Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Animal tidbits

Animal Tidbits:  Some interesting facts regarding these amazing animals.  (from the previous blog)
Cape Buffalo:  This is the top and bottom pictures.  This animal is the most powerful and hence the most dangerous.  Once when we encountered one on the road, he was not backing down and began to stalk us.  We hurriedly backed up and just drove cross country through the bush to go out and around him by 100 yards.  His skull is thick and bone structure so massive that the rangers say a bullet from a high powered rifle will ricochet off his upper head.  It requires a direct hit to kill one.  Rangers spoke of stories where the Buffalo came on them and hooked the front of the large transport vehicle and lifted it off the ground.

Elephants are also good looking but can be dangerous.  They came within about 40 feet of the vehicle.  We watched a big elephant use his forehead and trunk to push over a tree.  He then grabbed the tree with it's trunk, ripped it out of the ground and began eating the root system.  These are African elephants, just notice the shape of their ear, it resembles the continent.

Giraffes show up in groups here or there.  The game drive covers about 15-20 miles by 75 miles on rough dirt roads and sometimes, it doesn't look or feel like a road.  We lucked out and caught these several giraffes eating together on one tree.  The thorns on these trees, basically all the trees, are about 2-4 inches long.  The thorns are white.  At this same time we watched two teenage males sparing, or practicing fighting, so they are prepared for later in lift.  They swing their necks and hit the other giraffe in the hindquarters with the two horns on their heads.  Also, if they can knock their opponent over and he doesn't get up quick enough, the blood pressure in his head could end up killing him.  The brain and sensors monitor the blood pressure and reduce it briefly for drinking and dropping the head.  Otherwise, the head stays up in the air.

Lions hunt early in the morning and late in the evening and throughout the night.  They hunt 2-3 at a time.  They are lightning quick.  We saw in the deep grass an attack of two lions.  Some paws and heads above the grass now and then and in seconds it was over.  At night, we could hear them roaring to each other outside the camp.  Mostly the lions are sleeping or resting during the day.  They see the vehicle as one large animal that is not a threat.  However, when close to the lions, we don't speak or move quickly.  If we break the plane or boundary of the vehicle, the lion finds out the vehicle is not what he thinks and he may attack.  The lions have walked right towards us in the vehicle and turned about 5 feet from the vehicle and walked around it.

The Rhinos are huge animals.  These are really big.  They are grass eaters and not a great threat.  However, we don't want to bother them or get between mom and baby.  They could run us over in the vehicle.  All these animals are much faster than we can run.  Many clock in about 60 km/hr or 36 mph.  The horns are particularly valuable and are worth several million dollars used in selling potions.  Poachers will fly in with a helicopter, stun the animal or possibly kill it and then use a chain saw to cut off the horns.  It's a dangerous business.  Many reserve rhinos have their horns cut off to protect their life.

Hippos look so lazy during the day.  Lying around on the banks or bobbing in the water.  These animals kill more humans than any other.  Their teeth are HUGE!.  Their size is about the length from elbow to finger tip and about 2-2.5 inches in diameter.  Don't put it on the defense or get between the hippo and water or baby.  They run quickly and can split most things in two pieces with one bite.  They can bite a crocodile in half.  They sleep all day and walk all night.  About 30 km or 20 miles.  Eating a large amount of grass.  You can see they look pretty relaxed.

Zebras are about the most common.  They seem tame but can be pretty nasty up close.  They must be tasty since they are the favorite food for the lions.  These are Burchell Zebras and they have a faint brown stripe between each black stripe.  The stripes are like a fingerprint.  No two are the same.  They graze in groups and seem to get along with most animals.  Everyone's hearing and smell are especially good.  This helps them keep track of the cats or lions around those pars.  You can see a small herd with all their ears straight up looking around when a cat is within range.

I hope this is interesting to you.  Have a great day.  P.S. At night, Africa is truly the dark continent.  Lots of places where there are no lights.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Animals of Africa-Nov 2012

November 18, 2012

We apologize for not keeping everyone up-to-date.  We think of you often and apologize that we don't keep you more informed as to what's happening here.  We are at the tail end of Spring and it is getting very hot and punctuated with huge thunderstorms.  Since it is the best time of the season to visit game reserves, we'll share some ANIMALS we've seen with you.

There are two basic types of game parks or reserves, self-drive and private.  Self-drive means you drive your own car.  Our little Nissan TIIDA has felt like it was more of an SUV than a compact car sometimes. On a self-drive, one pays a low entry fee, 20-50 Rand/person ($2.50-6.50) and drives throughout the the dirt roads hoping to see some game.  Self-drive exclude, lions, cheetah, leopard, and usually elephants and giraffe.  It's enjoyable but limited.  Private reserves have converted Range Rover with big tires, heavy duty springs, and a raised 9 passenger seats up above the driver (about 6 ft off the ground) with a canvas canopy.  The cost is much higher in a private reserve but the chance to see the 'BIG 5" is much better.  The BIG 5 are those animals most dangerous to hunt because they turn and attack as a defense.  The BIG 5 are Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, and Elephant.  The most dangerous is the cape buffalo.

We've gone on a couple of game drives in May, one in July,  September and November.  It is a thrill to go with the other missionaries.  This past Monday we went as a zone and the young Elders were crazy and ecstatic.  Usually the Elders don't get to go on a game drive, let alone a private game drive.  I think we are running a test cast here.  We subsidized the game drive since it cost about twice as much as the Elders were permitted to spend.  We went in the evening.   We won't bore you to tears will all the photos but some shots from the times we went.  Our first time was the best since we spent two days and nights sleeping in luxury tents and listening to the animals at night, particularly those that hunt at night (lion, hyena, jackal, most cat family animals).  The lions roar to each other.

Most drives were close by and we went to the coast once on a trip to Durban and went to a wetlands sanctuary.  Lots of hippos, crocodiles, and birds.  In holding a hippos tooth, it is about 15 inches long and about the circumference  of a lemon.  Most people are killed by hippos.  If they get between the hippo and the water or a mother and it's young, they charge and bite about everything in half.  They can bite a croc in half.  They look playful, but beware.

On the game drives, when we get near lions or some large, potentially dangerous, game, we go silent.  No talking or whispering.  Also we can't move much or stick our arms, cameras or whatever outside the periphery of the vehicle.  The animals see the game vehicle as one large animal and they are used to it.  If they can discern that there is something else, they will attack.  We saw two lions stalk and then attack some animal in the tall turpentine grass in May.  They were about 50 yards apart and then bolted to the animals in the grass.  It was just a split second until we saw paws and heads pop up to the top of the grass.  In about 4 seconds, it was over.  Hardly any noise on that kill.  THESE ANIMALS ARE FAST, ALL OF THEM.  The slowest ones run about 60 km/hr or 36 mph.  The warthog can go from a stop to a full run in 2 lengths of its body.  Enough stories.  Now for the pictures.  Oops! Not so fast.  In looking through the animals we ended up with way too many for one post.  Animals are about 30 and birds will be the same amount.  So we will provide the Big 5 and a few more on this blog and send out another couple to capture some of the rest of the animals.  All in all we have taken about 5000 pictures so far.  It is hard to narrow the search to a small number but here's our best shot at it.