Saturday, January 9, 2016

Animals of the Kruger. And others.

Following my last blog, and in response to a couple of queries, the Intercape bus was absolutely the best of the two, and I would recommend it if you ever have to travel by bus. The problems at the border were beyond their control, in in every aspect they were the better of the two companies.

(Newbies to my Blog can see old posts by clicking the titles in the Blog Archive at the top right of this page)

In keeping with my NY resolution to try and post at least once a week - herewith this week a glimpse of some of the animals we saw in the Kruger National Park over Christmas. All photos except one were taken on one day.

The kids developed their own modified game-viewing technique - and the heat we experienced made this a regular occurrence. I know I have posted this pic on my Facebook page before, but this is the first time it has appeared in a blog.

Not only did we have elephant in front of our house, but also the hippo who lived in the pools in the rapidly dying river. It had rained just before our arrival, and this photo was taken from the porch early in our stay. By the time we left, the river had almost completely dried up, and was flowing in just a trickle.

For me, the highlight was a sighting of my favorite animal. The facts that it is both rare and elusively shy at the best of times adding to my delight at seeing it in its natural environment. Quite easy to miss spotting these animals even when in plain view, my little camera did its best.

This photograph is titled 'A study in relaxation during the heat of the day'.

The Kruger, like most of Africa south of the equator, has not yet had the rains we are all craving, and so the waterholes were a magnet for the game. In this photo there are baboon, impala and a rhino with calf. This is an indication of the heat - she was shielding her baby from the sun with her own massive bulk.

The Kruger is one of the last places on earth that you can go to see rhino in appreciable numbers, and we saw many during our time there. They are the second-largest land mammal, and they are part of the Big 5. Because of the large quantity of fibrous grass that they eat, access to water is essential for digestion, and bulls that do not have water in their own territory will enter the territory of another bull to drink. These vital water-related intrusions are accepted by the resident bull providing that the intruder shows submissive behaviour. A bull rhino shows submission by urinating in a continuous stream, whereas in his own territory he would spray. (This would seem to suggest that a lot of male motorists in Zimbabwe on the open road are exhibiting submissive behaviour, but this is not the case. They are just having a wee)

Appropriately, the collective noun for a group of rhino is 'a crash of rhino'! How cool is that?

The largest land mammal is obviously the elephant, and they, too, were present in large numbers in the Kruger. They really are gentle giants, and can move deceptively quickly when they are making their way through the bush.

Any time that an elephant looks down on you, you know that you are kind of close to it. This is a solitary bull that was feeding close to the road, and we watched him until we were a safe distance past him. There have been instances in the past of elephant charging, and squashing, cars.

It is astonishing just how camouflaged elephants are in the wild. OK - if you put an elephant up against a white wall, they kind of stick out, but in the bush, despite their enormous  bulk, they very often just melt away, and it is only the flapping of an ear that reveals them. In the pic above, though the vegetation is sparse, his trunk and legs have disappeared. Amazing.

Now then - talking of camouflage - can you see the cheetah in the following photo? Taken at a distance of around 20 meters with my little point-and-click camera.

Of course, you were aware that the word 'cheetah' can refer either to a single animal, or more than one. So the question remains - did you see the cheetah in the photo? All 3 of them? Or just one of the pair on the extreme left? Or just the one to the right of center?

Finally - this strange and beguiling creature which appeared on Christmas Day - appearing just long enough to be photographed. It is the Greater Antlered Dannicus, and it was caught in the act of dispensing fodder and nesting material to members of its herd.

Shy and elusive, very rarely spotted more than once a year in most instances, it tends to congregate near centres of learning for most of the year.

The red antlers indicate it is a sub-adult male, and almost ready to breed.


So there you go! The animals of my Christmas.

Have a great day, and please 'Share' the blog for me back on Facebook? Thanks.

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