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   25 March 2024   Update on Humba after Netsai's death

Following the death of Netsai, partner to Humba last year possibly in September or October, fans of Hwange have been concerned about Humba. Humba and Netsai have been great favourites of regular Hwange visitors. They held reign for many (lion) years at Ngweshla and so were viewed by hundreds of Hwange wildlife lovers, both local and international, being a key tourist attraction for Zimbabwe. They have been filmed and photographed countless times and were noted for their relaxed nature when tourist vehicles would park near them. They became firm favourites and much loved.

Netsai (Right) with Humba, a lifelong partnership-  photo S. Walton
Netsai (Right) with Humba, a lifelong partnership - photo S. Walton

Camp Silwane was so pleased when they moved into the Kennedy, The Hide and Silwane areas and guests were thrilled to see them regularly in their usual relaxed mode with people.

They joined with lionesses and cubs were born, though there was uncertainty who the father was as both were seen mating. It was an absolute delight seeing the cubs born to these magnificent males.

Then Netsai was not seen for a time which was unusual. Previous key lions in the area such as Cecil and more recently Mopane have been hunted ( August, September appear being the usual months when this happens) and the worst was feared. Finally unofficial news made its way that Humba was no more. Besides shock and sadness with the loss of this lion concern grew for the welfare of Humba. How would he cope without his life- long companion? How could he protect the pride and cubs, being an older though healthy male? Nature in this case could now take its course with another male or coalition of males taking over the pride after killing or chasing off Humba and most likely killing the cubs so they could have cubs of their own.

Humba was seen less often but to the Camp's relief a guest shared photos of Humba moving hesitantly in bushes in February 2024 with more confident lionesses and a cub. So Humba was OK but with a distinctive nervousness around people. But where were the other cubs?

A hesitant Humba eyeing visitors Feb 2024 - photo K. Stanger
A hesitant Humba eyeing visitors Feb 2024 - photo K. Stanger

Humba Pride lioness with cub, February 2024 - photo K. Stanger
Humba Pride lioness with cub, February 2024 - photo K. Stanger

Then another visitor to Hwange shared her photos which showed 2 sets of cubs. Three older and four much younger, possibly 5 months old. 7 in total! Such wonderful news.

Young Cubs from Humba's Pride seen recently - photo Moira Cunningham
Young Cubs from Humba's Pride seen recently - photo Moira Cunningham

Humba's young cubs with older cubs. These could be Netsai's. - photo Moira Cunningham
Humba's young cubs with older cubs. These could be Netsai's. - photo Moira Cunningham

Concern remains though. The cubs depend on Humba surviving on his own and being able to protect his pride. We hope that Humba can continue successfully until nature alone takes its course giving the cubs a chance to grow into adulthood.

Silwane Conservation Area is determined not to allow these losses to discourage us but in fact we are more dedicated than ever to allow a safe space for wildlife to ream freely and maybe with time and support even to expand it.

Magnificent Humba Feb/March 2024 - photo Moira Cunningham
Magnificent Humba Feb/March 2024- photo Moira Cunningham

   25 March 2024   The Wildlife Photographic Competition and Camp Silwane, 24 February 2024

In February, Wildlife and Environment (WEZ) Zimbabwe held an award ceremony for 2023 photography awards in Harare on 24 February 2024. Camp Silwane was pleased to take up the request by WEZ to offer a prize to the best mammal photograph category.

Photo competition

Gail Odendaal won this category with her stunning photo of Buffalo.

Gail Odendaal‘s  photo of dusty buffalo won her a prize to Camp Silwane
Gail Odendaal's photo of dusty buffalo won her a prize to Camp Silwane

As her prize Gail has won two free nights for two at Silwane Tented Camp. Gail tells us she is a great lover of Hwange but has not yet been to Camp Silwane. Camp Silwane is looking forward to Gail's well deserved visit.

Gail Odendaal being awarded her Camp Silwane prize by WEZ.
Gail Odendaal being awarded her Camp Silwane prize by WEZ.

Best overall photo was awarded to a Silwane regular, Ralph Stutchbury. His striking photo of Zebra was taken at Silwane's Somadada Platform.

zebras - Somadada Platform

Ralph Stutchbury's winning photo taken at Silwane's Somadada Platform

zebras - Somadada Platform

   15 December 2023   Sad news about Netsai

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we must announce that we have received information, that is yet to be officially confirmed, that Netsai, the lion, is no longer with us. Most of you would recognise Netsai as one half of Humba & Netsai- the infamous pair of much-loved lions in Hwange. The brotherhood spent many years reigning together at Ngweshla before moving towards our Silwane area, where they made themselves at home with the resident pride and this year, Netsai is believed to be the father of a new litter of cubs.

Netsai, and his partner Humba, always thrilled our visitors with their calm temperaments, allowing guests to sit for hours observing them. It will not be the same without Netsai and he leaves behind a considerable hole in our hearts.

We only hope that Humba will be able to defend his territory, the cubs and Pride as he adjusts to a new solitary path in life. We understand that many people will feel saddened by this news.

Netsai walking towards the camera
Netsai - courtesy of Steph Walton

Netsai on the right with Humba
Netsai on the right with Humba - courtesy of Steph Walton

(Humba (left) and Netsai)
(Humba (left) and Netsai) - courtesy of Steph Walton

   12 January 2023   Humba and Netsai on the move (by Kelvin Nyamutitima)

On a chilly January morning, just before breakfast, the roars of two big Lions were heard booming through Camp. Those who have heard the roar of a lion close by would concur that it sends shivers down your spine. Even more so when two roar in unison! Nature seems to fall silent in respect. The strategy of fear and dominance is real when it comes to lions. Dominance is the ultimate strategy in the male lion world. It is essential for survival.

Humba and Netsai are two male lions aged about 10 years and have dominated a big territory stretching roughly from Ngweshla . On this particular morning, the two legends were on the run. Being ousted by three young male lions known as The Baggage Handlers (how did that name come about, we wonder?) . The wars in Hwange lion territories are wild and fierce. If you see these old lions in real life, their sheer strength and power and glorious mane you feel a sense of awe. One would think they are still in their prime. The courage of the young generation of lions to take over territory and females from these legends is awesome tenacity and shows the measure of their brute strength.

Lions have a lot of intra male politics and dynamics change quickly. Male cubs get kicked out of families as young as two to three years old and they usually become nomads, often onto the outskirts of Parks or even into communal plans unfortunately. Young and unwanted by fathers as they pose mating competition, no strength and strategy to gain hunting territory, food becomes a hustle and no protection from inter species enemies such as hyenas. It's hard being a male teenage lion. Everything changes at about seven years as the prime strength in the Panthera leo male life. Peak strength, glorious mane, thunderous roar and unsatiable hunger and plenty testosterone means you are ready to challenge any reigning dominant lion to become the alpha. This is exactly what befell the coalition of Humba and Netsai. Maybe they did the same to their predecessors.

Camp Silwane has been noticing a shift of lion movement in the conservation area. A young, hesitant male has been making an appearance sometimes trying to join a group of female lions. This is has been the case after the vacuum left by Mopane the dominant male of the area was hunted in 2021. The last couple of months the famous Ngweshla males have been seen around Kennedy 1 and into the Silwane Conservation Area. It was a stunning sight to finally clearly see these magnificent males patrolling around Camp Silwane and even walking towards my tent (!!) from the sundowner platform. We knew something was up. The roars deafening and deep meant the legends were now establishing new territory and possibly seeking new females. There is a feeling of sadness for this loss of position that these two males held for so long, but that is the marvel of nature.

We had guests in camp to witness these two legends straight from their breakfast tables in the dining room which was a highlight of their stay. How could it not? I could explain in detail the feeling of seeing a lion close and roaring and the fear it imparts in one, mixed with the excitement of being in real time and eye witness to nature without watching it on National Geographic channel. However, it can only be an experienced endeavour to be able to relate in all its sensational stimulations.

The camp is aptly named Camp Silwane. The Lion camp. We wish Humba and Netsai all the best in their new life away from the pride they once called family. Camp Silwane is privileged to be part of their new home. To the new lions running the Ngweshla pride- better utilise the time. In the Lion world, the adage history repeats itself is guaranteed.

   21 October 2022   Camp Spring Hare (by Kelvin Nyamutitima)

On the 15th of October 2022 a group of 6 international tourists arrived at Camp Silwane. On a hot and blazing savannah day in Matabeleland North, I drove 31 kilometres to go pick them up at Gwayi turnoff. After introductions, greetings and all modalities arranged we clambered in the Hilux heading up to camp.

In the back of my mind, I knew the beaten off road track would give my esteemed guests a lovely welcome to Africa adventure. We arrived in the Silwane Conservation Area about an hour later, enjoying the drive on the way. The trees, shrubs, a herd of kudu in the burnt out veld, the singing birds and elephant dung all over the place… Africa has been served folks! In no time the enthusiastic tourists were unloading their bags and setting up tents for the night. This group of tourists were from Switzerland, Germany and Britain and they were staying at the Camp to further their studies in Field Guide Association of South Africa (FGSA) course.

We had excellent drives in Hwange National Park regularly seeing huge elephant groups. On a particularly memorable day we spotted a leopard chilling in an Acacia aeroloba. We watched the leopard for half an hour until everyone was satisfied and the leopard got bored of all the attention and walked away. On day four of our Park game drives, we had an encounter with a large pride of lions just twenty minutes into our drive. The real treat came when we saw the same pride on our way back to camp in the evening… all cameras were clicking wildly and capturing beautiful savannah moments that do not come every day.

The group were a pleasure to have in camp with night drives being another highlight as we took turns to spotlight. A wild cat here, a pearl spotted owlet there, many herds of elephants and a lots of spring hares. Evening after evening, we looked and searched for another highlight, a hyena maybe, a caracal or even a civet. Luck was on the side of the spring hares. We saw over 200 spring hares I tell you. Well, I lost count. Then boom one evening one of our guests decided to let it out, “we are now going to call this camp, Spring Hare camp”. I am not sure which of the guests came up with this witty comment, but all I know as I joined in the laughter, deep down it was not a funny joke to me to change the name of a Camp named after the magnificent lion to Spring Hare.

Our reputation was saved, as fate would have it. On the last evening at Acacia Grove before the group checked out, whilst milling around camp for the evening meal, the group heard the thundering sound of hooves approaching. A split second later, right in front of them and through the campsite, a herd of buffaloes stampeded towards them and passed what seemed to be inches past them as they went continued running. It was a “phew” moment! Before the group could even catch their breath, two lion males followed on a chase of the buffaloes. Apparently, the lions were on a hunt. Now that's the topping of a cherry of any safari. Wherever my guests are, I am sure we agree that, this is not Camp Spring Hare…this is Camp Silwane!

   22 October 2021   Camp Silwane lion pride

Camp Silwane and guests are delighted to have regular visits from the Somadada Pride both at camp and at the Silwane waterhole. It will be interesting to observe the change in dynamics after the death of the dominant male, Mopane, in August.

Somodada Pride drinking
The Somadada Pride drinking at Camp Silwane - courtesy of Fiona and Andy Mills (22.10.2021)

   10 September 2021   Somadada Platform Experience – In Development

Camp Silwane is in the process of developing and building an exclusive sleeping under stars platform experience. Once established, this facility will be an exceptional wild experience in the near future. Somadada waterhole is a secluded and stunning waterhole fringed by tall trees and overlooking grassland. Undisturbed by humans, this waterhole is a favourite with wildlife and is a treasured gem in Silwane.

An experience not to be missed so keep posted with developments!

   17 August 2021   A tribute to Mopane The Lion

When the lion roars and you hear it for the first time it is indeed quite something that one will never forget. Mopane the dominant male and his Somadada Pride whose territory extended into the Camp Silwane Conservancy, would have been the very roar that you would have heard. Tragically, Mopane's roars as he patrolled his territory will no longer be heard. Mopane who looked after his Somadada Pride of 2 lionesses and 6 sub adults was indeed shot by a bow hunter. Mopane was a well known dark maned lion, well photographed and well known by tourists. In his younger years he had a cheeky attitude and would at times chase safari vehicles. Indeed at the Hwange National Park Main Camp Office Reception, there was a sign warning visitors to be aware of Mopane.

Mopane Chasing Vehicle - Photo courtesy of Wendy Roebuck - Who fortunately managed to get away!
Mopane Chasing Vehicle - Photo courtesy of Wendy Roebuck - Who fortunately managed to get away!

As Mopane grew older, he seemed to have mellowed and his reputation for chasing vehicles ebbed away and he seemed to trust people more. Research sources say that Mopane was the dominant male over two prides. The Somadada Pride as mentioned, and the other pride being the offshoot of the Guvalala Pride, which also has two Lionesses and 2 cubs around 6 months old. Interestingly and very unlike usual dominant male lion behaviour, Mopane appears to have adopted these cubs. Researchers have been interested to see how these dynamics developed and were looking to monitor this over time. Sadly, this unique opportunity has been cut short.

According to reliable sources, on 5th August Mopane was lured out of the National Park into the hunting area where an American through a South African based hunting operator, shot him with a bow. Mopane did not die immediately sources say, but died a slow and agonising death from the hunters arrow. He died the following day. Mopane had a coalition partner by the name of Seduli. Seduli was hunted down in a like manner incidentally on World Lion Day in 2017. Mopane's death was almost to the day of the anniversary of Seduli's death. No longer will Mopane's roars be heard at Camp Silwane. Staff especially feel a sense of mourning, missing that familiar figure proudly patrolling and the regular roar at night, truly the king of Silwane. No longer will this magnificent lion be photographed by the tourists who visit. Mopane's killing could result in the death of all his cubs and sub adults by a new male in the area. His death as protector of his two prides could put the females in danger researchers say. Or possibly, the lionesses in an effort to protect their cubs may move into the surrounding habituated communal areas where there could be human, livestock and Lion conflict with tragic consequences.

Although the hunt was legal in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe, many questions arise to the moral compass of hunting lions and other wildlife such as elephant, leopards, jackals and hyenas.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: "If we do not do something to prevent it, Africa's animals, and the places in which they live, will be lost to our world, and her children, forever."

Mopane the lion
Mopane the lion

Mopane. We are indeed sad about the events that took your life and left your pride in jeopardy. We will miss you along with Cecil, Bhubezi, Seduli, Xander and all the others. It was a pleasure to have known you and heard your familiar roars. From all at Camp Silwane.

According to reliable sources what we know of the hunt that killed Mopane: Source and link

   5 August 2021   Mopane death rumour

A week before the anniversary of Mopane's coalition partner, Seduli's death, we are hearing disturbing news that Mopane has been shot by a bow hunter. We are verifying the facts. From what we hear, he may be mortally wounded. For Camp Silwane Expeditions and its conservation area, this is indeed devastating news.

We will update this feed once we know all the details and facts.

   13 July 2021   White squirrel

Like white lions in South Africa, this unusual congenital pigmentation was seen on a tree squirrel in Hwange National Park. It appeared to have a partner and seemed to be doing just fine.

White Tree Squirrel
White Tree Squirrel

   5 July 2021   Somadada Pride cubs hit by train

The Somadada Pride appears to have lost a couple of cubs when they were struck by a passing train crossing the border of Hwange Park.

We hope that this rumour is not true.