Short answer: No, it didn’t.
Sure the Finfoot female made a couple of kills actually within the bounds of the camp, and was regularly seen by the staff in camp during the day, but apart from that, no real change.
Many people have asked us the question in today’s post’s title. Some have never visited Londolozi, some have been coming for years. And with the monumental change in human behaviour seen across the world in 2020, an obvious question to many was: what impact did Lockdown have on wildlife? Was the sudden absence of guests noticeable to Londolozi’s wilder inhabitants, did their behaviour change, territories shift… anything?
Before going into too much detail – and I think what I’ll explain here will kind of answer the question – I think it’s important that everyone realises how little impact there is on the animals anyway, even when the lodge is full. We’ve crunched some of these hypothetical numbers before on the blog (I can’t remember in which post), but here we go again…
I’ll cite the Ximungwe female as an example, as she’s probably the leopard we currently view the most.
A normal week for her involves hunting, feeding off a kill for a few days, hunting again, maybe looking to mate (although we believe she is pregnant at the moment), marking territory, then back to hunting. She might be viewed by rangers, trackers and guests a few times a week, say on four or five occasions, but for the most part she goes about her business unobserved.
A week is 168 hours long. Let’s average out a game drive at 3 1/2 hours (mornings can be longer, evenings a bit shorter).
Two game drives a day equals 14 drives a week, therefore 49 hours during which Land Rovers are actually out on the reserve looking for animals. If it’s pouring with rain it might be less, if photographers are on an all-day safari it’s more, but we’re working off pure guesstimates here.
49 out of 168 is only 30%. So on the ridiculous assumption that for the entire drive, every drive, the Ximungwe female is viewed, she’s still a completely free agent for over 70% of the time (I rounded up).
She is most certainly not viewed that regularly though, or for as long. Maybe four or five times a week, let’s say for an hour at a time. That’s 5 hours, max. Out of 168.
That’s 3% of the time.
97% of the time, the Ximungwe female is left to her own devices. She might see a Land Rover in the distance, she might hear one drive by, or she might scamper off into cover when a tracking team on her tail gets a bit close, but for by far the majority of her day-to-day, the area immediately around her is devoid of human presence.
The question then, is if you take away that 3%, why would her behaviour change?
And the answer? It doesn’t.
At Londolozi we’re fortunate to have a low vehicle density for the size of our reserve. This translates to far less vehicle pressure, the ability to spend much longer with an animal if needs be, waiting for that photographic opportunity, and for the wildlife, it means they will be seeing far fewer vehicles, as the Land Rovers tend to spread out right across the reserve.
Ranger Sandros Sihlangu might be viewing the Nanga female right up north while Pete Thorpe and Bennet Mathonsi track the Mhangeni Pride in the south-west. Nick Sims and Life Sibuye will be zeroing in on the alarms of a bushbuck near Dudley Riverbank whilst Jess Shillaw and Advice Ngwenya are birding with their guests along the Sand River, not even looking for big cats.
The reserve is wide, the wildlife is plentiful, and if we were to pack up and leave tomorrow, things would continue on as if we were never even here in the first place.
That is the real beauty of the pristine wilderness we are so fortunate to be a part of.