We are fortunate that we can drive only a few minutes from home and be within sight of wild animals. Their presence isn’t guaranteed for it is in their nature to move around according to the available grazing, water, the sun or the shade. Nonetheless, we often see zebra only five minutes away – they share grazing with a herd of cows on a farm – and only a few kilometers further on is a private nature reserve with a greater variety of game.
This is a scene I photographed at the weekend, showing zebra and a variety of blesbuck. The latter come in shades of their normal dark brown to completely white – why anyone would want to breed white blesbuck is beyond me. Nonetheless, these animals make a pleasant change from the Urban Herd, donkeys – and moths!
The grey logs are from Eucalyptus trees that were cut down years ago. Many of the scrubby bushes are a re-infestation of wattle, and the odd humps scattered in the background are termite heaps – there are a lot of them around here. At this time of the year the grass has been grazed down to within an inch of its life. Once again, we are sorely in need of rain – do not let that distant hue of green deceive you.
It was only when these zebras started trotting along the road ahead of us that I noticed that the back foot of this one was twisted at an awkward angle.
The extent of the misshapen ankle/foot is clear in this photograph:
The twisted back foot is evident when the zebra is at rest. In all other respects, it appears to be perfectly healthy.
A close-up view provides no clear answer as to what might have happened: was the zebra born with this deformity? Perhaps it twisted its ankle or broke it some time ago. Whatever the origin, this zebra has learned to live with it. Although it brought up the rear when they trotted along the road or through the grass, it wasn’t far behind.
NOTE: Please click on a photograph should you wish to see a larger view.
Easter is a reflective time of the year and so I offer the following reflections that have all been photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park:
This Blackbacked Jackal was approaching the water at Hapoor in a very contemplative mood – it stood there very quietly for some time, possibly aware of the many elephants splashing just the other side of the reeds – before it made its way down the the water in a slow and cautious manner. It displayed patience such as few of us have when we are thirsty.
These Blacksmith Plovers (now called Blacksmith Lapwing) are standing on a barely submerged sandbank in front of the reeds at Hapoor – doubtless enjoying a respite from all the elephant activity that this waterhole is well known for.
An Egyptian Goose enjoying a drink at the Carol’s Rest waterhole.
Another thirsty visitor at Carol’s Rest is this warthog.
I will leave you with these zebra walking along the edge of the Domkrag waterhole in search of a suitable drinking place.
NOTE: Please click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger image.
We can all recognise a zebra when we see one. I have noticed that, unless they are very close to the road, many visitors to game reserves ignore them: seen one seen them all, sort of thing. Look at them more closely though and you begin to notice interesting things about them.
One of the first things you will notice about this small group is that, while they are all clearly zebras, their stripe patterns are different. Each zebra has a unique stripe pattern. What I hadn’t realised is that the stripes on each side are also different – that is something I need to observe more closely. The face patterns are different too. Look at these two examples:
If you come across a zebra foal, the first thing you will notice is that its fur is fluffier than that of the adults.
I have heard visitors refer to the black patch on the inside of the upper front legs as glands (see the leading zebra in the photograph below) – actually they are thick callouses (called ‘chestnuts’) which protect the sharp edge of the hooves from damaging the muscle or cutting into the leg when the zebras lie down.
One of the more endearing sights is to see zebras standing with their heads resting on each other. I am sure I am not the only one that interprets this as a sign of affection. It certainly looks like that. Trevor Carnaby, in his book Beat about the Bush: Mammals is much more prosaic and explains that this is more likely to be a safety mechanism, with the possible advantage that the swishing tails keep flies of the faces of each other. I rather like my romantic notion.
There are many more aspects to observe about zebras, but they can wait for another post.
NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger image.
Life is not always calm and peaceful for these dazzling photogenic animals. These two Cape Mountain Zebras are gracing the skyline in the Mountain Zebra National Park.
Sometimes there is more to the rough and tumble than meets the eye. These Burchell’s Zebra in the Addo Elephant National Park were pushing, shoving, biting and kicking each other until one gave up the fight and walked away.
One or both managed to nip the other.
More than once.
These rivalry fights were nothing to compare, however, with what this zebra must have experienced in the Mountain Zebra National Park. A closer look at the puncture marks on its buttocks and flank already suggest that it had a close encounter with a lion – and the large bite out of its neck tells us it had a fortunate escape.
If zebras could talk, this one would have an enthralling tale to tell!
NOTE: Click on the photographs if you wish to view a larger image.
… and very hot! The sun sucks the moisture from the ground and desiccates the grass. It beats down on the rocks, creating shimmers of heat waves above them. The bees and flies seek whatever water they can find.
Bees and flies seeking water.
There have been recent newspaper reports on the plight of vultures in South Africa suffering from dehydration in this drought – everything needs water to survive. A tiny leak in a pipe becomes a welcome source of hydration for Pied Starlings.
Even though we are at the height of summer, there is little in the way of green grass to be seen.
In places one can only wonder how the animals find enough food to sustain them.
Beautiful vistas of the Karoo show how yellow the grass is – what will be left for winter grazing if the rains do not come?
Mountain Zebra National Park
We have spent a few glorious days camping in the Mountain Zebra National Park. It is a peaceful wonderland with an abundance of interesting birds, animals and insects to see.
Cape Mountain Zebra
The swimming pool at the rest camp is a ‘life-saver’ though after a game drive during which the temperature has soared to 38°C.