THE DISTINCTIVE ZEBRA

There is no doubt that zebra are photogenic – I have a great number of photographs of them – for they are strikingly beautiful animals. I am particularly fascinated by the patterns on their faces as one can tell from these that, even though they might ‘all look the same’, there are indeed unique features about them. Zebra are often described as having patterns similar to our fingerprints; that no two zebra are exactly alike. I commented on a blog the other day that apparently the stripes on either side of a zebra are different. This is an observation I have read about but, as we usually only see one side of a zebra at a time, it is difficult to verify. Hunting through my collection, I came across a photograph of this zebra drinking at the Domkrag waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park – an opportunity to see one from above.

The more I look at these two photographs, the more I appreciate how similar the stripe pattern is on both sides – until you actually follow the pattern closely. We seldom get the opportunity to do just that when we see zebra in the wild.

Zebras are distinctive. Their stripe patterns are an indication of just how distinctive they are – each one slightly different from the other.

TIRED ZEBRA

There were hundreds of elephants congregated around the Hapoor waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park – and I mean hundreds! Some were standing around in groups while others splashed and cavorted in the (by now) muddy water. Other groups of elephants were either arriving or departing, yet halted to greet others in the way that elephants do. Whatever their activities, elephants are wonderfully interesting creatures to watch and the parking area along the waterhole was crammed with vehicles – there was hardly space for a late comer to park.  On the opposite side of the road – attracting little if any attention – was a tired young zebra.

The sun was baking down as it looked around from its prone position. The noise of the elephants, the vehicles and the people might perhaps have become a little too much to bear.

It allowed the heat, the buzzing background noises and the comfort of the sand to get to him – and flopped down for a rest!

DROUGHT LANDSCAPE

People who live in places where they have had so much rain that they complain about it now and then cannot always comprehend the impact of a serious drought on the landscape. These photographs were taken in the Addo Elephant National Park about two weeks ago.

There is very little ground cover left after the dry winter – and nary a sign of spring flowers!

Even where there is still grass, it looks dry and lifeless. Yet, the animals survive somehow and – as long as good rains fall before it is too late – the veld manages to renew its growth of essential grasses, herbs and other vegetation to a point.

BAT-EARED FOX II

An advantage of staying overnight in a national park – as opposed to a day visit – is that one can spend a longer time out instead of rushing to get to the gates before closing time.  We rounded a corner late one afternoon in the Mountain Zebra National Park and came across this Bat-eared Fox in the golden grass.

It was catching ants to eat.

This was a rather scruffy individual, yet a joy to come across so unexpectedly.

The Bat-eared Fox pounced on ants here and there, circled a few times, ran off a little distance, and then snuffled around again. Even though we were staying over, our time was running out and we reluctantly left it to return to the rest camp before dark.

MOUNTAIN ZEBRAS IN THE MOUNTAIN ZEBRA NATIONAL PARK

They are not always easy to see, yet a visit to the Mountain Zebra National Park would not be complete unless one saw the eponymous Mountain Zebras that the park was originally set aside to protect. Close-up photographs of them abound, so I thought I would begin by showing the steep terrain they feel quite at home in:

Life for these animals is not necessarily idyllic. This one has obviously emerged from a skirmish of sorts – perhaps even with another zebra – as its hide bears scars; there is an open wound on its neck; and it has a floppy ear:

Compare this ear with the erect ears of this mother with her fuzzy-looking foal:

The mother is eating grass – she too has scratch marks on her hindquarters:

A more typical scene in which you can see the pinkish nose of the Mountain Zebra:

As we bid this herd of Mountain Zebras farewell, you can see the broad stripes on their behinds: