Saturday, May 30, 2009

On the Road again

Will be back (from touring) in 2 weeks time!

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Baboon Story

As a juvenile Chacma baboon, I often have to endure a lot of flack from the adult baboons - so I retreat to the fork of a tree, where I feel safe & from where I can rather watch procedures.

From looking at this adult male, it seems I'm not the only one who sometimes feels harassed - this one appears completely overtaxed!

If things get too complicate...... does scratching one's head, help?

What is this male concentrating on? Did he hurt himself? Or is he checking that all his limbs are still intact?

"Ag ja; no well, no fine."

"Eish! Why do humans insist that Chacma baboons have a dog-like face?"

Baboon mothers are very protective of their young, but allow them free reign to experiment.

Even an alpha male allows youngsters close - but only the very young!

Juveniles, like me, practice at growing up (= self-defence) by play-fighting. My friend's tail isn't broken - a sickle-like tail is one of a baboon's characteristics!

Innocently, 2 baby baboons inspect if something edible is lying on the ground.

No longer distracted by what they might discover, the 2 youngsters turn on each other - biting, scratching or fighting is part of how young baboons socialise.

For more on baboons, SEE: "Gregarious Primates", posted on this blog 24 April 2008

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Monkey Story

Although adult Vervet monkeys have entirely black faces, babies are born with pink features and not much bodily hair.

Female vervet monkeys are extremely maternal - they not only 'mother' their own offspring, but are also known to adopt youngsters, even from other, not related troops.

As a juvenile youngster, I love playing games like hide-&-seek. As you can also see, we have certain features in common with other primates (including humans): five fingered limbs & flat finger nails.

If we encounter foreign (unknown) food, we, the juveniles or sub-adults tend to experiment with it. If we approve - which isn't always the case - the adults will partake. We are typically omnivorous, meaning our teeth are able to 'handle' plant materials as well as meat.

Like playing or mating, grooming is part of the way we socialise. We 'auto' groom = scratch or comb our own fur; or we 'social' groom = combing through another monkey's fur; sometimes, we even assist small antelope species by grooming them.

When socialising, vervet monkeys 'reveal' many endearing qualities - they tend to express emotions. The social groups are complex but stable & mainly consist of adult females & their offspring. The males tend to move freely in & out of different groups.

Grooming each other entails removing parasites & other materials. In the vervet hierarchy, dominant males & females get the most attention (= grooming), but sub-adults often spend hours grooming each other after busy feeding 'sessions'.

After foraging (= 'hard' work) or during the hottest time of day, monkeys lazily relax.

They might even fall asleep - blissfully unaware that the "paparazzi" is on the prowl!!

There's more "monkey business" on this blog-site: SEE: Social Primates, posted 16 June 2008

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Tortoise Story

South Africans distinguish between a) tortoises, which live on land; b) terrapins, which live in fresh water; & c) turtles - in the sea.

By way of an introduction: I'm 1 of 12 southern African tortoise species - an Angulate tortoise. All tortoises have a "travelling home", which humans call the 'shell'. Our upper bodies are protected by a horny shield known as a 'carapace', whilst our underbellies are protected by a second, less curved shield called the 'plastron'. You can distinguish an Angulate tortoise by its single, spade-like throat-shield (on the 'inside' pink to orange in colour), which projects or "flares" at the front of the plastron, & which is used like a battering ram in male-on-male contests. The (lower) circumference of the carapace also has dark-brown triangles.

Angulate tortoises "hate" humidity (it's our "worst enemy") & we are therefore 'confined' to the coastal areas of the Cape & south Namibia, because we prefer sandy coastal regions with bushveld & fynbos. All tortoises are predominantly herbivores but we derive nutritional supplements by nibbling on bones, snails, insects & animal faeces.

The Leopard tortoise is more widely distributed throughout the savannas of Africa. It has a tent-like hump (= the carapace is domed) & it's the largest tortoise species in southern Africa.

The neck skin of the Leopard tortoise is speckled, hence (the origin) of its common name (= like the skin of a leopard) OR, some say, the name is derived because because of its black & yellow 'spotted' shell (= can't change its spots = leopard!?). This tortoise is also known as the Mountain tortoise.

There are 5 species of Padloper (Afrikaans pad = path; = "road-walker") in South Africa - they have the habit of 'taking to the road'. These are tiny tortoises BUT fast-moving & agile (in tortoise terms!!).

Tortoises are known as primitive animals, because our body shape hasn't changed much over the past 200 million years - yes, we are around since dinosaur-like reptiles roamed the earth!

Tortoises are able to drink by sucking water through their nostrils. Also check out the snout - we have no teeth + instead tear & chew our food with hard, sharp-edged horny beaks. But we do have something in common with humans: our shells are 'made' from (protein) keratin = the same material as a human nail. This means we can feel touch!!

What do we have here? An exotic tortoise!

It's a Radiated tortoise from Madagascar & an endangered species mainly due to the destruction of its natural habitat (by humans!).

When you see this, especially in the middle of a river or dam, you know you're looking at a terrapin. There are 5 species of terrapins in South Africa.

A terrapin close-up: in comparison to a tortoise, a terrapin's carapace is much flatter & relatively smooth, which offers less resistance to movement in water. In contrast to tortoises, terrapins are omnivorous feeders, & they use their sharp claws (= 5 on front, webbed feet& 4 on the rear feet) to 'dismember' larger prey.

Now to a tortoise "love story" - or should I say, "knock, knock" comes to mind? Judge for yourself when 'checking out' the following 3 photos of 2 Angulate tortoises.

Knock, knock - is someone home?

Playing hard-ball?

At last....... hallo!

Did you know that South Africa has an exceptionally rich reptile fauna = more than 360 species in 22 families?

Also SEE: An Elephant Story, posted on this blog 25 February 2009
A Rhino Story, on 26 Feb 2009
A Hippo Story, on 7 March
A Dassie Story, on14 "
& An Ostrich Story, on 20 March 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Loving Birds

Whilst the "jury is out" on who reaches the finals of the Beauty Contest (SEE: last blog entries), here is some "food for thought": southern African birds revealing endearingly loving attitudes.

Rock pigeons - smooching

Laughing doves - flirting

Laughing doves - in ecstasy?

Blackeyed bulbuls - cuddling up

Motherly love - a Moorhen & chicks

The Aftermath - Ground hornbills

Arrowmarked babblers - preening

More preening - Wood hoopoes

Feeding time - a Crested barbet & youngster

"I smaak you" (SA slang for: I adore you)
African penguins

Revealing interest - 'madame' & 'monsieur'
Greater flamingo

Aren't they all cute?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beauty Contest - Cat. 10

Thought the Beauty Contest was over & done with?

Well the last entry (a Rockhopper Penguin) in Cat.9 'introduced' an exotic "flavour" so here goes - some Exotic Birds:

This otherwise quite large bird, a peacock, looks rather small once its magnificent feathers are 'spread wide'.

And this?

A peacock's rear-end!

[No hidden message included]

A Scarlet ibis - only found in some bird parks in SA, because it hails from the northern parts of South AMERICA.

This Sulphur Crested cockatoo has its 'home' in Indonesia.

The Carolina Wood duck is a native of North America or Cuba.

As its name, Mandarin duck, indicates, this bird is at home in Eastern Asia (as far as southern China).

With its multi-coloured plumage, this Royal (or Golden) Breasted starling - from East Africa - certainly deserves to 'proclaim' royalty!

Doesn't this Buffoni Green touraco - from West Africa - look a lot like our Knysna OR Livingstone's lourie (= touraco)?

And to really (= finally) introduce THE END of this Beauty Contest - an irradiant Solomon Eclectus parrot with its 'home-base' in New Guinea + the Solomon Islands.