KEEP A LOOKOUT FOR VERVET MONKEYS

They are cute, curious creatures that can provide a lot of pleasure. Vervet monkeys are the primates you are most likely to have very close encounters with in the Mountain Zebra National Park – whether you are camping, caravanning or staying in a chalet.

There is plenty of natural food, such as berries, flowers, leaves and insects, about for them to eat so don’t spoil the relationship by offering them food – no matter how entertaining it might be for you. Of course they will eat it BUT this means that they will hang around the tents, caravans or chalets for more handouts and here is where their relationship with people sours; their presence stops being a delight; and they are regarded as pests. Why? They are quick to take advantage of an open door, window, tent flap or unattended vehicle with anything edible in sight and will whip in and take food, even if you are right there. Some people shout, scream, yell or even throw stones at them – while others laugh at the antics (until it happens to them).

This monkey moves away nonchalantly – and will be back in a tick if there is even the smallest chance of getting hold of the food left out in the open. It is better for all concerned to keep doors, windows or tent flaps closed and to ensure that all food is secure against these roaming monkeys.

The vervet monkeys that roam around the rest camp are interesting to look at.

Yet actually look more splendid sunning themselves out in the veld.

Signs in the rest camp urge people not to feed the monkeys – for their sake and for the sake of other visitors, this is one to adhere to!

 

A LONG-TERM VIEW OF A TERMITE MOUND

There is a lookout point on the Kranskop Loop which I have circled on the map of the Mountain Zebra National Park.

One is allowed to leave one’s vehicle to enjoy both a leg stretch and the beautiful views. For some reason I photographed a large termite mound there during our visit in 2014:

Perhaps it was because it is the only one on the edge of the parking area; or it might have been because there is clear evidence of fairly recent repairs to the mound, which you can see in the foreground; it may also have been simply because I find such mounds fascinating. The white spots on the top in this photograph are bird droppings. I thought no more of this picture until our return to the same place in 2016 and I photographed it again:

The small rock on the left is still there; there are leaves on the tiny shrub next to it; and the mound looks in a state of good repair – the community within must be functioning well. Naturally, I photographed it again in 2018:

The small rock and the tiny shrub are still there; the larger shrub on the left has grown larger, actually covering part of the mound – which still looks in a state of good repair. There is no sign of the thorns in the background that are visible in the previous photograph. In 2019, the mound looked like this:

Of course I had never thought of standing at the same place each time I photographed the mound! From this perspective though, you can still see the small rock and the tiny shrub – the other plants that had been growing around the base of the mound have disappeared; the shrub on the left has grown and the thorns are visible – they probably were there before but were hidden from where I was standing. The mound shows some signs of repair, although there are several holes visible on the dome. I photographed it again in 2020:

The little rock remains in place, although the tiny shrub now almost hides it; the thorns are more visible as the shrub on the left appears to have died off; and the actual shape of the termite mound has altered a little. There are signs of repair on the left and the holes on the dome are no longer as obvious. I simply had to photograph this termite mound again on our most recent visit. So, in 2021 it looks like this:

Again, the perspective is different, yet the mound struck me at the time as having ‘shrunk’ a little. The little rock remains firmly in place; the tiny shrub has grown, while the one on the left has dried out so that the thorns behind are clearly visible. There is a bulge on the left where more repair work has been carried out and bird droppings adorn the dome once more.

YELLOW GRASS

The bleached yellow or straw-coloured grass is a striking feature of the Mountain Zebra National Park during the winter – along with icy temperatures. The Springbok in the foreground is lying down to seek respite from the latter.

So are these Red Hartebeest, with a single Springbok to keep them company.

This almost colourless grass covers the valleys and spreads up the hillsides onto the plateau. A Mountain Zebra appears to be standing guard over a small herd of Red Hartebeest.

Despite its desiccated appearance, the grass is still nutritious for grazers, as this zebra demonstrates.

As do these herds of mixed antelope on the plateau.

The early morning and late afternoon light turns the grass into spun gold.

MOUNTAIN ZEBRAS GALORE PART TWO

No two zebras look alike, which makes it compelling to photograph the different patterns they display. Apart from that, I enjoy finding an individual with something different about it. During our visit to the Mountain Zebra National Park, this zebra caught my eye as it has somehow lost the tuft at the end of its tail.

This must be a nuisance when it comes to fending off flies, for example. It was soon enjoying a dust bath in a dry dam.

Several others in the herd were doing the same.

Appropriately, the last animal we saw as we were leaving the park was a Cape Mountain Zebra walking away from us: a fine farewell to a beautiful place and these fascinating animals.

MOUNTAIN ZEBRAS GALORE PART ONE

Appropriately the first animals we spotted after entering the Mountain Zebra National Park were … Cape Mountain Zebras.

The grey sky had nothing to do with rain and everything to do with cold weather: the temperature was -6°C when we set out for our early morning drive.

Not that the zebras seemed to mind the cold. The Red Hartebeest, on the other hand, are huddling in the dry grass to protect themselves a little from the icy wind which swept through the valley.

Note the horizontal stripes that extend right down to the hooves of the Cape Mountain Zebra. You can also see the dewlap on this one’s throat.

These zebras sport a characteristically reddish colour around their muzzles.

Cape Mountain Zebras mainly eat grass, bark leaves and occasionally roots.

Here a curious herd keeps an eye on us.

One cannot help admiring the beautiful area they call home.

It is time for this foal to have its breakfast.

The foal has a woolly covering to help it deal with the icy conditions of winter.