Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula)

The Dwarf mongoose is the smallest carnivore found in Africa. Thus they can be called the opposite of lions, who is the biggest. But by no means are they any less interesting.

Fully grown they can weigh between 200 and 350 grams and is about 20 to 30 cm long. They are very social animals that have a very strict hierarchy system. But this system works in a special way as males and females have their own separate hierarchy. Thus the males and the female social status are completely independent. This means that there is an alpha male and an alpha female. These two individuals are normally the oldest members in the group. But even with this complex social structure they still work together taking care of the young. Subordinate females rarely become pregnant and when they do the young also rarely survive. But even so the subordinate females will still produce milk for the young to feed on when the alpha female is out foraging for food. Much like the lion, young males that reached adulthood will leave the group. But where lions will fight to obtain a new territory from existing prides, dwarf mongoose either fight for the control of a new group or just join the new group as subordinate males.

Dwarf Mongoose live in old abandoned termite mounds. They will also mostly bask in the sun early in the morning and defecate in the area. This means that you will find lots of mongoose dung on the eastern side of the termite mound. In this way these small creatures help people to find their sense of direction when they are lost in the vastness of Africa.

Hornbills and dwarf mongoose will often work together while foraging for food. As the mongoose can not always catch all the insects the find, hornbills benefit from that. But the birds also help the mongoose by keeping a lookout for predators in the area that might be a threat to the mongoose. They will eat mostly insects but also eat small lizards, snakes and rodents.

Story by Jacques (River Lodge)
2013/10/03

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White Tailed Mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda)

The White-tailed Mongoose is the largest of the mongoose family. They can weigh between 2.5 – 4kg. The body is light brown to grey and the legs are black. So the white of the tail really does stand out and gives the animal its name.

These mongooses are nocturnal (active at night) and will sleep in hollows or abandoned termite mounds. Unlike the dwarf mongoose, they do not have a den site and they do not live in groups. Although females sometimes will live with other females, they do not associate with each other. Both sexes are territorial, but male and female territories will overlap. They will also secrete a foul smelling substance from an anal gland which is mostly used to mark territories. As most other mongoose species will stand on their hind legs for prolonged periods of time and look very curious, the White-tailed mongoose does not do the same.

The youngsters are born after about 60 days after mating and will stay with the mother for the next nine months. After that nine months the have been weaned and will disperse to find new territories. They only become sexually mature at about 2 years of age

Story by Jacques (River Lodge)
2013/09/30

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Mud Baths and Night Hunting

The afternoon game drive started with my group and I were going out into the bush to look for some of the wonderful bird life throughout the reserve. As we went along, we saw some beautiful terrestrial birds as well as some spectacular water birds. As we were driving around, we headed towards one of the watering holes with a bird hide. While we were trying to spot some bird life, we came across a rhino mud bathing. This was so nice to see as we hardly see this occurring. We sat there amazed! After watching this great beast for a while, we went to another spot to go have some drinks. As we went along, we come across 2 male elephants, busy feeding. We could not believe our luck! We decided to sit there for a while, and just following the elephants down to the watering hole, watching them drink and playing in the water. This was such a nice sighting as we hadn’t seen either of these majestic beasts. After that, we went to have some drinks and chat about the beautiful animals we had just seen. On our way back to the lodge, we found an African Civit and a Small-spotted Genet, busy hunting for food. This was definitely a drive to remember!

Story by JT (River Lodge)
2013/10/09

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Looking For More Than Just The Rump

It was the last morning drive of my guests stay here at river lodge. On the previous few drives, we had been treated with amazing sightings and interactions, including a very relaxed leopard casually drinking water at a dwindling dam just a few meters from our vehicle, and our lion pride being chased away by an approaching elephant herd. However, we had not been able to find a nice rhino sighting on the previous couple of drives, only managing to see a couple big bums disappearing into the thick bush the day before. So we set out that morning to find some rhinos. After getting upon some fresh tracks, my tracker Michael and I followed them for quite some time in and out of a couple thick blocks. Eventually, Michael was determined that the tracks seemed to be heading to a watering hole not too far away. As we made our way towards the dam, we could see from a distance a rather nice collection of rhinos lazing around the water. It was the perfect completion to our safari, watching for 15 minutes as these magnificent animals quenched their thirst and had a couple mud baths on the water’s edge!

Story by Kevin (River Lodge)
2013/10/05

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Big Eyed Wonder

At the start of every spring season, the little creatures that we don’t see in the winter time start to make their appearances. One of my favorite little scaled critters is the Boomslang – in my opinion one of the most beautiful and majestic of the snake family.
The average adult Boomslang is 100–160 cm (3¼-5¼ feet) in total length, but some exceed 183 cm (6 feet). The eyes are exceptionally large, and the head has a characteristic egg-like shape. Colouration is very variable – males are light green with black or blue scale edges, but adult females may be brown.
Our male is quite a handsome fellow and watches everybody from the crevice of a tree, with his characteristic big eyes, focusing on all the guests’ movements below. Most people will stand underneath him, and are in awe of his bright green colouration. Every now and again, he’ll move from his secret spot, and move easily through the branches of the trees around him.
Boomslangs are diurnal and almost exclusively arboreal. They are reclusive, and will flee from anything too large to eat. Their diet includes chameleons and other arboreal lizards, frogs, and occasionally small mammals, birds, and eggs from nesting birds, all of which they swallow whole. During cool weather, they will hibernate for moderate periods, often curling up inside the enclosed nests of birds such as weavers.
Guests are always in awe when you point him out, digging out their cameras like the paparazzi. The green scaled fellow has quite a following and must feel quite popular with all those camera flashes! Whilst most people ask many questions, the one that always comes up is how venomous these creatures are. While only around a few snakes are actually venomous, only around 1% of people die from snake bites every year. This is because snakes don’t usually bite people, rather trying the more subtle “mock” strike to warn off someone who is about to step on their tails. If the person still decides to try their luck, then they will bite the person, but only administering a small amount of venom – not enough to actually kill anyone.
Guests always appreciate the smaller creatures just as much as the larger ones. Sometimes more so than the bigger ones it seems…

Story by Angie (River Lodge)
2013/10/06

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