Friday, February 06, 2009

Back from Africa

A wonderful time, a frustrating time -- to visit Southwest Africa and look for wildlife in four national parks [in Botswana, Nanmibia, Zimbabwe] which is what I've just done for two and a half weeks. Wonderful because it's spring and the animals have babies. Above are lion cubs and below is a baby elephant. We saw baby impala, giraffes, wildebeast, cape buffalo, zebra, baboons ... I'm probably forgetting some. Perhaps animal lovers all know this, in fact, perhaps I read it and forgot. The wonderful local guides/drivers explained that the animals, mostly herbivores that live in herds, especially, are synchronous in that the females go into estrus with a week or so of one another -- then the dominant male is VERY busy and possibly the many bachelor males have an opportunity too. Then all the babies are born within a week or so of one another. The herd stays around the babies, protecting them during the period when they are tiny and easy prey for the big cats, jackals, even the big eagles.

Because it is spring, and the rainy season babies were in every herd/ They were darling to see, most less than a month old but capable of leaping or running. Baby baboons clung to their mothers. All the babies had moments of sheer play. Also because it is spring the grass is very green, abundant, and some kinds are very tall. This is wonderful for the animals to hide in, both prey and preyed upon -- and we humans have a hard time finding them.

Finding some was so hard we failed. Of the big five: elephant, cape buffalo, lions, rhino and leopard, we saw all except leopard. At one camp leopard prints were found quite near our tented cabins. That day we searched the area where the leopard was thought to be -- probably with babies -- but it was very grass and the bushes were in thick foliage. The vehicle I was in spent a morning and an afternoon hour searching the area and the other vehicle did the same, but Mama Leopard and Kittie was never seen. By the way, "bush" really means bush, not savanna or forest. There are some tall trees [many dead from having their bark eaten by elephant] but most growth is bushes not more than 10 feet high either close together or with open spaces between.

I'll come back to different aspects of the trip in future posts. For now I'll just add that the drivers/guides, all local men plus one very competent woman, were expert spotters and extremely knowledgeable about wildlife, birds as well as animals. The vehicles were the open safari trucks with a canopy over the top and seats in raised tiers. Getting into them was a serious climb. Roads were dirt and deeply rutted whether in soil or sand or mud. All vehicles we used were Land Rovers that were almost amphibious, I couldn't believe some of the puddles -- almost ponds -- we drove through. At one marshy area each of the two vehicles, in turn, got stuck. But the driver and his helper got us out very efficiently. I have great admiration for all the people who made the trip fascinating and usually comfortable. It WAS the rainy season and we all got more or less wet -- well, drenched -- a couple of times. Just part of the adventure.


Helen Conway said...

Those lion cubs are adorable! So glad you had a good ime

Quiltdivajulie said...

Sitting at my desk (law firm), absorbing your photo of those lion cubs ~ what a juxtaposition of worlds. Your post reminds me what a huge and marvelous world lies beyond these walls (a fact I wish my bosses could grasp more fully)...

Best wishes as you re-adjust after your adventure.