Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Big Six

Congratulations to Kilchoan resident Wendy MacFadyen on achieving the ambition of a lifetime - to go to Africa and see its magnificent wildlife for herself. It took Wendy a long time to save up for her safari in South Africa, from which she has recently returned with some brilliant pictures.

People told her that her chances of seeing Africa's Big Five on just one safari were pretty slim, but Wendy managed it. This lion was her one worry - she says it had a choice of eating her or a warthog. Fortunately for Wendy it chose the warthog.

Seeing rhino is becoming increasingly difficult as Africa's epidemic of poaching spreads so she must have been thrilled to watch these two. Unless I'm mistaken, these may be the rarer of the two African rhino species, the white rhino.

The cape buffalo may look a bit like an overgrown cow, but the old white hunters used to describe it as the most wily and dangerous of Africa's Big Five, and they're certainly awesome creatures to watch.

Most visitors to Africa have a good chance of seeing lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo, but seeing the fifth of the Big Five, a leopard, is something very special indeed as it's a furtive night hunter. Wendy writes, "On the night safari when I saw the leopard, he'd been stalking some impala, but they got a whiff of him and sounded the alarm. We watched this beautiful cat as he crossed the road in disgust. A short while later he was just about to set off on another hunt. His body language was just like a domestic kitty, including his rear end wiggling just before he pounced, when out of nowhere a police car came screaming down the road and the hunt was aborted. I asked the guide what was going on and he said they were after some poachers, so it appears that they take this problem really seriously."

If watching a leopard is special, seeing this animal is beyond the dreams of most visitors to Africa's game parks. It's an African wild dog, a species which has been hunted almost to extinction. In some ways, it's Africa's equivalent to the wolf and, like the wolf, it is hated by farmers in particular because it will take domestic stock.

Many thanks to Wendy for the photos.

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