nightdrive.


Zebras in nice light.





Big Kudu male in not such a good light :) 





Fishing Yellowbilled Storks.





The nightdrive was pretty calm. We knew about an Elephant carcass and there were some Hyena action around it. 





Very cool and exciting day in Khwai Concession was over!

Edited by Antee
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The pup shots are both wonderful and terrifying. The Alpha female may have been unaware that this single pup had left the den. Like you I hope the little one survived the onslaught

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Fabulous & fascinating wilddog behaviour. Darn good leopard sighting too. I'd call that an all round excellent day on safari. 

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@Antee, you always manage some unique encounters, the Caracal is beautiful, great photos, but the little Pup experience is just harrowing. Poor little bloke....

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what days were you in Khwai exactly and which campsite did you stay? It sounds like we were at least a few days together in the park

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Now that´s a safari day I wanna have too - awesome sightings!

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From a leopard cub to a wild dog pup, you had quite the day, with exceptional observations of behavior on all counts. What an experience!

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Khwai looks like a beautiful area. 

Awesome caracal sighting!

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On 2017-09-24 at 0:46 PM, wilddog said:

The pup shots are both wonderful and terrifying. The Alpha female may have been unaware that this single pup had left the den. Like you I hope the little one survived the onslaught


@wilddog Yes, she was obviously unaware what was going on. Maybe some inexperience as well, as it took so long for her to notice all the noise outside the den.


On 2017-09-24 at 2:37 PM, ice said:



what days were you in Khwai exactly and which campsite did you stay? It sounds like we were at least a few days together in the park


@iceI was there between 15-20 July. I stayed in a private un-named campsite totally alone so I didn´t stayed in one of the community campsites.

Did you liked Khwai?


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just like I thought: we were there from July 17th to July 23rd. If I liked Khwai? Hell yeah, best safari week I ever had, I already booked a return trip for next year

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