Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ 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!

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:

A walk along the Olifants River

August 16th, 2011, posted in Birds, Wildlife

Waking early, packing our back-packs and setting off for the first day of the Pel’s Fishing Owl survey was the beginning of a day, I’ll remember well…

Our morning had started just after mid-night when we woke to the sounds of jackal and hyena calls, we discussed the direction of where the sounds were coming from and then went back to sleep, waking a few hours later. Knowing there must be something in the vicinity, we kept our eyes open en route…

On the back of the open-game-drive vehicle, our jackets zipped up and hands in pockets we drove at a less-than-comfortable speed of 20km/hour – it was freezing (Well, not quite – our blood has been thinned from our Lower-Zambezi life) when we saw three spotted hyena and thankfully stopped to have a better look, then, a few hundred metres later, Pieter spotted a Lion who was tucking into his early morning breakfast – a wildebeest kill. Totally awesome and all before the survey began, which is why I got a picture – once the survey began – there was very little time to take photo’s between looking, ID-ing and making notes!

We started walking along the banks of the Olifants River just after sunrise, heading upstream. We marked all the locations of fish-eating birds that either flew past us (downstream) or those on branches, rocks and sandbanks we walked past, using a GPS. Let’s rephrase that – Pieter put in the way-points, whilst I was scribe – pencil and notebook in hand! Bird identification was the most important factor, armed with binoculars and having my personal field guide, made that possible!

Apart from the list species of birds we saw (See below), we also saw a baby hippo – and I mean, baby, this was a tiny little thing, staying very close to its mother, further upstream was a pod of 20+ hippo, crocs, waterbuck, elephant and plenty of bush buck!

All in all, we walked 15km under the warm African Sun, along a river – surrounded by nature, it’s a bush trail, I certainly enjoyed! We did not see any Pels that day, but the rest of the survey on day 2 and 3 produced 5 – so there is still hope…

African Hawk Eagle
Black breasted Snake eagle
BlackSmith Plover
Egyptian geese
Fish Eagle
Giant Eagle Owl
Giant Kingfisher
Green backed heron
Gymnogene
Hammerkop
Hawk eagle
Hooded Vulture
Pied Kingfisher
Pied wagtails
Reed cormorant
Water dikkop
White backed vulture
White breasted cormorant
White-crowned lapwing

About 20 vultures circled us – too high to identify, but still noted in the survey.

Walking Safaris – Zambia

April 9th, 2011, posted in travel, Wildlife

Walking safaris are a personal favourite. Nothing beats being on foot in the bush. Apart from sitting at the camp or lodge and listening to the sound of the African bush, walking is the only other time you as a visitor get to be actively listening for bird song, frog calls, branches breaking or grunts. There is a constant adrenalin rush, there is always something new to discover and a far richer experience to take home than what a game drive can offer.

I have an adventurous family and my Aunt and Uncle though smitten with Africa’s wildlife, still want a bit of luxury, privacy and good food. They too enjoy wild walking trails and since I am the one making suggestions as to where they should travel to next, I had to also find a suitable lodge that catered for their interests in all ways.

I found a venue in South Luangwa, Zambia.

Puku

$550 per person per night for 3 nights inclusive of 2 walks per day, three meals a day, soft drinks, local wines and local spirits, national park fees and a laundry service.

For wildlife enthusiasts wanting to see more than the normal plains game, there are Puku, Thorncroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s Wildebeest and Crawshay’s Zebra. Since there is a concentration of wildlife in the South Luangwa National Park, there are also predators in the form of lion, leopard, crocodile and on the rare occasion – wild dog.

The game trails often lead guests to places with far-reaching views and finding some of the 400 species of birds will prove to be a lot easier along the river banks or islands that are reached by canoe.

For a bit of a colonial treat, trailists are accompanied by a tea bearer!

You’ll have plenty sightings of hippo and elephant and you’ll be on foot most of the time, so your experience will be as close to an authentic safari as you will ever get.

Cooksons Wildebeest

Crawshays Zebra

Thorncrofts Giraffe

Why arrive earlier at the airstrip?

June 16th, 2010, posted in travel, Wildlife

Why should you arrive earlier at the airstrip?

When we book fly-in safaris it is either to save the guests travel time, to allow the guests to experience the area by air, or simply because the roads are so bad it could ruin the experience!

Two weeks ago we were on our way to the Royal airstrip in the Lower Zambezi valley when our transfer came to stop as a beautiful male leopard walked across the road…

Leopard walks across the road

So we stop and watch him rather than rush to catch a flight!

The bottom line _______ even in rural Africa, in the bush without traffic, you may want to leave a little earlier than you need to, you never know what you might see along the way!

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

Serval sighting

April 12th, 2010, posted in Wildlife

Ian and I are so excited! When we were walking this morning in the foothills of the Drakensberg, we saw an adult serval. The serval was sitting on his haunches then it stood up and swished his tail, we watched in awe at this unusual sighting! When the serval realised that we could see him/her it turned and bounded into the grass. On the way back from our walk, very close to where we had seen it we heard either a call from the serval or its cubs – it was a short sound, so we looked in the book and the book said how – how – how

We have seen fresh scat every now and then on the road so we knew serval were on the estate but to see one during the day was amazing!

African Wild Dog – have no expectation

April 1st, 2010, posted in Wildlife

Can having an expectation ruin a sighting?  Will guests “jinx” a sighting?  There have been times when visitors to a game reserve come to see lion; it is almost as though they become obsessed with seeing a lion in the wild.

Fate, Murphy’s Law or the hand of God teaching these guests patience often prevent the secret of bush being revealed and special sightings from occurring.  The opposite also happens when the reason for your game, bird or bush walk is to experience nature for what it is, without any expectations…

On my recent visit to Zululand to help train students along the lines of animal behavior we took a game drive and were blessed with an African Wild Dog sighting!

african wild dog wild dogs

Having no expectation of seeing wild dog, only going to learn more about the wildlife, these students were about to learning about the bush and animal behaviour, in a very special, albeit brief encounter with one of Africa’s rare species!

The African Wild Dog Lycaon pictus, is an endangered species and can only be seen in 6 countries, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania. Their distribution has been greatly reduced within these countries and is very fragmented, so when you see them, know you are blessed!

No two dogs have the same markings and colouration and yet they are unlikely to be mistaken for any other African canid. The ears are large, dark and rounded; the legs are long and its bushy tails usually has a whit tip.  The African Wild Dogs’ body is irregularly blotched with black, white, brown and mustard coloured hair.

These highly social wild animals live in packs that average 10-15 adults and sub adults. Hunting is done by the pack with a success rate of about 70%. Packs kill only for their immediate needs.  The African Wild Dog is one of the few, truly nomadic carnivores with home ranges extending to 1500km². Pack ranges do contract when there are small pups at the den requiring regular feeding, which is done by the adult hunters of the pack regurgitating meat back at the den for the pups.  Pups begin to join the pack at about 3 months but only hunting from 12-14 months.

Zululand, african wild dog sighting brief sighting of African wild dog, zululand

The unusual Tail

March 23rd, 2010, posted in Wildlife

What’s unusual about this Tail? Well, it’s short…

zebra on the left lost half its tail

“ The one that got away” becomes the talking point of an open-landrover, wildlife safari, the question asked on a game walk “What happened to that Zebra’s tail?”

It is in these moments that the field guide or game ranger must decide to tell the truth or make up a story to entertain the guests.

I don’t know why this Zebra has a stump tail, I would guess it escaped some sort of attack, but I had no one to ask, perhaps it lost the remainder due to an infection, the possibilities are endless and though this animal species is often seen on the African Plains, I decided to dedicate this blog post to the Zebra with almost no tail making it an unusual sighting, even though the zebra is a common sighting!

 
 
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