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!

SHINING RED HARTEBEEST

Although Red Hartebeest do not have to drink water every day as long as there is sufficient moisture in the grass they eat, these ones are having a rest at the Woodlands Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park. These striking animals are all facing in the same direction, looking relaxed and at peace. They are naturally social animals that occur in herds that look beautifully graceful when seen in motion on the open plains.

I think that they look particularly beautiful in the sunlight that picks out their coppery sheen. You can see their shiny reddish brown coats with a distinctive white rump more clearly in this closer view of them. It is thought that these white rumps may help to reflect heat or, act as a warning or when the darker tail is moved across it.

Both sexes have heavily ringed horns on a pedestal base and point backwards. These complex curving horns are used both for fighting with other males and defending themselves from predators.  A fellow blogger told me once that once they have been cleaned and buffed, these horns make excellent Biblical shofars. It is also interesting to note that the length and narrow width of the muzzle of the Red Hartebeest make it a selective feeder and that territorial bulls mark their territory with dung heaps.

THE ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK

Having mentioned the Addo Elephant National Park in my previous post, I delved into my folders to find a selection of photographs from a 2017 visit to give you an idea of some of the interesting things you can see there – apart from lions, hyenas, caracal and aardvarks that is. There are a number of carefully managed waterholes dotted about the park where, while exercising a degree of patience, one has the opportunity to see a variety of animals and birds. The Domkrag Dam is a favourite place to stop, for one is allowed to get out of one’s vehicle for a better view of the water over the low Spekboom hedge. On this occasion we were able to watch a small herd of Burchell’s zebra approaching from across the plain to drink.

Domkrag Dam is named after an enormous mountain tortoise that used to live in the area. What is significant about this tortoise is that it had the strange habit of walking underneath cars and lifting them up with its enormous strength! The shell of this famous tortoise is on display in the Interpretive Centre at Main Camp. Burchell’s zebra are frequently seen sharing the grassy plains with herds of red hartebeest.

Jack’s Picnic Site provides a welcome stopover for a comfort break and is well equipped with picnic sites, each containing a wooden table with benches as well as a place to braai if one wishes to cook one’s own food. Each site is well hidden from the one next door by a thick hedge of Spekboom and other indigenous bushes. It is a particularly good place to photograph a variety of birds from close up as most of them have become used to the coming and going of people throughout the day – and are always on the lookout for a fallen crumb or two! Something else that are a special delight to see there are the odd millipede or two, which we call songololos in South Africa.

The Spekboom Hide is also an interesting place to stop. Again, one can leave one’s vehicle here and enter a Spekboom thicket to peer through a strong elephant-proof fence to see what might be drinking from the waterhole on the other side. On this particular occasion a baby elephant caught my fancy even though it was part of a small family group of various ages.

Apart from animals, I am keen to watch birds in the Addo Elephant National Park. While waterholes are a good place to see waterfowl especially, there are often some interesting surprises along the roads too – such as this Spotted Thick-knee peering at us from the bush.

Much more easily visible are the Red-necked Spurfowl, the sight of which always brightens my day.

LOOKING AT RED HARTEBEEST

We are used to seeing Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus caama) in the Addo Elephant National Park, where they often occur in the company of zebras. Although I have featured these animals before, it is worth taking another look at them. Their smooth glossy coats shine beautifully in the sunlight, often highlighting their characteristically pale rumps. Dark patches from the front of their shoulders extend down the front of their forelegs, looking a bit like shadows.

The colouration of the Red Hartebeest varies, but all have a darker colour that extends from the shoulders to the mid-back.

Their foreheads tend to be dark with a wide patch of brown between the eyes.

Red Hartebeest are predominantly grazers that do not require ready access to water, as long as there is sufficient moisture in their food.

While they are by nature social animals that occur in herds, I have noticed single ones on some of the farms I pass while driving in the countryside. These individuals (perhaps the farmers only have one!) are nearly always spotted on the edge of open grasslands.

When females give birth, they isolate themselves and hide their calves in the scrub for about two weeks before they join the herd.