Red-billed oxpeckers squabble over prime seating on the back of an African buffalo. These birds are famous for travelling on tolerant buffalo and other mammals, feeding on various insects on their hosts or nearby.
When the time comes, these birds build nests in tree cavities, which makes this photo all the more interesting. This group of birds seem to be using a rudimentary nest made out of mud and hair plucked from the back of this buffalo. This is the first time I have seen this and I haven’t been able to find any reports elsewhere, so if anyone has some insights into this behaviour, please share!
We lucked out with a close up leopard encounter along a river bed in Kruger. This impressive male had killed an adult male impala earlier in the morning and dragged it over 100 meters from the edge of the river, up a steep slope and into a small stand of trees right next to a pullout.
For the next few days we watched him off and on as he came back to feed in the early mornings. Such impressive animals and always a thrill to see them in the wild.
If you are a Jackson’s hartebeast there really isn’t any other option! These peculiar looking animals are a common site in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.
I came across this sign in Kruger National Park in November 2010. At the time rhino poaching wasn’t that prevalent. Since then, poaching has skyrocketed with almost 700 rhinos poached in Africa in 2012, most coming from Kruger. Rhino horn is valued at up to $50,000/kg in Asian markets and with prices so high sophisticated poaching operations are becoming much more common. Typically these involve helicopters, and people specialized in big game hunting. Unbelievably, even wildlife veterinarians have crossed the line and are selling ultra potent narcotics to these poachers so that the rhinos can be tranquilized in minutes. Once sedated, the horns are then cut off by chainsaws and the rhinos are left to die. The most frustrating part is that rhino horn is no different from human fingernails! It is simply keratin and so people could get the same ‘effect’ by chewing their own nails!
Efforts to cut poaching have ramped up. Some game reserves are safely cutting the horns off before poachers can get to them. If done correctly, this procedure is no different from cutting the tip of a fingernail off. Other efforts include increased patrols, individual guards for animals, and some have even resorted to controversial methods such as impregnating the horns with a toxic substance that will cause harm to anyone that consumes it. Others have advocated for farming rhino for their horn, since it regrows over time. This would allow for a small amount of horn to enter the market on a routine basis that might decrease the amount of poaching. Of course educating those that consume the horn is paramount and NGOs are currently working in these regions to try to curb consumption. With any long standing problem, a multi-pronged approach is required and out of the box thinking and solutions will be needed.
Sometimes spotting wildlife or for that matter, not spotting wildlife can be pretty dangerous. I remember floating down the Nile in Uganda minutes before an Egyptian cobra swam past the raft I had just jumped back into. On this occasion, the most venomous land snake in Africa and one of the most feared snakes in the world peers out at me in a tree where it’s was beautifully camouflaged. Black mambas are known to be very aggressive and are not to be taken lightly. Needless to say, I gave this one all the space it wanted.
A globe of Earth greets visitors as they arrive on a ferry to Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. Also waiting are cunning olive baboons that patiently wait for the right moment to grab any food they can from unsuspecting tourists. This big male took a break in the shade, ironically right below Africa on the globe!
These regal looking ungulates are called Topi. They can often be spotted in the African savannah standing on top of termite mounds or other small hills. This female jumped her way past me during a thunderstorm with her newly born calf trying hard to keep up. Please click on the image for the full size version.
Not surprisingly this female waterbuck had no issues posing in a marsh during a light rainstorm in Lake Mburu National Park. She was much less tolerant of the pesky gnats flying around her eyes and used her ears as fly swatters to keep them at bay.
No doubt the true origins of the idea behind the energy drink came centuries ago when our ancestors were chased through the African savannah trying to escape these buffalo! On foot you would have to develop wings from the adrenaline surge to have any chance of escape! African buffalo are notoriously territorial and will readily stampede if threatened.
This week I was reliving some memories of my last trip to Africa and came across several photos that I overlooked. This is one that I’m glad I rediscovered. A few more to come soon!