Feature image is a pride of Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) including female and her three cubs in Kenyan scrub.
Lions spend a remarkable portion of the daylight hours sleeping. I saw this typical behavior in the Florida Naples Zoo but I didn’t expect to see it so frequently in the wilderness of Africa. I expected them to be walking about and hunting and / or engaged in group activities. Seeing them sleeping up to 20 hours per day was a rude awakening. During the best daylight hours where photography would be easy, these critters were usually completely out of it. They would be sleeping in the roads and pathways without any care for traffic trying to pass. They were communally grouped, sleeping together among family members. Occasionally, they might be seen finishing off a meal from last night’s hunting but in general they were boring subjects
In the twilight hours, however, with the sun just at the horizon, the scene was dramatically different. Despite the near darkness, fog, and distance I was able to see the spine-chilling hunt of the packs in action. The pursuit could have been taken from a professional soccer coach’s play book. Each pack member had their position to play – scouting, blocking, hunting, and a final charge for the throat. Without team play all 16 lions would go hungry.
When visiting the local Naples Zoo, I imagined an animalistic sense. It was as if the captive animals knew the truth of their sheltered, human dependent relationship. At the zoo the animals pace around in their enclosures. There is nothing to hunt. There is no territory to defend. There are no mates to pursue. No families to care for. See out previous blog on the Naples Zoo. This is in contradiction to the animals seen in the African wilderness. There they were busy surviving as hunter, prey or both. On safari the animals are indifferent to the viewer. It is a sense that the people are not there because they are in a vehicle. The vehicle was of no importance. It was simply a noisy passing distraction.
From our nearly three-week visit, several species stood out as apex predators. These included lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, crocodiles, and eagles. Each of these meat-eating animals is magnificent in color, shape, skill, and speed. These animals need a large area under their dominion. The area could easily range from 20 to 400 square kilometers. Lion prides and dog packs hunted using carefully laid out strategies and roles. Of the cat and dog, it is difficult to suggest that one is superior to another as their hunting behaviors were very similar. What do they do the rest of the time? They sleep and just hang out.
African black panthers have not been photographed in 100 years until recently. The term black panther is most frequently applied to black-coated leopards (Panthera pardus) of Africa. I did not see this African animal.
A melanistic color variant of the African leopard – was filmed in Lorok, Laikipia County, Kenya, on remote cameras set up as part of a large-scale study aimed at understanding the population dynamics of leopards. Dramatic night photos of this are available at the link mentioned here. (*)
There were some Florida animals in the wild that were directly comparable to those seen in our African safari. These are birds and reptiles. The two apex predators that I saw most often were the Sea Eagles (Osprey) / African Sea Eagles as well as the Florida alligator/African crocodiles. The lizards spend most of their time cruising the water and lying on the shore waiting and watching for an opportunity to eat. The birds, on the other hand, were busy and exceptionally photogenic.
No doubt about it. The birds worked throughout the day. The African Sea Eagles and their cousins, Florida Osprey, were constantly searching and bringing fish back to eat or to feed their brood in the nest. The surprise was to see that these unfettered bird species which are different species but so similar in their size, behavior, and call.
We will spend additional time describing these bird and cat predators. The Zoo is wonderful to visit and see these animals. It is a good place to sharpen your camera skills for animal portraiture. It is a great place to show the real-life animals to children. Zoos are excellent for research and help preserve endangered animal stock. In the wild these same creatures are daily interacting with one another and their environment. There are no barriers separating them. They all struggle for survival. They pay no attention to people. If you want real understanding of the life in a giant working and evolving ecosystem you need to go out and experience it. We live in the Everglades reserve area. This is one of our National and State treasures. If you simply drive a few miles and walk into the Florida reserve area with a guide you may have an experience similar to ours in the Okavango Delta of Botswana
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3 responses to “Wild African Predators and Their Cousins In Florida”
That was a fascinating article! I had no idea that those animals slept most of the day. Thanks for sharing.
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