OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

It was only when these zebras started trotting along the road ahead of us that I noticed that the back foot of this one was twisted at an awkward angle.

The extent of the misshapen ankle/foot is clear in this photograph:

The twisted back foot is evident when the zebra is at rest. In all other respects, it appears to be perfectly healthy.

A close-up view provides no clear answer as to what might have happened: was the zebra born with this deformity? Perhaps it twisted its ankle or broke it some time ago. Whatever the origin, this zebra has learned to live with it. Although it brought up the rear when they trotted along the road or through the grass, it wasn’t far behind.

NOTE: Please click on a photograph should you wish to see a larger view.

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RED HARTEBEEST 2

Here is a Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus caama) sitting comfortably next to the road in the Addo Elephant National Park. Judging from the droppings surrounding it, it had been there for some time and showed no intention to move.

You can tell it has been sitting very still by looking at the flies on its eye and nose. It did not appear to be bothered by them when I parked next to it to take photographs. As you can see, these antelope have long narrow faces.

The rather soulful look of the adult can be seen in this youngster too.

Here is a mother with its calf.

NOTE: Please click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.

FLIGHTLESS DUNG BEETLES (2)

I have mentioned before that the Addo Flightless Dung Beetle (Circellium bacchus) are among the largest in the world and that they play an important role in the ecosystem, helping to decompose the piles of dung deposited both by wild animals and stock animals. As there has been a little rain, this is a good time of the year to see them in the Addo Elephant National Park.

They criss-cross the roads in search of dung, causing some motorists to swerve to avoid them. One can also see them on the verges, as is the one in the photograph above. It is always interesting, however, to see them at work on freshly deposited elephant dung – this one really looks as if it is biting off more than it can chew, or that its eyes are bigger than its belly! Actually, these beetles can roll balls of dung fifty times heavier than they are.

Dung beetles are reliant on dung both for their own nutrition and that of their larvae. Quite understandably, they prefer fresh dung from which to form their brood balls. It has been interesting to read that studies have shown that these dung beetles use the Milky Way to navigate their way at night.

Not all visitors seem to be aware that these beetles are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN list and so do not heed the many signs warning them to give way to the dung beetles on the road. Factors such as agriculture and human interference have led to the vulnerability of these beetles – we need to watch out for them!

NOTE: Click on a photograph iif you wish to see a larger version.

AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER

It always lifts my spirits to see an African Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) flit across our garden to catch flying insects. We host a nesting pair every year – although I have yet to actually find their nest – and frequently see either the male or female catch the sunlight briefly as they search for food in the forested part of the garden. A pair used to nest in an elm tree on our farm when I was young, conveniently in a spot that gave us a good view of their tiny cup-shaped nest.

The forested part of our garden is ideal for Paradise Flycatchers. These vocal birds can be heard before they are seen in the open, however, I have found that catching them on camera has not been easy, for they are constantly on the move and, as you can tell from these photographs, are not always in the most photogenic spots. Imagine my delight when I caught sight of this male the other morning while I happened to have my camera with me. Look at that beautiful chestnut colouring and his fine long tail:

He perched just long enough for me to focus and then was off again, to return later and look at me thoughtfully before flitting away again. Note the bluish-black head and the blue eye-rings:

I got one more look at him before he flew towards the back garden:

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.

FOCUS ON KUDU

One of the most majestic animals we see is the Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). They carry themselves so elegantly and look at one seemingly with the confidence born of knowing they are a cut above the rest. Look at the colouring of this beautiful female kudu with its tawny brown body, greyish neck and the stripes on its back. Both males and females have a conspicuous hump on the shoulder.

Note the fluffier fur of this immature kudu.

Only the male kudu has horns. You can tell this is a young kudu bull for its horns have not yet started to twist into the familiar spiral pattern. The spectacular horns of the kudu are used to fight each other for the right to mate with females.

You can see this pattern in the image below. Note the chevron-shaped white band across the face too.

Kudu are large antelope and rely on their disruptive colouration for camouflage as the stripes help their bodies to blend into the background – from the perspective of possible predators. They sport a mane of long hair from the back of the head to their tail that helps to disrupt their outline. An interesting characteristic of kudu is their large ears.

NOTE: Click on a photograph to see a larger image.