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This group of pups was rising from the desert night in summer amongst the dewy wet grass. Tentatively at first, but with increasing confidence, the pups followed the adults from the underground den to join the generations of their mob on the red sandy mound. Many had damp fur and were drying out in the morning sun as they stood collectively huddled for warmth and safety. They played and rolled around at the feet of their parents before the day’s foraging began.
Meerkat - Suricata suricatta
The meerkat is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family (Herpestidae). Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan”. A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super- families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12 - 14 years, and about half this in the wild. The meerkat is small, weighing on average about 0.5 - 2.5kg. The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright, as well as for signaling. At the end of each of a meerkat’s “fingers” is a claw used for digging burrows and digging for prey. The patterns of stripes are unique to each meerkat. The underside of the meerkat has no markings, but the belly has a patch which is only sparsely covered with hair and shows the black skin underneath. The meerkat uses this area to absorb heat while standing on its rear legs, usually early in the morning after cold desert nights.
Nikon D2Xs, DX format, Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO DG OS lens @ 222mm, 1/500th sec @ f6.3, ISO 800
Photograph by Andrew Woodburn
Mid-morning on the banks of the Chobe River, Botswana, a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl came down to the river’s edge to drink, creating a delightful reflection of colours as they dipped their beaks into the water.
Helmeted Guineafowl - Numida meleagris
A large, well-known game bird with blue-grey plumage, uniformly spotted with white. Head pattern varies geographically, but generally naked blue and red with check wattles and a pale casque on the crown. Males have a larger casque than females. Often flock in hundreds.
Nikon D5 with Nikon 80- 400mm f4.5- 5.6G lens with 1,4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 400mm, 1/2500 sec @ f11, ISO 2200
Photograph by Trevor Woodburn
Late afternoon in the Ngala Private Game Reserve, a concession within the Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga, this young leopard was found resting in a tree and looking upward in a very pensive mood.
Leopard - Panthera pardus
Leopards embody feline beauty with stealth, infinite patience and power. A leopard will get to within 5m of its quarry before pouncing, taking it completely by surprise. Tremendously strong, these cats can carry a 70kg impala to a feeding position up a tree.
Nikon D5 with Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with Nikon 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 440mm, 1/1600 sec @ f14, ISO 45600
Mid-morning on the Chobe River, Botswana, this elephant waded into the deep section of the river to gain access to young water lilies which he then proceeded to extract with his trunk and, in the process, created a huge spray of water.
Elephant - Loxodonta africana
Elephants are the largest land animal, Africa’s true King of Beasts and weigh up to 6,000kg (male) and 3,500kg (female), with a height of 3.3m (male) and 2.5m (female). The trunk is a muscular extension of the upper lip containing the nostrils, and the tip is equipped with two finger-like projections for handling small objects. Huge ears, up to 1.5m, flap on still, hot days to help cool blood flowing through the network of veins on their back surface. Tusks grow continuously, weighing up to 13kg each and can reach a length of 2.5m.
Nikon D5 with Nikkon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G lens with Nikon 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 220mm, 1/4000 sec @ f14, ISO 2800
Late afternoon on the banks of the Chobe River, Botswana, this Savanna Baboon was sitting silently with its head on its hand in a typically human pose. Apparently a baboon has 98% of human DNA which is reflected in much of its behaviour.
Savanna Baboon - Papio cynocephalus
The Savanna Baboon is a big monkey with a dog-like head with powerful build and shoulders higher than its withers, and sturdy limbs. A typical male can weigh between 30 and 45kg. They have close-set eyes below a prominent brow ridge, sizeable nearly hairless ears, a long muzzle and powerful jaws. Baboons are the most widespread African primate, a tramp species found through savanna and arid zones wherever water and secure sleeping places i.e. trees or cliffs occur.
Nikon D5 with Nikon 80-400mm f4.5 – 5.6G lens with 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm, 1/1000 sec @ f8, ISO 9000
Late morning on the Chobe River, Botswana, this Squacco Heron was foraging among the water lilies when it suddenly took off, displaying the beautiful patterns of its white wings.
Squacco Heron - Ardeola ralloides
A small, buff and white heron, with a heavy, dark-tipped bill. At rest it appears mostly buff and brown with white underparts. In flight, white wings and tail are prominent. Common resident and local nomad along vegetated lakes, pans and slow moving rivers, skulks in long grass and sits motionless for long periods.
Nikon D5 with Nikkon 80-400mm f4.5 – 5.6G lens with 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm, 1/3200 sec @ f13, ISO 2000
This tiny frog was found quite comfortable inside a yellow flower smaller than the size of my hand in the hedge of the airport while I waited for a plane that never arrived. This was due to the Tsunami that hit Thailand and hence I had plenty of time on my hands to peer into countless flowers looking for insects. The frog was perfectly camouflaged to imitate the colour of the flower, no doubt waiting for some sort of insect to pollenate the flower and become a frog snack. One can get a sense of scale by the drop of water above the frog to the right.
Reed Frog - Heterixalus
A small Heterixalus back is whitish with small black spots. Colour at night yellowish-brown, during the day bright white. A black streak runs from nostril to eye. Heterixalus is a species of frog in the Hyperoliidae family endemic to Madagascar. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, swamps, freshwater marshes, and intermittent freshwater marshes, arable land, urban areas, heavily degraded former forests, ponds, irrigated land, and seasonally flooded agricultural land which occurs in central eastern Madagascar. Snout vent length 23mm, head width 8mm; eye diameter 3.1mm.
Nikon D70 Nikkor 105mm F2.8 Macro, F20 @ 1/50th sec, ISO 200 Taken by hand in the hedge at Maroantsetra airport in Madagascar.
This turtle was found happily munching away on a sponge growing on an undersea ridge on Aliwal Shoal. The ridge creates strong water flow delivering food which the sponge uses to grow and the turtle seemed to have no problems holding his breath while tearing pieces off the sponge for a meal. One diver was even able to take a selfie next to the turtle whilst he continued his meal. After what seemed an age he lazily headed for the surface for his next breath only to descend and continue where he left off.
Green Turtle - Chelonia mydas
On the Green Turtle there are only four shell plates either side of the central row and these plates do not overlap – the loggerhead has five. Females are usually darker than males, the shell appearing almost tie-dyed in rich browns and ochres. The forelimbs have a single claw each and the bill is not hooked. Green Turtles are resident in southern Africa however, they do not nest on our shores. The nearest breeding grounds are on the islands of Europa and Tromelin in the Mozambique Channel. The females lay only 600 eggs each season in batches of 150 every 12 days. Adults feed almost exclusively on algae and marine plants often entering estuaries to do so. Green Turtles are under threat from hunting and egg collection. Nikon D300 Nikkor 10.5mm F2.8 Fisheye, F10 @ 1/50th sec, ISO 200, Sea & Sea Housing and Two Sea & Sea YS250 strobes on ¼ power. Taken on scuba at 10m at Aliwal Shoal, South Africa.
Late afternoon in the Okavango Delta, this female cheetah and her two cubs were found moving through thick bush that was covered in beautiful small blue flowers.
Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus
A cheetah is a cat with a greyhound chassis. It is built for speed, is light boned, swaybacked with long thin legs and a short neck. Cheetah are tawny in colour with small, solid black spots; white underparts, outer tail ringed black and white, black ear backs, lips, nose and distinctive “tear stains”. Cheetahs are specialised predators on the fleetest of plains antelopes.
Nikon D5 with 80-400mm f4.5 – 5.6G lens with 1.4 x Teleconverter, effective focal length 550mm, 1/1000 sec @ f11, ISO 720