Register | Log in
Subscribe

Browsing: The wild guide

Sociable and smart are not words that usually come to mind when Spotted Hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) are mentioned. If anything, hyaenas are seen as sneaky and vicious, cringing scavengers that inspire a queasy mixture of fear and disdain. Yet, after spending 20 years studying them, Professor Kay Holekamp from Michigan State University came to view them as “smart, biologically and socially complex, jam-packed with surprises”. Having had the opportunity to observe a den first-hand, I, too, have become fascinated with these multifaceted predators and their unique biology and behaviour. First among their Pandora’s Box of surprises is that although they…

Having been privileged enough to spend time with these majestic animals, I can certainly concur with Mitch Reardon’s view that there is indeed something extraordinary about elephants. “There is nothing that reduces us to our proper dimensions more rapidly and completely than spending long periods in the company of elephants. There is something special about them…” Mitch Reardon, Shaping KrugerIt is difficult to pinpoint, but perhaps their clear family bonds, the way in which they look after their young and infirm, and the complexity of their communication may go some way to explaining it. Elephant behaviour is multi-faceted, comprising greeting…

Coined in 1854, the term ‘Ethology’ refers to the study of the way in which an animal’s habits (its behaviour) are related to its structure and habitat. It is important to note that there is no such thing as typical behaviour, because the typical animal is a mythical beast! However, patterns can be observed, hypotheses devised and tested, and a working interpretation of what an animal is doing obtained. This data can then be extrapolated, to create an accepted ‘normal’ behavioural model for that species. Without doubt, every person who visits a game reserve hopes to spot an African lion…

Coined in 1854, the term ‘Ethology’ refers to the study of the way in which an animal’s habits (its behaviour) are related to its structure and habitat. It is important to note that there is no such thing as typical behaviour, because the typical animal is a mythical beast! However, patterns can be observed, hypotheses devised and tested, and a working interpretation of what an animal is doing obtained. This data can then be extrapolated, to create an accepted ‘normal’ behavioural model for that species. Without doubt, every person who visits a game reserve hopes to spot an African lion…

As the festive season approaches, I am sure that many of you are looking forward to a holiday at the coast. In light of this I thought we would take a look at a few of the amazing creatures that inhabit the many tidal rock pools found along our 3000km coastline. “The sea… holds one in its net of wonder forever” – Jacques Cousteau One of the weird and wonderful life forms that are easy to spot in rock pools are sea anemones, with their gently waving tentacles. Although they resemble delicate flowers, anemones are actually primitive animals that are…

In last month’s article, we looked at the ingenious adaptations that enable the Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) to survive, and thrive, in its arid savanna home. This month I would like to explore a different type of survival stratagem, namely colour, which is employed by a wide variety of animals you are likely to see in the bush. And we are not talking only about ‘fifty shades of grey’, but also vibrant, bright, ‘out-there’ colours! Many predators search for their prey visually. As a result, numerous prey species have evolved special body colouration to reduce their chances of being eaten. For…

Mention the words ‘survival expert’ and the first name that comes to mind for most people is Bear Grylls or Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Whilst both men have demonstrated remarkable survival skills in extreme conditions, I would dare to suggest that the ultimate survivalists are found in nature. The dictionary defines survival as “the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of difficult circumstances or adverse conditions”.  As environments have changed over the millennia, animals and plants have had to adapt to challenging circumstances; and nowhere more so than in the arid savanna. The Kalahari, a…

In the next of our ‘often seen but largely under-appreciated’ group of animals, I would like to share with you something of the singularity and amazing environmental adaptation of ‘horses in striped pyjamas’.  So convinced was I as a child that zebras were indeed horses in striped pyjamas, that I recall asking my mother why they were allowed to stay in their pyjamas all day but I was not! To my five-year-old mind, this seemed grossly unfair. An answer, if there was one forthcoming, is lost in the mists of time, and the etiquette of attire for zebras and me…

Warthogs are African members of the pig family (Suidae), famous for their long, upcurved tusks and facial ‘warts’. The term wart is something of a misnomer, however, as these protuberances are actually thick pads designed to offer protection – mainly to the eyes – and most especially during sparring between males. Boars have three pairs, but sows have only two pairs, lacking the set situated on the sides of the jaw in males.   For much of the 20th century, it was widely thought that all extant warthogs belonged to the same variable species (Phacochoerus aethiopicus). However, in recent decades we have been…

This month, I would like to start a series of articles focusing on animals that are frequently overlooked because they are so often seen. Oxymoron? Indeed. True? In my opinion, definitely. Let me explain… With their shiny rust-coloured coats and long slender legs, Impala (Aepyceros melampus) are amongst the most graceful and beautiful of antelope − yet they are rarely given a second glance. The reason? Because they are ‘common’. Despite their obvious abundance, they are unique enough to be classified in a tribe of their own, the Aepycerotini; and are the only extant representative of the genus Aepyceros −…

1 2

Free news, reviews, travel features and more… everything you need to know from the 4x4 and outdoor industry.

preloader