SOME ANIMALS IN THE KAROO NATIONAL PARK

Proclaimed in 1979, the Karoo National Park is situated on the southern slopes of the Nuweveld Mountains near Beaufort West and is home to approximately fifty-eight endemic species of animals, quite apart from birds and reptiles. Even though the vegetation is sparse, one cannot expect to see them all in only just over a day. Time, as well as the luck factor, determines what one can see during a drive. The animals we saw tended to be scattered over a wide area and did not occur in great herds.

Among the animals we saw was a kudu bull peering at us from behind a bush.

Later, we were delighted to come across more kudu in the company of Cape mountain zebras.

A lone springbok seemed unperturbed by our presence.

It is always wonderful to come across the majestic looking gemsbok.

The red hartebeest shone like burnished copper in the sun.

A small troop of baboons crossed the road ahead of us and proceeded to fan through the veld where they nibbled on grass seeds and overturned stones looking for insects to eat.

There were other animals too, some too far from the road for a good photograph. Sadly, we had only one full day in the park – we clearly need to spend a lot more time there!

THE SPLENDOUR OF KUDU HORNS

Looking back at the number of times I have posted about kudus it is clear that I do not tire of admiring these animals – and especially the majestic horns of mature males, which are awesome to see in the wild. It is the splendour and sheer majesty of their horns that make kudu bulls attractive to both photographers and trophy hunters. Not being a hunting fanatic, I fail to understand the enjoyment of killing an animal simply because its magnificent horns make desirable trophies!

Kudu are awesome to watch as they move elegantly through the veld or stand stock-still and look at one. They move effortlessly through the thick bush by lifting their chins so that their horns lie flat along their backs. I regard them as regal animals and admire them for the serenity they convey.

Apart from using their horns for defending themselves, the jousting and fighting between competing males during the mating season can be fearsome to observe. They literally lock horns in their desire to overpower each other to prove their dominance. This one has come off the poorer from such an encounter.

I can’t help wondering if this bull feels ‘unbalanced’ or if it is actually unaware of what it is missing.

KUDU ENCOUNTER

I never cease to feel a sense of awe when coming across a kudu in the wild. These majestic horns of a mature male are beautiful to see.

An interesting aspect of kudu is that they often stand stock-still when surprised. We have witnessed this behaviour time and again in game reserves: they might take a long look at you before moving a little further away or into the relative safety of a cluster of trees and then stand still to look back at what has disturbed them. It is equally wonderful to come across the females.

Look at their large ears and … this one is clearing something from her nose with her dark tongue.

Her companion chews a blade of grass whilst contemplating our presence in the late afternoon light.

Now this is the thing about kudu outside of protected areas: they pose a very real danger on roads throughout a great deal of South Africa – particularly from dusk until dawn. One reason for this is that they apparently have a compulsion to leap in front of approaching headlights. They are not easy to see in the dark either and so one has to drive very carefully and be on the alert to avoid a collision which could prove to be fatal to both the motorist and the kudu.

We once surprised a kudu along the nearby country road during the late afternoon – beautiful to see, but not an experience to risk again as we watched it run back and forth along the road; run along the high fences on either side and crash into them while attempting to leap over them. Kudu have a reputation of clearing a normal fence with ease – and we have watched one clear a high game fence with grace too. The latter had been running across the open veld and simply leapt over the high fence as if it were a bush in the way. Such fences are more of an obstacle if there is no ‘run-up’ space and there is an annoying vehicle in the way. We have since been much more cautious about getting off that road well before dusk. What we did not expect was to come across this sight as we came around a corner mid-morning.

This photograph and the next are not of good quality as they were taken through the windscreen. As you can see, the road is narrow and bordered on either side by tall trees. What makes there even less room for these three to escape is that high game fences run along both sides of the road too. The trio would run ahead and stop to look at us; run ahead and disappear into the bushes lining the road; presumably run along the fence line out of sight and then appear in the road further ahead to cross it and try the other side.

I crawled along, eyes wide, until at last the kudu decided to turn back. I glimpsed them running along the fence on my right, back the way they had come. Having seen them standing in the road behind me, I knew it was safe at last to continue on our way.

REGAL KUDU

Look at this magnificent kudu bull:

The photograph below is of a female. She had been browsing next to the road and is making her way through the bush. Although her pose looks a little inelegant, she was through it in seconds and started browsing on the other side.