Category Archives: Wildlife Photography

Orphaned baby elephants

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.

I had the fortune to visit one such facility on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia: Game Ranger International’s Elephant Orphanage Project Nursery. Their philosophy is simple:

  1. Orphaned baby elephant survival and capacity to return to the wild is priority.
  2. 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!


Say no to plastics

Plastic free July. Can you do it?

All food establishments should allow customers to bring their on containers for takeaway or drinks. The pourers or buttons just need to have some flow measurer to automatically stop when the quantity is right. And servers need to know how many scoops of food are small, medium or large. It’s so doable.

True green

Southern Africa is truly blessed to have over 300 species of birds. The variety of sizes, shapes, colours and lifestyles of these birds makes Africa such a wonderful place for people to fall in love with birding.

My favourite birds tend to be the most colourful ones like the rollers and bee-eaters. 

For some birds like the bee-eaters and starlings, the colour we see isn’t actually the colour of their feathers but through a trick of lighting called iridescence or due to the structure of the feathers with air cavities playing up that light refraction.

Down in the garden route of South Africa, we have the Knysna Turaco, picture above, similar in size to a Grey Go Away bird. This is one of few birds that have truly green feathers. 

During a recent trip to Knysna (before the recent horrific fires), I was fortunate enough to be able to observe so many of these birds.  

They are stunning and even more so when they take off and fly giving you a glimpse of the bright red underneath their wings!

Learning about birds in South Africa has truly made being out in the bush and on game drives that much more rewarding and breathtaking. 

The humble warthog

Most people associate warthogs with Pumba, the funny character from The Lion King. My first ever sighting of ones of these little creatures was at Kruger from a far distance and it was hidden behind fallen tree trunks and bushes so all I ccould see was grey and the tusks. But from where I sat without my glasses and it being my first safari, my first thought was: “Mini rhino!” 

Physically, the male warthog has four warts on his face whilst the female has two. It is thought that the males have more to protect them from the tusks during their dominance fights with other males.

During my studies, these little creatures have actually endeared themselves to me as I learnt about their social behaviour, which may be similar to the domestic farm pig. Of all the animals, the warthog is a romantic, a story I love to share whenever I am on a game drive taking guests!

Focus on elephants

This month I have started a new life in unchartered territory! I’ve started work at a new NGO focused on African elephant conservation.

I’m very excited to be able to work in this space as elephants are magnificent creatures and have such an impact on the environment for other little creatures and plant life. They are are the gardeners of Africa. 

As part of my role I am looking into other NGO’S and the work that is already being done and seeing how we can support those activities, whether it is to connect with other NGO’S who can provide complementary functions, finding more efficient solutions to save them costs, bringing across donors to make them aware or supporting local communities in order to prevent them from becoming part of the problem.

The NGO’S I’m most looking forward to meet are those who’ve done so much work in expanding wildlife protected areas and opening up corridors and migratory pathways. Years of dedication, advocacy and strong conservation understanding is needed for this to happen. I would love to see how we can open up more of Africa for these animals who used to roam all over Africa and are now only 1.25% of theirestimated original population!

Bat-eared foxes

Easy to identify compared to most foxes, this mammal has conspicuously large ears used to listen for insects underground.  Its staple food is the harvester termite yet they also have been known to eat small rodents and fruit. The bat-eared fox also has the most teeth of Southern African mammals that I studied, which are shaped optimally for eating those tasty termites.

We were lucky enough at Marataba Game Reserve, South Africa to see the bat-eared foxes, like the ones on the featured image, on a regular basis. They are known for being very rare to spot on safari.

This photo above and below are from Central Kalahari Reserve, Botswana.

They are predominantly monogamous and we often saw them only in pairs, or as a family with young.

My favourite observation of these cute animals was watching them forage.  They crouch and put their ears low to the ground to listen for sounds underground.  When they know their food is arriving to the surface, they have this very accurate pounce and digging action.

In the dark of night

If you’re lucky on safari, you get to observe the most elusive of Africa’s big five, the leopard. Most of the time all you get is a fleeting glance before they disappear into the bush.

One night we were privileged beyond belief.

We were watching a movie in our self-made outdoor galactic cinema with projectors, and safari vehicles and beanbags as seating.  Some of the guys left the movie early to go get a good night’s sleep before another big day of learning. 

Suddenly we heard them come back. They said ‘Come, come, you’ve got to see this!’

Up we went and everyone went scurrying for flashlights. Down one end of camp across the marsh another flashlight was shone. A leopard. No! Two leopards canoodling under a tree on the geophasia bank!

Everyone was super quiet but in awe as we watched their interaction.

They looked comfortable enough for me to leave and grab my camera and tripod right on the other side of camp. I was praying that they would still be there when I got back. And with my very poor camera skills I was very happy to capture 1 decent photo of these two beautiful cats.

To watch them groom each other and make contact was sensational. Normally leopards are so solitary. Magical moments to treasure.

The Little Five of Africa

Marketing of Safaris in Africa frequently refer to the Big Five, being the most acclaimed of African animals from the hunter’s perspective back in the day.

Africa’s Little Five includes the above elephant shrew, the rhinoceros beetle, the leopard tortoise, the antlion and the buffalo weaver.

As you can probably guess, it’s named for it’s trunk like snout but isn’t at all related to the elephant.
This wild elephant shrew was photographed at Marakele National Park. It scurried from rock cover to rock cover in a flash and yet was so comfortable darting beneath our legs as we sat on the rocks to observe.

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So of the Little Five, I’ve yet to see a rhinoceros beetle and have only managed to track antlion larvae and see the adult version of an antlion, being the lacewing.

African Penguin 

Recently, I went to show some family the beautiful city of Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Of the many beautiful and insightful things to do there, a visit to Boulders Beach is a must in order to see the endangered African Penguins which have a safe haven in the form of this cordoned off nature reserve.

There is a restricted breeding area where we were fortunate enough to watch a mother warm and care for its young, and a group of young ones obviously trying to learn to swim in the busy surf crashing on some large boulders by the waters edge.  It was great to see these animals in action.

Some stay close to the fence line with the boardwalk and it’s a bit disturbing to see how unaffected by humans they are.

They say their vulnerability as a species has been due to habitat destruction, fisheries reducing food supplies, guano collection (which increase their breeding vulnerability) and oil spills as they are flightless birds so have difficulty avoiding them. In June 1994, approx. 10000 penguins were oiled and 50% died.

African penguins with black oystercatchers

Human activity again is essentially the cause for the drop in population of these little guys!