May 2021 Newsletter

They say that still waters run deep. If so, that is the river found itself in during May. Those outside of our immediate pack will be forgiven for thinking that May was a relatively quiet month. However, such was not the case, as two of our pack members, Brent our CEO, and Matthew our brilliant new camera person spent the majority of May beyond the borders of South Africa, working on something we hope will be the culmination of two years’ worth of blood, sweat, and tears. We are not at liberty to discuss what they were up to just yet but let us say that, to and our greater pack of supporters, it is something as big as Africa herself! Now let’s get to the newsletter and updating you on what has unfolded.

Conservation Corner 

The first of our conservation-related work for May was mentioned in the intro above. From 8 until 31 May, Brent and Matthew were away from the den and out of the country on a secret mission. Although our lips are zipped, we can tell you that it was an epic adventure for both conservation and wildlife filmmaking and that we were extremely fortunate to have been part of it.

Our second conservation operation for the month was on the afternoon of Thursday 13 May. Yuka Ota, our legendary girl guide, presented a live virtual safari on Pridelands Conservancy on behalf of the David Shepard Wildlife Foundation (DSWF). DSWF used the event to raise funds for the various conservation projects they support across Africa and Asia. After being treated to various savanna game and adorable spotted hyena cubs, it came as no surprise that the response we received was “[the live safari was] so fun to watch, and [the] feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. [There have been] lots of requests for a repeat soon!” We certainly hope they do return, as we love participating in efforts to support wildlife conservation.

Animal World LIVE

The first episode of AWL, our bi-weekly wildlife talk show, was held on the 8th of May. With Brent away on the secret mission, seasoned AWL presenter, Yuka and presenting pup, Dylan, picked up the baton. True to format, footage from our Live Bush Cams opened the show, and viewers were able to witness a lioness hunting a large kudu bull antelope. Named after the legend of the Viking shield maiden, Lagertha, the young lioness featured in the clip is no stranger to Lagertha leads an unconventional lion life, in that being too young to mate at the time, she fled for her life when her natal pride was taken over by a new male coalition. While leading a solitary existence is not ideal for a young lioness, male lions will kill offspring that is not theirs to stimulate oestrus in the mature females of the pride, for this reason, Lagertha made the right decision. And that was just the start of the show. 

The theme of the appusers’ photos was birds for this show. Deers and Mars54, represented the USA with their respective photographs of an Osprey and a Roseate Spoonbill. Julie McInnes submitted a shot of Yellow Billed Storks taken in Tanzania, while Joy R and Syenja reminded us of the birds closer to home, with images of a Woodlands Kingfisher and Karoo Parinia. Even though we’re biased bird lovers, it is wonderful to see birds from around the world feature on the show. Thank you to all the app users who sent photos!

Once the live cam highlights had been watched, and your photos shown, it was finally time for the main event, a discussion of the Elephant Relocation. If you’re new to, you might have missed April’s ground-breaking event, the live relocation of a breeding herd of elephants. Having been present at the release of the small breeding herd of elephants onto Rietspruit Nature Reserve, Yuka and Dylan gave the viewers an informed recap of the day’s unfoldings. Five elephants from Phinda Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, were moved to another reserve, Reistpruit Nature Reserve in Limpopo. Rietspruit used to have elephants before becoming a cattle farm many years ago and has since been turned back into a reserve for wild animals. 

The second AWL on 22 April, hosted again by Yuka and Dylan, began with wonderful highlights caught on our Live Bush Cams. One such highlight caught a memorable sighting of one of the most unique and beautiful giraffes you will ever see. Affectionately known as Blackie Swart (a popular Afrikaans nickname), this tall, dark, and handsome chap is strikingly darker than the other giraffes in the area, and indeed, most of his coat is almost black.

Then the topic shifted, and after seeing a African Barred Owlet in the garden, Dylan felt inspired to go in search of more of these wise creatures. Not only did Dylan find more owls, but he also happened upon two stunning leopard sightings. The first, a female cub, offspring from the Pixie Pan female, sitting quietly in the grass right next to his vehicle. The second, a jaw-dropping silhouette of the male leopard, Twinspot. With the amber of the setting sun behind him, Twinspot interrupted the stillness of the sunset with territorial sawing (a leopard’s rendition of a ‘roar’). 
Alluring owls and serendipitous leopards at sunset, who could ask for more? 

The show closed with an update on two incredibly special groups of pachyderms, the rhinos, and elephants of Rietspruit Nature Reserve. In March this year, helped the conservation NPO Rhino Revolution dehorn several rhinos on the Reserve – an anti-poaching technique. Yuka and Dylan went to check up on them recently and were happy to see all of them doing well. The newly introduced elephant herd is settling in well, and there is already a new addition to the family. One of the elephant cows gave birth only five days after being released. Dylan and Yuka treated the viewers to unique footage of the mother elephant practicing placentophagy, the act of eating her afterbirth to reabsorb the nutrients. Not a topic for the dinner table, but perfect for the greater pack’s curious minds. 

Private Virtual Safari Synopsis

Photo by Yuka Ota, taken during her Private Virtual Safari.

The safari we chose to discuss this month was a sunset safari hosted by Yuka on Saturday, 22 May, for 9 private guests who joined from home. The safari began with a small herd of zebras and a lone wildebeest bull. Interestingly, a wildebeest is an antelope and not a bovine. Plains game species, like wildebeest, impala, and zebra, are often seen together, as safety in numbers means there are more eyes to scan for predators. 

Speaking of impala, did you know, carbon-dated impala fossils tell us that this, often-overlooked antelope, has existed in its current form for around 1.7 million years! That makes them genetically more successful than the lion, the prehistoric-looking rhino, and even humans. Scientists believe that impala has survived for so long because they are both grazers of grass and browsers of leaves, affording them more potential food sources. That, and they breed like rabbits. All this, we were taught on the live drive. 

Our virtual guests were then treated to an adorable hyena cub sighting. The cub in question was having a snooze just outside the entrance to one of the clan’s den sights. Hyena use abandoned, and often not so abandoned, warthog burrows to den in. They will often share their dens with a warthog and other creatures, such as porcupine and giant plated lizards. Yuka was also lucky enough to find an excellent specimen of a beautiful black and white porcupine quill to show her guests, examining its biological makeup and structure. Then it was time for the giants of the bush to put on a show.

Yuka and guests first came across a characteristically relaxed elephant bull, the true gentleman of Africa’s wild. After some quality time with him, the safari moved onto the appropriately named, Ndlovu Dam, where guests were treated to a breeding herd quenching their thirst. The best part was watching the youngest and cutest elephant trying to learn how to use its trunk, a skill that takes about seven years to master. As if one herd of elephants drinking is not enough of a spoil, the show ended at Leopard Dam, where another breeding herd of elephants was found drinking at Leopard Dam, this time with the awe-inspiring African sunset behind them – the perfect way to end any safari. 

For more information about the world’s first and only private virtual safari, click here or email

An Intern Out & About – Dylan Carvalho from EcoTraining

Dylan Carvalho

May was once again filled with adventures, most notably my first assignment for, to document the collaring of two painted dogs. Painted dogs face many threats and because they cover vast distances conservation efforts can be incredibly challenging to execute. We worked together with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT),which is an expert on the ground monitoring team that monitors the painted dog metapopulation of the Greater Kruger National Park. The goal is to collar one adult female from each pack, to be able to monitor their movements, as they can very easily traverse into high-risk areas. For instance, there are areas with many snares, just outside the Park’s boundaries. With the collars, should a pack move into such an area, an alert will be sent from the collar to the local vet and painted dog conservationists. It is a highly sophisticated algorithm that puts several data sets into consideration and then comes up with a probability scale. There was in the past one incident, where they had an alert showing 100% snaring risk and sure enough three dogs had snares on them. This technology is still to be refined, as not every alert was correct, but I am confident the corresponding parties are approaching the right path to maintain and conserve the painted dogs of the Greater Kruger.

Photo by Dylan Carvalho.

We were out an entire day, without encountering the right pack to dart, which to me showcased how much patience, dedication, and passion the vets and conservationists require. Luckily on the second day, we found not one but two wild dog packs, which we successfully darted and collared. It was a thrilling experience to work with the highly professional conservation team from the EWT and learn from their insights. My goal was to create some intimated moments of the EWT Team working on the painted dogs and tell a story by doing so. All in all, I am very satisfied with the results of this assignment and look forward to upcoming projects. You can find me on Instagram at @dylan_carvalho_

Production Punts

As mentioned in Conservation Corner, Brent and Matthew were away for the month on an epic secret mission, which not only involved crucial conservation work, but also a story that we have been following for some time now, making it close to the hearts of the pack. When the time does come, we are confident that the greater pack will be as excited about it as we are, and we know sharing it with you will make the moment even more meaningful. 

Bryan Joubert, our cameraman and editor extraordinaire, has been working long and hard on a video special to be premiered on on our YouTube channel. The video tells the story of the elephant relocation were fortunate enough to participate in during April, as part of the Rietspruit Nature Reserve rewilding project. It was also the first time ever that an elephant relocation had been broadcast live. So keep your eyes on our app and social media, you do not want to miss the story of how conservation history was made. 

What to look forward to in June

As winter creeps further in and the dust from the drying soils rises around us, so does our anticipation for what is to come:

A Live Virtual Safari Every Friday – starting this Friday! The first will be for our Subscribers and Patrons, and every second Friday a free-to-air safari for all our supporters on our YouTube channel. To receive the link to the Friday safaris or a reminder, click here to download our app – it’s free!

Thepremiere of a special video of the elephant relocation.

Animal World LIVE will be on Saturdays 5 and 19 of June.

Private Virtual Safaris. Arthur C. Clarke, the famous English futurist, inventor, and science fiction writer predicted private virtual safaris, and brought them to life. Click here to book your seat or find out more, here to watch a teaser, or here for an excellent article in South Africa’s popular travel magazine, Getaway, reviewing the experience

Thank you also to our generous Patrons and our sponsors – LedLenser SARogue Outdoor GearUntamed Brewing Company – as well as Pridelands Conservancy and Kwenga Lodge, where you will find our ‘dog den’. And of course, to all our supporters for running with the pack.

Be sure to keep an eye on the app, as well as on YouTube, Instagram on @painteddogtv, and Facebook.

A special thanks to

Follow her journey on Instagram @vicvic_craddock2.0 and TikTok @vicvic_craddock2.0

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