Of Elephants and Water, Wild Dogs and Birding….

Of Elephants and Water, Wild Dogs and Birding….

May 20th, 2016
We have just spent four intense days at Tsavene… our beautiful but neglected Senuko bush house.

Robyn's photos of our Tsavene house

Robyn’s photos of our Tsavene house and Eland Pan

Waves and waves of buffalo coming to our muddy Tsavene waterhole, and then departing for our Senuko Dam, or nearby Eland pan, desperate for water that we could not supply due to our current economic situation, have stared accusingly at us…

Lin Barrie - buffalo on handmade paper

Lin Barrie – buffalo on handmade paper

The first night brings the crunching of bones and a midnight scuffle, with an early  morning discovery of blood, footprints and drag marks….a young leopard has killed something and pulled it away from the house! Hyena tracks and civet tracks and midden all close by…

Robyn, staying with us, reports peering from her bed and through the upstairs window not the tree branches in the early hours, and feeling like she was looking at a leopard peering back at her. She was!
Kudu, baboons, warthogs and impala mill around the waterhole all day…wishful thinking, although at least there is mud for two huge male warthogs males to relish and roll in….

Teenage male warthogs patrol the sidelines, shoved and vociferously chased by their fierce mums, who now have the younger babies from late last year to engross their energies…

Shame, poor teenagers…a tough time ahead for them, learning to   fend for themselves with less and less water and browse as the dry season progresses…and very vulnerable to predators.

The impala Rams are fiercely rutting, clashing twisted horns, and the bunched females chatting eagerly to each other in anticipation of greeting the victorious males who win their favour !
Dog denning season is nigh and everywhere I drive or walk, I am in anticipation of seeing wild dogs or hearing of a den from the wild dog scouts…

We spend a gorgeous sunset at our Dam ….

Senuko Dam at sunset

Senuko Dam at sunset

robyn in africa

robyn in africa


Last night at Tsavene, we decide on an evening sundowner at Eland Pan, after hacking our way through roads blocked by numerous mopping trees felled by elephants…(we should have realized while we were hacking at the logs, that this was a serious warning of Elephants Galore to come!)

The lowering sun and bright nearly full moon, brings us the joy of quietly watching seven Zebra cautiously approach and drink, striped reflections wavering prettily on the water. Distinctive grunts herald the arrival of a herd of 20 or more wildebeests who are slow to accept our still presence but then relax. Five males cavort around the pan, kicking their heels up and chasing each other before drinking thirstily with the females and rubbing their heads on the mud, two or three of them even deciding we are acceptable and enough a part of the scenery for them to start rolling in the damp sand…

Giraffes watch, aloof, from the surrounding fringe of trees.
We smell, then hear the arrival of an elephant…
She materialises suddenly from the bush opposite us and within minutes her herd is following, babies mums and aunties roll majestically in, scattering the wildebeests, and we are awed and taken aback at the endless groups that silently emerge into our view…

Towering over us even from afar as we sit on our matchstick chairs behind the puny log at the opposite edge of the shallow water! Within minutes the world is all elephants, splashing slurping nudging and rumbling as they suck at the water. Their progress around and through the pan towards us is accompanied by the arrival of yet more…and more. We are not prepared for the sheer volumes of grey giants that keep arriving in the dusk to tower in front of us, as we realize we need to be very fast and polite and move out of their way, bow our heads to them…!
Our chairs need to be left in the dust as we silently and rapidly retreat from the gentle tsunami of elephants and cocoon ourselves in the car to watch for a chance to retrieve our chairs without worrying the enveloping beasts too much!
A majestic and HUGE bull arrives. Breathtaking.
A younger bull stands behind a tree close to us, staring, but not too stressed then moves away, giving Glenn and I a chance to slip back and collect our abandoned jackets and chairs.. What a joy to be in the space of such giants and to feel that immense sense of family and communication between them … Our own sense of family is then deepened by the pressing need to preserve ourselves and take immediate evasive action as elephants, unthreatening but in our faces never the less, begin to surround us with their sheer numbers. We rapidly drive away in the cars, giving them the space they need.
Arriving home to Tsavene we set up our fire and sit under the cloudy but brightly moonlit sky to reminisce our elephant experience, when an excited call from our nearby staff quarters gets us dashing for the car to roll down the hill- wild dogs! The staff have heard them twittering and tearing at a kill in the grass surrounding their house! We slowly approach and discover that we have disturbed a feeding pick- they have left a large Impala ram gutted and glistening, at our feet as we tiptoe through the grass. We retreat to give them space to come back, but maybe they won’t…
Back up the hill, eating our own dinner around the fire, we soon hear the staff shout, “they’re back” and we decide to leave them to their meal in peace.
The early hours of the morning after a night of elephant and wild dog dreams, brings the tremendous roar of a male lion very close to our house, answered once by a fellow lion and then gone. Faded into the bright moonlit night.
Dawn shows us the site of the wild dog kill… Nothing left, all gone and the few remains dragged away by a hyena. Is there a pregnant alpha female with this as yet unseen pack? I am tantalized, imagining her puppy-tight belly as she fills herself with life-giving red meat. I so hope they den close by – they are an integral part of our bush life, my muses for painting and dreaming, most loved and welcome co-inhabitants of our wilderness world.

Onto Kyle Recreational Park, where we join Birdlife Zimbabwe for an intense AGM, fine simple food on the fire and fabulous (CHILLY) views…

Girls on a rock...

Girls on a rock…Kelli, Robyn and Lin

with lots of birding…skeins of whiteface ducks overfly us …White faced ducks as a full moon struggles through the cold clouds…

a full african moon, oil on canvas, by Lin Barrie

a full african moon, oil on canvas, by Lin Barrie

Multitudinous tracks and scats of the white rhino are seen, a good nucleus of these special creatures is cared for by the Kyle rangers and helped by SAVE Australia…

white rhino sketch by Lin Barrie

white rhino sketch by Lin Barrie


About wineandwilddogs

Lin Barrie The Save Valley Conservancy stretches along the upper reaches of the great Save River in the south east of Zimbabwe. The Gonarezhou National Park laps against the southern banks of the Save River and between these two nestles the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. These three celebrated wildlife areas form part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, (GLTFCA)- a unique wilderness jewel which is home to the “Big Five” (endangered Black and White rhinos, elephants, buffalo, lion, leopard) and the ”Little Six” (Klipspringer, Suni, Duiker, Steenbok, Sharpe's Grysbok and Oribi). Endangered African wild dogs, Cheetah, Brown hyena, Bat-eared foxes and a host of special birds and plants contribute to the immense variety of this ecosystem. Communities around the GLTFCA contribute to innovative partnerships with National Parks and the private sector, forming a sound base on which to manage social, economic and environmental issues. This is home to artist and writer Lin Barrie and her life partner, conservationist Clive Stockil. Expressing her hopes, fears and love for this special ecosystem with oil paints on canvas, Lin Barrie believes that the essence of a landscape, person or animal, can only truly be captured by direct observation. Lin Barrie states: “Through my art, and my writing, I feel an intimate connection with the natural world, and from my extensive field sketches of wild animals, people and landscapes, I create larger works on canvas. Lin's work is in various public and private collections in South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Australia, England, Canada, Sweden and the United States of America. She is represented by galleries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, Kenya and Florida, USA.
This entry was posted in African child, African Safari, African wild dogs, african wildlife, african wildlife conservation fund, animal rights, anti poaching, art, beauty, bio diversity, birding, Birdlife Zimbabwe, birds, bush camps, clive stockil, conservation, cooking, eco-tourism, edible plant, family, flowers, food, food culture, full moon, Lin Barrie Art, painted Dogs, painted wolves, predators, prey, rhinos, Senuko, tradition, White rhinos, wild dogs, wilderness, zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Parks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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