A moment of tenderness

A brief tender moment between two female lions in the National Zoological Garden in Pretoria. One of the lions is a white lion, a rare color mutation also knows as leucism. There are tales from over 400 years ago about white lions in South Africa. Today, because they were a favorite hunting trophy, there are only a few of these white lions in the wild – one famous example lives in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

White tiger at the zoo

I love the Pretstap zoo walk in the National Zoological GardenĀ in Pretoria that is organized every months by the Friends of the Zoo. It starts early, before the normal opening times. On Saturday we were able to watch the sun rise in a splendid orange sky. The early light makes photography so much more interesting than the flat, harsh light of the mid day. Also, the predators are usually quite active during this time. This white tiger had just finished drinking and was now starting at his neighbor in the next enclosure. What a magnificent animal!

A mighty bull elephant

A huge bull elephant comes for a drink at a waterhole in Madikwe Game Reserve. Male elephants are generally solitary creatures, although friendships between groups of males have also been documented.
For one month of the year, bull elephants go into the condition of musth. During this time the bull produces 40 to 60 times more testosterone than usual. It makes him aggressive and unpredictable, and the best advice for other elephants and humans alike is to give the bull lots of space.
Musth is similar to what happens to Popeye when he downs a can op spinach. In musth, a male that is way down the ladder can challenge a dominant bull and win. When a bull elephant has broken tusks like this one, it may well be the result of a fight with another elephant!

Leopard stare

From three months old, leopard cubs start to accompany their mother on the hunt. This one, though, was left to fend for itself during the day while his mother was… what? Hunting? Going to work? Shopping? I don’t know. At the end of the day he grew restless and tried his luck on some guinea fowls, who laughed at his attempts to catch them. There are a lot of skills a young leopard has to learn. They often do not leave their mothers until they are a year or a year and a half old. Some may even stay for longer than that.

Elephant in a hurry

A beautiful elephant in a hurry on its way to the waterhole. Such an impressive sight! My mother used to call me an elephant when I stamped up the stairs in our home, but in reality elephants really don’t make a lot of noise…

The lovely courtship of the flying banana

With its strikingly yellow bill, the Southern yellow-billed hornbill is sometimes called the ‘flying banana’. Yellow-billed hornbills are solitairy creatures until the mating time arrives. At that time, the male will do anything for his love, such as bringing her small morsels of food and feeding her from his mouth, and bowing for her with his wings spread. The female then nests in a natural hole in a tree, closing the opening off with her faeces. She leaves just enough opening so that the male can feed her while she incubates the eggs. During this time she loses her feathers. If the male were to abandon her at this time, the female and the eggs would be doomed, as there is no way for them to acquire food. After 25 days the first egg hatches, and when the first chick is about three weeks old, the female leaves the nest in a new suit of feathers. From this moment both parents feed the chicks for the next six weeks. What a lovely family!