HI, and welcome to my blog! I am a field guide in a private game reserve in South Africa and below you will find stories and pictures of my amazing job!

April 20, 2011

The Charge of the Heavy Brigade

An elephant bull stares down the land rover at close range

     The late rains have brought with them an influx of elephants in the last week or so.  Around every corner we have witnessed great herds of these leviathans, cutting a swathe of destruction through the veld as they continue their endless march for resources.  These mammalian bulldozers once filled me with fear during my first experiences with them – their incomprehensible size and power dwarfing the landrover.  But I have grown to love these true kings of the jungle.  All animals respect the approach of an elephant – lions scatter like rats and even rhinos visibly adopt the old motto that discretion is the better part of valour!  (A month or 2 ago, a male rhino was even killed by an angry elephant bull!)  Of all the animals here, they are the most fascinating to watch but the hardest to photograph!  Always doing something interesting, many an hour can be wiled away watching the dexterity of their trunks as they feed, the tenderness of their greetings and the soft rumble of their low frequency contact calls. 

Elephant bull in all his massive glory

     Whilst the rains have made our game drives difficult due to the restrictions caused by a lack of off-roading, the animals have relished in the abundance of lush green grass.  None more so than the giant lawn mowers of the bush, the white rhino.  Feeding for up to 12 hours a day, they have been abundant as ever, enjoying this last banquet before the hardship of the arid winter months sets in.  I managed to get a couple of good pictures that I hope show their relish in these good times!

Rhino with a mouthful of lush grass

Rhino smiling at the camera

     Leopards, as ever, are always a highlight on any game drive.  No matter how many times you see them, their beauty and majesty never fades.  The recent leopard drought has abated a little due to the return of our most frequently sighted female.  My last entry included a photo of her and her one surviving cub drinking from a puddle and they have been sighted repeatedly of late.

Mother and cub on the march

     Their nemesis, ‘Xihangalas’ (the destroyer – named due to his recent incursions into our property, the murder of this females other cub, and the general reign of terror that has caused the other leopards to adopt a more illusive approach to their activities!) has also been seen regularly of late and still has the stable population running scared.  He is however, a sight to behold.  A magnificent leopard in his prime, his confidence and self belief so evident as he strides down the roads, muscles rippling under his velveteen coat, demarcating his new territory with impudence.

The new kid on the block

Xihangalas on the prowl

In other news on the reserve, we have seen the departure of almost all of the migratory birds in preparation of the approaching winter.  The veld is much quieter now than a few weeks ago, with only the recently fledged juveniles still orientating themselves before the commencement of their long journeys.  I also found out last week that I have passed my SKS birding theory exam, so I am now studying for the practical aspect of the assessment before I can be declared a fully fledged regional bird guide!   The lions have retreated to the far corner of our area due to the disappearance of the new dominant male that has sired no less than 9 cubs in recent months.  Whilst sightings of them are relatively common, I have been unable to get a good pictures as of yet.  On a slightly sour note, 2 of them have died of starvation recently but we remain optimistic of a bright future for the remaining 7.  Time will tell if the new males making forays into Sabi Sabi will find and destroy them.

Zebra feeding at sunrise