The impact of elephant poaching for ivory or bushmeat goes far and wide as elephants are keystone species known as the landscapers of Africa.
Elephants have voracious appetites to maintain nutrition for their large bodies eating grasses and different parts of trees. They will push down or break branches select trees to eat the roots and bark, this has knock-on effects:
to create homes for smaller animals and rodents under the leafy branches that now hug the ground,
protect the ground below allowing the grasses to grow without grazers eating it all up,
giving smaller animals access to the nutritious leaves from higher branches previously exclusive to giraffes and elephants,
gives more food like dead branches to termites.
The other impact of elephant poaching is that sometimes baby elephants get left behind! The stress of losing their mother, having to fend for themselves and not having the resources to do so greatly affects their survival rate.
A number of organisations around Africa have rescued these orphans and create facilities to nurture these animals back to health and eventual release them back in the wild.
Orphaned baby elephant survival and capacity to return to the wild is priority.
Use the site for education and promotion of conservation.
Because of priority number one, human interaction with these gorgeous creatures is limited and at a distance- which I 100% support and love. This gives the elephant the best chance to survive in the wild and also means they don’t look to humans to survive and hopefully will less likely rampage through a neighbouring village feeling like it’s part of the tribe!
GRI is doing fantastic work in a holistic manner to save the elephants in Zambia:
They have this orphanage project comprising of nursery and release facility, where older elephants are reassimilated into the wild and introduced/adopted into matriarchal herds.
Anti-poaching unit patrolling Kafue National Park, running investigations and pinning the syndicate poaching network down in a few of the layers, not just the poachers themselves.
Community outreach programs empowering surrounding villages so they don’t turn to poaching for a quick buck, become self-sufficient beyond just surviving, learn to appreciate wildlife and become willing to report wildlife crime.
Their community outreach has been really effective and includes school projects, women’s groups and a radio program with reminders of wildlife crime reporting to a hotline after every show!
I am excited about these guys as they have a genuine desire to effectively solve this issue and a willingness to collaborate and share their lessons learnt with others who legitimately want the same outcomes.
GRI need support as they recently got their funding halved due to a long term donor restrategising their allocations! We are hoping to support their efforts through Elephant Cooperation too!
The African buffalo is one of the Big Five, a term that signifies what hunters classed as the most difficult animals to hunt on foot. The buffalo is known for being cantankerous animals, easily spooked into a stampede or worse, to nose up with their eyes straight at the threat and run, buck their heads down just before and attempt to hook their horns into the intended victim.
There was a period of time back in the late 1800’s when the African buffalo was nearly wiped out due to disease. Rinderpest was one of the most devastating of animal diseases killing millions of buffalo affecting about 90% of the buffalo population.
These days African buffalo still suffer, during drought seasons when water sources dry up. Several parks around Africa include as part of their conservation management practices a game count of African buffalo especially in dry season, in order to monitor and maintain the species.
Being such a unique looking animal, the giraffe has a special place in many people’s hearts. Its name “giraffa” is derived from an Arabic word meaning fast-walker. When it was first observed by English-speaking people, it was thought to look like a camel with leopard-like colouring, hence the second part of its species name “camelopardalis”.
It has evolved over time with such unique characteristics in order to survive in the wilderness of Africa. As the tallest animal in the world, it’s long neck enables it to reach food at the tops of the acacia trees, minimising it’s competition from other herbivores. A very long tongue and flexible upper lip enable the giraffe to reach the crowns of small trees and nimbly pull leaves from amongst the thorns. It even has horny papillae on its lips and tongue to further protect it from thorns!
Like many even-hooved animals, the giraffe is a ruminant with 4 stomach chambers much like the cow. Below you can see the giraffe chewing the cud it has regurgitated to further extract nutrients from the food it has digested.
Zebras are a beautiful species, with their stunning black and white stripes.
There are many theories for the colouring, the most postured one being that it enables the individuals to gather together and “dazzle” a predator to the point of confusion where they have difficulty isolating a particular individual as potential prey. Another one is that it helps with discouraging biting flies and thermal regulation.
So is the zebra black with white stripes OR white with black stripes?
The African wildebeest are internationally renowned for their great migrations through the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti. During my time at college, the local students would tell me that generally these animals are known for not being the brightest animal, and there always seems to be the one wildebeest with an identity crisis hanging out with the zebras. Even I’ve observed this in Kruger, in Marataba and in Hwange!
They are more locally known as gnu, an indigenous word originating probably from the sound that the wildebeest make. When we were walking in the bush as part of our Back-up Trails Guide course, these animals would gruffly snort when they see/smell you and stand to attention and watch as you walk past.
Wildebeest are territorial animals and they leave scent marks in order to communicate to other animals where their territory is. This is a photo of one making its mark in the dirt – they turn and twist as if they are trying to scratch an itch on their back… quite funny to watch and very different to those grizzly bears who cleverly scratch their backs on tree trunks.
During rainy season the bush is very thick so it’s not the best time for big game viewing. But summer is an amazing time for bird viewing as there are so many migratory birds around.
I also find that without the distraction of the big game then you do notice the birds more.
The featured image are a pair of cuddling laughing doves, appropriate for this Valentine’s week!
Below are some more birds from a game drive in Hwange.
Curious looking Knob-billed duck. Up close you get to see the beautiful aqua green colouring at his rear! Sensational.
The Lilac-breasted roller, one of my favourite birds due to the magnificent array of colours. It unfortunately has a horrible screeching call but it’s very distinct and is usually a lead into its aerobatic rolling when finding a mate.
I find birds of prey very difficult to identify. This one I think is a tawny eagle due to the yellow gape below the eye and the legs which aren’t stovepipe so can’t be a lesser spotted eagle and they aren’t broad so it’s not a steppe eagle. If you can confirm or identify correctly please do! I would appreciate it.
Last year at NJ More college, we created so many wonderful memories and there were so many days where we said to ourselves: ‘Could it really get any better than this?’
Then came the best day ever. This leopard was my personal highlight of this game drive and I was so rapt that I could capture it in the brief moment we were allowed into its world before it turned off into the thick veld.
Leopards are definitely my favourite predator. There’s something magical about them… their elusiveness leaves you mystified and wanting more, their instinctive nature to hunt or hide is mesmerising in its totality and physically they are solid yet elegant, strong but dainty & silent on their feet. Such an impressive animal to watch.
I am happy that they are so elusive as it helps them survive in this day and age of humans, the destroyers.
There are many stories of leopards and lions around the world being manhunters and whilst it is chilling to read, in some ways nature fighting back for its rightful place on this planet is heartwarming. It’s a shame that humans are so effective due to sheer numbers in outdoing nature. Happy to be part of those trying to rectify humanity’s mistakes.
From our course on nature guiding we learnt to distinguish 3 types of chelonians: the tortoise, terrapin and turtle.
The tortoise is the one you typically find on land and has feet appropriate for walking.
At NJ More we managed to witness this leopard tortoise swim!
A terrapin lives in freshwater unlike the turtle which lives in seawater.
As a comparison here is a sea turtle from a diving trip in Bali many moons ago.
The leopard tortoise is one of my favourites and are awesome to see in the wild. They are part of Africa’s Little Five. Below is a photo I took of one during our Wildlife Photography sessions at NJ More Field Guide College with Mike Tucker from Big5Photos.