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Chilly Swartberg!
4 Nov 2013
 
     

A little more than a month ago, Wild photojournalist Stephen Cunliffe headed into the Swartberg Mountains for a 4x4 adventure. Situated near Oudtshoorn, CapeNature’s Swartberg Nature Reserve is a rarely visited wilderness. You’ll pass large proteas on the slopes and klipspringers posing on their tiptoes, but you’re not likely to see other people. To get an idea of just how wild the Swartberg is, consider the weather. Stephen enjoyed classic spring conditions with sunny skies for the first two days, then the weather changed without warning on the final night. He woke to find his 4x4 covered in snow and ice! If you’re looking for an untamed wilderness that offers spectacular views, you’ll love the Swartberg. Just remember to pack a beanie and gloves in case…

Picture by Stephen Cunliffe

 

Giraffe
28 Oct 2013
 
     

Field guides say giraffes count among the top animals that guests most want to see. What is it that makes giraffes so charismatic? There’s their status as the world’s tallest land mammal and the quirky coincidence that they have the same number of vertebrae as humans. The pattern of the coat is very striking and every individual sports its own design. They have a remarkably long lifespan compared to other ruminants, around 25 years, possibly due to their massive size putting off predators. Yet giraffe do fall prey to lions. In the Kruger National Park, lions have learnt that giraffe are prone to slipping on tar roads, making them easier to catch and kill.

Hyenas
21 Oct 2013
 
     

Wild Card member Alison Gillett photographed this hyena and cub near Letaba in the Kruger National Park. Who could ever think that such a little face wasn’t cute? Hyena cubs can be very entertaining to watch as they clamber over adults or chase one another around. Early in life the cubs will start to display adult behaviour. They have been observed ritually sniffing one another and marking their living space before the age of one month. In hyena society, females dominate males and a female cub will establish her dominance over her brother from the first. That’s a better outcome than between female siblings. Female cubs will fight one another, usually until one is killed.

Kliphuis
14 Oct 2013
 
     

Photojournalist Justin Fox recently stayed at Kliphuis while on assignment in the Cederberg. This CapeNature property on the Pakhuis Pass is known around the world as a fantastic bouldering destination, but Justin kept his feet on the ground and opted for hiking instead. There are lovely trails to Heuningvlei and up the Krakadouw Pass nearby. The Kliphuis cottages are newly renovated and are warm and welcoming. Each has an outside braai for summer and an indoor fireplace for cooler weather. There’s no electricity, but gas and solar power supply your needs. An advantage of the power restriction is that you can forget about electronic devices and fully relax. At night be sure to check out the sky heavy with stars.

Photograph by Justin Fox

African Penguin
7 Oct 2013
 
     

These African penguins were photographed by Peter Chadwick, a regular contributor to Wild magazine. Peter uses his photographic skills to promote conservation issues, such as the falling numbers of African penguins, also known as jackass penguins for the braying sound they make. Dassen Island was once home to over one million breeding pairs of these penguins. Today there are only 3 900 pairs. One possible cause for the decrease is that penguins have to compete for food with the sardine and anchovy fishery. BirdLife South Africa recently fitted breeding penguins with GPS devices. This will allow the scientists to track the birds’ foraging ranges and discover what challenges they face.

Photograph by Peter Chadwick

Cheetah Cubs
30 Sep 2013
 
     

Ah, bless! Aren’t these cheetah cubs adorable? This attentive mother has managed to raise a total of four cubs to the age of three months. No mean feat, as half of all cheetah cubs are killed before they reach three months. The culprits are usually lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs. To keep the cubs safe, the mother would have moved them every other day, carrying the little ones by the scruff of the neck. Notice the pale fur along the neck and back. This is called a mantle and will be lost as the cubs grow older. In the meantime this fancy dress gives them the appearance of a honey badger, such a ferocious creature that potential predators may think twice before approaching.

Magic Guarri
23 Sep 2013
 
     

It’s spring in the bush and everywhere plants are in flower, like the tiny blooms on this magic guarri (Euclea divinorum). It’s known as ‘magic’ because even during the worst drought this plant has vivid green leaves. The guarri grows along rivers and termite mounds in the Bushveld and can be easily picked out by its wavy leaves with their papery texture. This useful plant is sometimes employed as a toothbrush in the bush: break off a twig and feather one end to fashion your own. Branches are also sometimes used to fight veld fires.

Braai Wood
17 Sep 2013
 
     

Want to build a blazing campfire and braai your meat on quality coals? Then choose your wood wisely. The best braai wood should have a high carbon content and high density to ensure hot and slow-burning coals. You also want wood with a low ash content and limited trace elements of heavy metals.  A study by the University of Stellenbosch compared various types of firewood to find the one with the best energy output and lowest environmental impact. Rooikrans (Acacia cyclops) scored tops. Another good reason to make fire with rooikrans is that this invasive exotic tree slurps up precious water and out-competes our local trees. Now you know how to support our natural heritage on National Braai Day.

White Lions
9 Sep 2013
 
     

White lions aren’t a myth or a freak of nature that won’t survive in the wild. They are considered a unique and rare form of Panthera leo and have all the hunting prowess of their tawny brothers. The Timbavati region, which borders the Kruger National Park, is the only place on Earth where this genetic strain occurs naturally. Some visitors to Kruger have been lucky enough to spot these pale hunters. It’s another fallacy that white lions are albinos; instead the coat is a sign of leucism, a condition that results in a white pelt and pigmented eyes. Unfortunately for the lions, their remarkable colouring means they are in high demand as circus animals and hunting trophies. Read more about them in Saving the White Lions by Linda Tucker.

Picture of Zihra from the Global White Lion Protection Trust.

 

Elephant's Eye Cave
2 Sep 2013
 
     

Elephant’s Eye Cave is a leisurely two-hour walk from Silvermine Dam in Table Mountain National Park. The trail winds its way through fields of fynbos until you crest a rise and False Bay lies sparkling below you. This is also where you’ll find the fire lookout hut where rangers are stationed to keep a wary eye out for veld fires. From here it’s easy to see the shape of the elephant’s head in the mountains, with the cave forming its eye. It’s a stiff climb to the cave itself, but the cool overhang, dripping in ferns, is the ideal place to catch your breath and have some water. The walk back is quite easy and if you’ve planned properly, you can have a picnic or braai at one of the scenic spots dotted around the dam.

After dark in Augrabies
19 Aug 2013
 
     

The Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape is not just a convenient stopover en route to the Kgalagadi or Namibia; the park is a destination in itself. On our recent trip we decided to book a night drive. This gave us the opportunity to see the park after dark in the company of guide Mario Titus. While you cannot guarantee sightings, it was very exciting to scan the veld in search of glowing eyes, noises and movements. We got lucky on our drive and spotted a number of antelope, an African wildcat and giraffe. It was interesting to see the giraffe lying down, as I had never seen this before. Mario explained that with few big predators, the giraffe feel relaxed enough to bunk down. The giraffe were relocated from the Etosha National Park in Namibia and were introduced to the park in 1991.

– Kate Collins (Wild digital editor)

Namaqualand Daisies
12 Aug 2013
 
     

It was a big bonus to see flowers on a visit to the coastal section of the Namaqua National Park. The predominant flowers in the area are the Namaqualand daisies (Dimorphotheca sinuata) but if you look closer fields of all sorts of flowers can be seen. Tourism officer Elanza van Lente explained that the flowers seem to be arriving earlier each year. But she reminds me that there have also been years where there have been no flowers at all or very little. The coastal section is not the only area where flowers are thriving. Reserve Manager Bernard van Lente is based at Skilpad where he says flowers can now be seen on mass. Flowers to look for include the pale yellow blooms of pietsnot (Grielum humifusum) and the tall conical flowers of cat’s tails (Bulbinella latifolia).

 – Kate Collins (Wild digital editor)

Old Kruger
5 Aug 2013
 
     

Wild Card member Peter Millin sent us this picture from his first family holiday to the Kruger National Park. Back then all the roads in the park were dirt and there were few cars on the road. “We had the feeling we were alone in the bush,” Peter recalls. In fact, cars were such a novelty that visitors to Kruger were given the following advice: “Don’t become alarmed if lions stand and stare at your motor car. They have probably not seen one before, and are naturally overwhelmed with astonishment.” Just imagine!

Gamkaberg Nature Reserve
22 Jul 2013
 
     

Image: Scott Ramsay   www.yearinthewild.com

Gamkaberg Nature Reserve in the Klein Karoo has been selected as one of Africa’s top 50 ‘green’ properties by Africa’s Finest, an ecotourism project. All the lodges that made it on to the shortlist were subjected to rigorous on-site environmental assessments. Gamkaberg’s stylish eco-lodges make use of safari tents and solar power to touch the Earth lightly. There are three lodges, each rented out in its entirety, offering seclusion and comfort without charging you an arm and a leg. The reserve is managed by CapeNature, the only public entity among the seven South African properties on the list.

Renosterveld
15 Jul 2013
 
     

This beautiful bulb is one of six new species discovered in Overberg renosterveld. Among the discoveries are four new legumes that vary from being creeping plants with tiny flowers to a large shrub found in a single site thus far. The research team also uncovered a new sedge that often forms ‘fairy rings’. The new iris pictured here is being described by Peter Goldblatt and John Manning and will be called Hesperantha kiaratayloriae. It is named in honour of the daughter of Oren Taylor, a generous donor to renosterveld conservation. Renosterveld is known as the richest bulb kingdom in the world, but like so many other fertile habitats, large areas have been ploughed for agriculture and only 4-6% remains today. If you want to get a look at renosterveld, make a trip to Bontebok National Park near Swellendam.

Image: Odette Curtis

Anatolian Sheep Dogs
8 Jul 2013
 
     

What’s a dog doing among the daisies of Namaqua National Park? It’s the solution to an age-old problem of protecting livestock from wild predators. The park’s Elanza van Lente told us how farmers in the region used to set traps for leopard, caracal and jackal. Unfortunately, the traps were killing other species half the time – animals like porcupine, aardwolf, steenbok, and even tortoises. The solution is the Anatolian shepherd dog. This large mastiff-like breed has a strong protective instinct and has been used in Turkey for centuries. The dogs are raised with the flock and come to view it as family; if a predator shows up, it has to contend with a large opponent (41-70kg) who can give as good as it gets. The result? Up to 85% fewer sheep and goats are falling prey, and the wildlife of Namaqualand is safe from traps.

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