17 June, 2014

Kgalagadi gemsbok

 - gardening for biodiversity 
in Cape Town, South Africa

In June 2008 we set out for the Kgalagadi. As a child it was the faraway Kalahari National Gemsbok Park. The word Kgalagadi is derived from the language of the first people and means salt pans or the great thirstland. After the First World War it was divided into ‘farms’ by Scottish born Roger Jackson, and his memories of Scotland live on today in the names of the waterholes. In 1999 our park was united with that of Botswana - becoming the Transfrontier Park.

Hantam Karoo winter sky June 2008


Blue wildebeest are the animals that suffer most in the heat. They need to drink every few days. Cattle fences cutting off their traditional migratory routes, mean they will be dependent on waterholes going forward.

Blue wildebeest

The cryptic colouring of lions means that they disappear into the long grass. That is why springbok pronk, shoot up in the air on their little pogo sticks. It is not – Where the hell are we? It is – Are there lions about??? (But the official explanation is that they are showing the lions – I won’t make you an easy meal, so there!)

Springbok at Kgalagadi

This is the gemsbok or oryx, for which the park was previously named. They survive so well here, because they can raise their body temperature, and then lose heat to the surrounding air, while protecting their brain from cooking in the process.

Gemsbok or oryx

My father loved to take photos. When I was a little girl he took a photo of an oryx at the zoo. There was a double metal railing, and my father climbed between the rails to take the picture. It is a good one, we still have it. But the animal charged, and I can still hear those metal rails ringing all these years later, as those magnificent long horns pounded metal, just a metre away from my ears.

Gemsbok or oryx

In 1990 eight giraffe were brought from Etosha National Park in Namibia. This youngster watched our car with as much fascination as we watched him. Look Mum, they’re taking my picture!

Kgalagadi giraffes

We saw this jackal, where we stopped for tea, at a picnic site. He was almost begging, half tame. We kept a safe distance anyway. The guidebook warns that they will even scavenge food from your fireplace, as you prepare your meal. And they will eat everything from bugs, thru fruit, to hunting their own small animals, to scavenging or even stealing from larger predators.

Black backed jackal

We grew up saying meerkats, but in ‘English’ they are suricates. This particularly glossy golden coat however belongs to the yellow mongoose. Same shape and habits, but a better wardrobe.

Yellow mongoose

In our garden we have the Fiscal Shrike, black and white. I was startled to see the same birds here but with flaming crimson breasts. Do you remember the sociable weavers? If you cannot demolish telephone poles along the national road with the sheer weight of your nest – I guess a common (or garden) tree will do.

Sociable weavers nest in a Kgalagadi tree this time


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

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11 comments:

  1. such beautiful exotic creatures that you describe with such a casual everyday knowledge, we live miles and worlds apart, I am in awe of the beauty of your country, and will be forever grateful to your wonderful posts bringing me here, to your world,

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  2. I've never been to the Kgalagadi but the more I see of it the more I want to go.

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    1. It's a journey we'll never forget!

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  3. diana, I loved these photos of the wildlife. That story about your father being charged is very dramatic. I'm glad he wasn't hurt, but you must have all got a big fright.

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    1. I remember him as being unconcerned. It was his photo that mattered!

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  4. Now that's a frightening experience for a little girl. Were you safely in the car, far away, when you took these photographs?

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    1. oh yes, we treat animals with respect and kindness. Only the jackal required extra caution.

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  5. Always wanted to visit your beautiful continent, Diana. Too old now, but can always rely on your pictures to take me there.
    Now I know where you get your love for photography. P. x

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    1. My father developed and printed his own photos. He would have LOVED digital cameras and then processing the images with software!

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  6. Again, I am taken by the majesty of your country and its inhabitants. I love the mongoose photo!

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  7. I adore the animals of your surrounding lands....we can only see them in zoos (which I do not like). And I see now where you get your love of photography. Your jackal is much like our coyote, and I am fascinated by the mongoose.

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