January Game Report

MalaMala Game Reserve - Bull-elephant

Bull elephant by Matthew Tatham

Once a month the rangers compile a comprehensive game report summarising the activities of each member of the MalaMala 7 (Big 5 plus cheetah and wild dog). As our CyberDiaries tend to focus mainly on the big cats, the rhino, buffalo and elephant don’t get much more than a cursory mention.

This is why we’ve decided to post a brief summary of the month’s sightings of these big herbivores. That way those of you with a predisposition towards these animals will also get your fix.

For the full unabridged scientific reports, we will include a link to the report on the MalaMala website. HINT – Those of you that preferred the original wildlife diary posts (pre-Social Media) will probably love these reports.


We encountered buffalo on most days, but just old “dugga boys” (small herds of old male buffalo). The herds have been scarce this month, with only occasional sighting at the Clarendon Dam and Windmill areas. The “dagga boys” we saw were usually around the airstrip and old airstrip areas. With so much water around it’s been easy going for the buffalo herds, who haven’t needed to visit the Sand River to quench their thirst. Once winter comes – and the pans dry up – the sightings of the large herds will increase, but for the next few months the “dagga boys” will have to suffice.


It was a very easy month as far as rhino sightings go. In the afternoon all we had to do was drive out towards the area around Flockfield tower, and we’d be almost guaranteed to bump into a crash of five that included a cow with a very small calf. Due to the exposure the calf has had to the Land Rovers, it has become very relaxed and often wanders close to the vehicles to investigate before running back to mom.


With January being so hot, elephant viewing has been fantastic. There is nothing these pachyderms love more than a good swim. And with the river level being what it is, a large bull elephant can get completely submerged, with just its trunk sticking out. An interesting sighting developed one day when a herd of elephants was looking to cross the river. There was a very young calf in the herd, and as soon as it stepped into the water the swift current swept the little guy clean off its feet. The mother and half the herd were very quick to chase after it, but the calf was swept downstream for a good hundred meters before it was rescued. Although it did do a great job of keeping its trunk above water throughout. Towards the end of the report period the Marula fruits ripened, and the elephants responded by spending hours beneath the trees, picking the delicious fruits up off the ground.

Total sightings for the month

Elephant: 98
Rhino: 81
Buffalo: 52

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