Thursday, November 27, 2008

Maxi Mammals

Since my last entry was about Mini-Mammals, I thought "maxi" is appropriate for the photos I'm sharing today.

These 2 old "dagga boys", as we talk about old male buffalo in the "industry" (dagga = mud; pronunciation: soft-g; not to be confused with the stuff some people smoke!!) didn't move an inch when we drifted closer in a boat on the Chobe River (Botswana). If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll see that an African Jacana pecking around the buffalo in the front, also wasn't able to disturbed the old male.

This is one of those photos I'm rather proud of and which I call "lucky" shots - being at the right place at the right time. Dust was the first we saw during a game drive in the Kruger National Park - and then a herd of buffalo materialised, which I was able to capture at the "right" moment - I'm amazed at the "symmetry" of the photo, which I only noticed once I looked at it on my computer screen back home.

The large herd of buffalo moved passed and we happily snapped away. This was a great opportunity to leisurely watch in close proximity these members of the so-called "BIG 5" (see one of my previous postings = BIG 5).

I guess the most loved and respected member of the BIG 5 is the elephant. Recently, I bought a fridge-magnet which says: "We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understanding and our hearts". To that I can add: "and with imagination", because I often notice "human" traits whilst observing wild animals. Whilst "absorbing" this scene (above), I imagined that the youngster, lying down, wished to play and that the second youngster was keen to join in the fun, BUT mother-elephant would have none of it! The result: the youngster stood up, obviously reluctant, but contritely followed its mother and the rest of the herd.

Often I'm asked by visitors why the tallest of the wild animals isn't part of the BIG 5 - and then I explain (often all over again) why certain animals are classified as the BIG 5 and NOT the giraffe. Apart from being aware how the expression originated, I also know that giraffes only tend to lie down when they are "convinced" that no dangerous predators (especially lions) are in the vicinity - otherwise they sleep or rest standing up. This old male in the Etosha Park (Namibia) certainly felt safe, because it had moved only a short distance to lie down again when we passed in our bus many hours later.

Just to "prove my point" - in case you think because it was an old male, the giraffe might have been too weak to move on - we saw another giraffe lying down in the Kruger Park a few days later (during another tour). This one stood up, though - it probably felt nervous when we stopped - and moved on. Two different giraffes lying down during 2 different occasions - I must admit that until then, I had only observed giraffes doing that in private game reserves, where NO dangerous predators are present.

Isn't she pretty(right)? When I saw and snapped this young female in Etosha, I certainly thought it looked as if she'd "put on" her make-up!! I love taking photos of giraffe-heads (and also adore their long eyelashes) but this one "takes the cake" in the beauty-department.

Although giraffes are probably the most "peaceful" of the large wild animals, the males sometimes do fight. I saw this happening years ago and never again - until my last visit to Namibia, where I took photos of these 2 males "seriously slapping" each other with their long necks.

When bending down to drink, giraffes are at their most vulnerable - that's why they mostly appear nervous around e.g. watering holes. The "classic" way for giraffes to drink is "demonstrated" by the female on the right in my photo BUT recently (or so our Namibian guide informed us), giraffes also tend to "spread" their legs (as demonstrated by the giraffe left in the photo). Interesting! Is that perhaps a position from which they can get upright quicker (in case a predator attacks)?

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