Morning walk - 21 April 2011
A lovely cool morning welcomed us as we prepared for our walk. Binos, rifles, ammunition,water, hats and a wind check. We were ready. We moved into the alluvial soils accomodating stacks of Acacias (a highly palatable legume with thorns as defense against browsers). The trees, showing depressingly high elephant impact attract giraffe and impala into the area.
We found 8 giraffe, 3 youngsters playfully running around together. They glared with curiosity at us as we advanced towards them with the prospect of some nice photographs. Standing side-ways, heads bent awkwardly towards us and ears pricked forward, I have in all my life never felt so mistrusted as I do with giraffe. In an instant the giraffe decision was made, 'let us leave before something happens'. They clumsily cantered off, leaving us feeling lonely and misread.
In natural circumstances we would have hunted them down, as we have done for thousands of years. With our intelligence we evolved very quickly and found easier ways to obtain food. The giraffe just don't know that, or any other animals for that matter. It is quite unfortunate that our technology-driven lives make things easier for us, but to the absorlute detriment of our natural environment. And unbeknown to most, the natural environment and its resources are the baseline of all life on Earth.
The rest of the walk was uneventful and we found a large fallen tree to have a ten minute break. Moving back towards our vehicle we were not expecting much as it was becoming quite warm. Suddenly in the spruit below on our right, a Spotted hyena shot out from the grassy edge, then another. 2 Large females. We recognized the abnormality of their behaviour and where they were and on looking up into the trees, noticed an impressive male Warthog carcass half eaten and splayed over a tick branch. A leopard kill, and the hyenas where hanging around below the tree hoping the carcass would drop on their heads... Some easy meat... But not that easy! There are a lot of misconceptions about Spotted hyenas, this is my favourite animal alongside Elephant. They are more successful hunters than what lions are and more than half of what they eat is hunted and not scavenged. In some areas scientists have found lions to be scavenging more than hyenas. The females make excellent mothers. Read up a little on them, you will be surprised.
26 April 2011
Mahudze Koppies - East
Fresh Buffalo dung dotted the road in front of us, it was only just getting light and I was unsure of where would be best to go. Switching the vehicle off at the buffalo dung, suddenly the bush on the right came alive with bellowing, grunting and other vocalizations a large Buffalo herd make. We stopped right there and walked in, trying hard not to step on steamy soft dung we headed with reason quickly down the path - Afraid they would get away. Tracks of young and old, all heading downwards into a large dense stand of Mopane.
Battling to get into a position to view them, finally we found a reasonably safe area to view some males and a few females on the back edge of the herd. The bush was thick and Oscar and I were as alert as ever, hearing them to our sides closeby as well and not seeing anything. As with any Buffalo herd, there are more elderly and sometimes grumpy bulls at the back edges of a herd.
The group we were watching were tense, we saw males trying to mount a female and a lot of vocalizing going on. Suddenly without warning 3 buffalo came running out at us, very quickly. Within a second Oscar and I cocked our rifles and aimed and shouted as hard as we could while our sights were lined up on the one in front. The buffalo turned away less than 10m from us. The group was shaken.
Fresh Elephant spoor marked the new path we joined, hoping to find him (a young male) but with no luck. Leopard tracks from early that same morning caught our attention - We were in perfect Leopard habitat.
Later we found an old Impala carcass in a tree and a Buffalo bull wallowing on our route back home. It was also an absorlutely beautiful morning, with the sun shining onto green yellow bush as it rose up, with a dark blue sky behind.
Letaba Head Guide