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.
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.
NOTE: Click on the photograph for a clearer view.
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.