The Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is the only remaining of the African Big Five animals to be presented in our African Safari posting series. The reason they are marginalized is that there are very few remaining in the wild. The rhinoceros is a severely endangered species. We saw only three of them and they all were captives in highly guarded reserve areas. It may become the first of the big five to become extinct and this could easily happen within our lifetime. In the estimate of the South African government the “killing of rhinos by hunting will exceed that of births by next year, thus precipitating a slide towards the extinction abyss.” Without drastic measures they will be wiped out as surely as the dinosaurs.
The featured image shows the horns of the rhinoceros. These are the prize for which they are savagely and illegally hunted. All images were made in Botswana.
The drastic procreative measures include extraordinary protection from poachers and other hunters, careful management for natural breeding programs, promotion of high-tech breeding programs using artificial insemination and hormone management for increased fertility.
Rhinos are poorly understood therefore breeding is not easy. They have a long gestation period; the inter-birth interval appears to be ~3 to 4 years; sexual maturity of the female may be up to age seven; males up top ~10 years; fertility also may depend on ovulation cycle, hormone levels, and the size of pre-ovulatory follicles. Life span is ~40 yrs. Adult weight is 2.5K to 4K pounds. Management is difficult because they are not docile animals. Maximum possible offspring per life time is ~ 06.
There is some hope that breeding programs will at least stabilize the population. With the cooperative effort of the government of South Africa, Botswana “will become the next Noah’s Ark for rhinos in Africa”. The exact location of the breeding stations was not disclosed. There are also private animal breeders who specialize in these large animals.
On this trip we saw multiple endangered animal species including the Hartebeest, Gravy’s zebra, Rothschild’s Giraffe, Wild Dogs, Roan antelope, Thompson’s gazelle and the lesser Kudu. There are others which we did not see like the Pangolin and the Sable antelope.
My general suggestion is to visit the African nations that promote the wildlife and are safe to visit. See the animals, plants and ecosystems while you can because the future is unpredictable.
The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) are always near water. Most often they are in the water where they can be submerged. This blog recounts three experiences. There was an exception. In one of the camps where we stayed a small hippo was scampering under the board walk and into the woods in the evening. I believe that it was in the camp where it could take shelter from the local pride of lions. In the Okavango delta the hippos were in the river system and not very visible. When in the river of Chobi they were more visible from the stream and facing the bank. There they would submerge and occasionally reemerge to walk in the bank.
The feature image is a portrait of a hippo in the Mara river
The cows were watchful of their young as they both ate their fill of the grass. It was clear that there was some social group interaction among the adults. They tended to stay in loose proximity. This was really evident in the area of the Mara river in the savanna of Kenya. While in the river they were not interactive with the nearby crocodiles. The crocodiles know better and keep their distrance.
There was an occasion which was somewhat unexpected. Looking at the placidity of a small lake a dark bump breached the surface. In a few moments it became apparent that this was a very large adult hippo. It began to walk to and up the bank of the shore. This was a really big animal, perhaps the size of a small SUV.
It was silent and ponderously slow. The slow gate might not have been due to its size but rather because of the large gaping wound in its left shoulder. It was deep and relatively recent but no longer bleeding. He was moving away from the lake and toward the woods.
We followed it for perhaps 50 yards. The wound was easily seen. Now it could be identified as two large parallel gouges through the skin and into the muscle. The hide in that area is tough, usually about two inches thick. Add to that the penetration through the four inches of flesh layers below the skin and you have some idea about the severity of the injury. The muscle was not severed but the skin through the fat layer was missing. I hope that the resulting infection won’t be too bad. There will be a big scar.
The distance between the two wounds and their general shape strongly suggested that these were caused by the two lower tusks, The skin remaining was ripped upwardly. These were probably made by a rival hippo. They were apparently acquired during an epic battle between two mammoth hippopotami.
The fight must have been just hours ago during the night. I wonder what the other guy looked like. The other contestant was not in sight. This fellow, with help of the birds, was tending to his wounds. This wasn’t his first encounter. He had been in other scrapes and had the scars to show. These fights can be deadly. It looks like this guy will be back for another day. Hippopotamus are reported to kill approximately 500 people per year making them the deadliest vertebrate animal in Africa
#hippopotamus #wound #herbivore #aquatic #fight #dominance #Africa #Maasai Mara #Botswana
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This is not about your father’s hunting dog. These are not household dogs which when set free in the wild become feral survivors. They are indeed a species unto themselves. Wild dogs of Kenya are a dying breed. The pack must have more than five dogs to maintain a threshold below which reproductive failure is likely. The area requirements of five wild dogs are estimated to be 65 to 150 square kilometers. Because they are a pack animal, they are transmitting rabies among one another. There is no one to care for this deadly disease and because they are not a high priority species. Because of environment change and disease they may become extinct. They are pack animals which work to hunt as a team just like the lions. Their method is different from lions where they run their prey down to exhaustion. That can run at 40 mph for hours. When the dogs take down their prey, they exercise dogged precision.
The featured image is a portrait of a Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus). The Wild Dog (AKA Painted Dog) is one of the world’s most endangered mammals. Perhaps only one thousand remain.
We saw a pack of about 12 resting in the shade of a tree with deep soft grass. The entire family was together and appeared to be contented. They lay down through the heat of the day in close contact with the soil for cooling. In the afternoon a head or an ear pops up showing that they are not sleeping but alert. As sunset neared the pack leader stood up all rose at the same time and began a fast-paced loosely grouped walk. They apparently had a powerful agenda in mind. We followed them and they in turn were in fast pursuit of dinner.
The pace picked up as they reach the Savanna where the woods thinned out. The chase was on despite our not seeing the target. The walk turned into a fast trot as the team members took their strategic positions; two groups in flanked positions and a lead attack group. In their favor the dogs had nose work, group communication, pack coordination, speed, endurance and survival instinct.
Then it was a full running chase of their prey through the deep brush. The impala had no chance to outrun the pack. They had it cornered in a dense brush area where the speed and agility of the lone impala couldn’t help. We were in the chase vehicle riding over the rough terrain with no road at about 25 mph. We lost sight of them in the bush for a minute.
The dog hunt compared to the lion hunt: (CAUTION ! If you don’t want to know, don’t read. I did not publish the more graphic scenes.)
The hunting patterns of the dogs was different from the lions in two specific ways; attack and kill. The lions arrayed the pride in a rough semicircle around the target . They had a specific female led attack crew of three that was headed by one lioness. The remaining members of the pride sat or stood watching the action and the young in the rear appeared to observe and hopefully learn. The dogs had another attack method. Their hunting team worked like a trident. The three phaylanxes approached in parallel. There were no watchers and all were running in hot pursuit. In the kill the lion grabbed from behind and brought the prey down. Then the lion bites into the throat to asphyxiate the prey. Once the catch is dead then the feast begins where the lead male to eats first. The dogs behaved differently. The first-to-catch team downs the prey and begins to eat indifferent to the kill. In this instance the prey was eaten to death. The catch was devoured boarding house rules, first-come-first-get. There was no hierarchal devision of the catch.
In the previous description of the lion hunt they were not successful. In this dog hunt they were very successful.
We departed the area as the full moon was rising in the east. We began the one-hour race back to camp across the Savanna and through the woods at 45 mph to beat the setting sun. This was despite the lessening visibility, deeply rutted roads and sloppy creek bed crossings. We were to be back before total darkness. When we were two miles out of camp riding the deeply rutted road, twilight nearly over, we were nearly run over by a herd of 8 Cape buffalo running at full gallop through the dark dense woods. They crossed our road 20 feet in front of us escaping from a pride of lion in hot pursuit. Then we rolled into camp fifteen minutes late. Our driver was skillful, with quick reactions and strong hands. He could give endurance race drivers a few lessons. The dogs ate. Now it was dark as a black hole and time for our dinner.
#dogs #antelope #hunt #Africa #Kenya #Maasai Mara #Wild dogs #endangered #pack #hunt #painted dog #
2 responses to “African Wild Dogs – Hunting”
This was my absolute favorite part of the safari. Great write-up. My adrenaline rushed as I continued to read. Trident yes! “Dogged precision” – you are indeed a punster.
When we return to Africa we can include more video with audio. That should bring it even more to life.