Kalahari Blog

Adventures of a field biologist and wildlife photographer living and working in the Kalahari.


2 Comments

Back from the Kalahari!

I’m finally back from the Kalahari and thanks to my parents, my return was via the kgalagadi, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia! I have actually been back for a few days but haven’t got around to getting a blog post up yet.

In the next few weeks I will be very busy trying to sort out all my images from this year, choosing some to submit to wildlife photographer of the year, working on a new, fully professional looking website, and a new blog!

My plan is to keep the Kalahari Blog going alongside my new blog for a little while as there are several posts that I have been intending to write but never got around to doing whilst in Africa.

Meanwhile here’s a picture of a Leopard from the Kgalagadi!

RHoskyns_140112_00484


Leave a comment

Scorpions

Scorpions

There are quite a lot of scorpions about as they are perfectly adapted for the dry (semi) desert conditions. There are two main types of scorpion out here: the thick-tailed Paraboothids and the Cape Burrowing Scorpions. The Paraboothids are the more dangerous type.

There are four main species of Paraboothids found here and two main species of burrowing scorpion. They can all deliver a painful sting however a sting from a paraboothid is much more serious and would need immediate medical attention whereas a burrowing scorpion would merely hurt for a bit. Thankfully the two types are easy to tell apart with the paraboothids having long thick tails and small thin claws and the burrowing scorpions having small tails and large powerful claws.

All scorpions will glow under UV light and it is still unknown exactly why this happens however it does make them very easy to find at night. There are far more scorpions in the summertime as they prefer the warmer weather. Most scorpions at the moment are hiding in their oval shaped burrows or under rocks but in the summer they roam about especially on windy nights and can even be found sitting on top of bushes waiting for flying insect prey.

Scorpions appear to be the Meerkat’s favourite food item and they will dig for a good ten minutes to unearth a nice juicy one. They like them so much that injecting the scorpions and feeding them to the Meerkats is being trialed as a reliable way to give them oral doses of hormones for an experiment on the effects of anxiety on social behavior and also to administer antibiotics if necessary.

The Meerkats seem to have very high resistance to toxins from scorpions and also from snakes as quite a few have large snake bite scars from bites that would have killed a human if left untreated. However Meerkats learn at quite a young age how to handle scorpions and quickly bite off the stings before eating them.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, Opistophthalmus capensis

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, Opistophthalmus capensis

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Opistophthalmus whalbergii

Opistophthalmus whalbergii

Parabuthus granulatus

Parabuthus granulatus

Parabuthus raudus

Parabuthus raudus

P. raudus threat display.

P. raudus threat display.

Uroplectes spp.

Uroplectes spp.


1 Comment

Game Capture

The Helicopter taking off!

The Helicopter taking off!

Back in June we had a Game capture with the aim of removing 70% of the animals on the reserve. As there was a drought this year the grass hasn’t had much time to grow so the livestock on the reserve has had to be supplemented with leucerne which is quite expensive. Capturing and selling some of the animals should bring the levels of game back to a more sustainable level.

The capture itself involves flying a helicopter around to manoeuvre the game into a large V-shaped enclosure called a boamer, with a livestock truck at one end and curtains which are pulled across to stop the game running back out of the enclosure.

All of us Meerkat volunteers got to help and it was our job to pull the curtains across. It was quite exciting staying hidden behind the curtain with a heard of Wildebeest or Gemsbok running by waiting for the siren from the helicopter to tell you to run across.

One of the guys out here with a gopro gave it to the helicopter pilot and got an awesome video which clearly shows the structure of the boamer, some of the landscape of the reserve, how the pilot herds a group of Gemsbok into the boamer with the siren and the curtains getting pulled across. You can also see that one of the Gemsbok gets separated from the group, runs back to the first set of curtains and also how close a couple of the people are to the Gemsbok. On this run I was on the last set of curtains and it was pretty hard to tell what was going on as the heard had already run past.

We got to  have a go for about 6 runs at least one of Gemsbok, a run of Red Hartebeest, one of Wildebeest, and a couple with Springbok. Most of the animals just run straight up the ramp and into the truck however the springbok try to jump the fence and get very stressed out in the truck so they have a big net which most of them get caught in and any stragglers have to be grabbed. We then had to hold them down whilst we waited for them to be injected with a sedative before carrying them into the truck. Some of the Springbok were quite lively and quite difficult to hold onto their legs whilst they were kicking!

Vanessa demonstrating the curtain mechanism.

Vanessa demonstrating the curtain mechanism.

Peering through the netting.

Peering through the netting.

Pushing the Gemsbok up the ramp into the truck.

Pushing the Gemsbok up the ramp into the truck.

Hitting the protectors onto the horns.

Hitting the protectors onto the horns.

Quite exiting being this close to stampeding Wildebeest with just a curtain as protection.

Quite exiting being this close to stampeding Wildebeest with just a curtain as protection.

Unfortunately this one broke its leg and had to be killed.

Unfortunately this one broke its leg and had to be killed.

Here come the springbok!

Here come the springbok!

Try to grab one....

Try to grab one….

Me holding down a Springbok. It looks quite calm here but they are difficult to hold when they start to struggle! Thanks to Rachael for the picture.

Me holding down a Springbok. It looks quite calm here but they are difficult to hold when they start to struggle! Thanks to Rachael for the picture.


3 Comments

Kalahari Landscape

Image

As it is too dry to rot dead trees stand for quite a long time.

The Kuruman River Reserve, which is the land owned by the KMP, was previously a farm and the surrounding area is all farmed. The habitat ranges from arid savannah to bushveld to overgrazed scrub.  Even though the Kalahari is generally called “The Kalahari Desert” it isn’t technically a desert as the long-term average rainfall is above 250mm per year. Although there are rippled dunes and a lot of sand there is a lot more vegetation than I was expecting.

Until a couple of weeks ago there had been almost no rain and it was looking like the rains were going to fail completely this year. The livestock on our reserve and surrounding farms was dying, there was a regular smell of decomposing animals and the place was starting to look like a boneyard. The Meerkats were also looking very skinny and very few pups from this year have survived.

Too late for the rains.

Too late for the rains.

Fortunately we had about 100mm of rain in a week and now things are starting to look greener, small plants have started to emerge and flower, the Drie Doring (small bushes that are just twigs for most of the year) have started to grow leaves and the grass has started to grow shoots. All these pictures were taken before the rains but I will get some more of everything at it’s greenest however it may not rain again and we have only had a third of the yearly rainfall. The Meerkats are looking much healthier, are putting on weight and showing more interesting behaviours although there probably won’t be any more pups until next year.

 

These bushes are all looking green now. This photo shows a rare bit of cloud.

These bushes are all looking green now. This photo shows a rare bit of cloud.

One of the benefits of having to weigh the Meerkats at dawn and dusk each day is that I get to see two “golden hours” each day however I don’t generally take out my wide angle and tripod each day so I haven’t really got too many landscape photos. The sun comes up pretty quickly here so although there is almost guaranteed to be good light for photography each morning and evening it is generally too harsh for good photos 20-30 minutes after the sun comes up. Also as clouds are a rarity the sky in landscapes can be slightly boring, however when there are clouds it is nice to get some picture with nice soft light and also clouds almost definitely result in an epic sunset.

The KMP cows in the riverbed.

The KMP cows in the riverbed.


6 Comments

Horned Adder.

Image

By far my favorite snake I have found so far has been this Horned Adder. It is one of the 3 main venomous species that we get here and is pretty docile and the least venomous (the book describes the bite as “mild”). I also think it is the most attractive although a picture of a cape cobra with it’s hood flared would come pretty close! Although I have seen both the other venomous Continue reading


Leave a comment

Visa And A Fellow Kalahari Blogger

My visa has finally arrived! I’m now all set with everything I need, all I have to do is pack and get on the plane!

I will be posting a photo packing list in the next couple of days.

Also I found Adam’s blog. He will be arriving the same time as me and is also interested in photography so if you want a different take on things check it out and follow him as well!

Welcome to Adam’s Kalahari Blog..

Adams photo of a Meerkat licking it’s balls:

Adam's photo of a Meerkat licking its balls