Posts Tagged ‘unusual-animals’

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.

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