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Wildlife & Conservation Archives

Cloud Over World Rhino Day

While ordinary people worldwide, together with international conservation bodies, mark World Rhino Day today, there is little cause for celebration.

According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), poachers have this year killed 287 rhinos in South Africa alone — more than one a day. These stark statistics are enough to cast a black cloud over any celebrations; instead, the universal call is for an end to rhino poaching.

Official delegations from Vietnam and China will visit South Africa later this month to discuss the growing demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it is used for traditional medicine.

Meanwhile, Dr. Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa has called for governments in Asia and Africa to work together to disrupt trade chains and “bring wildlife criminals to justice”.

“Demand for rhino horn and elephant ivory is threatening to destroy a large part of Africa’s natural heritage. We want to see illegal markets for these products in Asia shut down for good,” he added.

Fighting to Save the Arabian Leopard

Amidst the continuing political turmoil in the Republic of Yemen, a small group of dedicated conservationists is involved in its own struggle to save the critically endangered Arabian leopard.

The Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard in Yemen is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring a “sustainably managed population of wild Arabian leopards” living in harmony with Yemen’s local communities.

The Arabian leopard is one of the most highly endangered big cats in the world. With a wild population believed to number fewer than 250, it is listed in the IUCN Red Data List as “CR C2a(I)” (“Critically Endangered with extinction in the wild”) and in Appendix I of CITES.

The Republic of Yemen is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east. It has a population of 24 million and a land area of 555,000 sq km.

To find out more about the Arabian leopard and the Foundation’s work, please see Yemeni Leopard.

Kruger Park Colors

Three of us spent the last few days of October visiting Kruger National Park, South Africa’s premier wildlife reserve. To get there from KwaZulu-Natal, we drove up the east coast and through Swaziland.

Swaziland is an independent kingdom, so we had to carry passports and go through border formalities twice, but it’s the quickest and quietest route, taking one through forests and green sugar cane fields.

It was a shock entering Kruger — so brown and dry. In South Africa, the end of October is late spring or early summer, usually marked by touches of greenery from sprouting leaves and eager grass shoots.

But Kruger wasn’t only brown, much of the landscape in the south was blackened by veld fires.

We spent most our time at Letaba Camp, about half way up the long finger, stretching 350km (217 miles) from north to south, that is Kruger. Here there hadn’t been fires, but the landscape was stark. The scrub mopani that dominates this area was skeletal, the stunted trees having shed their leaves that turn spectacular shades of gold and russet in winter.

“Looks like Delville Wood” …. “Like a moonscape” were comments from my travel companions as we drove through areas deserted by wildlife, the animals literally having moved to greener pastures.

But Kruger seldom disappoints, particularly if you’re prepared to work at finding the animals. We still managed to see more than 30 lions, plus many elephant, buffalo, rhino, giraffe and a clan of spotted hyena.

While the lingering memory is predominantly of the stark, brown, landscape, I realised when browsing through my pictures how distorted this was — there was plenty of color, often subtle and muted, but lovely nonetheless.

Below are photos that, I hope, portray this better than words. I’ve avoided cropping the pictures, which one tends to do when displaying wildlife on a web page. In this case I wanted to show the whole picture … and found it wonderfully liberating not worrying about cropping.

Young male lion, Kruger National Park
Caption: Young male lion (Panthera leo), with winter leaves stuck to his coat, makes his way over a grassy bank near Engelhard Dam, Kruger National Park.
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/1000; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO 800

Spotted hyena, Kruger National Park
Caption: Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) walking through wooded debris left by elephants uprooting trees, Kruger National Park.
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/640; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO 800

Impala Ewe, close-up, Kruger National Park
Caption: Close-up of impala ewe (Aepyceros melampus) with head in profile, Kruger National Park.
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/640; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO 400

Buffalo Bull, Kruger National Park
Caption: Old buffalo bull (Syncerus caffer) standing next to a fever tree near the banks of the Letaba River, Kruger National Park.
Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mk II; Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal Length: 180mm; Shutter speed: 1/200; Aperture: f/5; ISO: 400.

Lone elephant bull, Kruger National Park
Caption: Lone elephant bull (Loxodonta africana) standing in a reedbed lining the banks of the Letaba River, late afternoon, Kruger National Park.
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/200; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO 400

(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 Colors of the Kruger Park to read the original.)

Fires in the Kruger Park

Kruger Park Fire
Caption: Flames leap high as a fire sweeps through the dry, matted vegetation of South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

Kruger National Park Fires

Kruger Park Fire
Chacma baboon sitting on a termite mound
in a burnt section of the park
.


On a visit to the Kruger National Park last week, we drove through large areas that had recently been burnt. The park is very dry and seems to have had very little Spring rain.

Everywhere we went, from Lower Sabie in the south to Letaba further north, the vegetation was brown and parched, with swathes of black where fires had passed through.

Some areas were still smouldering and on one of the days we watched an intense fire rapaciously devouring the tinder-dry vegetation in its path. The flames leapt around like marionettes in the hands of a crazed puppeteer as a hot, blustery wind gusted and subsided.

Even though our vehicle, with windows closed, was some distance away, we could feel the intense heat from the flames.

In Kruger, fire is an important natural force in maintaining the savanna, allowing the co-existence of trees and grass. Kruger’s managers are facing tough choices about how to preserve ecosystems in the face of a changing climate and the resultant enroachment of brush on the grasslands.

While some fires occur naturally in the park, others are controlled fires set by the park authorities.

The Sanparks’ website explains:
“Fires in Kruger are managed using the patch mosaic fire philosophy whereby fires are ignited at selected localities and left to burn creating a natural patch mosaic of burnt and unburned patches.

The extent of all fires in the Kruger National Park is mapped on a monthly basis using satellite imagery and information gathered by Rangers.”

In September this year a fire set by park managers elicited widespread criticism after animals were injured, including a rhino that died as a result of the blaze. Sanparks has defended its actions, saying the fires are necessary to open up areas and maintain the grasslands.

(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 Fires in the Kruger Park to read the original.)

Wild Facts Project

If you’re interested in wild animals and want to know more about the fascinating creatures that inhabit our planet, then Nathan’s blog, Wild Facts, is the place to visit.

Nathan, a habitat biologist based in Canada, is on a mission to provide readers with 1000 Animal Facts.

Each week-day he posts a fresh and comprehensive animal profile, together with relevant pictures, with the aim of educating young and old about the interesting adaptations of the animal kingdom …. “As well, I am hoping people will gain a greater appreciation of the animals we share earth with.”

Researching and writing 1000 original posts is a huge undertaking and Nathan must be commended for his commitment to the conservation cause. So please do visit Wild Facts and browse around – you’re sure to learn something new and unusual.

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