On foot in the Kruger National Park

One of our friends is a safari guide and his company, Dry Seasons Safari’s, among other trips, does guided walks in the Kruger National Park.  In order to lead a guided walk in the Kruger Park one has to be highly qualified. This last week our friend Ian had to undergo an assessment in order to be able to be “lead gun” on walking safari’s within the park.  He invited us along.

A question that is frequently asked is: “What do we do if we encounter one of the Big 5 while on foot?” It is a reasonable question and likely to come up on any bush walk.

The term “Big Five” was originally coined by hunters to refer to the five African game species which were quite likely to kill you if you made a mistake. They are the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. But the Big 5 aren’t the only dangerous animals you can encounter. Hippos are reputedly the most dangerous in  Africa killing more people than any other animal – well, besides mosquitoes! Crocodiles are also notorious and swimming in any pool or river in the bush is strongly not advised. Ostriches can deliver a nasty sweeping kick and during the breeding season the males are particularly aggressive to perceived threats.

Of course there is no definitive answer to “what to do” if you encounter a dangerous animal as every situation is different. However, there are a few basic rules to follow.

Unlike hunters, where the end result is the shooting of the animal (or the attack on the hunter!), tourists want the encounter to be non-confrontational. A sighting where the animal doesn’t even realise you are there is paramount.

It is not the best idea to sneak up too close to dangerous game. If they spot you from a distance they will merely keep an eye on you and may even continue with whatever they were doing. If, however, they only become aware of you when you are within their “flight or fight” zone you can rest assured that there will be a sticky situation. Each animal has its own flight radius and it also depends on the circumstances. If you do get too close and the animal is left with no option of flight, it may attack. It is therefore very important that your guide knows how to approach dangerous animals.

It was our aim on this day in the bush to approach as many dangerous animals as possible on foot.

Here Ian is giving us strict instructions on how to behave and respond to his hand signals.  It was a stinking hot day so this added to the ambiance 🙂

Serious discussion and concentration

A elephant, some zebras and impala getting some water under the unrelenting sun.  It must have reached 36 degrees Celsius in the shade by this stage.

Ellies

Kori Bustard – the heaviest living animal capable of flight.

African Wild Dogs – quite a rare sight.

Needless to say, Ian passed with flying colours.  His assessor was Sean Pattrick. He is the author of “Game Ranger in your Back Pack” and also a great wildlife photographer. It was super to meet him.

Speaking of great photographers, Ian himself is a brilliant photographer. You can see (and buy) some of his work here.

If you are interested in going on a walking tour in the Kruger National Park it is worth contacting Dry Season Safari’s to find out more. You won’t regret it!

Thanks Ian for a super day!

 

 

 

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Croaky cacophany

This sight is quite common on my farm

The white ball of foam is put there by a female foam nesting frog.  They even climb my huge marula tree and make foamy nests over my swimming pool.

This photo was taken at what I fondly call frog pond.  This is the noisiest place on the farm on warm summer nights when hundreds of frogs get together for a musical evening.

In fact it always reminds me of this song

 

(image by Ian. N. White)The grey tree frog – more commonly referred to as the foam nest frog – is the largest of our ‘tree frogs’, with females growing to a length of around 100 mm.  The foam nest frog – chiromantis xerampelina – is confined to the northern bushveld, eastern lowveld and south through Swaziland and northern KwaZulu-Natal to the coast.

These frogs are well adapted to a dry, arboreal life although they may frequently visit water to rehydrate. They will rarely be found swimming or sitting in water like many other frogs and toads but are commonly found in and around buildings where lights attract a source of insect food. With a variety of mottled patterns, they can change colour within a range of white to dark grey to match their background and are well camouflaged against tree bark. Females grow much larger and can be double the weight of males.

Foam Nests

The common name comes from the whitish clumps of foam that they construct as ‘nests’ in which to lay their eggs. These nests are always constructed on some branch or object over, and often many metres above, water. The females exude a sticky liquid which they kick into a froth with their back legs. Into this foam they lay up to 1000 eggs which are fertilised by, often many, attendant males. The foam prevents desiccation of the eggs and keeping eggs and small tadpoles out of water eliminates much predation.

About five days after hatching the small tadpoles wriggle out of the foam to drop into the water below, where they continue to grow and complete their normal metamorphosis.

(info from http://www.krugerpark.co.za)
The bushveld night sounds would not be the same without our froggy friends.

and finally, freedom……

Early this morning I got a call from Moholoholo to let me know that Porky was ready to come home.  They had one final request though – that the whole team come across to my farm with Porky and watch the release.  I was thrilled to be able to share this precious moment with the volunteers, trainee vets and vet nurses, and other Moholoholo staff who all took such careful care of this badly injured porcupine.

Here is the team on the farm (with Porky in the red box)

I do not have words that can explain the following pictures. I do not have words that explain what it feels like to see this and to be there when a creature that was so badly hurt is returned to the wild where he belongs.  I will let the pictures speak.

Run Porky, run free…….

Read more about Porky on the following links:

Where Porky gets famous

Our Porky’s story has been published in the local paper while I was away on holiday.

Thanks to the Kruger2Canyon Newspaper for publishing my article.

Porky was supposed to come home this week to be released, but Brian wants him to have his bandage on for one more week, so he will most probably only be making it back home by the end of the week.

A little more about Porky

Two weeks ago I found a porcupine caught in a snare just outside my farm.  With the help of my friends husband, Christopher, we got him onto my vehicle and rushed him to Moholoholo, an animal rehabilitation center in our area.  There they sedated him and removed the snare and cleaned up his wounds.  I was then asked if I was willing to get him the medical attention he needed or if I would prefer to have him euthanized as his recuperation would be costly.

I wrote a blog post (which you can read here) and within 40 minutes of publishing, I had collected in excess of R4000.00 from kind friends and strangers including a donation of R2000 from Pick n Pay headoffice to assist in paying for his care and medication.

Today I went back to watch him have his third surgery to clean his wounds and change his dressings.  Each time this is done, he has to have anaesthetic.  Brian Jones and the staff at the center have been fantastic, doing so much to fight for this poor creatures life. Our dear Porky has crept into everyone’s hearts.  I believe that Moholoholo has spent way over what we have collected for Porky’s care – he is now eating a hug bag of gem squash and butternuts every week, and has had a full course of antibiotics.

Today Brain told me that in two weeks time I will be able to collect Porky and bring him home to be released back into the wild on my farm.

Here are some pictures to show you the progression of his extensive wounds. (not for the squeamish 🙂 )

This is what his wounds looked like when we found him

Here Brian is removing the snare

and the wound after it had been cleaned

After one week Porky was again given and anaesthetic and his wound was cleaned and redressed.  You can see how the skin has started to grow across the wound (the orange/yellow stuff is an antibiotic ointment)

and today, another anaesthetic and a repeat cleaning and dressing.  Look at how well his wound is healing.

And all taped up and ready to go back to his ICU cage.  The anaesthetic was light, so he did start to wake up as his bandage was going on – not an easy thing keeping such a tough  and prickly boy down.

Two more weeks and he will be home and free.

Again, a huge thank you firstly to the wonderful team at Moholoholo, and secondly to all the amazing people and friends who donated money, and Pick n Pay for the kind donation given to keep this porcupine alive.

Please take time to visit Moholoholo’s web site and if you are in a giving mood, there is a link there for donations to keep the center running.

While I was there I also got to see a baby duiker getting her feed,

and Brian took me in to see a leopard that had just arrived.  The leopard had been caught in a trap and half his face has been badly damaged.  Luckily he is in the right place with people who will take the time to make sure he mends well so that he can be released into the wild again.

On Monday I am going to see if I can find some generous local farmers and stores who can donate some gem squashes and butternuts and other vegetables that we can take through for the animals at the rehab center (including our greedy porcupine).  If anyone in the Hoedspruit area is interested in donating some produce, please leave me a message and I will collect.

Thank you all again.

Porky news

Our porcupine had his bandages changed on Thursday and Brian Jones of Moholoholo reports that he is very satisfied with his healing.  Next bandage change is on Friday which I hope to be able to attend.

Brian has also expressed his thanks for the medicine and donations received from all those who have donated towards our Porky’s recovery.

Porcupine’s progress

Today, after collecting his new meds in town, I drove out to Moholoholo to visit our porcupine.  He is now wearing a shiny yellow bandage around his middle and was not to happy with me for waking him up. Because he is nocturnal, he was having a really good sleep.  Staff at the rehabilitation center say that he really seems to be feeling better as he is getting a little crosser with them now when they have to give him his injections and shows the will to fight.  He apparently also has a wonderful appetite and is eating them out of house and home.  I will be back with him on Friday when they will be removing his bandages.

A special thank you to all our kind donors who have contributed towards his medicine and care.

Pick n Pay has kindly donated money and are running a “name the porcupine”competition on their facebook page.  Why don’t you pop on over and try naming our porcupine.

How far can you spit?

A week or two ago I saw that a snake had slithered into my empty swimming pool. It is still empty due to our ongoing water problems but there was a small pool of water that had collected from the rain. I think the snake was attracted to a small group of frogs that were enjoying the water. Normally when I need to remove a snake I just use my snake hook or tongs to catch them and move them back into the bush but this little fellow (about 40 cm’s) turned out to be a juvenile Mozambican Spitting Cobra.

The Mozambican Spitting Cobra is second only to the Mamba as the most dangerous snake in Africa because of its venomous bite.  Adults are 1-1.5 meters long. These cobras don’t actually spit venom; they spray it.  Their muscles contract to push venom from the bottom of the fangs while air from the lung blows or sprays the venom at the victim’s eyes.

Their color can be olive-grey, brown, or grey with black scales in between.  Mozambican Spitting Cobras occupy a wide variety of habitats—they can be found in thicket and moist savanna, often near permanent water holes.  Adult Mozambican Spitting Cobras are mostly nocturnal but can be found by day sun bathing close to their hiding spot.

The spitting cobra has a broad diet, including snakes, lizards, frogs, rodents and other small mammals.  When disturbed, this cobra will rear up two-thirds of its body and spray its venom with quick accuracy toward the victim’s eyes.  Its poison takes effect instantaneously.  It can cause inflammation or permanent blindness if not washed out immediately.

Mozambique Spitting Cobras can be found in hollow logs, under rocks or termite mounds, in holes under ground, and under thick bushes.  Keep your distance from this cobra if you happen to run into one.  It can spray your eyes with surprising accuracy.

The juvenile snake (which mine was) moves really fast and although it’s highly toxic venom is the same as that of the adult, it has yet to learn how to control the volume of venom to inject into its prey, so more often than not, bites from these juvenile snakes are fatal.

After consulting with a few friends on how to remove him, I decided to put a really long (3m) bushy branch into the pool which he climbed onto and I lifted him out and walked him back into the bush.  I was really glad that I eventually got him out because he used to puff up his collar every time I walked past the swimming pool and he was freaking me out .  I think I may have been freaking him out too 🙂

Hair

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Khalil Gibran 

Can you believe this caterpillar?  Looks like she is on her way home from the hairdresser. You know that feeling when you quite like the cut but it’s all poofed up by the hairdresser and you’re thinking it’ll be fine once you have wet it and dried it yourself?  The highlights are good though 🙂

Can anyone identify her.  She is about  10 cm’s long.  I wonder what kind of butterfly she will be?

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller 

Goodbye sweet beast…

Yesterday one of the owners here had to euthanize a young female wildebeest (gnu).  She had been caught in two snares and was suffering terribly.  When these things happen I get so mad because it is so cruel, and then I think of the poor labourers who set these snares because they get paid so badly they can’t buy food.  I feel pulled between the two.  I wish we had some decent solutions to these problems here.  All we can do is continuously sweep for snares and try to assist the neighbouring labourers as much as we can with extra work to help them out financially.

After she was shot,  the owner gave the animal to our labourer to cut up and use for meat so at least nothing is wasted.

Last night it was so hot here that I left my cottage door open to get some movement of air. At around midnight I heard Cleo chomping something behind me and I turned to see her gnawing on a thickish branch of a tree.  This is so out of her nature that I got up and turned the light on to find half a wildebeest leg on my carpet!  She had obviously found where the labourer had dumped the entrails for jackals and other animals to eat.  Yeugh!