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.

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 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.

A FOCUS ON ANIMAL EARS

The animals shown below were all photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park.

Cape buffalo

Their large drooping fringed ears hang down below the horns. They sometimes look torn, ragged, or scarred from fighting.

Elephant

The size of the ears of elephants helps to cool them down. They can act as a fan to move air over the body and also cool the blood as it circulates through the veins in the ears. Through careful observation one can learn to identify individual elephants by the nicks, notches, holes and missing bits caused by their travels through the bush.

Kudu

Kudu have an acute sense of hearing, thanks to their large round ears that alert them to danger.

Red hartebeest

White hair covers the inside of the long pointed ears of red hartebeest.

Warthog

The ears of the warthogs are prominently placed above their heads. They are leaf-shaped, with erect, slightly rounded tips.

Zebra

Zebras have large, rounded ears with lots of hair that helps to keep the dust out of them. It is interesting to note that the position of their ears can signal whether or not they are feeling calm or are alert to imminent danger in their vicinity.

THE LOVELY RED HARTEBEEST

The Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus) has been featured twice before in this blog. This is not surprising for these plains animals with a conspicuously white rump are always a pleasure to see – especially when their reddish-brown coats shine in the sun.

These two adults are standing close to a youngster in the Addo Elephant National Park. Note the different colour of the young one as well as its short spiky horns. Here is a closer view of a different lanky youngster.

A little further on, an adult picks its way over the dry stony ground towards the water at the Domkrag dam.

There are antelope droppings near its front feet and elephant droppings on the ground ahead of it. They are frequently seen alongside zebra in the plains.

These two appear to be unperturbed by the fighting zebras in their midst. The length and narrow width of the muzzle of the Red Hartebeest make it a selective feeder. Being non-ruminants, zebras are bulk grazers and have wider muzzles that help them to be more tolerant of the available grazing.