Archive for the ‘Creatures Great & Small’ Category

Eye of the Beholder

April 26th, 2012, posted in Creatures Great & Small, Wildlife

We all enjoy the early morning sun’s rays and on this morning Pieter found this Boomslang in its wooden dwelling waiting for the sun’s rays to get a little warmer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of months later, out on a limb, well almost – more like the most slender of Acacia tree branches – this Boomslang watched Pieter intently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is at these moments that you wonder what a human looks like to a snake…

What else does the Boomslang perceive the human race to be?

We continue to support Nature reserves, wilderness areas, game parks and farms for there is plenty to experience, so much for the soul and even more to see, our conservation passion lies not only in the eye of the beholder…                        but also what the naked eye does not see!

Elephants

March 6th, 2012, posted in Creatures Great & Small, Wildlife

It’s all about the Elephants

Last week I chatted to a lady who said the only reason why she came to Africa was to see Elephants. I found this very interesting as most tourists come to see as much as they can, researches and students would come for a specific animal, but not the normal tourist and that got me thinking – so what is a ‘normal tourist’?

I chose to blog about that too and you can read about The Normal Tourist soon!

To get back to the Elephants, as I started thinking about this enormous animals and where I’ve seen and watched them, I realized that I too must have some abserd fascination with Elephants because as I went through my photo album over the last two years – the majority of my photo’s are of elephants.

These are a selection of photographs I’ve taken of Elephants and the reasons (if any) I took the pictures.

The 5-legged elephant!

Elephant with an ear-piercing!

Elephant mothers and their babies!

Elephant feeding on grass under the level of water in lake Kariba!

Elephants take a mud bath in camp!

This is not a circus - this is how they do it in the Wild!

Unusual angle - take a look at that mouth!

Ele trying to squeeze the chlorine out of the water !

Meet Stumpy

Mutation in the genes can cause stunted growth

Joshua noticed the short trunk before I did!

Simply watching and making memories!

Dodge the Dung!

December 15th, 2011, posted in Creatures Great & Small, Educating You

I’m driving on the game reserve, slowly looking at the bright new colours of the leaves in the bush, hoping to catch a glimpse of a bird. I take my time, the road is gravel and we’re not in a rush anyway – Pieter and Joshua are on the back and all of a sudden I hear “Dodge the Dung!”

I look at the road and swerve – missing the elephant dung by an inch or two.  Not very responsible for a nature conservationist!  Alas, I had been too busy admiring the environment, rather than concentrating on where I was driving!  Thus the blog about dodging the dung!

After good rains in South Africa (end October/November), the dung beetles arrive in full force – collecting fresh dung as food and/or as nurseries!

You’ll find a variety of dung beetles hard at work rolling dung balls – if you are driving and watching where you drive 🙂 you’ll see them on the road – both tar and gravel, if you’re on a game path – you’ll see them along the path and if you are staying on a game reserve – then they’ll be wherever there is a fresh pile of dung! 

Dung beetles play an important role in the ecosystem – cleaning up animal waste and converting it into a ball that sustains their life!

Dung beetles are of the Family Scarabaeidae. This family of beetles are easily recognised by their antennae, which have an apical club of 3-7 flat, expanded, moveable plates that can open out fanwise.

Unlike their cousins (the Chafer’s), Dung beetles are all highly beneficial to their environment!  My son welcomes these busy creatures each season when his chore of “poop-scooping” is taken away by the dung beetles. They don’t seem to mind using doggy-doo either, as long as it’s dung, it gets rolled up in ball and rolled away!

Checking direction before continuing to roll the ball of dung

Large copper dung beetle

Anthrax – nature’s lethal weapon

September 23rd, 2011, posted in Creatures Great & Small, Educating You, Wildlife

The word anthrax sounds scary and for some it is. Understanding anthrax appeals to few, but the hype that is created around anthrax is amusing!

Why do people get so upset when animals die? Animals die every day in the wild in the struggle for survival and what is ironic is, that many tourists will pay a fortune to see a predator make a kill whilst they’re on the back of a game-viewing vehicle!  Is it beacuse so many animals die at once? Is it the side effects of the disease?

Recently in Zambia, anthrax killed a number of hippo and buffalo,  although initially there were conflicting reports from the “powers-that-be” anthrax was confirmed and the situation became SERIOUS!

Herewith part of an e-mail from a caring member of the community who tried to people at rest at the beginning of September…

Dear All

   As most of you are aware about the hippos that are keeling over and dieing …, I would just like to inform you that we are waiting for the test results to come back so that we have a definite answer about what is happening. So far we are just speculating that it is Anthrax due to the signs of bleeding from Anus and Nose. It is effecting the hippos most, however there have been a few dead buffalos in the park and GMA.

  There is no reason to panic though even if it is Anthrax, it is a naturally occurring disease which bares its head every few years due to climatic conditions. The spores are able to lie dormant for many years in the soil.

I have attached two links to very helpful sites which deal with Anthrax in Humans and in Wildlife. We as humans are not at major risk, unless we ingest an animals meat that has died from Anthrax. A form of anthrax which effects the skin and can cause blistering can be contracted if handling the carcases of dead beasts. This can be treated simply with a course of Anti-biotics…

Please if you do see any fresh carcases report them … and if possible take a GPS reading to pass on to us. As you have seen some carcases have been covered with Lime. This is to dissuade scavengers from opening the carcases and spreading the spores. It is just a preventative measure which we were advised to take …

 I will let everyone know the results of tests as soon as we have them, but in the meantime please report fresh carcases, don’t touch the carcases without gloves, drive to close, or eat the meat!!!  

Anthrax in Wildlife           http://www.iucn-vsg.org/documents/anthrax.pdf

Anthrax and Humans:     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002301/

Of course their are many, many hippopotamus pods and large herds of buffalo and both species share a liking for shallow pools – the hippo like the pools because they like to take a rest from the might Zambezi river current and the buffalo enjoy the mud at the edge of the pools, they are also both grazers.  It would be interesting to find the source of the spores that can lie dormant for many years and if there is a connection between man-made channels leading inland from the Zambezi River or if this is pureply nature’s way of decreasing the populations.

Now for the Serious stuff…

Another letter, but this time,  two weeks later, it is a PLEA…

Greetings all

Thanks to … we have been informed today of some lions showing signs of swelling around the mouth and face as well as drooling thick white mucous. As a result … went down to photograph them and check for ourselves. Indeed it was a scary sight! The poor beasts are suffering from obvious signs of Anthrax, obviously from gorging themselves on infected carcasses. At first we didn’t think they could be affected but unfortunately that is obviously not the case.

The warden has been notified as to has the government vet and Dr … Doc  is on his way down with the government vet and hope they will be here tomorrow. At the moment our aim is to treat these lions as soon as possible with penicillin as well as inoculate them and possibly all the lions in the area.

We will need everyones co-operation on this please and request that any lion sightings be reported immediately … We also ask that the guides take notice of any swelling around the mouths or head and neck region or signs of drooling excessively. At the same time though we will need space and privacy to work on the lions so will ask that all game drives stay away if they see us busy with lions. We might be out all day and night tomorrow so will need everyones co-operation and if needed we will call for assistance.

Thank you all in advance.

As it stands at the moment we have lost over 40 hippo, 15 buffalo, 4 Civets and possibly 2 elephants to this outbreak. All are unconfirmed as they haven’t been tested and there may be more which we have missed.

The first reported cases were this time last month.

If anyone has had contact with the carcases or handled them in anyway please take a course of Ampicillin for precautions.

Thanks and hopefully with everyones help we can save our lions. According to Dr … if we treat them soon then they will bounce back fast.

So there we have it from DONT PANIC to PLEASE HELP.  This is what humans are all about, we want nature to take it course but we’ll do anything we can to prevent animals from dying due to natural diseases because at the end of the day, it’s not nice to see dead animals but it certainly is great to see lions feeding off their own kill!

🙂

On a more serious note, if you ever see grazers bleeding from the nose or anus or lots of saliva dripping from the mouths of predators, please report it to the local authorities, park rangers and wardens do need all the help they can get to manage their parks and reserves!

Herewith the sad pictures of the infected lions:

Mystery at dusk

September 26th, 2010, posted in Climate & Weather, Creatures Great & Small

Just after sunset as the cooler night air began to flow into camp, the still September air was suddenly filled with sound of raindrops. There is no rain in the Lower Zambezi Valley during the hot dry months of September and October but there was no doubt about what I could hear – it was the sound of raindrops on the dry leaves that had been blown off the trees by the August winds.

I stepped out from under the thatched lounge area to feel the raindrops but instead felt nothing and only heard the rustle of leaves under my feet. The sound of raindrops hitting the ground stopped and now I was mystified! The following afternoon, just after sunset it happened again…

Pieter identified the tree that grows there as a “Rain Tree”, Lonchocarpus capassa . Early the next morning, I went to have a look at what the raindrops could have been but could not see anything. A few days later, to my delight there were thousands of tiny purple-blue flowers on the ground of which I have a picture to show you and for those interested, it’s not the flowers that are referred to as rain, but water from an insect…

“Many Africans are very superstitious about L. capassa for it is one of the so-called rain trees, and some specimens do ‘rain’ for a week or more during the hot dry months just prior to the actual breaking of the rains. This phenomenon is found in other unrelated genera and in this case is caused by the numph of a small insect, a species of frog-hopper, Ptyelus grossus, belonging to the order Hemiptera. As a protection against the sun, the nymph covers itself with a frothy substance similar to patches of foam, popularly called ‘cuckoo-spit’, caused by common, closely related species. The insects obtain nourishment by piercing the bark of the tree with their sucking mouth parts (stylets) and sucking up the sap at great speed. They eject almost pure water equally fast, and this drips from the tree in sufficient quantity to form pools on the ground below…

flowers from Loncocarpus

African night sounds

May 12th, 2010, posted in Creatures Great & Small, Wildlife

In Africa there are many sounds that you will become aware of at night. I remember the first time I heard a Black-backed jackal, it was an eerie sound and looked to my Dad for comfort as we sat around the campfire on a neighbours farm. These days, we almost take hearing them call for granted, not quite, but almost!

Sleeping in a luxury East-African safari tent or simply under the canvass of a dome tent allows you to hear the night sounds and experience Africa with one of your finest senses, hearing…

There is nothing more awesome than hearing the roar of Lion, grunting of leopard or giggle of Hyena. Then I wonder if there is anything more peaceful than hearing the call of a Nightjar and song of crickets.

Towards the end of summer, I enjoyed a night in the bushveld with a few journalists from the UK and Europe. I was walking alongside a lady from Ireland a little distance from where we were eating in the open air boma when she commented on how loud it was, I thought she was referring to the conversation noise level, but after my response, realized quickly that she had been referring to the sound of insects!

Listening to the night is not quiet as you would somehow think it to be, although there would be no alarms, no traffic noise, no horns, the night is filled with a conversation of creatures that fill the darkness with life!

The following is a recording of painted reed frogs who sang a grateful song after the rains in Mozambique, a choir we had the privilege of hearing whilst staying at Machampane Wilderness Camp in the Transfrontier Park near the Kruger National Park!

Bushtrails video: painted reed frogs, the sound

The Snake I looked up to

April 26th, 2010, posted in Creatures Great & Small

python-headFor years I have lived in the African Bush and my childhood was spent in the mountains of the Drakensberg. I have seen countless snakes of all shapes and sizes, from hissing night adders at the high altitude on mountain peaks, to skittish grass snakes in the deep valleys below; however, I am still not used to them!

I have seen, stepped over and walked around many puff-adders. Puffadders are the fastest striking snakes in the world; they are fat snakes with excellent camouflage. The reason I have seen so many of them is that they tend to enjoy basking on footpaths and dirt roads; I don’t go looking for them, I just am aware they exist!

The giant snake of Southern Africa is the African Rock Python. This is a beautifully patterned snake; it is a constricertor with sharp teeth but no fangs and therefore no venom. The African rock python is an opportunistic snake and will strike at any formidable prey it encounters. This is the snake I looked up to…

Pieter often comes in from the reserve to take us on an impromptu game, bird or bush walk and on occasion when he has spotted a rare sighting, he has collected Joshua and I and take us to see a new born hippo, cheetah den, leopard etc.  So, when he came home after a walk through the reserve and said I must quickly get Joshua, there is something he’d like to show us, I was very excited.

Pieter took me towards a tree and said, “There, can you see him?”  I looked on the ground, in the grass, under a nearby bush and asked “What? Where?” Pieter said the python, so now that I knew what I was looking for, I looked closer to my feet searching but then when he pointed up into the tree, my eyes met with those of the Rock Python. That is why, it is wiser and better to go into the bush with a field guide – they see wild creatures of all shapes, sizes and colours in all sorts of locations.

Rock Python above me

My heart skipped a beat as I realized I had been standing under such a large snake without knowing it. My instinct was to turn and back away from the tree as panic replaced my excitement, but Pieter was waiting behind me and grabbed my shoulders, keeping me there, reassuring me that I was safe, he was telling me to look at the patterns on its underbelly, a part you rarely see as most often pythons are, on the ground, so I forced myself to look away from its head and follow its large, long body down the tree branches.

African Rock Python

When my breathing returned almost to normal, Pieter let me go and then I heard this little voice from next to me, “I’m not scared Mommy, look at the beautiful patterns”. It’s wonderful to know Joshua is not scared of snakes, it makes it easier for Pieter to show him then, teach him about the dangers, but also it allows them to observe snakes in their natural habitat, learning more about each species and taking back a little more after each encounter.

I’ll leave the observation to the two of them and keep my distance; snakes seem a lot more interesting when I’m further away from them!!

Pieter and Joshua look up at python

Pieter pointing to the tails

Python, camouflaged in tree

Long, large snake

Constrictor in tree

Patterned body

Bushtrail surprise sighting

February 2nd, 2010, posted in Creatures Great & Small

A bush trail is about spending time in the bush observing nature in every form from the large animals to the small, getting insight into how it all comes together, the trees, soil, rivers and flowers.  Think of it as a nature walk with your own personal guide, pointing out things you and I could easily miss.

Yesterday afternoon, we braved the elements and took a gamble on the weather, the thunder was rolling in but rolled down into the next valley, leaving us without rain and although the lighting was beautiful, I only had my phone camera with me as normally happens on impromptu walks! So the pictures are not of good quality, sorry.

Our bushtrail allowed us a close-up sighting of a Winged Predatory Katydid, that’s a Clonia wahlbergi for all those entomologists who read my posts!!! It was a female – laying her eggs in the sandy ground.

The Winged predatory katydid has a very slender but long body (40-65mm in length); it is an apple green colour with fine markings as though it were carefully painted making such a veracious predator look quite beautiful!

Since our sighting did not allow us to view its wings, we returned back to read more – the wings are fully developed and the anal area of the hind wings is whitish with brown bars. It is wide spread in bushveld, forest margins and grasslands, so taking a bush trail when next you can on a game reserve could result in you also sighting this fascinating insect!

Leaf Mantid – Africa’s Sci-fi character

November 23rd, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

Today’s story is about a Leaf Mantid, Phyllocrania paradoxa, found on a bush walk on the game reserve in the northern parts of South Africa.

I personally believe the insect world inspires the science fiction movies of today, taking a closer look at their heads and eyes; they definitely resemble the general alien look!

Triangular head, leaf mantid

Triangular head, leaf mantid

l-mantid

This insect is large with a body length of about 44mm. Sexes differ in appearance. Males are slender and mottled brown with dark shoulders and have a darker cross on their hind wings. The photos below indicate a male leaf Mantid. These insects are a superb mimic of dead leaves, remaining motionless while waiting for prey to within grasp. These Phyllocrania paradoxa are found in sub-tropical vegetation and along forest margins which is where we found this odd creature!

looking like a leaf

looking like a leaf

keeping still

keeping still

up-side-down

up-side-down

Some people wonder if life out in the African Bush can become a bit boring, rather it is quite the opposite and a careful study of peculiar insects like the Hymenopodidae family or even the whole order Mantodea can produce hideous discussions as to why they have extraordinarily mobile heads, large compound eyes that are set high on their upper corners and heavily spined fore legs!

For an almost 6-year old boy the thought of such a small creature being predatory results in an unrelenting series of questions, how do they catch their prey? The Leaf Mantid uses its spiky legs to ambush and grasp live prey.

leaf-mantid7

peek-a-boo

peek-a-boo

leaf-like legs

leaf-like legs

phyllocrania paradoxa

phyllocrania paradoxa

x-files

x-files

Wasp Brood Hut

November 5th, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

One lazy Sunday afternoon, we watched a wasp build a mud hut, she would fly to a nearby mud puddle, pick up some sand and then dip it into the water, carrying this ball of mud to it’s newly found corner of our outside windowsill. This carried on for hours and eventually there was only a tiny round opening left.

mud house of a wasp

mud house of a wasp

placing the worm into the mud capsule

placing the worm into the mud capsule

last worm, visible through opening

last worm, visible through opening

Then, one by one we watched her bring in a spider and six bright green worms, push them into her mud hut and then after a brief rest, she laid her eggs into her mud nest.

This wasp is Delta emarginatum and can be found throughout South Africa.
Delta emarginatum is a large wasp with a body length of 24-35mm, it is long waisted, dark brown to black with dark red markings on head, thorax and waist.

laying the egg

laying the egg

felmale wasp inserting her abdomen into the mud nest

felmale wasp inserting her abdomen into the mud nest

sealing the house

sealing the house

 
 
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