Animal of the week – Black Rhino

The black or hook lipped rhino is the smaller, more aggressive and rarer of the two species of African rhino, the black rhino and the white rhino. Black rhino are a critically endangered species and there are between 2,500 and 3,000 left in the wild. In the 1970s when poaching was most popular black rhinos were hunted to the very brink of extinction but now with armed patrols in many game reserves rhinos are making a steady recovery. Black rhinos breed well in captivity and being herbivores are easy to release into the wild. Unlike white rhino that live in small family groups of 3-4 the black rhino prefers to live a solitary life. Black rhinos are browsers and often use their 1.5 tonnes of weight to knock fruit down from trees. If black rhinos feel threatened by humans on foot they can charge at speeds of 30mph despite their massive weight. Black rhinos share the same habits of many other savannah animals like wallowing in mud and carrying oxpecker birds on their back to remove fleas and ticks. Rhinos drink once a day and sometimes use their horns and back legs to dig for water underground if water is scarce above the ground.
Black Rhino that mum and dad saw on their game walk in Mkuzi.

My eyes are dim…

CRW_2508C.jpgA few years back, when we took Clara for a new pair of specs, she persuaded me to get my eyes tested. She was tired of watching me squint at the small print, and, in the unselfconcious way of small children, suggested the obvious remedy. Duncan, a wise and experienced South African optician, put me through my paces. “You’ve always been a bit long-sighted” was his verdict “and as you get older that only gets worse. However I don’t think you need any help yet. Come back and see me when you’re 41 and a half. You’ll be needing glasses then.”
And lo, it came to pass, as my 41st birthday came and went, I found myself increasingly carrying papers to read them in bright window light. At the end of a long day at the computer, words started to swim. The final humiliation was when a nice young man came to the door to sign me up for a local wildlife charity, and I had to ask him to read the bank’s address from my cheque book. On my forty-first-and-a-half, almost to the day, I succumbed and ordered my first reading spectacles.
Everyone tells me that they are not at all strong: +1/+1.5. But I’m shocked and amazed at the icy sharpness that has come into my life. I’ve been driving with an empty wash-bottle, the windscreen splattered with the debris of 41 and a half years of Kamikaze insects, and a youth in a parka has stepped out at the lights with a squeegee and soapy water. Actually, my saviour wasn’t a youth in a parka, it was a bottle-blond in a crisp white tunic, of which there are now four at the opticians. They seem to think that suits the aesthetic. Duncan is no more to be seen. Perhaps they told him he would no longer be welcome once he reached 51 and a half.

Animal of the week – Kudu

greater-kudu.JPG lesser-kudu.JPG
Greater Kudu Lesser Kudu

There are two different types of Kudu, the Greater Kudu and the Lesser Kudu. The Greater Kudu is bigger than the lesser Kudu and have hair along their back and down the font of their throat. Another difference is that female Lesser Kudu are orange whilst Greater females are the same greyish colour as the males. Like most antelope the males have horns but the females don’t. Kudu are found in thick bush or forest where they can camouflage from Lions. They are more common in Southern Africa than East Africa because Southern Africa is bushier than East Africa. Small populations can also be found in the Kalahari Desert. Kudu live in family groups or small herds consisting of two or three families. As Greater Kudu are bigger then Lesser Kudu they have fewer predators. Lions and Crocodiles are the only natural predators of Greaters but Leopards may also hunt Lessers, particularly the females because they are smaller and easier to catch. Kudu have very good reactions and senses meaning they normally survive when Lions go after them. Poachers hunt Kudu for their horns, and the head, like many antelopes, is considered a valuable trophy. Because of this Kudu are classified as Lower Risk in their Conservation status.

Amirah R.I.P.

AmirahWe were thrilled to see Amirah the Amur Leopard cub at Marwell zoo on the 26th March. Tom sent me this photograph of her. Two days later she was dead, killed by her father after squeezing through the rock barrier between their pens.

I hope Marwell are doing some hard thinking. In a rather Orwellian way, all mention of Amirah has vanished from their site. But she did exist, and Mike McCombie’s lovely set of photos, taken on the same day we visited, remains as a tribute.

The same week saw the deaths of Terri Schiavo, who spent fifteen years in a persistent vegetative state, and Pope John Paul II, who wanted her to remain in it.