The rains are starting and there is a different atmosphere at the Dzanga Clearing. Humidity is high with an occasional rainstorm. This has resulted in fewer large males observed in the clearing. However during the last ten days we have observed three musth males, two of which we have seen in musth in previous years. Freddy is the largest male presently in musth. He was first identified in 1991 and observed four times during nineteen years of the Dzanga Study. The last time he had been observed in musth was in 2007 so we were encouraged to see him again after a four year gap. During the last ten days he has been observed five times and yesterday during the midafternoon he appeared out of the forest following Backwards, a female we have know for twenty one years. Backwards, so named because of her tusks which turn backwards was her daughter, Kadi, on of our favorite calves. Kadi is her last calf and was born in March of 2004.
Backwards was rebuffing Freddy’s courtship and kept circulating in the clearing but Freddy followed her. At one point Backwards entered the forest behind the observation platform followed by Freddy only to re enter the clearing. Freddy kept following her and displaced a young bull from the favorite mineral hole which was then available to Backwards and Kadi. They entered the hole and after a few minutes resumed their waltz with Freddy around the clearing. Yesterday we were hoping to see the courting couple again but there was no sign of them all afternoon.
Backwards and Kadi
Another male we observed in musth is Sharif whom we observed only once last week. He is a small, younger bull whom we have observed only once in musth in 2008. He was first identified in 1994 and we have never seen him successfully guard any females. He is low on the hierarchy but has many years ahead of him. A couple of years ago he appeared in the bai with a tumor like growth on his left flank behind his front leg. On a subsequent day we again observed him and he had rubbed the growth off and there was a open wound. This healed and there is now a small scar which is barely visible.
Sharif, April 2011
The last bull to be observed in musth is Shaf, a younger bull. He has only been observed twice in the clearing and was first identified in February of 2008 and observed a couple of times thereafter. This is the first time he has been observed in musth. He spent most of the afternoon following Malcolm, another sizeable bull. Shaf was clearly discouraging Malcolm’s presence from the bai in order to eliminate any mating competition if any available females appeared.
Malcolm and Shaf
The other news is that there is a female forest buffalo in the vicinity of camp. She has a wound on her left rear leg and is not part of the buffalo group observed at Dzanga. We encounter her in the river below camp and she poses no threat. As we approach her she runs away. She has also been visiting camp during the night because in the morning we find her tracks where she has circulated in camp. What may attract her is the grassy lawn we have planted to prevent soil erosion in camp.