A REFLECTIVE MOOD

Easter is a reflective time of the year and so I offer the following reflections that have all been photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park:

 

This Blackbacked Jackal was approaching the water at Hapoor in a very contemplative mood – it stood there very quietly for some time, possibly aware of the many elephants splashing just the other side of the reeds – before it made its way down the the water in a slow and cautious manner. It displayed patience such as few of us have when we are thirsty.

These Blacksmith Plovers (now called Blacksmith Lapwing) are standing on a barely submerged sandbank in front of the reeds at Hapoor – doubtless enjoying a respite from all the elephant activity that this waterhole is well known for.

An Egyptian Goose enjoying a drink at the Carol’s Rest waterhole.

Another thirsty visitor at Carol’s Rest is this warthog.

I will leave you with these zebra walking along the edge of the Domkrag waterhole in search of a suitable drinking place.

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

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ZEBRAS

We can all recognise a zebra when we see one. I have noticed that, unless they are very close to the road, many visitors to game reserves ignore them: seen one seen them all, sort of thing. Look at them more closely though and you begin to notice interesting things about them.

One of the first things you will notice about this small group is that, while they are all clearly zebras, their stripe patterns are different. Each zebra has a unique stripe pattern. What I hadn’t realised is that the stripes on each side are also different – that is something I need to observe more closely. The face patterns are different too. Look at these two examples:

If you come across a zebra foal, the first thing you will notice is that its fur is fluffier than that of the adults.

I have heard visitors refer to the black patch on the inside of the upper front legs as glands (see the leading zebra in the photograph below) – actually they are thick callouses (called ‘chestnuts’) which protect the sharp edge of the hooves from damaging the muscle or cutting into the leg when the zebras lie down.

One of the more endearing sights is to see zebras standing with their heads resting on each other. I am sure I am not the only one that interprets this as a sign of affection. It certainly looks like that. Trevor Carnaby, in his book Beat about the Bush: Mammals is much more prosaic and explains that this is more likely to be a safety mechanism, with the possible advantage that the swishing tails keep flies of the faces of each other. I rather like my romantic notion.

There are many more aspects to observe about zebras, but they can wait for another post.

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

SPIDER ON THE WALL

An apt excerpt from a poem of the same title by Rani Turton:

Spider on the wall,

You can see us all

Do you wonder as to why

We scurry and worry?

We have our lives to live

(Four score and ten)

Waiting and worrying, often.

This is not the bedtime companion of choice, even high up on the wall, and so I keep a wary eye on where it might be just before I switch off the light!

You can read the full poem at https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/spider-on-the-wall/

NOTE: Click on the photograph if you really want to see a larger view of my bedtime companion.

RHINO POACHING

The slaughtering of rhinos for their horns is a sad phenomenon that has swept through this country for years. Money and manpower is invested in protecting these beautiful creatures that might otherwise have been deployed elsewhere.

It is not a simple matter of trying to catch poachers before they harm an animal: killing is involved – of both beast and man. Some sources have described the situation as war. Several game sanctuaries in the form of national or provincial parks and private game reserves and game farms are within easy reach of the town I live in. Some of the people who work there live in this town, or shop here, or send their children to school here. When a rhino is slaughtered nearby, sections of this community feel the pain as if it were their own: we mix with the people for whom the sadness is very real. So it is that the fate of the white rhino has become close to the hearts of our community and their plight is felt even by young children, who have shown their concern ranging from celebrating the rhino on birthday cakes.

To raising funds and awareness on a much larger scale.

There is a local Rhino Run too.

I have shown these images before and here they serve to illustrate the appreciation of rhinos that runs through our community – they live nearby and so reports of rhino poaching elsewhere in the country strikes a chord here: what about ‘our’ rhino; will they be safe?

In June 2016, rhino poaching hit home – hard. It was reported that three suspects had been arrested at the Makana Resort in our town. They were linked to the poaching of rhino at Buckland’s Private Game Reserve, where it is suspected the rhino was darted before it was killed and its horn hacked off. Even though the men had been caught red-handed in a chalet with a 10.27 kilograms of freshly harvested rhino horn valued at R1 million‚ a bloody saw‚ a dart gun and M99 tranquilising drug, as well as cell phones and SIM cards, it has taken until now for them to be brought to book.

Earlier this month the three rhino poachers, 40-year-old Forget Ndlovu, 38-year-old Jabulani Ndlovu and 37-year-old Skhumbuzo Ndlovu, faced over 50 charges related to the poaching of 13 rhinos across the Eastern Cape and were sentenced to 25 years imprisonment each in the Grahamstown High Court.

If you wish to read more detailed reports go to:

https://www.defenceweb.co.za/featured/eastern-cape-rhino-poachers-sentenced-to-25-years-each/

https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/eastern-cape/ndlovu-trio-sentenced-to-25-years-behind-bars-for-rhino-poaching-20556007

https://www.algoafm.co.za/article/local/99780/ec-rhino-poachers-sentenced-to-25-years-each-

ROAN ANTELOPE

Roan antelope (Hippotragus equines) sport distinctive black and white facial markings, long pointed ears and both sexes have heavily ringed scimitar-shaped horns.

They are not your common-or-garden sight in the wild as they are a rare and endangered species which mainly survive in protected areas. This is why seeing them is such a special experience.

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

CAPE BUFFALO HORNS

The horns of Cape buffalo are characterised by a heavy boss (where the base of the horns converge in the middle of the head) and upward curved horns.

Look at the large symmetrical horns on this buffalo:

These horns are not as large, yet the boss is impressive:

One can tell that this is a younger bull because its horns are still hairy:

Given the amount of hair on this buffalo’s horns, I imagine it is even younger:

This old buffalo’s horns have a ridge between them:

Note: Click on a photograph for a larger view.

GOLDEN WILDEBEEST

Blue wildebeest are characterised by a long black mane and a beard of hair hanging from the throat and neck. If so, what are those lighter coloured animals behind them?

They are not the usual colour of a young wildebeest.

These animals are part of a herd of golden wildebeest.

Golden wildebeest have been documented as occurring naturally along the Limpopo Basin on the border of Botswana, having been seen there from as early as the 1920s. Today they are highly sought after by hunters from all over the world, so much so that various breeding programmes have been put into place to ensure a supply of these creatures. This is a valuable industry, for according to a report in The Witness of July 2013, a golden wildebeest bull was sold at a game auction for R1,825 million.

The colour variation that makes these animals stand out from the more common blue or black wildebeest is due to a recessive gene. The blurring of this photograph is a result of both a moving vehicle and a moving animal.

What are your thoughts on breeding colour variants of animals, largely for the hunting industry?

Note: Click on a photograph for a larger view.