22 May, 2014

Vervet monkeys, the big 7 and the small 5 at Addo

 - gardening for biodiversity 
in Cape Town, South Africa

Driving across the Karoo in March 2010, we are heading for Addo. The aloes have huge spikes of buds, where we see red begin to glow. Animal in the road? We get closer - it’s a little kangaroo hopping across the road? A troop of vervet monkeys! They disappear into the straggle of thorn trees along the dry river bed. 

Vervet monkey

Vervet monkey

At Matyholweni - Xhosa for ‘in the bush’ (near the Sundays River mouth) the vervets visit. One very young monkey, watched us carefully, one eye visible between the leaves. Feathered grey fur surrounds a black mask on an intelligent and lively face. No question - the lights are on and someone’s home! 

Vervet monkey

From Paul Rose’s The Wildlife of South Africa 
Cercopithecus aethiops (again not ‘Ethiopia’) is widely distributed throughout the country wherever there is dense bush or thick forests (but the desolation of the Karoo?) They eat fruit, insects, birds, and their eggs, roots and bulbs, and whatever crops they can raid. Male weighs about 4,5 kg. 120 cm long, more than half of that is tail. Their enemies are leopards, large birds of prey, and snakes. And for each, they have a particular, separate, warning cry. 

Vervet monkey

Vervet monkey
thereby hangs a tail 

The Big Seven includes the Great White Shark and the Southern Right Whale (sadly he was the right one to hunt. Unsinkable). Addo reaches from the Zuurberg mountains to Bird Island with Cape Gannets and St Croix Island with penguins. 

The Big Five? Elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. Males have large horns, which meet at the centre. This central boss is bulletproof. 


Paul Rose - The wildlife of South Africa 
When aware of being chased, a buffalo will circle back on its tracks and await its pursuer. A charging buffalo puts its nose forward, nostrils flaring, and its horns back over its shoulders. With open eyes and bellows of rage, it will charge straight at its enemy, lowering its horns when at close range. It will viciously gore and knead its victim into the earth until little is left of him. 

Hoping in the soft, hazy morning light to see, something, before they disappear into the shade and shelter of the Addo bush. Striped body is hidden by the dappled shade. 

Kudu in the morning light

A male kudu weighs almost 300kg. They can jump over 2m fences. Bulls will fight each other to death, if their horns interlock, they may BOTH die. Their defence against enemies, is to run like hell. Behold these stately horns, delicately marked face, with a kind expression. Then he turns. Gone. 

The Small Five? Elephant shrew. Ant lion. Red-billed buffalo weaver. Leopard tortoise. Rhino beetle. 

In Addo give way to the dung beetle

Flightless Dung Beetles have right of way in Addo. In fact, even the DUNG has right of way. Don't drive over potential eggs or beetles. They carve off their bit of buffalo dung, form a ball, and roll it away to lay their eggs in, then bury it. Scarab family. Built in trowels on his large front legs. Found amongst the spekboom, with a Vulnerable conservation status. 

Dung beetle

We walked down to the waterhole at the bird-hide (think elephant fence, with an elevated platform to climb up to) Long, bad drought, and there are not many birds. But we did see a jackal. 

Jackal at the water

Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay 

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  1. I love Addo. I used to go up to 4 or 5 times a week when I started working as a tourist guide but these days don't get nearly enough time to visit. Addo does have some amazing animal sighting opportunities. Just a pity you don't get to see leopard.

  2. Thank you so much Diane for sharing these photos with us and thanks for commenting them. While reading your post and looking at the photos I felt like I was strolling along with you in Addo. The kudu is purely magnificent.

    1. as if you were strolling along with me - is what I aim at. Thank you!

  3. the Kudu is stunning, I don't think I have ever saw one before, The water buffalo are so dangerous , oh my! I enjoy your posts so much, its one thing to read in books but to read on such a personnel level is wonderful, to see this through your eyes is wonderful!

  4. What amazing photos and gorgeous animals. The kudu is so lovely. Very graceful and delicate animal. I'm always thrilled with your posts... everything is so different from what I know. An educational and exciting journey to read along with you.

  5. Stunning photos! That vervet monkey sure is cute--are they tame? Dangerous? I can't imagine seeing them in their natural setting. Thanks for sharing!

    1. The vervets are at home in their natural environment. Harvesting wild fruits from the indigenous trees. Happy to supplement their diet with tourist supplies - they took a bottle of Tobasco sauce when my niece was camping! Not tame, not dangerous - but a problem to farmers and vegetable gardens. Will also take domestic poultry ...

  6. wonderful closeup photo of the vervet monkey, certainly looks alert and intelligent. I laughed when I read your wondering if it was a little kangaroo hopping down the road! thx for excellent, enjoyable post.

  7. Wonderfull fotos,pleasure to Watch, greeting from Belgium