Saturday, April 30, 2011

Crossing or in a Row

Everybody is familiar with zebra crossing - even if it has (kind of?) a different meaning when being in the bush or having to obey road "rules" in town. But then - crossing something or other also has different "connotations", as in crossing equine species.

We all know that a cross between a male donkey & a mare (horse) is known as a mule, whereas a stallion & a female donkey produce a hiny. So what if a zebra (also a member of the equus family) enters the picture? Then a zebra-horse cross is known as a "zorse", & a zebra-donkey cross as a zonkey or zeedonk.

This crossed/mixed breed animal - which in a way also reminds me of what we know the extinct kwagga looked like - is "on display" at a private lodge just outside Joburg.

Since zebra are "part of the equation" today - there's "magic" in a group of zebras lining up in a row at a waterhole - I'm still waiting/hoping to one day be able to snap the "perfect" row of zebras.

Other animals like these springbok joining some zebra at a waterhole - simply wade in but in a disorderly fashion . . .

. . . or these impala too thirsty to "form" a perfect row . . .

. . . but then a day & the photo-oppotunity "arrives" when you get to "snap" the perfect row - not the hoped-for zebra, but this certainly was a magical moment/opportunity "in its own right".

This photo proves that springbok can line-up "nicely" . . .

. . . or waterbuck forming a nice "front" (or is that showing off their backsides?) . . .

. . . or otherwise graceful giraffes looking rather clumsy (& definitely are at their most vulnerable) when drinking - apart from that the 2 drinking giraffes "demonstrate" the 2 different ways in which giraffes (spread their legs when) drinking.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kalahari Ferrari & Nguni

Similar to my previous blog-entry [SEE: below], I'm again digressing from my more "customary" topics today by concentrating on "farm" instead of wild animals, etc. Also in stark contrast to a Ferrari, the Italian supercar, Kalahari Ferrari is the "nickname" for a donkey-cart in southern Africa - although in the 80's, a car, which wasn't "that great" was also called a Kalahari Ferrari, e.g. the "rust buckets" used by students as transport. Apparently it's also the "name" of a spider species found in India, although again, the name is said to have originated in the Kalahari-desert-part of southern Africa.

Seemingly content to apply themselves to sheer drudgery - "donkey-work" - these horse-related-mostly-draught-animals, when harnessed together in any number, represent the "driving force" of what is referred to as the Kalahari-Ferrari. Actually donkeys are highly intelligent beasts, and other "virtues" include strength, hardiness and a natural immunity to many diseases.

Also indigenous to southern Africa are the Nguni cattle, which were introduced by the pastrolist Nguni group of people (= Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi, Ndebele & Shangaan) on their southward migritation from north-eastern Africa a few centuries ago. Other than being bred for their meat, Nguni cattle were (also) originally draught animals.

Nguni cattle are characterised by their multicoloured & variously paterned hides, as well as a variety of horn shapes. They have long, productive lives & like donkeys, are immune to most diseases and parasites that often creates "havoc" amongst cattle breeders.

King Shaka (of the Zulus) bred Ngunis according to their colour patterns to produce skins that were used for the raw-hide shields by the different regiments of his army. Accordingly his elite personal guard was recognised by their attire of pure white shields from the cattle of the royal herd. To this day, white Nguni cattle are "allowed" to only be kept by the Zulu king.

I've included this (photo of a) horse for various reasons: 1) because it's related to donkeys & like donkeys, some horse breeds are draught animals; 2) it's multi-coloured like the Nguni cattle; & 3) the Ferrari logo (or trademark) is of a "prancing horse" - LOL

By way of a "comparison" - Friesland cattle have also found a home in southern Africa. Friesland are high-producing, black-and-white dairy cows, whilst the "name" is an adaption of the Holstein or Friesian cattle, which were originally bred in the Netherlands (in e.g. the province of Friesland).

From donkeys to catlle & horses - now sheep are "sharing" the environment with an ostrich = also a typical "phenomena" in southern Africa. Amongst the approx. 30 million sheep kept in South Africa, the greater proportion is merinos - a fine-wooled type - although merino farmers (mostly living in the arid parts of our country) are "battling" because the price of wool drastically fluctuated through the years & then reached an all-time low.

Sheep (like those in the photo above) are driven by herders when "on the move". But the "job" of herders also includes protecting the herd from "danger", e.g. (certainly in southern Africa) from predators on the prowl. However the baboon (on top of the water-tank) isn't out to catch a vulnerable lamb!!

Instead (or so it appears) the baboon is THE herder!!

I've "discussed this situation" before in a previous blog-entry, soon after taking this amazing series of photos during a family trip along the West Coast of our country. In the mean time I learned that other animals, like e.g. the imported (South) American alpaca, are also "employed" as herders on some farms in our country (as well as in other parts of the world), because they have an acute sense of danger lurking, warning their "wards", which respond by congregating into one big group - making it "rather difficult" for a predator to single out a vulnerable individual.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tasty Boerbok

Last weekend I read an interesting article in the Travel & Food supplement of the Sunday Times - which wasn't only informative but also reminded me that amongst my huge collection of photos, I had some photos of Boerbokke. Yes, the article was about this indigenous breed, i.e. a South African home-grown goat, yet it appears that the boerbok has become "famous" overseas instead of in its country of origin.

According to the newspaper article this selectively bred goat is causing a stir from London to Texas, New South Wales (Australia), New Zealand & in Norway, yet only some Indians & Zulus "buy them off the trucks" in this country - because they want to slaughter & eat it. It's the boerbok's low-cholesterol meat they all are after (!!) which apparently tastes similar to lamb, but has more flavour, even if the texture of the meat is slightly coarser [This, apparently, is incorrect = SEE: expert comment below]. Goat meat is said to contain less than a third of the fat of beef & fewer calories than chicken. In a similar category, (our) ostrich meat has become very popular all over the world - but how many South Africans regularly eat it/buy the meat?

The boerbok was "developed" over many years/decades/generations. The main aim, apart from good meat, was that these goats had to be white - so they could be seen on the mountains! Another deliberately "bred" feature is the boerbok's red (= chestnut-coloured) head - to protect its eyes & nose against the sun. As a conservationist "at heart", I am also fascinated by the fact that these goats feed "with gusto" on alien plants (in SA: e.g. the Port Jackson tree) - so raising boerbokke is an "environmentally sound" method to combat the invasive plant problem!

Once I "examined" my extensive collection for photos (to use above), I "stumbled upon" this pet-goat, which I had snapped at a touch-farm.

Similarly "stored" is this photo of 2 cute little goats "finding refuge" in their feeding-trough . . .

. . . or this bunny under a bush . . .

. . . as well as this family of ducks . . .

. . . also these "selectively bred" turkeys . . .

. . . which reminds me that once, turkeys were bred mainly for their meat, instead of as a "reminder" that a turkey still exists!

And last but not least, since I "digressed" from the main subject - I couldn't resist adding another cute photo of pet-pigs!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Different Faces

After my "report back" about the last tour [SEE: my previous blog-entry] I thought of how nature has so many different faces: this is a photo of the "Three Rondawels" (= along the Panorama Route in the Mpumalanga Province) as "presented" to us during the last tour . . .

. . . and this is what these "triplet" peaks look like during "stark" sunlight . . .

. . . or when illuminated by the setting sun.

Similarly this is what part of the Bourke's Luck Potholes (also along the Panorama Route) looked like during the last tour & after the "masses" of rain we lately experienced . . .

. . . or during "calmer weather" periods - from more or less the same spot.

As a result of all the rain this summer season, the Hluhluwe Game Reserve is "decked" in green - with a paradise-like look about it . . .

. . . about a year ago, however, it was dry & a veld-brand (= fire) burned down large areas in the park . . .

. . . whilst a more common occurence is morning mist or "lazy" clouds covering the environment in this part of our country.

Talking about paradise - there's always a snake there somewhere, in this case a highly toxic Puffadder (found amongst the chalets we occupied!!) . . .

. . . which a "snake-handler" (= 1 of the rangers) treated as if it was a common pet!?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Back Online

Just returned from the last tour for this season & here are some of the photographic "experiences" I shared with a wonderful group of German-speaking tourists - soon after entering the Kruger National Park in open safari vehicles, we had the privilege of "meeting" a pack of 5 young wild dogs. It had rained during the night & "customarily" they found "refuge" from the wet environment on a quicker-drying tar-road.

It's always a privilege to see these wild animals in the wilderness, because wild dogs are usually "on the move" (seldom sit down or stand still & are therefore difficult to photograph) other than being rather "scarce" (= the wild dog is an endangered species & was "just" saved from extinction).

Not only did the sun "come out" to illuminate this special sighting, but a few of the wild dogs "used" the opportunity to lie down - posing like tame dogs in contrast to being highly dangerous, deadly & relentless carnivores. The wild dogs' powerful jaws can tear exhausted victims apart with ease, whilst they rip pieces from the flesh from a panic-stricken prey still trying to flee!

A far more peaceful scene "greeted" us in the Hluhluwe Game reserve - 2 of the most "typical" savannah species, a giraffe & zebra (with youngster) "blocked" our way.

Did this female giraffe lick its lips - or was it sticking out its tongue at us?

This is 1 of those "unusual moments" seldom recorded: of 6 (actually it were 8 - I wasn't able to include 2 others in the same "frame" ) White rhinos grazing peacefully together. "Recording" this kind of scene is only "possible" in Hluhluwe, where the concentration of these wild animals is very high - otherwise the males would fiercely protect their territory & not "allow" others to simply "enter".

Oh yes - & then there was this "baby rhino" grazing all by itself!? Or so it was assumed until I pointed out that "unfortunately", it was a male warthog.

All of the above photos were taken with my "smaller" camera because my usually dependable Canon camera had "decided" to "pack up" - this photo of a hyena youngster was the "last shot" - I really missed out on a magnificent picture! So goodbye to my previously "trusted friend" . . .

. . . & hallo to the "new one" - I felt "forced" to "upgrade" (= bought a new camera in Cape Town) & this photo of a Grey squirrel (= an "introduced" species to South Africa) is 1 of the first I "snapped" with the upgraded camera.