Did you know that not all animals are born male or female? 
Nov11

Did you know that not all animals are born male or female? 

The primitive behaviour of wildlife can be quite brutal to witness, and it’s normally a far cry from what is considered ethical and the norm for us emotionally charged humanoids. The wildlife kingdom has no labels – their behaviour is based on instinct and survival of their species. What we consider cruel in our brain-dwelling world, to them is innate to their species. Male lions commit infanticide with cubs sired by other males, female snakes engage in sexual cannibalism, and ageing buffalo bulls past their prime are ousted from the herd. Cruel, yet necessary. Primordial for us, yet natural for them. The rules of the wild are fascinating, with each species thriving and conducting behaviours based on instincts specific to their genetic make-up and family. When comes to the subject of sexing an animal, it can be, surprisingly tricky. Did you know that not all animals are born male or female? Crocodiles, female hyena and snails all have an unusual story when it comes to genitalia and sexual identification. Crocodile’s Sex is Determined by Incubation Conditions Crocodiles are ectothermic creatures and prehistoric reptiles. They will sun themselves on the banks of rivers to control their body thermostat, and seek out shade when they become too hot. These eerie looking reptiles are one of the most notorious killers of the safari world. They aren’t fussy in their pursuit of quarry. Anything that dare approaches the banks of their domain, be it a river or waterhole, the crocodile will silently approach and conduct a thrashing kill. So, just how are these water dinosaurs born? Being reptiles means that the female lays a clutch of eggs, normally ranging from 20 – 80 eggs in one clutch. Most of these eggs are eaten by predators, but the ones that survive – their sex is ultimately determined by their incubation conditions! Temperature of the nest determines the gender of the baby. Males need a temperature of 31.6 degrees Celsius to develop, and females will develop anything below or above those temperatures. Female Spotted Hyena Have a Pseudo Penis It is quite easy to misidentify the sex of a hyena when spotting one while out on game drive. Females have an external protrusion that resembles a male’s penis, but instead is actually a result of a heavy dose of male hormones emitted during pregnancy. This causes the clitoris and external areas to enlarge, and paves the way for a birth canal to develop. The canal is tiny, so there is normally a high mortality rate with first born cubs. They tend to stretch the canal for the second born, which generally survives. The next time you...

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The Big 7 Animals of South Africa
Oct08

The Big 7 Animals of South Africa

The big five are the most sought after species of wildlife to spot while on safari. The term “big five” was coined many years ago by big game hunters who found that lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo were the most dangerous to hunt while on foot. Years later, avid marketers and journalists continued to use the term to group together five of Africa’s elusive and majestic species. The big five can be found in the Kruger region, and scattered throughout other parts of South Africa within reserves. However, these big five animals are terrestrial and a large portion of South Africa is coastal. In the depths of the waters there is plenty of marine life. From southern right whales to dolphins, orcas and various species of shark; South Africa is a world of ocean splendour. The rugged coastlines of the Cape provide plenty of vantage points for shark spotting and whale watching. The southern right whale and the great white shark are the two most sought after ocean species to spot while cruising South Africa’s coastline. And thus, the these two marine creatures have been added to the big five to make up South Africa’s “big 7”! Here are the big 7 animals of South Africa : Rhino  Rhino are one of the most critically endangered species in Africa, and their numbers are rapidly declining. There are two species found in South Africa, the black and white rhino. The black rhino has a long horn and is far more aggressive in nature than the white rhino, and they’re considered browsers. White rhino are grazers –  their wide-lips allow for them to graze and mow through the short bushveld grasses. Black rhino have a narrower lip structure which allows them to pluck off nutritious leaves while browsing. Rhino have a keen sense of smell and hearing, but have incredibly poor eyesight. These prehistoric creatures are found throughout the majority of reserves in the Kruger and the Eastern Cape. Leopard The graceful and elusive leopard is a solitary wanderer, and when spotted it’s normally in the dead of night. The males tend to cover a huge traverse and will seek out areas rich with prey and availability of females. Females tend to confine themselves to a smaller traverse heaving with prey and potential den sites. You’ll find an abundance of leopard in reserves with caves, rocky outcrops, tall trees and drainage lines. After a kill is made, a leopard will drag the prey into a tree and stash it there for safekeeping, which is why you should always look up while on game drive! Leopards are found throughout may reserves, but the Sabi Sand Game...

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Elephants Drinking from Swimming Pool at Lodges in Klaserie
Aug09

Elephants Drinking from Swimming Pool at Lodges in Klaserie

The winter is in full swing, which means the bushveld is crunchy, arid and no longer boasts the luscious green vegetation that summer brings. With the thinning out of the bushveld, the water sources become scarce. For plains game, they gain most of their moisture from the vegetation they digest so they will congregate at waterholes dotted in reserves to replenish their thirst. Elephants are our swimmers and water babies of the bushveld, so they’re naturally drawn to pristine, fresh waterholes. When the waterholes dry up a bit, elephants will travel far and wide to find clean sources of water. The swimming pools at nThambo Tree Camp and Africa on Foot appear to be their go-to destinations for a soak and slurp! Elephants Drinking from the Pool at nThambo Tree Camp Around the same time, on an almost daily basis, the elephants meander their way through the wooden treehouse units and straight towards the splash pool. There’s normally quite a jostle to get a place in the pecking order and guests delight in watching the young calves flaying their trunks over the side of the pool. Elephants have the capacity to soak up to 14 litres of water through their trunks and can drink up to 200 litres of water a day. Given that they digest a bulk load of coarse vegetation, access to water is vital and herds will travel many miles to seek out the perfect water source. Possessing a high emotional intelligence and excellent memory, these pachyderms will make a point of remembering where valuable water can be obtained – the pool at nThambo is clearly etched into their memory banks and its water source can be detected from up to 5 km away. Our pachyderms can naturally go without water for up to 4 days and if they don’t have access to waterholes and swimming pools, they will use their trunks to dig up the earth to access to ground level water. This has a knock-on effect for other animals because natural waterholes are created through this digging process. Elephants Drinking from the Pool at Africa on Foot There is a bull elephant that is a well-known visitor to the splash pool. He seems unperturbed by the presence of onlookers and loves to relax at the poolside. He has a routine, which is observed by curious onlookers on a daily basis. This bull casually consumes his intake of vegetation while en route to his local. Elephants can spend up to 12-18 hours a day feeding and digesting a variety of course vegetation, which means they need to drink plenty of water. Guides and rangers at both camps...

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Is the Hippo One of Africa’s Most Dangerous Animals?
Aug05

Is the Hippo One of Africa’s Most Dangerous Animals?

Derived from the Greek word meaning “water horse”, the hippopotamus is one of the most fascinating animals to see on safari. Their colossal bodies and bumbling ways look adorable. However, looks can be deceiving. Hippos kill an estimated 3000 people in Africa on an annual basis. The only other animal with such a high kill rate is mosquitoes, which are responsible for thousands of fatalities. The hippo is moody, aggressive, territorial and requires little provocation for them to launch an attack. Although heavy and clumsy in appearance, these water-horses are deceptively fast! So, to our answer the question – yes, the hippo is one of Africa’s most dangerous animals – second to the mosquito. Despite the danger associated with hippos, they’re still iconic to Africa and one of the most sought after sightings while indulging in a water safari. Found in abundance in Okavango Delta, Botswana, this is the perfect destination to spot a high density of hippo. Let’s find out more about the curious nature of these huge beasts.  1. Hippos are amphibious creatures that spend the majority of their day submerged in water. They emerge from the water at night to forage and can travel in excess of 10 kilometres to seek out the most succulent creeping grasses, shoots and reeds. Although largely aquatic, hippos don’t actually swim ! Strange, yet true. Hippos wade through the water across the bottom of lakes, rivers and dams, and utilise well-worn pathways created by their cumbersome bodies. They don’t have the ability to float, so they will remain submerge for minutes on end and resurface to gain air, which is when we often spot them. 2. Hippos are gregarious creatures and are often found in bloats of up to 30 hippos, comprising males and females. There is normally one dominant male in charge of the pod and he is notoriously territorial, possessive and not afraid of confrontation. 3. To display territory and ward off would-be intruders, a hippo will assert its dominance by opening its 1.2 metre jaw to showcase its massive incisors. The incisors, that look like tusks, play a crucial role in the survival and lifestyle of a hippo. Hippos also have molars, which are quite hidden and vital for grinding down coarse vegetation....

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Now is the Time to See African Wild Dogs in Kruger
Jul06

Now is the Time to See African Wild Dogs in Kruger

The African wild dog is an endangered species of dog that enjoys a nomadic lifestyle. These mottled dogs are critically endangered and are fondly known as the “painted wolf” due its crosshatch and pain-like splatters of colour on its fur. Considered a rare sighting and “one for the books”, there really is nothing more rewarding than observing these gregarious creatures flitting about in their packs and engaging in ceremonious greetings. Because these dogs cover a wide range, they can be tricky to find. However, the easiest time to spot them is when they lead a sedentary lifestyle during their denning period, which is from May – August. The wild dog’s denning period naturally coincides with the end of the impala rutting season, which is generally the beginning of May. The rams are tired from all the mating and casually roam the bushveld with little energy and waning stamina. Thus they become the perfect “Weak” target for predators and an easy food source for wild dogs that need to bring food back to the den. During the denning period the alpha couple and new pups are priority, and the dogs cannot afford to travel far and use energy in chasing prey. Impala rams are like a take-out meal! Our precious dogs are actually co-operative breeders, which means the entire pack is involved in the rearing of the young. Interestingly enough, each of the dogs takes on a different role in raising the young. This can be anything from den guards, to hunters and babysitters. It is only the alpha male and female that breed, but the beta pair will step up should anything happen to the alphas. The pups will be nurtured and looked after in the confines of the den for up to 3 months, after which they will slowly emerge and introduce them to the ways of the wild. Now is the time to see wild dogs inthe Kruger – keep your eyes...

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Critically Endangered Pangolin Spotted in Sabi Sand
Jul05

Critically Endangered Pangolin Spotted in Sabi Sand

The pangolin (scaly anteater) is one of the most critically endangered species in the world. This prehistoric looking creature is immensely shy and is rarely seen. They have a scaly, protective armour that shields them from danger, and when under threat they tend to curl up in a defensive ball position. They’re active at night and this is when they feed, so even when spotted there’s only a slim chance of seeing a pangolin on the move! Renown Sabi Sand Game Reserve has an abundance of leopard sightings, but recently there have been a number of rare pangolin sightings in the area – in particular at Umkumbe Safari Lodge. One of their rangers, Nadia Bester managed to photograph a pangolin on the move. It is estimated that over 100, 000 pangolins are captured on an annual basis for their scales and meat – scales are mistakingly though to cure acne and cancer; none of which is true. In Africa and Asia, there are 8 species of pangolin, all of which are endangered. This is why guests and rangers always make a fuss when spotting one in the wild! Spotting one is worthy of celebration. If you’ve never heard of a pangolin or don’t know much about them, here are five interesting facts about these solitary nocturnal mammals: 1. The pangolin is often mistaken for being a reptile but is, in fact, part of the Manidae family whose members include anteaters, armadillos and sloths. 2. When under threat, a pangolin will become defensive and “play dead”. They do this by rolling into a ball. The scales on their body are incredibly sharp and will slice through an enemy’s skin like a knife. If approached, a pangolin may lash out with its tale and cut their enemy. 3. The scales are not their only defence mechanism. Pangolins, much like honey badgers and skunks, can emit a noxious smelling gas that drives predators away. 4. A pangolin feasts on ants, termites, insects and other small bugs. We often find them hovering around close to termite mounds, which provide an easy source of food. 5. A pangolin has an extremely long tongue covered in a sticky substance that traps food sources. To access termites, grubs and other insects, a pangolin must first dig up the earth and rip off bark. To do this, they use their curved claws which act as blades. All the below images were taken by Nadia Bester, a ranger from Umkumbe Safari...

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5 Facts About Elephants, Our Emotive Pachyderms
Jun04

5 Facts About Elephants, Our Emotive Pachyderms

Grey jumbos with their leathery hide and impressive tusks crunch their way through the bushveld wowing their onlookers with their emotive ways and giant presence. This larger-than-life herbivore is a much revered species and is one of the big five animals. Found in abundance throughout southern Africa, and in particular Botswana and Kruger, these emotional herbivores are one of the earth’s most intelligent species – so much so that they often visit the graveyard of deceased family members! Let’s take a look at the earth’s largest terrestrial animals and find out 5 facts about elephants, our emotive pachyderms. 1. They live in matriarchal herds Elephants are raised in matriarchal herds. A breeding herd comprises the matriarch, older cows, sub-adult bulls and calves. When a calf is born, the older elephants help to raise the young. They will teach them how to navigate obstacles, use their trunks, and protect them from predators. Sub-adult bulls will engage in play-fighting and will often take to the water to practice their skills and assert dominance. When bulls reach an age when they are testosterone filled, they tend to leave the herd and form loose associations with other young bulls. Bulls only really rejoin breeding herds when it’s time to mate. 2. Swimming is their favourite sport  Elephants love nothing more than to swim, bathe and roll around in mud pools. Elephants smother themselves in mud, which serves as a protective layer on their skin. The layer forms a natural sunscreen and also helps to remove annoying parasites, which happens when they rub against trees. Elephants are avid swimmers and will use their trunks as a snorkel will fully submerged underwater. 3. Their trunks have many uses When they use their trunks as snorkels, they don’t need any other aids. They walk across the bottom of rivers and waterholes with their bodies fully submerged. Trunks have finger like protrusions at the end of their trunks and these “fingers” help to remove fresh vegetation and branches from trees. Trunks boast an incredible 40, 000 muscles, each of which work together to provide practical “services” to individuals. This includes soaking up gallons of water, a keen sense of smell and heavy-lifting duties – a trunk can life up to 350 kilograms in weight. 4. They don’t actually destroy surrounding vegetation  We observe these cumbersome creatures ripping branches off trees, uprooting vegetation and trampling precious bushveld. To the naked eye, it appears that elephants are destroying the delicate environment but in actual fact, they’re inadvertently creating micro-habitats for smaller creatures. When a tree is uprooted, new grasses and shoots are revealed, which means more food for herbivores. Ground-dwelling critters...

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