AARDWOLF

The Aardwolf (Proteles cristata) is neither a wolf nor a jackal, but is the smallest member of the Hyena family. Proteles means ‘complete in front’, referring to the fact that they have five toes on their front paws and four toes on their back paws, while cristatus means ‘provided with a comb’, referring to their mane. They are highly territorial and define their territory by extensive scent marking. When threatened, the Aardwolf (Earth Wolf) raises the stiff bristles of hair forming the black stripe on its back in order to look larger and, hopefully, more menacing. This has given rise to its common Afrikaans epithet of Maanhaar Jakkals (Mane Hair Jackal). One rarely comes across one either in or out of game reserves. This is because these solitary creatures are nocturnal and feed mainly on termites. The Aardwolf laps up termites from the ground using its long, sticky tongue.

It was very sad to see an Aardwolf had caught a blow from a passing vehicle during the night and had died on the road.

These and Bat-eared Foxes are prone to being hit by vehicles travelling at night. I wonder if they are dazzled by the headlights and ‘freeze’ or if they simply cannot get out of the way quickly enough.

We visited the Cradock Club (established in 1881) and came across two mounted specimens of Aardwolf decorating a pub – they had clearly been hunted a very long time ago. Still, it seemed a strange coincidence to see evidence of these shy creatures in two very different places on the same day.

Now, to hope that we will come across a live one in the wild one day!

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NO ORDINARY CAT

At first these photographs may strike you as being of an ordinary tabby cat.

Not so. The African Wild Cat, (Felis Silvestris lybica) is an indigenous species which is larger and has longer legs than domestic cats. Their legs are banded, with darker markings being more distinct on the lower limbs. As you can see in this photograph, the relatively long tail is dark-ringed with black tip.

Said to be the ancestors of domestic cats, these animals are widespread throughout Africa. They primarily eat mice, rats, and other small mammals, although have been recorded eating birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. I find it exciting to come across one of these solitary, elusive creatures that inhabit wooded grassland and savanna.

These photographs were taken in both the Kruger National Park and in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park.

WATERBUCK

As the name implies, one would expect to see waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) in the vicinity of water. They are dependent on water and drink it daily. These antelope sport a shaggy brown coat with a noticeable amount of hair around their necks, akin to a collar. This hair is hollow and allows for extra buoyancy, helping the waterbuck to keep their heads above the water when swimming.

What makes them easily recognisable is the characteristic white ring on their rumps. You can just make it out in the photograph above – and clearly in the one below.

I find the long forward curved horns of the bulls particularly attractive.

This one appears to be unconcerned by the number of flies buzzing around its face and horns. Notice the heart-shaped nose.

WARTHOGS

The Common Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) has successfully expanded its range in the Eastern Cape since its introduction to various game farms and reserves during the 1970s. The name refers to the warts carried by the boar, while the Afrikaans name, Vlakvark (Plains Pig), points to its habit of roaming plains as well as in open savanna woodland and sparse shrub land.

Warthogs are fond of mud baths and are found along watercourses and marshlands, preferring to be close to water sources.

It is always interesting to watch warthog kneeling to dig out roots – up to a depth of 15 cm – with their tusks and muscular snouts. They also have an endearing habit of trotting off into the bush with their tails held erect like an aerial.

Here is a warthog family resting in the shade.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

Gracious – look at the cost of postage 42 years ago – one could trust the post office to deliver in those days too! Because postage stamps were still widely used, they were an excellent medium through which to convey important messages, to encourage celebration, and generally to draw attention to various aspects of our society. In this case, Environmental Conservation was celebrated with stamps to coincide with World Environment Day in 1976.

Our recent visit to the Mountain Zebra National Park reminded me of this First Day cover for it features the Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra) along with a Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatis), the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and the Bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus), all of which were regarded as endangered species at the time.

The stamps were designed and painted by the renowned South African Artist, Paul Bosman, who has been quoted as saying “I see art and wildlife conservation as a symbiotic relationship. Because art keeps alive the memories of wildlife in a natural setting, it stimulates a longing in the public to know that such scenes will continue to exist in nature.” This adds a dimension to the symbolic influence of such stamps, which would have been seen by many people from all walks of life.

THERE’S A DONKEY …

… on my veranda.

Not actually my veranda, but that of one the older houses in town which opens onto the pavement.

As with the Urban Herd of cattle, we often see donkeys roaming around the streets, usually in ones or twos – sometimes even threes. These ones are eating the kikuyu grass growing on a road verge on the outer edge of town.

Seeing a donkey on someone’s veranda was unusual enough to photograph, yet, on the same day on someone else’s veranda there were five!

They remind me of a well-known Afrikaans song:

O, die donkie is ‘n wonderlike ding, ja-nee
Die donkie is ‘n wonderlike ding …

Who can forget that wonderful poem by G.K. Chesterton about the Donkey:

When fishes flew and forests walked
   And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
   Then surely I was born.
 

With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
   On all four-footed things.

 
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
   I keep my secret still.
 

Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.