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Smaller Mammals Archives

Zebra Foal Suckling, Ruaha National Park

Zebra foal suckling from its mother, Ruaha national park, Tanzania
Caption: Zebra foal (Equus quagga) suckling from its mother against a backdrop of earthy winter colors, Ruaha National Park, Tanzaia.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Rebel XSi); Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM Telephoto Zoom; Focal Length: 300mm; Aperture: F/8; Shutter Speed: 1/1250; ISO: 400.

The main purpose of a road-trip to Tanzania last year was to see the wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park. As so often happens on a long trip, our party simply didn’t have enough time to visit some of Tanzania’s other national parks, in particular Lake Manyara and Taringire, which are both fairly close to Arusha and Serengeti.

We didn’t consider Ngorongoro Crater because of the exhorbitant costs involved. For South Africans, paying park fees in US dollars is extremely expensive, so a guided trip into the crater was impossible on our limited budget.

However, travelling by road did mean we could visit Ruaha National Park, near Iringa in central Tanzania, on our way home. Ruaha’s location puts it out of reach for most visitors who fly in to Tanzania, which is a pity as it’s a spectacular wilderness area.

We were bowled over by the rugged beauty of Ruaha, by the giant baobab trees, the winding Ruaha River, distant mountain ranges, and the diversity of vegetation clad in earthy winter colors.

While the wildife viewing was good, it certainly wasn’t extraordinary. For us though, the raw, natural beauty of Ruaha, together with the feeling of being in a truly wild place with few other people or vehicles, was sufficient compensation. If you’d like to see some pics of Ruaha, please see our page of Ruaha Safari Pictures, which we hope will give a better idea of this wildlife gem, one of Tanzania’s best-kept secrets.

Zebra Trotting in Long Summer Grass

Motion blur shot of zebra trotting through long green grass Caption: Motion blur shot of a plains zebra (Equus quagga) trotting through long summer grass near water’s edge, Midmar Game Reserve, KZN, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Shutter speed: 1/30; Aperture: f/29; ISO: 100.

Midmar Nature Reserve is a small conservation area with water frontage that’s quite close to where I live. It’s better known for its water birds than the animals, but one does see zebra plus a variety of antelepe, inlcuding black wildebeest, red hartebeest, blesbok and oribi.

I went to have a look recently, but by the time I arrived, the cloud cover had burnt off and the sun was already quite high in the sky. Animals were scarce, probably seeking shady spots to escape the summer heat.

There was a small herd of zebra grazing the lush green grass near the water’s edge. I drove closer but there was nothing worth photographing. In this small reserve you’re allowed to leave your vehicles and walk, so I thought I’d try for some panned shots of the zebra, using a slow shutter speed.

I was fairly confident that once I got out of my car the zebra would trot off, so set the camera on TV (shutter priority mode) at 1/30, ISO on 100, and autofocus on AI Servo.

Once I’d left the car and taken a few steps into the long grass, a few of the zebra set off along the water’s edge. I was able to take a few shots, trying to pan the camera smoothly. However, the animals were not in a hurry, moving at a gentle trot, so it wasn’t too easy panning with a hand-held 400mm lens.

The picture above was the best of the lot, but as one can see from the zebra’s tail, it’s not moving very fast, although the grass streaks do give a sense of movement. Nothing to get too excited about, but better than a static photo of a group of zebra in harsh light, which was my other option.

Spotted Hyena with Carcass Remains

Spotted hyena carrying remains of carcass, Sabi Sand, South AfricaCaption: Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) carrying remains of a carcass, Elephant Plains Game Lodge, Sabi Sand, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark II; Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/200; Aperture: f/7.1; ISO: 800.

Although spotted hyena have a reputation as skulking scavengers, this is undeserved as they are accomplished hunters, bringing down about 70% of their own kills.

They prey mainly on medium- to large-size antelope, relying on speed and stamina to run down their prey, rather than stalking. See Spotted Hyena Information for more about this animal, the largest and most widespread of the Hyaenidae family.

Banded Mongoose Pack

Banded mongoose pack, Etosha, Namibia

Caption: A pack of banded mongooses (Mungos mungo) stick close together as they make their way across desolate, exposed terrain, Etosha National Park, Namibia. Photo courtesy Donna Watsky.

Camera: Nikon Coolpix P90; aperture: F/5; shutter-speed: 1/150; ISO: 72

The photographs (above and below), taken by Donna Watsky in Namibia’s Etosha National Park, are interesting in that they capture a pack of banded mongooses in a fairly tight group.

Pack of banded mongooses crossing open terrain, Namibia

While it’s not unusual to see groups of these mongooses moving around during the day, usually foraging, they tend to spread out, while still keeping in contact with each other.

I’ve only seen banded mongooses in thickly vegetated areas where there’s more cover, making it safer for them to disperse within their foraging area – and nearly impossible to photograph as a group (For more about this, see Mongoose Pictures).

Richard Despard Estes (The Behavior Guide to African Mammals), in describing the foraging behavior of banded mongooses, writes: “A traveling pack goes quickly in an undulating file or column, bunching and hurrying most when forced to cross open spaces.”

Donna, an American whose primary love in life is microbiology and laboratory medicine, has a retirement job working in labs in Africa … “so far Tanzania, Namibia and soon to Zambia. My colleagues and I take weekend safaris when we can. It was just dumb luck that I got the photos. They were very interesting to watch move as a group.”

(Please Note: If you’re not reading this post on Wildlife Photography Blog from Wildlife Pictures Online, then you’re not seeing the original version. Please go to Banded Mongoose Pack to read the original.)

Wild Dog with Kill

Caption: African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) with remains of a steenbok killed by a pack of five dogs in Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 1D MkII; Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal length: 210mm; Shutter speed: 1/200; Aperture: f/6.3; ISO: 800.

While some readers might find the above image disturbing, it’s simply a portrayal of what happens countless times a day in the wild. Animals kill others to survive.

African wild dogs are strictly carnivorous, so must kill other mammals for the meat they need to stay alive. They don’t kill for fun and any prey they bring down is quickly devoured. In the past, wild dogs were considered vermin, accused among other things of wanton killing that decimated resident antelope populations.

In fact, it’s not the small to medium-sized antelope that provide their main source of food that are threatened, but the wild dogs themselves — victims of snares, poisoning by farmers, and habitat loss. They are now critically endangered and extinct over much of their original range.

To find out more, see our Wild Dog Information page and these excellent articles by conservationist and safari guide Roddy Smith: Wild Dog Society – All About Co-operation, and Wild Dogs – Efficient Hunters that Kill to Eat.

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