One thing that struck me about the animals in Africa is how healthy and beautiful they were. Now that may sound like a strange statement, but if you have ever encountered larger wildlife in the states you may know what I am talking about. When you see a coyote, wolf, bobcat, mountain lion, or bear in the wild they have a very ragged, 'hard life lived' appearance. The animals in the states have to "squeeze" their life and habitat into the sprawl we have created and if they interfere with our sense of safety, or even comfort, they are eliminated.
In Africa, the land is theirs. The ecosystems work as they were intended. There is balance among the members of the food web and all the members seem to thrive. If they cannot thrive they are eliminated, not by humans (usually) but by the natural order. Now, this is not without problems for the people of Africa who often feel the very real threat of living in close proximity to large predators and territorial creatures, but as a biologist there is something truly beautiful about a land where that natural order is allowed to play out, for the most part, without our interference.
Picture: Hubby taking pictures of leopards. My pictures suck! Hopefully hubby will get more processed soon and I can steal his shots!
Mala Mala Game Reserve, South Africa - Lions
After I recovered from my trip on the Vomit Comet I was able to join my family for the morning game drive. We first set out to find the lions on the giraffe kill. The giraffe had been taken down a couple of days prior. We were told it is unusual for a pride of female lionesses to bring down a full grown giraffe, but this pride is growing in strength and skill and this was their second giraffe kill in as many weeks. The pride is called the Eyrefield pride and consists of 3 adult females and 9 cubs of varying ages. We found the lions still guarding their kill. They were all fat and lethargic from the feast. Warren, our guide, said that they would stay on the kill for 5 days and then move on. When they did, the hyenas and vultures would move in to take their fill of the carcass. Nothing is wasted. There is a perfect order to the use of the energy stored in the giraffe carcass. From the lions down to the dung beetle the beauty and life of the giraffe is not wasted, it is transformed into new life.
Picture: This giraffe was just standing on the side of the trail. They are the most beautiful graceful creatures. When they move it is like they are always in slow motion. Their long lashes give their faces a sweetness that is incomparable. One of the VERY few animal shots I have.
This picture illustrates why you don't use a point and shoot in Africa.
Interesting lion statistics (Biology geek. I can't help myself)
- Female lionesses weigh on average 125 kg (275 pounds)
- Male lions weigh on average 180 kg (396 pounds)
- Lions are the only big cats that hunt and live in groups.
- The line of white fur under lions' eyes allows for the reflection of any available light into the eye and allows for their superior night vision. There is also a special reflective lining behind the retina, called the tapetum lucidum, that also reflects light to the retina and aids in night vision. (this is the same lining that makes your house cat's eyes glow in all flash pictures, or gives the "deer in headlights" effect on when you see them on the road)
- Prides are not usually made up of a harem of females and one male, as is often taught. Usually males are in smaller groups called coalitions (typically made up of brothers from the same litter) and as a group they defend a larger territory. They may breed with females from several prides. When a one male is left from a coalition he may join a particular pride to enjoy the protection from other male lion coalitions that is provided by being in a group.
Yesterday, I biked 18 miles, then ran 2.25 miles and later went to my pre-masters swim class. Now I am off to the trail to do some running.
I am MASSIVELY freaking out about the Half IM. I am VERY concerned I will not be able to finish because of my weak cycling skills.