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 Post subject: Johannes van Niekerk Prickly Breakfast 2008 (aug'11)
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:40 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:22 pm
Posts: 91
Location: Lowveld - Near Kruger!
The following is really just an excerpt from a trip, and took place a while back (2008 to be exact), but I have finally come around to write the story...
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It's a chilly morning, early May, in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

It took a little longer than expected for the coffee to kick in and get some warmth into my body, so I left Mata Mata camp a little later than gate-opening time.

I slowly made my way south (the only direction you can go from Mata Mata) with that wonderful feeling of anticipation filling my mind... What will I see today? The light is good early morning - I hope I can make use of it... Will I see any big cats today? (OK, big cats are not the only wildlife I am interested in, but they sure put a special tingle up my spine!).

A little distance from Craig Lockhart, I noticed a few cars around the water hole... What did they see?

As I turned in to the waterhole, I spotted them - LIONS!

In my hurry to get my window rolled down, my lens support (a swimming pool "noodle" with a slit cut in to fit over the window) fell out of the vehicle! I stopped, backed up a bit, gingerly opened my door while keeping an eye on the lions about 30m away, and picked up my noodle. Now I'm ready for the action...

As I neared the other cars, I saw that one of the lions (a young male) seemed very interested in the rear end of one of the vehicles. I looked a little closer and... "HOLY COW - Can this be true? - There's a porcupine under the vehicle! - No, there are two porcupines under the vehicle". The young lion intensely stares at them from close quarters.

My whole body was shaking! "Thank heavens for Optical Stabilization in my lenses - there's no way I can hold a camera still now!"

Image

All the action unfortunately took place into the rising sun, so the light was not ideal, but with action like this, I will take any light that mother nature supplies!
_______________________________________
Stay tuned for the continuation of the story...

If you are too impatient for that, the complete story with more photos are on my blog at AfricaBliss


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 Post subject: Re: Prickly Breakfast
Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:54 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:22 pm
Posts: 91
Location: Lowveld - Near Kruger!
Meanwhile, some reinforcements arrived for the lions. Now it was four against two in favour of the lions - not very promising from a porcupine point of view, though!

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Things were turning desperate for the porcupines and it was time they "put their heads together" for some strategy. I think they said "if we face each other and keep our heads together, those lions will only have access to our rear ends - let them have it!"

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Now it's getting even more serious - There are at least six young lions surrounding the two poor porcupines and circling ever closer. The one lion (on the left) looked especially interested and had some purpose in his step...

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________________________________________________________________
Stay tuned for the continuation of the story...

If you are too impatient for that, the complete story with more photos are on my blog at AfricaBliss


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 Post subject: Re: Prickly Breakfast
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 28, 2011 7:46 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:22 pm
Posts: 91
Location: Lowveld - Near Kruger!
He moved in and took a swipe at the porcupine with his claw. The porcupine reacted immediately by swirling its body around to present it's back and quills to the attacker. It is often claimed that porcupines "shoot out their quills" but that is not how it works. They simply turn their bodies around very quickly in defense, to keep the sharp ends of their quills between the attacker and their vulnerable bodies.

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The attacking lion retreated with great haste - and no wonder - the porcupine's action had the desired results. One of its quills stuck right through the lion's nostril! He immediately lost all interest in the porcupine to "lick his wounds".

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Looking a little closer I could see the quill that got lodged in his nostril. OUCH!!!! That must hurt like crazy! Here he is trying his utmost to get the quill out with his paw.

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The lion's antics even got the attention of one of his family members. "Looks like your in pain brother, can I help you?" Finally after a lot of scratching, shaking, sneezing and clawing, the lion did manage to get rid of the quill.

Image

In the meantime, amidst all the commotion, the porcupines....
______________________________________________________
To be continued...

The complete story with more photos are on my blog at AfricaBliss


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 Post subject: Re: Prickly Breakfast
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 29, 2011 8:51 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:22 pm
Posts: 91
Location: Lowveld - Near Kruger!
In the meantime, amidst all the commotion, the porcupines decided to make run for it towards a thick bush nearby, eagerly pursued by the rest of the gang of young lions. I was concerned about this, because in the thick bush it will be impossible for them to turn their backs to the attackers, thereby making it easier for the lions to get to them without the dangers of being "enquilled".

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For a while all was quiet - all I could see was some movement of the bushes as the lions moved through it in search of the porcupines.

Suddenly I heard a commotion coming from the left side of the bush. I started my vehicle and drove around to see what was going on there. "Big Daddy" must have caught the unfortunate porcupine just as it was coming out of the bush - head-on into the jaws of death. The lion proceeded to lick off the skin and quills to get to the juicy parts. I haven't even noticed "Big Daddy" laying behind the bush while the young ones were harassing the porcupines in the front, until this commotion.

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The young lions started to swarm around "Big Daddy" and it was clear that he was not too pleased with them. When it became too much for him, he got up and picked up the porcupine in his mouth...

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... and walked off to enjoy his meal away from the maddening crowd of youngsters. Unfortunately (for me) he decided to exclude us onlookers from this as well, and laid down behind a bush - totally obscuring the view - to finish his prickly breakfast in peace.

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With "Big Daddy" away, the youngsters flocked to the spot where he killed the porcupine, sniffing and licking around in search of a little morsel left behind. One of the youngsters came out with his consolation prize - a piece of skin with some quills attached. I don't know for sure, but something inside me wanted to believe that it was the very same one that had the quill through his nostril. Doesn't it look like he's smiling, saying "he who laughs last...."?

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Breakfast is finished... "Big Daddy" gets up and walks off into the dunes - all quilled up!

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I was quite concerned with all the quills he had sticking into him, but am very happy to say that I saw him again the next day - no quills, and no indication of anything bothering him.

Not such a happy ending for the poor porcupine, but "life in the Kgalagadi is tough" and not always fair in our opinions. I never saw the other porcupine again and do not know if he survived the ordeal. My human side wants to believe that he made it to live another day...
______________________________________________________________________________

The full story can also be read on my blog post PRICKLY BREAKFAST

Larger Photos and slideshow can be seen in this GALLERY


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 Post subject: Re: Prickly Breakfast
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:52 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 6:22 pm
Posts: 91
Location: Lowveld - Near Kruger!
Thank you all for your comments.

It was indeed a very special sighting - one of the best I have ever had! I love to experience animal interactions - and when it is two different species, so much better!

I discussed this with Jannie (out Kgalagadi Guru) some time ago, and it is interesting that porcupines makes up quite a large percentage of the Kgalagadi Lions' diet - despite the pains this inflicts on the lions. The same was also evident from the research of Prof Eloff way back when - Kgalagadi Lions just love porcupines!

This is one of my favorite photos - just look at the intrigued expression on the lion's face - almost comical. This photo might need a good caption - what do you think the lion is saying?

Image


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