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Browsing: The wild guide

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 −…

Such a small word, and yet one which has had significant impact on scientific discoveries through the ages. Indeed, just such a question led to the discovery of the planet Neptune, before it was ever observed!  As bizarre as this may sound, it was unexpected changes in the orbit of Uranus that led astronomer Alexis Bouvard to ask why these fluctuations were occurring.  He hypothesised that they were due to the gravitational effects of an “as yet unknown planet”. In 1846, Urbain Le Verrier, (another astronomer) used mathematics rather than empirical observation to prove that the perturbations in Uranus’ orbit…

This month, I would like to take you on a journey ranging from several hundred million years ago to the present day. Although this may seem like a strangely ambitious and long safari, I promise it is one worth taking. Our safari begins in what is now the Karoo, but 265 million years ago when rivers were depositing sediment into a shrinking inland sea. As these rivers filled the basin with sediment, eventually giving rise to a group of rocks known as the Beaufort Group, they entombed the remains of the animals that lived around them. It is in within…

As humans seek ever more urgently for ways to go faster, operate more efficiently, and work with greater resourcefulness, we are slowly coming to realise that many of the problems we are grappling with have already been solved. Nature has billions of years of research and development invested in her designs, so it seems only logical that we (Homo sapiens), with a mere 200 000 years of knowledge and skill to our name, should look to her for direction. The discipline of biomimicry (from Greek bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning imitation) seeks to create solutions to human challenges by…

Mention the word scales and most of us cast a furtive look in the direction of the bedroom cupboard where the dreaded machine is stored… surely that triple chocolate sundae couldn’t have been that bad! So, you ask, what does this have to do with nature and the environment? The answer: nothing! As is the case with so much of the English language, this is a classic example of one word having incredibly disparate meanings. The scales that I am referring to have nothing to do with weight measurement, and everything to do with water-proofing, protection, movement, thermo-regulation and camouflage.…

As designers of high fashion prepare their 2018 collections for the catwalks of New York, London, Milan and Paris, the African savanna presents its own unique designs through a very different catwalk display. Enter lion, (Panthera leo), leopard, (Panthera pardus) and cheetah (Acionyx jubatus) – Africa’s large cats. “The divide between large and small cats – Panthera and Felis – has more to do with the ability to purr than with size or behaviour”With its tawny coat, regal mane and piercing golden eyes, a lion is indeed a creature of beauty. Long revered, (and even worshipped by some), its ascendency as the…

If ever there appeared to be an unlikely combination of bushrelated topics, I would agree this might be it; but, as John Muir the Scottish-American naturalist (1838- 1914) is believed to have said, “When you tug at a single thing in nature, you will find it is attached to everything else”. “We owe the amazing diversity of wildlife that we are able to view on a safari to the dynamic equilibrium that exists between grasses and trees in the Bushveld/Savanna”Southern Africa is home to some 1000 grass species, of which at least one third occurs nowhere else on earth. Although…

Legend, tradition and folklore abound in Africa, and are often viewed with some scepticism in this, the post-modern era. However, it would seem that much received wisdom still has the potential to reveal startling information about the natural world in which we live; elephants, bees and the marriage tree being no exception… “In many traditional cultures, it is believed that marriages held under the Marula tree are divinely blessed”Legend has it that Hare acted kindly towards Elephant during a year of drought by helping him to find water, and was rewarded with a tusk. This he planted in his garden…

“Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” (Albert Einstein)Einstein is best known as a visionary physicist, but he was also passionately interested in all the complexities and interactions of the natural world. Nature is indeed an intricate web of many interconnected threads, and I am always amazed that the more I look, the more remarkable and unlikely are the relationships I discover… Images: Will Jansen & Lorraine DoyleThe time before the arrival of the first rains is a stressful period for many bushveld animals, as food is often in short supply after the dry winter season.…

By Lorraine DoyleSeptember marks the beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere, and, as the late Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s party!’”. With this in mind, it seems fitting to look at some of those creatures for which the arrival of warmer days is cause for celebration – insects. “I’ll follow the sun…” (The Beatles, 1964)Although these are not usually high on the list of ‘things to see in the bush’, if they are on the list at all, it really is worth pausing for just a moment on a spring day to see what you…

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