Monitor Diaries
June 10, 2019

Suni and Big Tuskers on Tembe

The Wildlife ACT Leopard Survey, run in conjunction with Panthera and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, moved to Tembe Elephant Park in April 2019, for the second of our five surveys. Tembe Elephant Park, found in Northern Zululand, is a 30 000 hectare reserve adjoining the Mozambique border. This reserve consists of a unique set of ecosystems, including sand forest, and extensive wetland and savannah, creating a diverse animal community and a paradise for birders.

Tusker Elephant on Tembe. Photo by Michael Herbst

This reserve is home to some of the largest Elephants (Loxodonta africana), referred to as big Tuskers. These impressive animals boast body sizes reaching 7 tons and tusks weighing more than 45kgs.

Suni (Neotragus moschatus)

Another special feature of Tembe is the occurrence of a very elusive and rare small antelope - the Suni (Neotragus moschatus) which stands at 350mm shoulder height and weighs no more than 5.4kgs. Suni are found in forest areas and a key habitat feature for this species is a dense under-story and shrubbery.

Suni (Neotragus moschatus). Photo by Angela Nicol
Suni (Neotragus moschatus). Photo by Angela Nicol

The Leopard survey team set up 32 camera trap sites across the reserve over 4 days and continued monitoring the sites weekly. The Leopard Survey uses the same historic camera sites year to year to keep the dataset consistent in order to monitor annual patterns in Leopard (Panthera pardus) densities.

The mornings are greeted with misty sunrises over the swamp, making the early starts even more worth it. We are often lucky enough to have very good sightings of Lions with their cubs, and unforgettable encounters with Elephant breeding herds peacefully grazing around our vehicle. Most of our evenings are filled with the calls of Wood Owls (Strix woodfordii) and Fiery-necked Nightjars (Caprimulgidae), making for very tranquil endings to our days.

This Leopard Survey lasted until the end of May, and we look forward to our continuing contribution towards capturing vital data adding to the conservation of Leopards.

Text by Leopard Survey Monitor Lauren Offord