Wild Baboons, Buck and Ostrich at Olifantsbos Beach, Cape of Good Hope

Winter at the Cape Peninsula can be petulant: wild and stormy with the Atlantic sea crashing in with dramatic drift and flow contrasted with the calmest sheerest-whisper-of-wind days.  Returning after months away traveling to tropical countries, this for me is the best time of year to be in Cape Town.  Though home is in the southern peninsula – away from the city lights where nature shows her untrammeled face.  I have written quite a few posts on Olifantsbos Beach, here , here  and here. This working beach with it’s natural processes attracts diners to a veritable feast.   Seabirds flock here and recently i visited hoping to photograph the African Black Oystercatchers but instead got totally distracted by a gaggle of Egyptian geese in mating mode. Their strut and ‘necking’ stole the show.  Then the ostriches showed up, the buck and the baboons …..

Matching the colours of the kelp, Egyptian Geese gather into a gaggle.
The Egyptian geese spectacle.

A wobble of ostrich.

 

This Chacma baboon troop is one of the wild troops living within the park. There are only two troops which aren’t habituated to raiding anthropogenic food sources and forage only in natural fynbos and the rock pools for shellfish.  The rest of the troops are under threat one way or another, either through being attracted into residential areas or through poor conservation practice.  Generally there is an overlap into their home range where human recreational facilities feature vineyards, restaurants, picnic and campsites.  If baboons know they are going to get easy rewards and when residents and property owners do not secure garbage bins or adequately baboon-proof their properties / homes, baboon raiding patterns become entrenched as they will return over and over.  If they learn to rely on human food it voids their inherent role in the ecosystem and disrupts their social relationships.  They can become aggressive and when they have to be euthanised there is much outrage often from the humans who are the cause of the entrenched raiding patterns in the first place.  While SANParks recognise the ‘res nullius’ free roaming status of baboons, there is a lack of law enforcement for fining people who feed the animals nor are there enforceable by-laws for securing garbage so ultimately it’s the baboons which suffer the consequences.

The Namibs’ existence hangs in the balance

Tough drought conditions and hyena predation have taken a drastic toll on the wild horses and their numbers have dropped tragically from 286 to 76 over the last few years.  Sadly, since 2012 and up until late February, none of the foals have survived and the youngest mare is now 8 years old.  Yet could there be the slimmest chance that the wild horses can come back from the brink of extinction? Hope now rests with February’s newborn foal,  a little filly, just a couple of months old ……..

But let me pick up the story where i left off in the previous post!

As the horses drew closer to the water trough it appeared to us there was raucous delight in their greetings, upbeat nickering and neighing.   From a distance we could hear the thrum of galloping and watched in awe as a group of bachelor stallions came roaring in, stirring up dust clouds and arriving in a swirl of energy.

The scene was filled with their dynamic presence.  After slaking their thirst, it was time to sandbathe and attend to additional dietary needs by feeding on nutrient-rich dried manure.  Coprophagy is a natural behaviour and an energy-efficient way of deriving nutrients.  The Wild Horses’ manure contains almost three times more fat than the area’s dry grass (Stipagrostis obtusa) and almost twice as much protein (6.1 instead of 3.1%).*

Coprophagy manure adds nutrients to a sparse diet.

To give a contrasting glimpse at the hardships and the tough conditions which the Wild Namibs endure at the edge of the Namib-Nauklauft desert, here are a couple of shots taken in 2017.   Drought seared the land and the animals were so pitifully emaciated, but for the dedicated work undertaken by the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation, it is doubtful whether they would survive.   Through the years the foundation has raised finances to provide supplementary feed for the horses as well as pursuing with dogged determination negotiations with the Namibian MET (Ministry of Environment and Tourism) in saving the herd from extinction.

Further details in my next post will reveal “Zohra, the Little Foal”.  Keep a lookout it’s coming soon!  Below is a link to the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation and the critical work which they undertake.

 

* More information can  be found here.

 

Walking with vervet monkeys

Here’s the scene: In lush contrast to the desert regions of Namibia, the Zambezi Region (Caprivi) is a tropical wetlands area.  Namushasha River Lodge is set on the banks of the Kwando river on the curve of an oxbow lake, where pods of hippos wallow in muddy grandeur.   It’s rich riverine ecology extends beyond the dense stands of Jackalberry and Mangosteen trees over extensive reedbeds to the distant game-spattered floodplains.

It’s bounded on all side by wild game parks and it’s up there in the rank of ‘coolness’ not just for its shady campsites but for it’s splendid setting and gorgeous lodge facilities, swimming pool and watering hole.

A popular wallowing spot for hippos.

A walk along the path at the edge of the river revealed an unexpected encounter (there are warning signs to watch out for crocodiles and hippos, though fortunately avoided).   The sound of leaves rustling gave them away……

Little faces peeked down at me as a gathering of vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) came to assess this other primate intruder: friend or foe?  The alpha male bared his teeth, signalling his status.   Averting eye contact, i sat quietly wondering what would happen next.

Their curiosity won out and soon they had descended from their leafy domain to forage in the leaf litter below.  Keeping a discreet distance my presence appeared not to bother them and i was able to keenly observe their long limbed grace and agility.  Predominantly they’re found in savannah woodland, but here they’ve settled in this paradise alongside the fruit trees and breakfast options at the lodge.

 

 

 

Back Again!

Dear Readers,

I’ve been away for some months and am now happily back online and looking forward to checking in again on fellow bloggers.

A chance to revisit Namibia at a slow pace, traveling the back routes, camping mainly and stopping at destinations way off the beaten track has been a compelling experience for me.  Becoming so immersed in nature – learning the scent of the land, it’s voices, the revelation of the night skies, the heart thumping exhilaration of hearing nocturnal wildlife close by adds up to a “stop-the-world-i-want-to-get off” kind of destination.

Here’s a dip into the first scenes of this immense and timeless place –

The rugged grandeur of the Ais/Richtersveld-Namib Transfrontier Park near Rosh Pinar.

Namibia is an extraordinary country, the expanse of it’s panoramic vistas stretch way into the far distance, seductive in pastel colours, so tantalising as the horizons pleat and fold.

The Namib gravel plains stretch towards the desert.
Wild Namib horses have adapted and live in the harsh desert conditions.
The orange sands of ancient sand dunes shift and shape through the wind, forming long geometric ridge lines.
Statuesque quiver trees (Aloe dichotoma) grow in a barren land inspiring awe at their sculpted defiance.   Reputedly some are as old as 800 years, but now climate change is a factor in their survival.

As we traveled through different biomes:  desert, savannah, tree and shrublands, to the wetlands of the Zambezi area the contrasts in ecosystems and habitats were distinct.  Hope you’ll join me as a post further stories; coming up soon …..

Walking with Vervets

Graceful long-limbed vervets accompany me on a walk next to the Kongola R, Namushasha Lodge.

Standing Sentry Duty: Who goes there?

Sentry duty, scanning the horizon.

Meet the Enchanting Miss Dik-dik.

Doe-eyed Dik-dik the smallest of the antelope species, roam the campsite.

The Enigmatic Wild Horses, Can they Survive?

For 100 years the desert horses have survived the harsh conditions. But drought and predation by the spotted hyaena are taking a drastic toll on their numbers.

 

A quick look around the neighbourhood

It’s been a while since i last posted and since returning home after some months of travel, it is heartening to be back in the rainy season.  And rain we have, buckets of it.  The dams are filling nicely and it looks promising that the harsh drought conditions are behind us.

My travel adventures begin to dim as i hook up again into the language of the familiar, but i’d love to share some of the experiences once i’ve got the photos sorted.  There are so many aspects when travel unfolds, from the hubbub of major cities to the quiet of the backroads.  Nature delivered some drama too, a bruising from the ‘Beast from the East’ to the unfurling of an exuberant Northern Hemisphere spring.  I had a lucky encounter with a Falconer and a Red kestrel working King’s Cross Railway station; stumbled across the Richmond deer herd in a snow storm, met “Cheddar Man” at the Natural history museum; rambled over hill and dale where meadow flowers bloomed in profusion.  All the while discovering new habitats and learning to read the landscape – from bluebell glades, acidic uplands, limestone pavements, salt marshes and water, water, water!  But most intriguing was seeing how nature finds it’s footing within eco-niches in densely populated urban areas.  Who’d have thought that a visit to Tate Modern would also bring a viewing of peregrine falcons nesting high up in the very same building or of foxes roaming boldly through some of the inner London suburbs?

Settling back again into a Cape routine, the dawn chorus comes rustling in with a guttural cacophony of Egyptian geese, hadedah ibis and raucous gulls.  I watch in delight as furry creatures scurry across the lawn (green and verdant now) – a mongoose scampers by with two pintsized, energetic juveniles, the baboons make quick unannounced visits, and so too, the nocturnal porcupine family with it’s gorgeous, prickly little baby.  Further along the road, the penguin nursery is in full swing attending to the raising of young.   This wild bevy of beauties makes my heart soar – here is a natural world right on the doorstep.  The wagtails and sunbirds are searching for nesting places and down below on the rocks the dassies sun themselves after the rain showers.  A single otter comes often, mud-bathing in the wet black soil.  My next door neighbours describe exciting sightings of two caracals, an adult and a youngster, and the opportunity to observe these secretive wild lynx at close quarters.

All in all it’s good to be back!