Last night on drive, my guests and I were lucky to view our male lion having a nice cat nap on one of our dam walls. After a few minutes of watching him acting lazy after the hot day, his head jerked up as his interest was turned towards two Dagga Boys, (old male buffalo), who were making their way down to the dam to drink. One of the buffalo spotted our male lion watching him and proceeded to charge up the dam wall. A male lion can take down large prey like giraffe and eland, but an old male buffalo weighing roughly 900 kg running at about 55 km/h towards him was too much for our boy. He quickly ran off the dam wall and tried to climb up a rather steep embankment on the other side. My guests and I watched with great amusement as he struggled in a cloud of dust to get away from the threat of horns and hooves. After several moments in vain, he managed to reach the top and stood there staring at the two buffalo before returning to his cat nap, now safe from any threat. My guests and I continued on game drive, laughing a bit, and enjoying the fantastic sighting we had just had.
By: John Mbetse – River Lodge Ranger
Often there is confusion about which is which when guests see Cheetah or Leopard. Many people do not really know what the difference between leopard and cheetah are or even what they look like. They all come to the bush wanting to see the big 5 but are not always too sure which one of the two belongs to which of the big Five.
It’s really quite easy to tell the difference between leopards and cheetahs if you know what to look for.
Cheetahs have long legs, a tall, slim build body and its colour is tawny with black spotted fur. The spots help camouflage it in its environment. It also has the black tear stripe markings on the face which is said to help them when hunting, since they are diurnal animals, hunting in the day and still need to rely on their speed which is said to be about 120km an hour. The sun is said to reflect the black away from their eyes so that they don’t get blinded. Their long tail acts like a rudder which helps them maintain balance at those high speeds. Unlike other cat they are unable to retract their nails except for the dew claw which sits on the front paws. The males will occasionally form small groups comprising 2 or 3 animals whereas the female always remain solitary.
The leopard on the other hand has a background colour of the coat which is tan and can vary form pale to quite dark. The neck and legs are covered in black spots, with more intricate markings called “rosettes” on the rest of the body. Each rosette is made up of three or four black spots on the outside with a yellow-brown centre. The under-parts of the leopard are white with black spots, even the tail is white underneath with rosettes on top. Other distinguishing features to look for are the large head, powerful neck and shoulders, short and muscular limbs. The white rings around the eyes symbolizing that they are nocturnal hunters. Hunting by night while spending most the day resting, usually draped on tree limbs or lying in thick undergrowth. As a result they’re difficult to see, unless you’re lucky enough to spot one resting or sunning itself on a rock or tree limb. Once darkness sets in, they move around intermittently until after dawn. Adult leopards are solitary and territorial and will only associate long enough to mate.
By: Casper Marais – Kapama River Lodge Ranger
Here are some of the differences between African and Indian elephants, since this question always comes up whilst on safari.
African elephant – Loxodonta africana
Indian Elephant – Elephas maximus
This morning we were fortunate to see a pair of ground hornbills picking through a rhino midden for dung -beetle grubs. These turkey-sized birds have a varied diet which often includes snakes, tortoises and young hares. Males are distinguished from females by a blue patch on the red gular-pouch situated on the throat (hence, gular). The striking white primary feathers of the wings contrast with the black colouration of the rest of the bird, especially when in flight. These birds nest in large holes in large trees and are a threatened species, with efforts being made to breed them in captivity and then to re-introduce them into the wild.
During the last few game drives I have been privy to watching two Gymnogene/African Harrier Hawks building their nest. Here are a few facts about this interesting bird:
These big raptors are usually solitary, feeding mainly on reptiles, amphibians, birds and nestling’s.
When in courtship flight female rolls over in air and touches talons with male.
The most unusual feature of the Gymnogene is the knee joint which is completely different to what we would imagine to be normal. This specially adapted joint allows the leg to bend in all directions, unlike all other birds of prey, whose lower legs can move in one direction only. This flexible joint makes it possible for the Gymnogene to put its foot into a nest-hole of a woodpecker or other bird, then move the claws around inside to grab hold of the chicks.
Its yellow cheeks, blush red when excited!
Will keep you informed as to whether or not I see any young chicks in the future!