Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

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!

Pangolin sighting

March 9th, 2010, posted in Wildlife

Living your life in the African wild means your chances of seeing unusual sightings is better than when taking a short safari!  More often than not these scarce sightings take place on an unscheduled game walk, or whenever you do not have a camera nearby.  It as though these unbelievable moments are kept sacred, it is more than ”  Murphy’s law” it’s as though the bush is sharing a secret with you!

You can imagine our excitement when one of the guests out on a game drive with Pieter saw something running through the grass. Pieter looked in the direction she was pointing and saw a Pangolin making its way through the long grass! They are solitary animals and mainly nocturnal, with occasional daytime activity making this sighting extra special! What is even better, is that this time cameras were available to capture this uncommon species.

The Ietermagô (Afrikaans for Pangolin) is distinguished by other mammals by its covering of overlapping horny plates. The eyes are small and the ears are just slits in the side of the head.  The legs are short and heavily built; the forefeet have a nail on the first toe, curved claws up to 5cm long on the second, third and fourth toeas and  a short claw on the fifth. All five toes on each hind foot have a small nail-like claw.  The tail is long and heavy.

The Pangolin eats ants and sometimes termites. They hide during the day in Aardvark or springhare burrows, holes or under piles of vegetation. It locates ants’ nests by smell, scratches them open with its claws and licks the ants with its long sticky tongue.

What makes it unusual:

  • The Pangolin walks on its hind legs; the front feet rarely touch the ground.
  • It has a well-developed anal gland produces a stinking secretion.
  • Pangolins have no teeth; they grind their food in a muscular gizzard.
  • When threatened a pangolin rolls up with its head protected by its tail.
  • Young ride crossways on the base of their mothers tail and when they are older, they ride lengthways on her back.

Why we are sharing this safari sighting with you:

Although Pangolin’s are widespread, they are uncommon. Pangolins are exceptionally sensitive to insecticides.  Their habit of rolling up when threatened leads to their getting tangled in, and killed by, electrified game fences. Pangolin scales are sought after for traditional medicine, and poaching is a major cause of death.

Red Data Book: Vulnerable, CITES: Appendix II.

To book your wildlife safari, please complete this enquiry form.

African Wild Cat Update

January 20th, 2010, posted in Wildlife

Our African Wild Cat Update due to popular demand:
Day 4 in the life of custodians to an African Wild cat kitten means I get to tell you only a few basics…

african wild cat

Our African Wild cat is settling in well, due to the relocation we need keep him indoors for about 6 weeks, Joshua is freaking out! We are opposed to cages and animals kept in cages and this almost 6year old is letting us know how much he disapproves of all of this – a good thing!
This African Wild cat is proving to be just that – wild, but beautiful and that’s the way we like it, although on a cool rainy day it does not mind to sleep for about 10 minutes on Joshua’s lap, much to his delight!
It has discovered its tail and sometimes paw-pounces onto his tail, tassels from a chair throw seem to be his favourite to paw! We have placed a tree stump into the room and will watch and wait for it to claw it.
For now, we are observing it’s grooming habits which for such a tiny kitten are quite exemplary! He licks his paws then uses his paws to clean his face, then licks his paws again to clean his paws that were just cleaning his face, then he grooms his back and side and hind legs, getting distracted every so often by his tail which he just has to grab with a free paw! Cute and clever! That I say because of its toilet training; mother-taught or self taught it only uses the litter tray! (Wish potty-training children was that easy!)

An African Wild cat

January 18th, 2010, posted in Wildlife

An African Wildcat has joined us in the Nyala breeding camp next to the reserve! Although it is only 7 weeks old, it has an instinctive wild cat reaction to us – hissing and spitting when it sees us.

I have a list of “toys” we should make to stimulate its natural hunting instinct and we’ll be learning as we go along, following Pieter’s ability to read animals and all the advice I can get from my sister, a vetinary nurse!

We are on day 2 and so far so cute!

reddish hair on the backs of the ears

The first time I saw an African Wild Cat, was whilst we were on honeymoon in the Kalahari National Park. The African Wild Cats of the Kgalakgadi National Park are fat and worth watching for hours as they stalk and pounce on the readily available “vluit rotte” or Brants whistling rat. Now, to have the privilege of watching a young African Wild cat grow, observe its behaviour and be a part of its life is an honour and just another blessing we as a family have received from living in the African bush.

The African Wild Cat, Felis silvestris is similar in build an form to a domestic cat, variable in colour, but backs of ears rich reddish-brown and its vertical body stripes can be distinct to very faint, great, that helps!!! Ok, so the ear-colour is important!!! It is generally longer in the leg and larger too.

Why it is threatened: in some areas it has bred with domestic and feral cats, so its bloodline needs to be pure! They are primarily nocturnal and its food consists mainly of small rodents and birds are taken readily, occasionally the African Wild Cat will take reptiles and invertebrates, but recordings of mammals up to the size of hares and the young of small antelope have been recorded, making it quite an impressive little hunter!

joshua sits with wild cat

re-uniting a cheetah cub with its mother

December 30th, 2009, posted in Wildlife

We are actualy a hands-off family, but we are also human and some times we are blessed by the impulsive decisions we make, this bushtrail post is about the eventful afternoon we shared with a baby cheetah…

cheetah and cubs

female cheetah with 3 of her cubs

Our story starts with an explanation of how the cheetah cub got lost. We live in a Nyala-breeding camp adjacent to the game reserve. The warthogs had dug under the fence and the very hungry cheetah thought it best to crawl under and take her cubs to a place where she could find food for her also very hungry, meat-eating cubs.

When the game ranger found her, she had killed one of the female Nyala. A vet was called to dart the cheetah family and take them back home, (we weren’t home at the time we went birding at Nylsvley). We are told one of the cubs made a dash before the vet could dart it, only the minimum amount of drug was used so they had to quickly transport them back into the reserve. They found the little cub but, by the time they took her to the others it was dark. We guess she did not locate her mother and walked back to the last place they had been together as a family – the nyala breeding camp…

Meanwhile, the next day, Pieter was helping me to set up the irrigation system to water our vegetable garden when he heard a cry, I was singing at the time and he asked me to listen, that’s when we heard the call of a creature coming from the Nyala-breeding camp. Pieter looked towards the sound and spotted the cub, only then did I see it!

Pieter ran into the house and grabbed a blanket and I took two towels, we set off to try and catch this little wild cat. As we approached her she ran down the hill and Pieter followed closely behind – I was amazed at the acceleration of the cheetah cub even at such a young age! Fortunately she chose a relatively open area and tired. Although cheetahs are the fastest animals on earth, they do not have the stamina to keep up a pro-longed chase, and this is why Pieter was able to catch up to her!

He threw the blanket over her and carefully wrapped her up in it, making sure no claws or teeth could lash out at him. We placed her into the back of our bakkie and took her back to the game reserve. When we got within 20 metres of the cheetah mother, Pieter took the towels and lifted the rather timid-looking little cub. Well, it growled and hissed and tried to bite and scratch Pieter, proving to be rather ferocious.

The Scene it made and loud alarm screams called its mother to attention, and when Pieter released the cub, the mother was only about 10 metres away – at that moment she called out to the cub, it stopped running turned and responded to her call. The young cheetah cub was calmed by her mothers gentle licking and was now re-united with its mother, brothers and sister.

Pieter checked on the family today and they all seem relaxed and happy!

So, even though we do not like fences and human contact with animals, this time, our intervention helped a lost cub find its way home.

cheetah cubs

cheetah, witwater game reserve

cheetah and her cubs

Four cubs and their mother

Accommodation options on this reserve are at Witwater Safari Lodge or self-catering Chalets

Beautiful Impala

December 10th, 2009, posted in Wildlife

I think Impala are beautiful!

Impala and lamb resting

Impala and lamb resting

pretty buck

pretty buck

In my opinion, Impala are the most beautiful of all the antelope in Southern Africa, they are not cutesy small, nor are they robustly handsome, they are the perfect size, have beautiful faces and proportionate colouring.

In December, you will find many young Impala, born at the beginning of our summer and they are not only beautiful, but these antelope are adorable. You will find these buck to be in large numbers in most game reserves, so photographing them and observing their habits will be easy.

No matter how many I see, I appreciate them all!

Our brief visit to Balule Camp in Kruger, allowed us to see many Impala, some young male rams were horn wrestling, some baby impala were running and jumping, similar to the way young sheep lambs do!

young impala

young impala

beautiful antelope

beautiful antelope