Drakensberg hike

A beautiful hike in the Garden Castle section of the Drakensberg Mountains. The hike goes up to a cave called Pillar Cave. Although we didn’t make it all the way to the cave (still struggling with my back…) the scenery was amazing. The smoke in the background is from controlled burning of the grasslands to create firebreaks, protecting the World Heritage Site of the Drakensberg.

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.

The elephant’s teeth

A small baby elephant crosses the road, chewing on a stick. Maybe his teeth are coming through? Actually, elephants are born with four small molars, which they will lose when they are about two years old. Unlike humans, who have milk teeth first and then change to their final set of teeth, elephants change their teeth troughout live. A long-living elephant goes through six sets of molars that replace the teeth that become worn out by chewing grasses and trees. The loss of their final set of teeth is a major cause of death among aged elephants.

Young cheetah

A young cheetah looks back over its shoulder. Cheetahs are weaned at the age of six months, but usually stay with their mother for some time after that. After 17 to 20 months, the mother can have another litter, so that often marks the end of the time of the youngster with the mother. Although young cheetahs from as young as six months go after hares or young antilopes, they often are only able to bring down a kill on their own when they’re 15 months or older. The odds for cheetah cubs to survive into adulthood are not so good. Lions are major predators of juveniles. This particular young cheetah was left to fend for itself for just one day when it was killed by predators…

The unpopular jackal

For the farming community in South Africa, jackals are a costly nuisance, as they kill sheep that are an important agricultural livestock. For a long time, bounties were paid for every hunted jackal. However, whether this really helped to keep the population in check is unclear. According to some, killing a jackal does no more than giving space to two or more jackals who will fight for the territory, and kill even more sheep in the process. I’m not a farmer, and for me seeing a jackal or hearing it in the night is an exciting event. Taking photos of the jackals in my neighborhood has so far been unsuccesful, so here is one from Pilanesberg National Park.