This tortoise, known locally as the leopard or mountain tortoise, has the Latin name Stigmochelys pardalis. This comes from the Greek words stigma (marked), chelone (tortoise) and pardalis (spotted). Tortoises are reputed to be slow and meditative, but leopard tortoises can move quite fast, climb a little and even float in water. They are combative in mating season, with males ramming and overturning one another and butting females into submission. Anyone who has seen leopard tortoises mating will learn something about stamina.
This bug was photographed at Woodcliffe near Maclear in the South Africa's Eastern Cape province. The long antennae of these kinds of insects have prompted people to refer to them as 'longhorn' beetles. However, there are many beetles of this shape, colour and description and not all of them are equally harmless. Many beetles feed on poisonous plants and build up reserves of toxins in their bodies which they can secrete when threatened.
Leopards earned their place in the famed 'Big Five' by being one of the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot. This is not only because of the fearsome teeth seen in this photograph but also because of their incredible mobility and the eighteen sharp claws with which they capture and lacerate their prey. They are mostly peaceful creatures but can be somewhat unpredictable if cornered, injured or old and hungry.
A herd of lechwe surge through the waters of the Okavango Delta. These antelope have special adaptions that make watery habitats easier for them to negotiate - providing some protection from predators. Firstly, their legs are covered with a substance that repels water, and secondly, their especially long hindlegs help them to dash quickly through swampy areas. They are grazers and feed on aquatic grasses.
The aching blue of the Wolwedans skies are not often disrupted by clouds, but occasional periods of high rainfall are enough to sustain these hardy camelthorn acacias. The inselbergs seen here are one of four habitats typically found in the arid NamibRand Nature Reserve - along with sand dunes and sand and gravel plains. Despite the harsh conditions there are many creatures that thrive here. This image shows one of these - the Sociable Weaver - and there are also fluctuating populations of oryx, springbok, kudu, Hartman's and Burchell's zebra, giraffe, klipspringer, steenbok, hartebeest and baboon.
A leopard navigates its way down a tree - off to find a cooler resting place to hide from the noonday sun. Once a leopard lies down in a shaded grassy area its camouflage is so good that it's likely to utterly blend into the scenery, hence the anecdotes about tourists who take photographs of themselves in what seems to empty bush - only to discern later the mottled outline of a leopard lurking in the background of the photograph.
A zebra grazing in long grass takes a break to peer curiously at the photographer. When one has been travelling in African national parks for many years, it is easy to become accustomed to the striking looks of the zebra. Occasionally though, it occurs even to the most avid bushwhackers that these animals are right out of the psychedelic 1960s. Of course, the zebra's stripes are a vital survival tactic and play an important role in 'psyching out' predators, who seemingly cannot easily discern one zebra from another when they herd together.
Cicadas are tinnitus in insect form. They are famed for their intense, piercing 'song' which they produce by vibrating the rib-like tymbals on their abdomens. There are about 150 different kinds of cicadas in South Africa and about 2000 worldwide. Cicadas have an unusually long lifespan for an insect - they stay in nymph form for about 13 to 17 years before venturing above ground.
A herd of very healthy-looking oryx trundles across brittle scrubland. These antelope are at home in arid areas and don't need drinking water, surviving on the moisture they find in roots and tubers. Their Latin name is 'oryx gazella' and it is the large dark-chocolate patch on their rumps that makes them very distinct from 'oryx beisa' - the east African species. 'Oryx gazella' are more commonly known in southern Africa as gemsbok. Male gemsbok are huge and may weigh up to 240kg.
This is one kittycat that no fireman would try to fetch down from a tree. This leopard is looking very alert and watchful. Trees form useful vantage points for leopards as they can identify advancing threats very easily. However, they have been known to hunt from trees as well. If the timing is right, they will leap down on the unsuspecting prey beneath them and enjoy a relatively effortless meal.
Sheep graze in mown wheat fields in the Overberg. This region is named for its location: to get from Cape Town to these fertile farming lands, one has to go 'over' the Hottentots Holland mountains ('berge' in Afrikaans) via Sir Lowry's Pass. These rolling wheat fields are typical of the area which is known for its wheat production and fruit crops. The Elgin Valley in the Overberg produces 60% of South Africa's apple crops. The major towns in the Overberg area are Hermanus, Caledon, Bredasdorp and Swellendam.
In this photograph one can clearly see the large white patches along this korhaan's wings that distinguish it from its endemic southern cousin. The Northern Black Korhaan has a wider range than the southern species as it is found not only in the drier grassland and scrub areas of South Africa and Lesotho, but also in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. Male birds like this one are particularly distinctive because of their striking colours, noisy calls and aerial displays.
A Spotted Eagle Owl demonstrates its brilliant camouflage: its mottled brown and white feathers closely resemble the bark of the tree next to it. This owl is also demonstrating the famed ability of its kin to rotate their heads up to 270 degrees. Spotted Eagle Owls are found throughout southern Africa and are very adaptable. While they are seldom seen during the day because of their nocturnal habits, they are found urban, rural and wild areas. They mate for life.
This worm looks quite similar to the Mopane Worm - one of the most famous worms in South Africa. The Latin name of the Mopane Worm is Gonimbrasia belina and it is a species of emperor moth. During the worm stage of the emperor moth it can almost defoliate mopane and mango trees. However, mopane worms are a reliable source of protein in some African rural areas and it is quite a fun communal event to gather these worms. They are dried and eaten as a snack, or cooked with onions, and are also available canned in tomato sauce.
A leopard relaxes in a tree in the morning sun. The ability to climb and rest in trees is hugely beneficial to leopards. Just like other cats, leopards like to sharpen their claws on the bark of tree trunks. These sharp claws and their incredible strength and agility enables them to drag their prey into treetops, giving them an advantage over opportunistic lions and hyenas that may try to steal it from them. Leopards can haul into trees animals that are twice or three times their body weight - even gangly young giraffes.
Some alert-looking male lechwe sensing danger. These two lechwe are clearly male since female lechwe do not have horns. These two probably belong to a bachelor herd of young males that have not yet successfully defended a territory and are therefore not in competition. Lechwe are interesting because the females form breeding herds which move through the territories of different rams, mating on the go.