Wednesday Apr 11 2012 comments Eyes From Lincoln By: By Arne Kalma special to News Messenger -A +A We saw this leopard resting in a tree in the Serengeti in Tanzania. The tree was right next to the dirt road on which we were traveling, so we were ~20 feet from the leopard. It was a good sighting, which was nice. However, we were far from the only ones at the sighting. I counted forty vehicles around this poor animal, and I may not have been able to see them all in the crowd. This is a major issue in a popular tourist area such as the Serengeti in Tanzania or Kenya. Leopards carry their prey up into trees this to keep it away from more powerful predators such as lions and hyenas. They are excellent climbers with powerful jaws, and can carry prey that weighs as much as they do up into trees. We saw this dik dik in the Serengeti in Tanzania. The dik dik is one of the smaller antelope, being only ~15? at the shoulder. As a result, they are very shy and usually hide deep in the bushes. We were lucky to get a reasonably clear view of this one so close to the edge of the bush and near the dirt road on which we were traveling. I particularly like the doe eyes on this animal. When leaving our cabin in Kruger National Park in South Africa, the road crossed a dam. There was a wall on the side of the road as it crossed the dam, I suppose to keep vehicles from going off the road which would have resulted in a fall of ~20? to the base of the dam. One afternoon, when we were returning to camp, this male giant kingfisher was perched on the wall. He must have been quite used to safari vehicles, because he let us stop next to him to take pictures. This giraffe was drinking at a waterhole in Etosha National Park in Namibia. In order to position its head low enough to drink, a giraffe not only bends its neck down, it must spread out its front legs as well. While in this position, it is vulnerable to predators. It takes a bit of effort and time for a giraffe to get out of this position and back to standing upright. Therefore, the vulnerability cannot be removed quickly if a predator shows up. Because of this, giraffes are very cautious when they drink, and very carefully check their surroundings before they lower their heads and spread their legs. If more than one giraffe comes to a waterhole at the same time to drink, only half of them will drink at a time, while the other half keeps watch for predators. We saw this lion in Kruger National Park in South Africa. He was walking down a dirt road toward our safari van. When he got close, he looked at us and licked his chops as if to say, ?I wish they would give me a can opener so that I could open the package and get at the food inside. It looks delicious.?All of the animals, both predators and prey, in the parks in Africa tend to ignore the safari vehicles. These animals have not been hunted from quite a while in the parks, so they know that the vehicles are neither a threat nor food. However, if you get out of the vehicle, all bets are off. If the animal is prey, you are a potential predator, and they run. If they are a predator, you are potential prey, and they come after you. So you stay in your vehicle. We visited a Maasai boma in the Serengeti in Tanzania. The Maasai are the dominant native people in that area. They are herders (cattle and goats) and lead a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. A boma is a fenced area within which the Maasai erect their dwellings. The fencing, which is visible behind the warriors, is made from branches of thorn acacia trees which have 2? thorns, making the fence a very effective barrier. At night, the Maasai retreat into their boma with their animals for protection from predators and enemies. These warriors are wearing typical Maasai attire, blankets with typical red, blue, and purple colors. Each man also has a stick which they use to herd their animals. We were told that they also use the sticks to fight off predators, although I wouldn?t want to fight African predators such as lions, leopards, hyenas, and such with only a stick. This picture of a silverback mountain gorilla was taken while we were on safari in Uganda. We had hiked up and down the slopes in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for 1½ hours before finding the gorilla troop that we observed. We observed this troop for our allotted one hour, and then started our return hike (another 1½ hour up and down hike). Almost immediately, we saw the dominant male silverback of the troop, whom we had not seen previously, lying very near our path. Our guides let us have an additional 5 ? 10 minutes to observe this big fellow. One guide commented that it would be nice if the gorilla stood up so that we could see how big he was. Considering how close we were to him, the other male tourist in our group said that he preferred that the gorilla stayed lying down. This is an excursion for which one needs a reasonable level of physical capability, as one is hiking straight up and down 30 slopes (no switchbacks or trails) on slippery, wet leaf litter for what could be most of a day. (The hiking time depends on how long it takes to find the gorillas.) It was definitely the hardest physical exertion I have encountered on travel. We saw this saddle-billed stork from a boat on the upper Nile in Uganda. The name comes from the yellow saddle-shaped plate on the bill. This yellow plate looks like someone glued a piece of plastic to the bill, but it is natural. This is the tallest of the storks at ~60?, but not the heaviest because much of its height comes from its extremely long legs. We were on safari in the southern end of the Serengeti in Tanzania in a February. This is the time of year that the great migration, which basically consists of ~2,000,000 wildebeest and ~500,000 zebra migrating around the Serengeti in a clock-wise direction as they follow the rain and the good grass. It is also the birthing season when all the pregnant females give birth within a few weeks. The purpose of this synchronized birthing is to produce many more babies than the predators can possibly take, and thus to ensure many babies survive this most dangerous period of their lives. We never saw an actual birth, but saw several very young animals. While the babies are very wobbly when they are first born, they rapidly gain strength, and are able to run with the herd after only a few hours. This nursing youngster was probably a few weeks old. Its coat will darken as it gets older. This zebra fight occurred near a waterhole in Etosha National Park in Namibia. These two were coming down to the waterhole when the one behind bit the rump of the one ahead. Naturally, the one ahead didn?t like being bitten, and kicked the biter in the chops. This started a fight that lasted for five to ten minutes. Interestingly, there was a lioness resting in the trees on the other side of the waterhole. These two were so intent on their fight that they didn?t realize she was there. Fortunately for them, she must have eaten recently because, while she noticed the zebras, she made no move toward them. Eventually, the fight ended with the two zebras nuzzling each other as if to kiss and make up. This picture was taken in the Serengeti in Tanzania in a February, which is the time when the animals in the great migration (~2,000,000 wildebeest and ~!500,000 zebra) are in the area. When zebra pause to rest, they gather in small family groups. Within these groups, some of the zebra pair up and place their chins on each others backs, as the pair in the picture are doing. In fact, we saw a few trios of zebra doing this in a triangle, and one set of four doing it in a square. We don?t know what they were doing. It might have been reinforcing pair bonds or family bonds, or it might have been just a way to rest and support their heads. We saw this blue agama near our cabin in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Bright blue is an unusual color for a reptile, especially one this small (about one foot long from nose to tip of tail). Ones this size usually would want to have a color that allows them to hide from predators by blending into the background. This one really stood out.