Tag Archives: South Africa

Have a Nice Trip

View From Bartolome Peak in The Galapagos Islands Poster

With a newly broken toe, I  walked a long trail and climbed 374 steps to the summit of Bartolome Island, which is famous for Pinnacle Rock, a towering obelisk that rises from the shore and is the best known landmark in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. I’d broken my toe when I slipped on a wet boat deck, exhausted from snorkeling in deep water, but I wasn’t going to miss this view even though a storm was rolling in. It started to rainhard as our group made its way down.  Amazingly my cameras weren’t damaged. My son took pity on me and carried my heavier camera, and we both protected them as best we could under our shirts. We’d left the camera bags in the boat.

 

Photographs are powerful souvenirs from trips. When we look at a photo that we’ve taken, we remember so much more than what the photograph seems to reveal.  We can relieve the whole experience.

We remember the people we traveled with, even meals we ate that day, the weather, and in my case, the mishaps that occurred while I was taking the photos.  Sometimes, it’s easier to remember the injuries than the many more times I escaped unscathed.   Anyway, I’m not complaining, because every bug bite, black eye, bruise, scraped knee and broken bone was worth it.  I’m lucky I didn’t fall from a cliff or attacked by a wild animal, as has happened to some photographers when they were engrossed in taking a photograph. I’ve had some close calls, such as encountering a tiger snake in Tasmania, Australia, while my friends and I were on a walk. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see and photograph so many wonderful places, animals and people.

 

Surfer at Sunset on Kauai Beach, Niihau on Horizon Poster

As we were driving along a highway in Kauai, Hawaii, my husband pointed out the surfers on this beach, so we stopped, where I took a lot of photographs, including this fabulous sunset over Niihau Island. Afterward, as I was climbing up the rocks to the parking lot, holding a camera in each hand with the straps wrapped around my wrists, I lost my balance and fell on my face. I got a black eye. But I saved my cameras! And look at this photo!

Apricot Hybrid Tea Rose With Honeybee Photo Print

I was so intent on photographing roses at the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden during the Texas Rose Festival that I didn’t notice tiny ants crawling over my bare toes in sandals. The ants looked harmless, but they were fire ants. I brushed them off, but it was too late. Wow, their tiny stings hurt for days! Now I know why Texans favor cowboy boots. Cowboy boots are not just for riding horses.

Galapagos Islands Tourists at Tortoise Sanctuary Postcard

Look how smart these tourists are wearing their rubber boots as they listen to their guide talk about giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. You can see a giant tortoise in the background on the right. We had just arrived on the Galapagos Islands. It was hot, and I decided against wearing any boots. I thought I’d just wash my flip-flop-clad feet if I stepped into mud. But mud wasn’t the only hazard. As I stood on a trail, I saw tiny ants crawling over my toes. Yes, fire ants again! They’ve invaded the Galapagos Islands! They stung me, and I had to deal with that pain plus sun-burned feet. (And later sun-burned shoulders, too.)

Machu Picchu Overlook, Peru Poster

This is the most iconic view of Machu Picchu in Peru. Even though I took a bus up a steep hill to the entrance, there were a lot of steps to reach this point. Normally, I could have easily walked it, but I was still weak from acute altitude sickness in Cusco, which is at an elevation of 11,152 feet. It was a relief to come down to 7,970 feet at Machu Picchu. I happy to make the journey to this magnificent place, even though I felt so weak. Somehow I managed to take a lot of photos!

Snow Geese Taking off at Squaw Creek Refuge Poster

I have a scar on my knee from scraping my knee when I stepped into a hole at Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge in Mound City, Missouri. I was hurrying to a viewing stand, not paying attention, and found myself on the ground. “Are you ok,” my friend asked as she helped me up. “More importantly, are your cameras ok?” she joked. My knee was scuffed up, but my cameras were fine! We were there to see the more than a million snow geese that visit the refuge as they migrate, shown in my photograph here. Seeing and hearing the rush of those birds as they lifted en masse into the air was a magnificent experience, worth the pain, although next time I’ll be more careful when I walk!

Bison Cow in Flint Hills, Kansas Postcard

I got scratched by some dried weeds when I took this photograph of a bison cow at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Kansas. (There was a tall fence between us, so no danger from the bison.) I thought the scratches were all that happened to me until a week later I felt what I thought was a scab on the back of my shoulder. I scratched at it. The scab started walking. It was a tick! I’m sure it crawled on me in that tall grass. For months after that, every time I felt tired or had a headache, I thought I had some kind of tick fever. I even got tested for it, rare for me. Results were negative. Phew!

 

 

Cape Buffalo Enjoying Mud Bath, South Africa Postcard

Sometimes, we venture into dangerous areas, where lions and leopards roam freely, and miraculously leave unscathed. We watched as this Cape Buffalo Bull enjoyed a mud bath in Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa. Guess he didn’t like us spying on us, because after his bath he started our way. His buddy, who had taken the first bath, was watching us from the bushes. Fortunately, it was a stand-off .  Our guide backed up the jeep, and we were out of there!  Cape Buffalo are dangerous. They can gore you.

Petting a Tasmanian Devil

My friend Anita recorded this encounter in Tasmania, Australia. I had a crazy notion that I wanted to pet a Tasmanian Devil. The keeper at NatureWorld held this young devil so I could have my wish. “Nice devil, devil,” I said as I stroked him. A young man also wanted to join in. The once calm devil jerked his head around, and growled. You can see the man’s hand pulling back in the bottom photo. I didn’t lose any fingers!

Tiger snake heading our way!

Four of us were on a hike in Tasmania, when Anita saw this very poisonous tiger snake heading our way. For some crazy reason, my husband threw a stick near it, thinking he could scare it away, but that just provoked the snake, which reared up. You never saw four people run so fast in the other direction. We jumped in the car and hurried away.

The captain warned us that the trip could be rough and said we could reschedule, but we only had two days left on the island. I'd never been seasick before. How bad could it be? Even though my husband and I took the recommended seasick pills, we both got sick. How sick? I used three buckets! TMI, I know. The swells were seventeen-feet high. We couldn't even think of eating the sunset dinner buffet. The sun refused to come out from behind the clouds.

Because of the weather, the captain of our boat warned us that the trip along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai could be rough and said we could reschedule, but we only had two days left on the island. I’d never been seasick before. How bad could it be? Even though my husband and I took the recommended seasick pills, we both got sick. How sick? I used three buckets! TMI, I know. The swells were seventeen-feet high. We couldn’t even think of eating the sunset dinner buffet. The sun refused to come out from behind the clouds, and we had to put away our cameras, so we didn’t get any close photos of the humpback whales we saw.  But it definitely was a memorable trip, even without beautiful photos.

Here’s one of the videos I shot before the seas got really rough. You can see how gloomy it was.  You can also see a humpback whale breaching in the distance.

 

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Filed under Animals, Australia, Photography, Travel

Elephants in the Mist

In the video above, about two dozen elephants move quickly and silently through the forests in MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa on their way into Kruger National Park in January 2013 (Video by Mike L).

On a misty morning in January 2013, our group climbed into a Land Rover for a game drive through MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa.   January is one of the rainiest months in this area of South Africa.  That morning, we were lucky that it was only sporadically sprinkling.  Birds were calling, but it was otherwise very quiet except for the rumble of the Land Rover’s engine.  We never knew what we’d see.  There was a surprise around every bend in the road. That morning we’d already seen a pride of lions lounging by a creek bed after a night of feasting (We’d seen some of the feasting, too).

We rumbled along, feeling raindrops, scanning through the trees and in the clearings.   Then we saw an elephant.   Soon more appeared.  About two dozen elephants of all sizes were moving very quickly in a line in the morning’s mist.  The herd made no sound. A few elephants grabbed small leafy limbs to eat as they passed through the forest.  It was an awe-inspiring sight. We watched them for about ten minutes until they disappeared into Kruger National Park.

Moses, our guide, explained that the elephants could walk so silently because their circular feet are spongy with cushion pads, which also distribute the elephant’s weight.

When I was a child racing around with other children, I used to hear adults say, “You sound like a herd of elephants.”  Of course, the adults meant that we were thunderingly loud, because that’s what they expected such huge animals would sound like.

Moses also explained how the size of the tusks vary a lot.  However, no elephant, whether she or he has  short or long tusks, is safe from the poachers, who even trespass into protected areas.

I knew elephants were endangered, but I had no idea how much slaughter was happening until I got home and start seeing so many stories about massive poaching, partly due to a loophole permitting artisans, mostly in Asia, to carve ivory for trinkets. Many are religious objects.  These so-called religious objects are definitely unholy. DO NOT BUY IVORY, EVEN IF YOU ARE TOLD THAT IT’S LEGAL. THOSE WHO BUY IVORY ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE DEATH AND POSSIBLE EXTINCTION OF ELEPHANTS.

We saw this herd of elephants as it traveled out of MalaMala Game Reserve into neighboring Kruger National Park, South Africa, in January 2013.

We saw this herd of elephants as it traveled out of MalaMala Game Reserve into neighboring Kruger National Park, South Africa, in January 2013.

On a misty morning in January 2013, a herd of elephants in MalaMala Game Reserve moves quickly as it heads into Kruger National Park in South Africa. Elephants are highly endangered and are being slaughtered for their tusks.

On a misty morning in January 2013, a herd of elephants in MalaMala Game Reserve moves quickly as it heads into Kruger National Park in South Africa. Elephants are highly endangered and are being slaughtered for their tusks.

About Elephants.

New York Times Article (3-17-13) Slaughter of the African Elephants.

The Social Behavior of Female Elephants (The Meanest Girls at the Watering Hole)

Smithsonian Magazine Articles and Videos about Elephants.

National Geographic: A Voice for Elephants.

National Geographic: Battle for the Elephants.

New York Times Article: No Species is Safe from Burgeoning Wildlife Trade.

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March 17, 2013 · 2:08 pm

Dogs Allowed at All Times

Dog Sign

This dog is happy about this sign on Bakoven Beach in Camps Bay, South Africa, which says “Dogs Allowed at all times. No lead needed.”

These photographs are from a week spent in beautiful Camps Bay, South Africa, in January 2013.  Camps Bay, a suburb of Cape Town, is nestled against the Atlantic Ocean side of Table Mountain, a sandstone mountain range that runs southward the length of Cape Peninsula.

Lion's Head, Bakoven Beach, Camps Bay, South Africa

Lion’s Head rises dramatically to the north of Camps Bay. Shown in the foreground are the rocks of Bakoven Beach.

Dogs

Dogs and their owners enjoy the rocks of Bakoven Beach in Camps Bay, South Africa, which is a suburb of Cape Town.

Camps Bay Beach, South Africa

The Twelve Apostles range forms the backdrop of Camps Bay, South Africa, and are part of Table Mountain on the Cape Peninsula.

CLICK ON THESE THUMBNAIL PHOTOS OF CAMPS BAY SCENES TO SEE A FULL-SIZE IMAGE.

About Bakoven Beach.

About Camps Bay Beach.

About Table Mountain.

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Filed under Dogs, Pets, Photography, Travel

Nelson Mandela

This sculpture of Nelson Mandela is in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which is on the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain in South Africa.  Mandela is considered a national treasure and is featured in art and sculpture throughout South Africa.  Kirstenbosch, established in 1913, was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country's indigenous flora.

This sculpture of Nelson Mandela is in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which is on the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain in South Africa. Mandela is considered a national treasure and is featured in art and sculpture throughout South Africa. Kirstenbosch, established in 1913, was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country’s indigenous flora.

Nelson Mandela is celebrated in sculpture and art throughout South Africa, where he is known as the “Father of the Nation.” I photographed a few pieces of this art on a recent trip.  

Mandela was President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first to be elected in a fully representative, multiracial election.

This print of Nelson Mandela was for sale in an art gallery in Camps Bay, South Africa. Sorry abut the glare.

This print of Nelson Mandela was for sale in an art gallery in Camps Bay, South Africa. Sorry abut the glare.

Internationally acclaimed for his anti-colonial and anti-apartheid stance, Mandela has received more than 250 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.  A political activist against apartheid,  Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years, including eighteen years on Robben Island, which is just off of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront of Cape Town. Boat trips from the Nelson Mandela Gateway on the waterfront take visitors to the prison on Robben Island, which is now a museum.

About Nelson Mandela.

About Robben Island.

The Apartheid Museum.

Nobel Square in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa, features statues of South Africa's four Nobel Peace Prize winners - Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela (shown left to right here.)

Nobel Square in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa, features statues of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize winners – Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela (shown left to right here.)

Here's a popular photo stop at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, which features statues in Nobel Square of South Africa's four Nobel Peace Prize winners - Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. I'm not sure what the red sculpture behind is. I think it has something to do with Olympic Medals that South Africa won in 2012.   Does anyone know? I saw photos of the red sculpture under construction from 2010.  In the distance is the iconic Table Mountain.

Here’s a popular photo stop at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, which features statues in Nobel Square of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize winners – Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. I’m not sure what the red sculpture is behind the Nobel statues. I think it has something to do with Olympic Medals that South Africa won in 2012. Does anyone know? I saw photos of the red sculpture under construction from 2010, so it’s relatively new. In the distance is the iconic Table Mountain.

From Signal Hill, you can see Robben Island near the horizon, in Table Bay off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for eighteen years on Robben Island.

From Signal Hill, you can see Robben Island near the horizon, in Table Bay off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for eighteen years on Robben Island.

A sculpture of Nelson Mandela dominates the square named after him in Sandton City, an upscale shopping center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

A sculpture of Nelson Mandela dominates the square named after him in Sandton City, an upscale shopping center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

A sculpture of Nelson Mandela is a backdrop to a newscast in Nelson Mandela Square. The square anchors Sandton City, a popular upscale shopping center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

A sculpture of Nelson Mandela is a backdrop to a newscast in Nelson Mandela Square. The square anchors Sandton City, a popular upscale shopping center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This blue cow advertises the Peacemakers Museum, which celebrates the Nobel Peace Laureates but in particular South Africa's Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.  The museum is in Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg.   http://www.peacemakersmuseum.co.za/

This blue cow advertises the Peacemakers Museum, which celebrates the Nobel Peace Laureates but in particular South Africa’s Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. The museum is in Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg. http://www.peacemakersmuseum.co.za/

This sculpture of Nelson Mandela, created from tens of thousands of tiny beads, is popular with tourists traveling through the Johannesburg, South Africa airport.  There are often lines as people wait their turn to get their photos taken. Bead sculpture in all sizes is a popular art form in South Africa.

This sculpture of Nelson Mandela, created from tens of thousands of tiny beads, is popular with tourists traveling through the Johannesburg, South Africa airport. There are often lines as people wait their turn to get their photos taken. Bead sculpture in all sizes is a popular art form in South Africa.

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Filed under Photography, Politics, Travel

Of Elephants and Alcohol

Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?

Is this elephant dreaming of the delicious marula fruit as she eats grass at a game reserve in South Africa?

I love fruit, but I’d never heard of marula fruit until a friend (Thanks, Anita!) introduced me to Amarula, a creamy liqueur made in Africa from fermented marula fruit.

Elephants like to eat the marula fruit, which when fermented makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans, called Amarula.  Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it's a myth that they'll get drunk.  They couldn't eat enough to get inebriated.  The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa.  This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fermented marula fruit makes a delicious drink when mixed with cream for humans in a liqueur called Amarula. Elephants will eat the fermented fruit, but it’s a myth that they’ll get drunk. They couldn’t eat enough to get inebriated. The Amarula Trust promotes Africa elephant protection and social development in Africa. This elephant sculpture is on display at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit and are Amarula’s symbol. Folklore through the ages told of elephants getting drunk on fermented marula fruit, but that tall tale has been debunked.  I don’t want to be a party pooper, but elephants couldn’t eat enough fermented fruit to get bombed.  According to a 2006 scientific study cited in Smithsonian Magazine, “Elephants do have a taste for alcohol, but when scientists sat down to look at the claim, they found several problems. First, the elephants don’t eat the rotten fruit off the ground. They eat the fresh fruit right off the tree. Second, the fresh fruit doesn’t spend enough time in the elephant to ferment and produce alcohol there. And, third, even if the elephant did eat the rotten fruit, the animal would have to eat 1,400 pieces of exceptionally fermented fruit to get drunk.”
Smithsonian Magazine: The Alcoholics of the Animal World.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested.  Here, some marula fruits have passed through an elephant.  The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.

Elephants like to eat marula fruit, but much of what elephants eat is not fully digested. Here, some marula nuts have passed through an elephant. The surviving marula fruits might be eaten by other animals or germinate into new trees.

While the elephants don’t get soused from fermented fruits, elephants are among the many species that enjoy the versatile marula fruit for its flesh and its nut, which is full of protein. The marula fruit and its nut have been important source of nutrition in Africa for eons. The fruit has eight times the Vitamin C of an orange, too. Among the animals that eat the marula fruit and nut are antelopes, including impalas, kudus and nyalas. Baboons, warthogs, zebras, porcupines, vervet monkeys, small mammals and even millipedes also feed on the marula, which belongs to the same plant family Anacardiaceae as the mango, cashew, pistachio and sumac. Browsing animals eat the leaves. Marula nut oil is also supposed to have rejuvenating effect on your skin, so the marula can give you a glow both inside and out. About the Marula Tree and Fruit. About Marula Oil for Your Skin.

While reading this post I recommend an Amarula cocktail, which has a mild creamy citrus flavor. If you can’t find Amarula, you can sip Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua. Drink responsibly, of course!

Amarula.

Amarula.

Here’s My Recipe for a Wild Elephant, which is really a White Russia, replacing the Kahlua with Amarula:
2 oz vodka
1 oz Amarula liqueur
light cream

Pour vodka and Amarula liqueur over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass. Fill with light cream and serve.
Serves one.
For other recipes. click on Cocktail Recipes. 

In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit.  Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit.

In a game reserve in South Africa, baboons congregate in and under a marula tree to eat the marula fruit. Impala antelope stand under the tree to eat the dropped fruit. Click on the photo to get a better view.

The long-time belief that elephants and other animals get drunk on fermented marula fruit was popularized in the 1974 documentary “Animals are Beautiful People.” Some smaller animals can get drunk from fermented fruit, but people have claimed that the supposedly drunkenness of the animals from fermented marula was staged in the movie, after alcohol had been added to their food.  If so, that’s animal abuse. The narration is over the top, too, but the video does show the types of animals that eat the marula fruit. It also shows elephants shaking marula trees to knock down the fruit.
Scientific American: Do Animals Like to Get Drunk?
Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth
About “Animals are Beautiful People.”

The marula fruit on this tree is not quite ripe.  It'll turn yellow.

The marula fruit on this tree will turn yellow when ripe.

Owls don't eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. And perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl's dinner.

Owls don’t eat marula fruits, of course, but the branches make a handy perch. Perhaps some unsuspecting creature looking for fruit may become the owl’s dinner.

Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the South African game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.

Marula fruit is washed along with sand over a walkway after a rainy night at the game reserve lodge where we stayed in January 2013.

I’m going to be party pooper again by listing this new Study from the Boston University School of Public Health that shows links of alcohol to cancer. Darn it!

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Filed under Animals, Drink, Environment, Life, Nature

The Rhinoceros, Critically Endangered

This morning I was stunned to read that 57 rhinos had been killed by poachers in South Africa in January 2013. Nearly all of the rhinos were killed in protected areas, too. I knew that poaching was a terrible problem, but I had no idea that it was this serious. At this rate, the rhinoceros will soon go extinct in the wild. It will be very difficult to keep the species alive in zoos.

We visited South Africa in January 2013 near the region where all of these rhinos were killed. We were lucky to see a rhino the very first day we were there, and now I am so saddened thinking about how this amazing animal may really die out, because of human greed and stupidity. We saw a male rhino spraying, as in the video above, as he moved here and there marking his territory. Soon there may be no rhinos in this territory. (The video was uploaded by “smshapiro” on YouTube.

Why did the rhino cross the road? It was dusk when we saw this male rhino crossing the road, but he wasn't ready to call it a night.  He still had work to do.  Every few minutes he would spray a fan of liquid from his rear to mark his territory.  The Rhinoceros is critically endangered.  Rhinos are being massively slaughtered for their horns to send to the Asian market for a ridiculous medical potion.  The horn is keratin, the same as fingernails. Chew your own fingernails for your dubious medical cure, Idiots, and leave the rhino alone!

Why did the rhino cross the road? It was dusk when we saw this male rhino crossing the road, but he wasn’t ready to call it a night. He still had work to do. Every few minutes he would spray a fan of liquid from his rear to mark his territory. The Rhinoceros is critically endangered. Rhinos are being massively slaughtered for their horns to send to the Asian market for a ridiculous medical potion. The horn is keratin, the same as fingernails. Chew your own fingernails for your dubious medical cure, Idiots, and leave the rhino alone!

Rhinos are one of the Big Five that people look for on safari. How long before you never see them?  The Big Five Game list was coined by hunters in ranking the danger of hunting these animals on foot. At least hunting has been switched to sightings of these magnificent animals, although there are still big game hunts in some areas. (The Big Five are Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Rhinoceros and Cape Buffalo.)

The rhino is killed for its horn, because many people in Asia think the horn has medical properties, but it doesn’t. The horn is composed of keratin, which is similar to fingernails. Why don’t these idiots just chew on their own fingernails. It’ll be just as useful to their health.

Our guide told us that sometimes conservationists remove the horn so that the rhino is spared, because all that the poachers want is the horn. The horn acquires its pointed shape because the rhino sharpens it, otherwise it would be a big lump. I hope the rhinos sharpen their horns on more poachers. Even though I don’t literally believe in curses, people who use rhino horn as medicine should know it is cursed. It’s definitely very bad karma to kill a rhino and to buy rhino horn.

The game reserve we visited doesn’t list rhino sightings, because it doesn’t want to give a heads up to poachers. According to the Associated Press, “A record 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2012, an increase of nearly 50 percent over the previous year. Demand is growing in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia where rhino horn is believed to have medical benefits despite evidence to the contrary. The horn is made of keratin, a protein also found in human fingernails.”

Elephants are facing similar slaughter for their ivory. Don’t buy ivory, even if the seller claims it is from pre-ban ivory or is supposedly otherwise approved. Buying ivory just encourages the death of more elephants. More bad karma.

57 rhinos killed in South Africa so far this year; 18 suspected poachers arrested

Beautiful Photograph of a Baby Rhino.

We saw this rhinoceros 100 feet from the road.  It's good that the rhino is hiding, even though I wanted a closer look.  It's not safe being around many humans.  The Rhinoceros is critically endangered.  It's being slaughtered for its horn, and it's also losing its habitat.

We saw this rhinoceros 100 feet from the road. It’s good that the rhino is hiding, even though I wanted a closer look. It’s not safe being around many humans. The Rhinoceros is critically endangered. It’s being slaughtered for its horn, and it’s also losing its habitat.

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Bringing Home the Buffalo

A pride of lions gathers at a carcass of a Cape Buffalo at MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. The upper left photo: This was our first view of the pride as we drove in an open Land Rover to the lions at the buffalo kill. We had rocked over a very bumpy river bed through high grass, and then suddenly there were the lions about fifteen feet away. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time.  In the upper right photo, the male adult lion suddenly see us. In the lower left photo, my heart starts beating wildly as the male lion stands up and appears to be coming toward us. In the lower right hand photo, the male lion has plopped down to digest his meal, bored with us -- thankfully!

A pride of lions gathers at a carcass of a Cape Buffalo at MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa. The upper left photo: This was our first view of the pride as we drove in an open Land Rover to the lions at the buffalo kill. We had rocked over a very bumpy river bed through high grass, and then suddenly there were the lions about fifteen feet away. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. In the upper right photo, the male adult lion suddenly see us. In the lower left photo, my heart starts beating wildly as the male lion stands up and appears to be coming toward us. In the lower right hand photo, the male lion has plopped down to digest his meal, bored with us — thankfully!

On  a recent trip to Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa, my  husband and I were lucky to see lions in two prides.   The lions in each pride were eating a Cape Buffalo that they had killed. (Yes, it’s the Circle of Life, but I didn’t like that part…) Mala Mala adjoins Kruger National Park, which is almost five million acres, about the size of the state of Connecticut.

It was unnerving at first to be so close to these large predators that could easily attack and kill a human. In our first sighting, we rode in an open Land Rover, bumping and rocking down a hill onto a sandy river bed, pushing our way through tall grass and vegetation.  A female lion emerged from the grass.  We drove past  her into a clearing by the Sand River, where the rest of the pride was eating the buffalo.  We parked about fifteen feet away. We were assured that the lions and other wildlife see the vehicle with its passengers as one nonthreatening entity and don’t seem to mind our presence as long as we are seated in the vehicle. (I was never tempted to leave it!)  I felt my pulse quicken, though, whenever a lion would look over at us and rise up. A few made brief eye contact, which my own cats do when they want something.  Fortunately, the lions never walked closer to our vehicle than ten feet.  I got nervous for a moment when the lions growled at one another over their meal. For the most part, the lions took no heed of us.

I’m so grateful for this amazing experience.  Click on the photos to get a better look.

Female big cats in each of these photos have suffered some kind of injury, probably from hunting. In the top photo, the female lion on the left side has a big cut in her right flank.  Our guide told us the injury was about three weeks old and would probably heal, although it looks pretty bad to me. This lion was nursing cubs. The lions are resting after eating. The female lion (in a different pride) in the lower left photo has a swollen back right leg.  She was limping when we saw her and had moved away from the pride. A mother cheetah in the the lower right photo has a cut to her back right flank, probably incurred from the horn of the male impala she'd killed the day before, our guide said.  She had three cubs.

Female big cats in each of these photos have suffered some kind of injury, probably from hunting. In the top photo, the female lion on the left side has a big cut in her right flank. Our guide told us the injury was about three weeks old and would probably heal, although it looks pretty bad to me. This lion was nursing cubs. The lions are resting after eating. The female lion (in a different pride) in the lower left photo has a swollen back right leg. She was limping when we saw her and had moved away from the pride. A mother cheetah in the the lower right photo has a cut to her back right flank, probably incurred from the horn of the male impala she’d killed the day before, our guide said. She had three cubs.

The cats behaved in many ways like my own house cats.  The way they played, rested and sat was so similar.  After they ate, some of them sprawled on their backs, looking as if they didn’t have a care in the world.  The lion cubs were so adorable.  But I never forgot for a second that these big cats could be deadly.  Even my own well-fed cat Malcolm brought down a bird that had flown into our chimney.  He leaped nine feet into the air and batted it down.  I was able to rescue the bird, though, and released it unharmed.

Where I live in the Midwest, we have have almost no large predators, such as mountain lions.  Occasionally, you hear of a mountain lion sighting. Most of them have been killed off years ago.  Grizzly bears roamed my area 200 years ago.  We do have smaller cats, such as bobcats.  Last year, while I was walking in my neighborhood, I saw a bobcat sitting in the grass of a large mowed area near some woods.  She stared at me as I walked past. That was a little freaky! Bobcats can kill a deer.  Later, I saw the bobcat trotting across the street into the yard of the president of the homeowner’s association. (The bobcat knew to go right to the leader of the human pack.)  The president told me that the bobcat’s cubs were in a tree overhanging her back deck.

Lions and other big cats are magnificent creatures, but because of the danger they present and because their fur is coveted, they have been severely hunted, and their numbers have really dropped in the last century.  Lions are considered a vulnerable species, and I hope they can be protected and their numbers in the wild increased. Game reserves, such as Mala Mala and the vast Kruger National Park in South Africa, are working to protect this magnificent animal. At the bottom of this post is a news article about lions in South Africa.

Well fed, this pride lounges along a creek. Note the cub nursing.

Well fed, this pride lounges along a creek. Note the cub nursing.

MalaMala Game Reserve Blog

About Lions

Smithsonian Magazine: The Most Ferocious Man-eating Lions

Fears for South African Lions

By Jean Liou | AFP – Wed, Jan 16, 2013

Link to News Article

“Lions may be the well-reputed kings of the savannah, but South Africa’s lucrative trophy-hunting industry means the regal cats are more likely to know the inside of a paddock ringed with an electric fence than the country’s sweeping plains.

To the dismay of animal rights activists and environmentalists, growing numbers of the predators are being farmed for hunting, with more than half of South Africa’s roughly 8,000 lions now in captivity.

“The principle that you breed wild animals for economic exploitation is an international norm. It takes place everywhere in the world,” said Pieter Potgieter, chair of the South African Predator Breeders’ Association.

But “the problem is with the lions because the image has been created in the minds of people that the lion is the king of the animals. Walt Disney with his Lion King and all these things, they have created that image,” he added.

The big cats are bred in pens then leased to zoos or game farms, where they are kept in cages or used as pets to attract tourists.

When they mature, some of them are released into the wild. The release usually happens just days before trophy hunters shoot them.

Breeders treat lions just like any other farm animals before leaving them to the mercy of trophy hunters.

“In principle, a lion is no more or less than any other animal species,” Potgieter said.

An estimated 3,000 or so lions live wild in South Africa, compared to more than 5,000 held in paddocks.

In the rolling savannah plains in the country’s centre is Bona Bona Game Lodge, situated near the corn-farming town of Wolmaransstad.

A few hundred metres from the lodge, which is also a popular wedding venue, are large cages with nine placid lions and three Bengal tigers. It housed three times that number of lions before an annual auction in June.

The lions are fed weekly, each Sunday morning — an exercise visitors pay an entrance fee of 80 rand (6.8 euros, $9) to watch. Animal lovers pay 300 rand to play with cubs or give them a feeding bottle at most zoos.

“Cubs are rented out by the captive lion breeders to eco-tourism resorts to be petted by tourists, who are assured that such cubs will be set free,” said Chris Mercer of the animal rights group Campaign Against Canned Hunting.

But a fuming Mercer says: “Tourists should know that these cubs will not be returned to the wild. They will, instead, be returned to the breeders… as semi-tame targets for the lucrative canned hunting industry.”

“These cubs are farm-bred, held in confined spaces until they are old enough to be hunted,” he adds.

Paul Hart, who runs Drakenstein Lion Park in the southern Cape region, said it was the “process of removing cubs from their mothers at birth specifically so that they can be used as play things and to increase the speed of breeding that is inherently cruel, not to mention the methods employed to ensure the cubs are docile with tourists.”

Critics say some lions are also specially bred for their bones, which are sent to Asia to end up in potions, but farmers deny that claim.

Amateur trophy hunters — most of whom come from the US — each year kill about 500 captive-bred lions in South Africa.

Hunters are ready to part with $22,000 per male lion, in addition to just about as much for other logistical and taxidermy costs. A lioness however comes in much cheaper at $4,000.

The trophy-hunting practices also raise controversy.

In the Northwest province with the most lion-breeding farms, the cats are often released, hungry, just four days before a hunt.

Unleashing them into unfamiliar turf means they are unlikely to escape their pursuers.

But farmers justify the practice.

“Whether you kill a cow, a sheep or a pig, or you kill a lion, it’s exactly the same thing. It’s an animal,” Potgieter argues.

A recent study by the Duke University in North Carolina has shown that two thirds of the African lion population have vanished over the past 50 years, to around 35,000 from nearly 100,000.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service also recently announced it would launch a review on whether to list African lions as endangered species.

Such a listing would prevent US hunters from bringing lion trophies from Africa back to the United States.” Story by Jean Liou.

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