Why are there holes on the side of termite mounds?

This is a question we as rangers get on a regular basis from our guests. As we drive out into the bush on safari we drive past many triangular shaped heaps of soil. “What is this?” This is a termite mound; the worker termites will build this architectural masterpiece by combining their saliva and the soil around them to form and shape this strange creation.

All of the termites will live and feed inside this mound, and this is where the animal that makes the holes on the side of the mound come into the picture. This animal is called an Aardvark, also known as an Antbear. An Aardvark feeds almost exclusively on termites, using its sharp sense of smell to locate his food. He then makes use of very long and sharp claws to dig open the termite mounds. An average Aardvark can consume up to 50 000 termites in an evening, and will leave a big hole in the mound after doing so.

These holes will later be utilized and form homes for many other animals such as Warthogs, Porcupines, different species of snakes and reptiles, just to name a few.

Wayne – Kapama River Lodge
03/08/2012

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Snake..!

Stay Away!!

A good sighting of a snake in the wild can be quite a rare event, and as it is so difficult to spot snakes in the wild it is somehow always an exhilarating experience for guides and guest alike.

Most of our snake “sightings” are mostly met with a scream from someone, and soon afterwards the excitement will set in. This morning we were driving along in search of animals when we spotted a snake sailing across the road ahead of us. We pulled up alongside the spot the snake went of the road and entered the bush. A bit disappointed we thought our changes of spotting him were spoiled, but in true style my tracker spotted it again a short distance from the roads’ edge. Having the opportunity to identify the snake was very cool, and me and my tracker immediately new this was one of those you do not want to mess with… a Mozambique Spitting Cobra.

The snake rose up above the grass and spreaded it’s hood in true cobra style with the distinct black bands on it’s throat clearly visible! The rest of the body is a lighter brown colour and it is quite difficult to miss-id this snake with its aggressive demeanor.

It kept it’s defensive pose for longer than I would have expected, making us understand clearly to stay away from him, before disappearing into the bushes.

Mozambique Spitting Cobras are fairly widespread in our region and because of their aggressiveness and bad temper they have quite a bad reputation amongst most people here and in local villages. Luckily their warning signs are loud and clear and only a fool would dare to not take heed… If not you would probably be met with a stream of venom from the fangs aimed directly at your eyes. This in itself would be a very uncomfortable and painful experience. Most people however understand their behaviour and they are suprisingly enough responsible for very little snakebite incidences around the area!

Should you get bitten, a deadly cocktail of cyto- and nuero-toxic venom would be injected through hypodermic needle like fangs and cause you severe pain, discomfort and gradual collapse of your whole neurological system.  Luckily it is quite a “slow working” venom and you should have ample time getting to a doctor who should be able to reverse the effect of the bite. You should make a full recovery unless you develop a massive allergic reaction to the proteins in the venom, in which case death might be a very real possibility…

As always it is normally a VERY good idea to stay away from snakes you encounter, even more so if you don’t’ know which type they are. If you understand the warning signs, do not ever ignore them as they are there for a reason, and these will save you a very unpleasant trip to the emergency room.

Westley Lombard – Senior Ranger

Kapama Southern Camp

 

 

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Battle of the Super-Predators – and Rhinos to the Rescue!

Yesterday morning my guests and I witnessed an incredible sighting. We heard audio of our large male Lion and went to investigate. As we got visual of the male and our largest Lioness we noticed a large male Leopard up a tree. Lions and Leopard do NOT get along. Lions will kill Leopard and Leopard cubs and Leopard will kill Lion cubs.

The two Lions were under the tree harassing and roaring at the Leopard. About three minutes later a Crash of three Rhino wandered into our sighting, a male and two female, and started chasing the Lions away. The Leopard jumped down out of the tree and tried to jump into another tree but missed. As the Leopard missed the Lioness grabbed the Leopard by the rump and the Rhino came and chased the Lion off again.

The Leopard ran off, perused by the Lions the whole while. He climbed another tree trying to escape but only reached a small branch where he was very uncomfortable. The Lions started roaring again and the Leopard jumped down and there was nowhere to run, being caught between both Lions. The male Lion caught the Leopard but the Leopard fought back. Then again the Rhinos chased the Lions and the Leopard managed to escape and run off into the bush!

An incredible, once in a lifetime sighting at Kapama that my guests and I will never forget! (Thank you Sebastian for the FANTASTIC photos to add to our story!)

(Above: My VERY happy and excited guests.)

By: Michael Mabuye – River Lodge Ranger

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Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints…

When the first real rain fell about two weeks ago it brought such relief to the dry dusty ground of Kapama. Within a few days the new green shoots of grass were starting to appear. My guests who were in-house for four nights also commented on the change in the grass colour and foliage from the day they arrived compared with the day they left. The animals were really starting to graze like they had not seen food for months. To me this change is most noticeable in the impala. Where ever I look, I see impala grazing furiously. These antelope are total mixed feeders. Depending on the time of the year, the amount and type of food available to them and the impala’s geographical location; they will adapt their feeding strategy to include either more graze or browse.

Impala are common antelope and for the most part form the base diet of most predators, especially during this time of year. It is the season where the impala are giving birth. This process renders the females in particular more vulnerable to predators, and endangers the whole herd in general. Impala have an average recruitment rate of approximately 33% per year; hence forming the base diet for most predators. The lambs being taken mostly by Black Backed Jackal, Baboon, Leopard, Cheetah and Lion.

The first impala lambs have been born and within the next few weeks the whole reserve should be booming with impala lambs. Nature is both beautiful and cruel at these times. A few days ago while on an evening drive, I found Mother Nature had dealt a cruel hand. I noticed a small new face staring out at us from under a Tamboti tree. On closer inspection, I saw a new born impala lying curled up alongside its motionless mother. What had happened? The female had obviously died shortly after giving birth from excessive blood loss. She hadn’t even had the chance to clean her young one. Sadness filled me inside; I felt the urge to interfere. I wanted to go and fetch the baby and take it back to the camp and try my best to give the baby a chance at survival. The one thing that stopped me was the realisation that this was Mother Nature’s way of ensuring the survival of only the strongest genetic material. As sad as it was, I knew deep inside me that this would have been a purely selfish act, involving myself where I shouldn’t be. Fetching the lamb would have taken the food from the predators and thereby upsetting the natural balance. I explained this to my guests and they were in agreement with me. With mixed emotions we continued toward the camp for a hearty dinner.

What became of the young impala I can only imagine. The next morning when we drove past the same area, there was no sign of the young impala or its mother. I humbled myself in the thought that nature’s cycle was not interrupted, and that the cycle is the important part of nature. The words of my Trainer from ten years ago echoed in my mind… “Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints”.

Paul Daniel – Kapama Karula, Senior Ranger

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Predators vs Prey

The relationship between predator and prey is a very complicated one. The rangers at Kapama Main Lodge were extremely fortunate to witness some of this behaviour yesterday.

Firstly yesterday was not good to be an impala, since we found a young female leopard that had killed a male impala around the Mamba dam area. She was quite skittish at first but as the day wore on and darkness fell she became more relaxed and many of our guests watched as she devoured the carcass.

We were also privileged to see our pride of lions on an impala kill yesterday morning. Unfortunately for the lionesses the dominant male lion ate most of the kill only allowing the three young cubs to feed alongside him. But this is where it gets interesting. Not far from where the lions were feeding; the buffalo herd were having a drink of water at a nearby dam. The wind direction was just perfect and they picked up the scent of the lions. Luckily for the cubs the lioness saw the buffalo approaching and called to them so that they would have enough time to escape. The male lion however was too busy gorging himself on the Impala kill. Finally, at the last moment, he turned around and saw the buffalo who were by now at very close quarters. He just had enough time to grab what remained of the Impala carcass and run for his life, disappearing behind one of the dam walls with the angry buffalo in hot pursuit.

The score at the end of the day was Predators 2 Prey 1.

Dean Robinson
Senior Ranger

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Civet!

img_2967Last night was great, as we drove around one of the corners-there he was, a Civet. The best time to see these animals is usually early mornings or late afternoons. Ocassionally they have been spotted during the day at waterholes. You may find them on their own or in pairs.

They have a huge range of food from insects to the largest prey- a scrub hare or guinea fowl. They have  regular latrine sites known as civetries. One of their most favoured food sources are millipeeds.

Story by: Richard Brune-Kapama River Lodge Ranger

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