Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Giants in Nature

During a recent tour and whilst in Swaziland, we detected these 2 Black rhinos amongst some burnt vegetation. For various reasons, this rhino species is far more endangered than its relative, the White Rhino. Although both rhino species were saved from distinction in most southern African countries, its horrific to hear how many are still butchered - just for their horn, because some Asian cultures believe (quite falsely!!) that rhino-horn has medicinal (= aphrodisiac) value/qualities. It's therefore interesting to note/read that as a result of this horrible slaughter and to protect the remaining rhinos, lately many discussions centre on possibly injecting poison (as well as colourants) into the horns of rhinos - so that the "end user" gets sick (as opposed to dying, which a very aggravated man nonetheless dared to suggest!!).

In contrast hippos were never hunted for ivory or their skins, yet similar to the "BIG 5", hippos are dangerous animals, causing more death in Africa than any other animal! Where-ever these giants are still found in their "natural" environment, they usually live side-by-side with similarly dangerous animals - crocodiles.

Yes that's correct: this hippo is grazing "comfortably" amongst what most animals & humans try to avoid - to be surrounded by crocodiles.

Now to some far less dangerous giants in nature = Southern Right Whales. From about May to November each year, these enormous creatures "frequent" our shores - a truly exciting experience to "meet them" at such close quarters! It's therefore extremely disturbing to know that still, some nations hunt whales. That's how this whale species also got its name: they were the "right" whales to hunt = every part of them could be used!

Hermanus (in the Western Cape) is known as the whale-watching capital in South Africa - yet "spotting" whales is never guaranteed, because various factors (mainly weather-related) influence the "outcome". I'm still dreaming of seeing a whale "breaching" close by, although I was able to "snap" this specimen out at sea.

Yet during a recent tour, we couldn't complain because right in front of our hotel in Hermanus, 3 whales (probably a mother & child + an interested male) made an appearance!

A closer look at one of the whales "exhaling" whilst a Kelp gull flies past.

And when it was time for us to get on the bus to continue our sight-seeing tour, the whales also seemed to "decide" to move on - but not before "waving" goodbye!!

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