On 3 March the planet celebrates World Wildlife Day. This year’s theme, “Listen to the young voices”, encourages children to pay more attention to threats facing wildlife around the globe. By Arnold Ras
When we know better, we do better, and appreciation for the world’s diverse wildlife is one of the pillars of conservation. To celebrate World Wildlife Day, Wild features some incredible portraits by South African photographer couple, Mems and Farida Carim. Through their lenses, learn more about some of South Africa’s beautiful wildlife species.
The intelligent and highly social spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is the largest of the three hyena species and can weigh up to 86kg. Hyenas are known for their giggling, but they make a wide variety of sounds: they whoop, scream, low, growl, snarl and whine. As hyenas are great scavengers, they play an important role in ridding the veld of rotten carcasses. They can detect carrion by smell from more than 4km away and can home in on the sound of other predators eating from up to 10km away. Picture by Mems Carim
The chacma baboon, also known as the Cape baboon (Papio ursinus), is often at the centre of controversy due to conflict with humans. But baboons deserve respect for their intelligence and adaptability. They are exceptionally opportunistic omnivores that will gladly change their dietary needs to suit their immediate environment. In Table Mountain National Park there is a troop that feasts on seafood. Surprise fact: these hairy mammals play an important role in seed dispersal. Picture by Mems Carim
Beauty in flight
Beautiful, colourful and the only bee-eater with a deeply forked tail. The elegant swallow-tailed bee-eater (Merops hirundineus) particularly adores bees and rubs these insects on tree branches to dislodge their venomous stings. Parents, struggling to get your kids interested in birdlife? Bee-eaters are just the species to spot together as a family – they’re lively and sun-loving, the ideal subjects for spot-that-bird games. These monogamous breeders occur in semi-arid savanna regions, so the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a hotspot to snap them. Picture by Farida Carim
These cinnamon-coloured cuties can entertain curious humans for hours on end. Active and agile, the Cape ground squirrel (Xerus inauris) hardly drinks water as most of its H2O needs come from the plants it eats. Did you know that males and females live in separate groups and only form bands during mating season? This rodent is abundant in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and some say ground squirrels use their bushy tales in protection from the scorching Kalahari sun. Their antics make for ample funny photo opportunities, but they’re not only jesters. Have you ever seen how a ground squirrel stands its ground against a Cape cobra? Picture by Farida Carim
According to Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa, up to 70% of SA’s giraffes live in the Kruger National Park. As the world’s tallest mammal (males can reach total heights of up to 5,7m), giraffes undoubtedly experience the world very different from us humans. They have a special blood vessel system that protects the brain from sudden blood pressure changes when raising and lowering the head. These longnecks also close their nostrils when feeding to avoid ants from entering. In 2016, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation estimated there were fewer than 80,000 individuals across all subspecies left. Two of the nine subspecies are already endangered, with fewer than 200 individuals. Picture by Mems Carim
Can you remember your first sighting of a lion (Panthera leo)? As Africa’s largest cat and the most social of all, lions are the heartbeat of our land’s wilderness. Large prides can reach up to 40 individuals – pride size is determined by the availability of food and water in the area. Females are in charge of putting food on the table and anything from a mouse to an elephant will do. At four to five years of age, the male’s distinguished mane reaches its full size. Quite interesting is that the lion is the only cat species with a tufted tail. Picture by Farida Carim
I believe I can fly?
Aside from the fact than the ostrich (Struthio camelus) can’t fly, it might just be one of Africa’s most interesting bird species. Ostriches are the world’s largest birds with the largest eggs – an average ostrich egg is the equivalent of about 22 chicken eggs! Oh, and those big two-toed feet… The clawed big toe aids in defence and carries all the weight, while the smaller toe helps the bird to balance. And to put the record straight: it’s a false belief that ostriches bury their heads in the sand. When you spot a male with red shins and bill, you can safely assume he is willing and ready to copulate. Picture by Mems Carim
Grey, gentle giants
The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) has been mesmerising humankind for millions of years with their impressive tusks, human-like behaviour, trunks almost as efficient as the human hand and strong social bonds. Due to their massive home ranges, researchers uses elephants’ ear patterns for identification when conducting studies. Water shortages are detrimental to these giants as an adult consumes an average of 160 litres per day. Have you ever wondered how heavy an elephant is? Males can weigh up to 6,300kg. Picture by Mems Carim
Furry and fabulous
Don’t they just tug at the heartstrings? The Cape fox (Vulpes chama) is listed as the only “true” fox restricted to southern Africa. These golden-grey canids are mostly nocturnal and many are killed on roads at night. Puppies are born from August to November and will remain at Mom’s side for five months. When attacked, the Cape fox will not only growl, but also spit at the enemy. Picture by Farida Carim
A is for agama
Although agamas have adapted to urbanisation, their wild ways should be treasured. Agamas can be tricky to identify and an expert guide with full-colour images will prove handy. This one is called a southern rock agama (Agama atra) and judging by its colourful body, a breeding male. Ants and termites are mostly on the menu, but grasshoppers and other invertebrates can also fall prey. Appreciate those bright colours – when threatened, males quickly turn pale and freeze to bluff the enemy. Picture by Mems Carim
Up for grabs!
Keen on winning one of these?
Sources: What’s that reptile by Johan Marais; Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Suithern Africa by Chris and Mathilde Stuart; Beat about the Bush: Birds by Trevor Carnaby; Wildlife of Southern Africa edited by Vincent Carruthers; and Roberts Bird Guide Second Edition by Hugh Chittenden, Greg Davies and Ingrid Weiersbye; and Shaping Kruger by Mitch Reardon.