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.
A young couple walk purposefully down the brick path toward a bench overlooking the water hole at the rest camp and sit down. He sports dark, closely-cropped hair and is wearing a baggy green top over tight jeans. The glistening white of his sports shoes strongly suggests they are new arrivals for he has clearly not walked far along the dirt roads and dusty paths that vein through the camp. He doesn’t notice the Cape Sparrow perched to the left of him on the Spekboom hedge.
She is wearing khaki cargo pants still stiff and showing factory creases. A blue hooded top covers her hair as she sits staring straight ahead, ignoring the cheerful calls of the Cape Weaver on her right, even though it flutters down now and then to search the brick paving around her feet.
He unfolds the coloured map they were given at reception and tries to hold it firm against the gentle tugging from an impish breeze. He turns the map this way and that before stabbing his finger on the water hole they are seated at. “We’re here,” he says with a degree of authority. He runs his finger along the patterns of roads radiating through the park. So absorbed is he in this task that he doesn’t notice the back of a lone buffalo disappearing among the Spekboom and other shrubs a little to the left of the water hole.
She picks up a pair of powerful binoculars and scans the area around the water hole. Neither the presence of a flock of Guineafowl nor the pair of Hadeda Ibises appear to hold her interest, for she quickly lowers the binoculars to rest on her lap. She leans towards her companion. “There’s nothing of interest to see here.” Her voice is flat. He is still studying the map but obligingly leaves off to raise the binoculars to his eyes. He sweeps across the landscape too quickly to pick up either the heron keeping watch over some ducks …
… or the Black-backed jackal that had come for a quick, furtive drink.
“I hope the rest of the park doesn’t look like this desert. All the pictures showed green grass and trees.” There is a whine in her voice as she strokes the binoculars on her lap with her index finger. He grunts and returns to perusing the map before looking up with an endearing smile.
“I overheard in the gents that this area has been denuded of vegetation because so many animals rely on this water for drinking.” He looks at her sulky face and pats her shoulder. “It’s early days though.” He folds the map and rises from the bench. “You hold the map,” he says, giving her a hug.
She shivers in the now icy wind. “Yes, we’ll be warmer in the car.” They walk away holding hands and so do not see the Kudu bulls emerging from the thorny scrub to quench their thirst.
The Woodlands Waterhole is very close to the Main Camp in the Addo Elephant National Park. While it is not very big, it is always worth slowing down when approaching it for more often than not there is something interesting to see. We watched an encounter between a buffalo that had been wallowing in the muddy pool and an elephant arriving for a drink.
A warthog took advantage of a quiet moment to slake its thirst.
An elephant family took over the waterhole for a while.
Once they had ambled off, a herd of zebra that had been waiting patiently in the wings arrived for their share of the water.
This and other waterholes are artificial watering points within the park – all greatly sought after during this long drought.
At this time the summer temperatures can rise to over 40°C, making everyone thirsty. It is no different in the wild, where this threesome of elephants were the forerunners of a larger herd making their way across the dusty veld to drink at Rooidam in the Addo Elephant National Park. The elephant on the right has earlier submerged itself in either this or another waterhole nearby – as the darker ‘tide mark’ on its body shows. The darkened trunks also indicate that all three have already tasted the water at least and the dark ‘socks’ on the left elephant indicates how shallow the water is on the edge.
A warthog is taking advantage of the lull in animal traffic to enjoy a quiet drink of water from the waterhole at Woodlands. The water is so calm that it might even be admiring its reflection in the water while it quenches it thirst. All the waterholes in the Addo Elephant National Park are supplied by boreholes. That might be a covered pump next to the warthog. You can clearly see the concrete base of this waterhole and elephant dung in the background.
Sometimes it is not water one needs, but mother’s milk. Certainly that is what this zebra foal wanted in the middle of the day. Note how fluffy its hair is and the loving gesture of the mother placing her chin on its rump – the closest she can come to what we would call a hug, perhaps.
Birds require sustenance too and this Greater Double-collared Sunbird settled down to a good drink of nectar at Jack’s Picnic Place, quite unperturbed at being photographed in action. It visited each flower in turn before moving on to the next cluster.
This is a small family group of a larger herd of elephants cooling down at the Rooidam Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park. You can tell from the mud and splash marks that some of them had enjoyed some time either in or near the water. The elephants had been there for a while when this group gathered to move off. Spot the two calves amidst that forest of legs.
Here is a closer view of one of them.
The one on the left is hungry. For the first two or three years the calves are totally dependent on their mothers for feeding.
While this one waits patiently for a gap between the forest of legs.