The small wonders

Most of our guests come to Africa to see what is known as the “Big 5” but as a guide we like to see the rarer smaller things such as caracal, serval, civet, aardvark, etc. One drive, I remember coming across a caracal and two black-backed jackals facing off one another.

As we stopped the vehicle, the caracal leaped towards the jackals and they started fighting. The caracal was putting up a good fight but unfortunately, it was outnumbered by the two jackals and decided to flee.

It was interesting to see these two different species interacting – something you do not get to witness every day.

Bryan – Kapama River Lodge

Cape Porcupine

One animal that we do not see often, but is very interesting, is the porcupine [Hystrix africaeaustralis]. Here are some facts about these mysterious and alien-looking creatures:

• It is the largest rodent in the areas they live in and can weigh between 18 and 30kg.

• They get quite old for a rodent and survive between 12 and 15 years

• The front of the body is covered by flat hair and the posterior by spines and quills. These quills can be raised by muscles under the skin, but are not projectile as it is believed

• The difference between quills and spines is the length and thickness, with spines up to 50 cm long and quills up to 30 cm long

• The very sharp quills and spines come off when touched, but grow back very quickly

• They are strong diggers and dig for roots and bulbs

• They contain micro-organisms in their appendix that breaks down undigested plant fibers

• Porcupines are nocturnal and are rarely seen during the day

• When threatened they raise the quills and run sideways or backwards trying to penetrate the quills into the potential predator

• Other quick facts

o Weight (Female)
10 – 24 kg

• Weight (Male)
10 – 19 kg

• Length (Female)
84 cm

• Length (Male)
84 cm

• Gestation Period
7 weeks

• No of Young
1 – 4

• Birth Weight
315 g

Jacques Beukes – Kapama River Lodge


When we started our safari, it was overcast here on Kapama. The wind was extremely strong, going from north to south. This was unfortunate as we were going against the wind. However, my tracker, Stanley, spotted some fresh lion tracks which was promising as the wind would cover tracks that were any older.

We were following for about ten minutes when we got out the car to check where they had gone. Once we were out the car, we heard the sound of roaring, angry lions. Was it because we were too close? Were they growling at us? As we slowly walked back to the vehicle, we realized that it was the lions that were fighting with each other, probably over a kill.

We fetched the car and drove in the direction of the growling. We found the pride of lions feeding on a zebra kill. Unfortunately, my guests were too sad for the zebra so we didn’t stay for long. But that is nature – it can be beautiful but cruel at the same time.

John – Kapama River Lodge

Southern Ground Hornbill

Today’s Blog Story I will be giving you some interesting facts about the Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri).

This large bird can be found from northern Namibia and Angola to Northern South Africa to Burundi and Kenya. They are found in savanna habitat with short grass for foraging and large trees to make nests for there young ones.

They feed on reptiles, frogs, snails, insects and small mammals. They weigh anything from 2.2 to 6.2kg, males being larger than the females and stretching to a height of around 130 cm.

The southern ground hornbill is characterized by black coloration and vivid red patches of bare skin on the face and throat, which are generally believed to keep dust out of the eyes while they forage during the dry season. They live in groups of 5 to 10 individuals including adults and juveniles.

The incubation is about 40 to 45 days followed by an 85 day fledging period. The chicks will still be dependent on the parents for another year to 2 years, all depending on the climatic conditions. Chicks will reach sexual maturity at 6 to 7 years but very few birds will breed at that age. 1 to 3 eggs are laid but sublicite insures that only one chick will fledge. The average lifespan of these birds is 30 to 40 years but can reach ages of up to 70 in captivity.

These birds are listed as vulnerable in most of the world but in South Africa it is listed as critically endangered. This can be contributed to loss of habitat combined with their very slow reproductive rate (breeding only every 3rd year).

Stefan – Kapama River Lodge

The Flap-Necked Chameleon

One of my favourite nocturnal animals would have to be the flap-necked chameleon. The flapped-necked chameleon is a large chameleon. Colouration varies, from pale yellow through green shades to brown. These guys also display their colours depending on their moods; a pale green is a sign of content where a darker brown or black is a sign of distress.

The Flap-Necked Chameleon preys on Insects, particularly grasshoppers and beetles. They catch these insects using their camouflage and a long sticky tongue reaching up to 30cm or 12 inches.

Sex identification is relatively easy in the flap-neck chameleon with the mails having broadness at the base of their tails and also has a spur growing out from the back of each hind foot.

After mating, egg development takes 3 – 4 months. The female becomes bloated with 25 – 50 small eggs and she lays them in summer. The eggs may take up to 377 days to hatch in the wild.

Wayne – Kapama River Lodge