The males have to be very careful when seeking out a female for mating as she might mistake his presence as lunch instead of a reproduction opportunity. So he does a little dance for her by waving his pincers, swaying his tail and shivering his body to send vibrations through the ground. Only when she winks at him, he will approach closely.
Males have special hooks on their pincers to grab a hold of the female’s pincers. Once he has her tightly, the dance commences. He has special organs on his abdomen and uses it to deposit his spermatophores. He then tries to turn the female around and ensure the hook on the small package of sperm catch onto the female’s genital opening. This dance may take up to 30 minutes as the male’s dance and weave to align the female just right. If he fails in dancing, he may pick her up and drop her down on the package, causing the package to break and release the sperm. The female then stands motionless for a short period.
Thereafter they will break apart and continuously sting each other. In some cases where the female is larger, she might try to kill the male and eat him. Fatal attraction if ever there was such a thing.
Scorpions have the longest gestation period of all arachnids (8-legged insect-like creatures) and depending on the species, could be from a few to 18 months and produce 8 to 32 young at a time. They get quite old and only reach adulthood at 1 year.
Story by Jacques (River Lodge)
As we all know, the winter has past and spring is upon us. So on a lovely warm and sunny afternoon, we left the lodge on a quest to find animals. Around an hour into the drive, my tracker (Magnum) stopped me and told me to look into the relatively small Knob thorn tree. I was amazed to find a small foam nest frog on a branch. I showed my guests, and spoke about the nest of this frog. One lady peeks over her husband’s shoulder and asked me how this little frog survived winter, because we all know that a frog likes and needs water. I immediately smiled and said that is a good question.
This little frog will make some adaptations to his/her body to slow their metabolism down and breathe less to save energy and moisture. They will also find a spot where they can rest without being bothered and where it is safe, hence the nest being made in the Knob thorn tree.
They will then tuck away their legs and seal it off with mucus to make sure they don’t lose moisture. In some cases, breathing will be stopped completely and oxygen will be taken up through the skin. The cells inside the skin will actually change so that they can take moisture in but nothing can be lost, almost like a one way valve.
So these animals risk everything and go through so many changes and troubles just to get through the winter. So next time you this winter is cold and you can’t stand it, think about these little creatures and how they change their whole bodies to survive.
Story by Rassie (River Lodge)
The Black footed cat is one of the least studied cats in Africa, and was listed as Vulnerable in 2005. This is the smallest of the African cat species, with males only weighing up to about 2.5 kg in weight. Females are a little smaller and weigh up to about 1.7 kg in weight. The body length, including the tail, is about 60cm long for the males, and females being a bit smaller at round about 54cm.
Only the pads and the under parts of the feet are black in colour, and this is where the animal gets their name from. The colour differs from cinnamon to tawny and has patterns of black or brown spots that merge to become rings on the legs. They have very large eyes and their ears have a rounded look to them.
They live in dry, open savanna, grassland and Karoo semi dessert areas going up to altitudes of 2 000m above sea level. So this means that they are mostly found in South Africa, Namibia, a little bit into Zimbabwe and has been recorded in Botswana in the past.
Black footed cats are solitary and strictly nocturnal, making it very rare to see. They spend their daytime hours in old borrows or hollows. Unlike most cats, they are not very good climbers, their stocky bodies and short tails make it difficult for them to climb.
These small cats are very territorial, stretching from 10km2 for females and up to 25km2 for the males. Territories are marked in many different ways, like sent marking and rubbing their heads against objects. Females are only in estrus for two to three days, so males need to locate them very quickly. Females can have two litters a year, averaging about two kittens per litter. Kittens weigh about 80grams at birth but grow up quickly, reaching sexual maturity at about one year of age.
They hunt mostly small rodents and bird, but can bring down prey heavier than themselves, like the Cape hare. Insects and spiders are also prey, but only form about 1% of their diet.
Story by Stefan (River Lodge)
After a lovely morning game, drive my guests wanted to be a bit more adventurous out in the African bush and asked if we can go out on a bushwalk. After assessing the weather and situation, we decided that the conditions were good enough for a walk. We proceeded to the vehicle and I gave my standard briefing in which I always mention that the walks are there to have a look at the smaller aspects of nature, and not to see how many of the Big 5 animals we can encounter, as this is obviously a risky situation at best.
We set of into the middle of the reserve to one of my favourite walking areas and it didn’t take long before we started to find some amazing little things. One of the most interesting being a matrimonial dung ball rolled during the previous rainy season, an artefact one comes across very rarely in this good of a condition. After spending some time explaining the making and purpose of the dung ball, we continued along the single animal trail cutting through the Knobthorn and Marula thicket. The wind started to pick up a bit and I decided to change direction to keep the wind in our favour. Barely 100m after this decision, we noticed tracks heading in the same direction as what we were walking, and not just any tracks – we were following the same pathway as the king of the jungle, or at least 8 kings and queens of the jungle.
We spent a bit of time talking about the possibilities and risks involved having these mighty animals in the area, but being a rather hot day and a watering hole no more than 500m away from us, my tracker and I were convinced that the lions were sleeping in the cool sand next to the water, and with the direction of the wind we were completely hidden from their senses. We gave the guests another briefing, just to ensure that everyone knows what we are about to attempt and exactly how we were going to do so.
We were about 60m away from the water’s edge, when a baboon gave an alarm call which made everyone stop dead in their tracks. After a couple of minutes, we could see the big male baboon sitting guard in a big Jackalberry, but he was not barking at us – he wasn’t even looking in our direction – his eyes was set on something else, something at the water. Thanks to the help from the baboon, we had an even better idea to the location of the big cats so we decided to widen the walking circle and came towards the water at a bigger angle. Moving through the bushes as quietly as we possibly could, we came to an opening overlooking the dam, and there in the shade we saw them – 8 lions having a late morning sleep in the cool sand. The wind suddenly changed direction and one of the younger lions picked up our scent. He nervously started to look around and this behaviour created a chain effect with the rest. Using the cover we had to our advantage, they were able to smell us but not see us, so before that changed we decided to back out of the area and make a loop back to the vehicle, along the way continuing to look at the smaller aspects of nature.
We don’t go looking for the big animals on walk, but it is a treat to be able to view these magnificent animals on foot. It always makes you realise how small we actually are, and a little bit of adrenalin has never been a bad thing.
Story by Piet (RiverLodge)
One evening, while out on a night drive, we were fortunate enough to see our biggest pride of 13 lions. There was quite a commotion and they seemed to be concentrating hard on whatever they were doing. They seemed to be teasing a honey badger. We watched in awe as the battle continued for almost an hour. Honey badgers are notorious for being quite feisty, and full of bravado, as well as being strong and tenacious. There have been reports of them fighting with buffalo and male lions, and they do tend to bite at the scrotum of the enemy.
In the Kalahari, a honey badger was bitten by a very venomous snake (a Cape Cobra). The Honey Badger was out for a few minutes, before it got up and moved off.
Our lion pride eventually gave up the fight that night, as they could see they were fighting a losing battle.
Story by Clive (River Lodge)