African Wildlife Photography

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South Africa is one of the world’s natural gems with an abundance of wildlife. Wildlife varies from the tiny Elephant Screw to the largest mammal, the African Elephant. The landscapes of South Africa offer the full spectrum of habitat types (from dense green forests to arid deserts, and everything in-between). These include exciting predators, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and a huge variety of fascinating insects. Winter is the best time of year to go on a photo safari. Vegetation dies back, visibility is increased and animals congregate on perennial water sources. 

The Big 5 of course, is the main attractions to Africa in terms of its wildlife. Let’s have a brief look at them.

No. BIG FIVE LITTLE FIVE
1 Lion Antlion
2 Leopard Leopard Tortoise
3 Elephant Elephant Shrew
4 Rhino Rhino Beetle
5 Cape Buffalo Buffalo Weaver

 

THE BIG FIVE

Lions are the second largest big cats in the world. They can be found roaming the savannah grasslands and open plains of Africa. They are very social animals and live in prides. The females do the hunting and males just join in on the feast. Hunting is normally done during the night and they sleep up to 20 hours during the day. The lion also has the loudest roar of all cats. Male lions have a beautiful mane that make them look bigger and more intimidating and giving them a majestic appearance.

Leopards are excellent tree climbers. They drag prey more than twice their own weight up into the trees. The have excellent night vision and are one of the best stalkers and predators. Unlike lions, leopards are anti-social loners. These solitary cats avoid interacting with each other beyond mating. They are found in the most diverse habitats of all the big cats, inhabiting both deserts and forests. The leopard takes to water readily and is a good swimmer.

Elephants are the biggest land mammals on earth. They are very intellectual mammals.  They have the longest gestation period of all land mammals for 22 months. The elephant’s very large ears are used to radiate excess heat away from the body. Although an Elephant skin is very thick it is very sensitive in that they can even feel an insect walking on it. The average life span for an elephant in the wild is about 50 to 70 years.

White and Black Rhinos live in grasslands and floodplains of eastern and southern Africa. The Black rhino has a hooked lip designed to eat leaves and twigs off trees while the white rhino has a broad flat mouth ideal for grazing. All species of rhino are endangered as they poach them for their horns. Rhino horn is made of the protein keratin, the same substance that fingernails, hair or a horse’s hooves are made of. White rhinoceros are the second largest land mammal.

Buffaloes prefer open savannah grassland, and areas in the bushveld with abundant long grass. They are often found in reeds, near water. The Buffalo is one of the so called Big 5 animals, an old hunter’s term given to the 5 most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa. A buffalo has four times the strength of an ox. Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other animal. They are known to use attack as a method of defence and often circle back on their assailants.

THE LITTLE FIVE

Antlion is a predator, unknown to most people, and mostly ignored. With its sickle like jaws it grabs its prey, mostly ants that falls into the sand trap. No matter what the ant does it is doomed as it slides back into the jaws of death. Once the ant or prey falls into the sand pit, the Ant-Lion sucks the fluid out and then flicks the carcass out of the pit and readies the pit for the next victim. The ant lion larvae are unable to discard waste matter which is stored and disposed of during moulting and pupation.

Leopard Tortoise normally found in the savannas of Africa and is the most widely distributed tortoise in Southern Africa. Its diet includes a wide variety of plants and succulents, and they also gnaw on bones and hyena faeces. They can reach an age of up to 75 years and more under normal conditions. Leopard tortoises are the largest tortoises in South Africa and adults normally weight up to 20kg and more. They reach sexual maturity at 12 to 15 years, and lay a clutch of 5 to 15 and more eggs.  Eggs hatch between 8 to 15 months.

Elephant Shrew is the cutest of Africa’s little five with its long and flexible nose that looks like an elephant trunk. These small, insect-eating mammals are usually quite shy and not often seen as they’re well camouflaged and very speedy! They are mostly active by day, particularly at dawn. The lifespan of the elephant-shrew is only about 13 months, although some may reach the age of 19 months. During her short life-time a female elephant-shrew will have up to three litters, each consisting of either one or two young.

Rhino Beetle so named for its large rhino like horn just like a rhinoceros. These amazing little beetles are often found at lights at night, where they are attracted to the UV rays emitted from the light. The horns are used in fighting other males during mating season, and for digging. The size of the horn is a good indicator of nutrition and physical health. The rhinoceros beetle is said to be one of the strongest animals in the world, it is said that it can lift 850 times its own body weight.

Buffalo Weaver is normally easy to find with their massive untidy nest or twig structures on trees near waterholes, in which many pairs live together. They are social birds and can be very noisy. There is the Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver and the White-Headed Buffalo Weaver. They mate for life and build their nests together with their mates. They also team up on the chick rearing front and both feed the hatchlings by bringing food such as insects, fruits or seeds to the nests.

 

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography”. – George Eastman