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Safaridude last won the day on May 6 2016

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About Safaridude

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  1. @vikramghanekar Our South African ground handler, AfriFriends, and Benson's company (Ngoko Safaris) handled the booking of KTP.
  2. @kittykat23uk Aandeoever is lovely. Bontebok National Park can be enjoyed in morning or one afternoon. I would recommend spending more time in DeHoop if you can. At both Bontebok and DeHoop, you will see loads of bontebok, so no worries there. But at Bontebok, you can see the rarely seen grey rhebok in the hills. They are worth looking for. Also, in between Bontebok and DeHoop, keep an eye out for the beautiful blue cranes. Is it too late to change your stay to inside DeHoop? There are excellent accommodations. Below is my very short write-up on Bontebok National Park and DeHoop Nature Reserve:
  3. @Game Warden Obviously, there are many factors influencing wild dog populations, only one of which is lion density. For a couple of decades now, the Mara region and northern Serengeti have not had wild dog packs consistently denning. I believe there have only been sightings of, essentially, vagrants (perhaps some of them denned once or twice, but not consistently). A few years ago, several packs from outside national parks in Tanzania were relocated into Serengeti National Park. It may be that some of them splintered from their original packs and are showing up in some new places in the Serengeti/Mara. One thing that's not really discussed is that dogs normally don't do well on open plains. Across Africa, they do much better in lightly wooded environments. This may have to do with the detectability of the dogs' hunts by lions and hyenas, as they will steal the dogs' kills. The Mara has changed a lot in the last 40-50 years ("Mara" means spotted in Maa. The Mara used to be heavily bushed.) It is much more open than it used to be (fires and elephants). It's just not great habitat anymore for the dogs. Additionally, the lion population in Serengeti/Mara is very healthy right now. It may be due to the wildebeest population that has essentially doubled since the '70s. (Prior to the '70s, the migration did not reach the Mara.). And why has the wildebeest population doubled? Recovery from rinderpest, for sure, but also the opening up of the Mara and northern Serengeti may have had an influence. Full circle...
  4. @Kitsafari Thank you for this amazing and comprehensive account of Zakouma. I basically would like to second everything everyone has said. And many thanks also to, in no particular order, Squack, @Sangeeta, @Twaffle and Terry. Did we really not have even an infinitesimal moment of slightest friction amongst us? Kindness, respect and selflessness come to mind. I had met everyone before except Kit, and getting to know Kit was one of the highlights of the safari. And here is my little contribution to this thread… I am often asked what my favorite safari destination might be. I always answer that by saying that I won’t answer that question, because it is like asking someone, “which one of your children do you love most?” As such, I cannot say that Zakouma is my favorite safari destination. But I will say this: Zakouma was different. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ - Well, that was the river. This is the sea. Woo! The Waterboys All have been quite grand. But this was different… this Zakouma… The sheer numbers at Zakouma are shocking. In East or Southern Africa, you get excited if you encounter a flock of a few thousand queleas or a couple of dozen crowned cranes. At Zakouma, queleas and cranes, not to mention many other species of birds and mammals, subsume you. One evening, as we were photographing queleas roosting in the woodland, I noticed the temperature of the woodland rising from the innumerable quelea bodies. The escalating temperature and the noise reached a breaking point: I had to leave. The very next day, I had to temporarily abort my satellite phone call to the family due to the collective honking of 500+ black crowned cranes right in front of camp. “What in hell is that noise?” she said. During our 7-night stay at Camp Nomade, Zakouma’s dry season momentum was palpable. Every day, there was less and less water available and greater and greater concentrations of cranes, geese, ducks, herons, pelicans, queleas, hartebeests and tiangs. And it was only late February/early March. The numbers would continue to build until the first rains in 8-10 weeks thence disperse the wildlife. It was difficult to imagine that, in the coming weeks, there could actually be more cranes honking in front of camp, or there are enough fish in the dwindling pans to sustain the pelicans or the tree branches, already bending, could take any more roosting queleas. Historically, these explosions of life have been the norm everywhere on the continent of Africa, but the genuine glimpses of them are now, sadly, restricted to a handful of spots – places such as Zakouma where there is minimal human footprint. My one indelible moment has to be our last morning when the queleas put on quite a farewell show. They (“they” meaning tens of thousands of them) had been coming to drink at a shrinking pool on the floodplain in front of camp every day beginning at 5:45am on the dot, in larger gatherings each successive day. At 5:51am, the last flock of the morning and the largest flock seen to date approached with an escalating drone, having reached the threshold point in which it was thick enough to completely block out the background. Orchestrated as one giant organism, the flock swooped down suddenly, sucked up the moisture only for a few seconds, and then departed forcefully with a loud whoosh, blackening the sky in its path, looking very much like a dark, filled-in, twirling lasso. With the departure of the queleas, it was as if nothing ever happened. The floodplain cleared and fell silent, at once waiting expectantly for the cranes to arrive from their nightly roosting site to fill the void. Rivers are great. But this is the sea. A roosting Marabou Stork A tiang on the move Pelicans on the Salamat River Queleas at dusk Queleas in front of camp More queleas in front of camp The magic of Camp Nomade
  5. @@Kitsafari You are not the first failure... as I am not done with you! That roan at the Tinga waterhole is most likely a record-breaking one (in terms of horn length). And according to some experts, it's a record by a comfortable margin. Our being there at the waterhole may have saved his life (for the moment anyway). The lioness, which was later seen by me and Squack chasing after a kob, had parked herself under a thick bush and was in ambush position the entire time. If the roan hadn't been disturbed by us, he could have walked right into the lioness (and the wind direction was in the lion's favor).
  6. @@Kitsafari "Sing-sing" is a Bambara word for waterbuck. Bambara is spoken in West Africa.
  7. @@Kitsafari You continue to enthrall us with your magical writing.
  8. @@Galago First of all, speciation or sub-speciation is a combination of science and art. There are no definitive markers that define two things as separate species or subspecies. The IUCN convention has six subspecies of the topi: topi, coastal topi, tsessebe, Bangweulu tsessebe, tiang and korrigum. A recent convention elevated all six into separate species, and in addition, split the "regular topi" species into 3 separate species (thereby having 8 separate topi species). This new convention is generally not accepted. (For instance, the "regular topi" that was further split into three species by this convention... up until probably 100 years ago or so, those three populations were contiguous/continuous. So, how could they really be separate species, or even separate subspecies?) So, sticking to the IUCN convention, there are six subspecies. @@Caracal The waterbuck at Zakouma is basically defassa waterbuck (the same waterbuck you see generally west of the Rift Valley... in places like Serengeti). The ones found from Chad/CAR to Senegal are often called sing-sing waterbuck or West African defassa waterbuck. These tend to show less white on the face than those defassa waterbucks found elsewhere. But the IUCN does not recognize the sing-sing waterbuck as a separate species or subspecies.
  9. @@Kitsafari There is one more: Bangweulu tsessebe
  10. A beautiful beginning... poetically written. Wonderful memories!
  11. @@wenchy Hi there. Unfortunately, I have not been to Lama.
  12. I was completely wrong on this. In the official statement by China just released, there is a paragraph on stepped up enforcement against illegal ivory. It's only a statement, but it's clearly a positive step.
  13. The news headlines and stories coming out of this are grossly exaggerated. All China is doing is closing the 35 or so licensed ivory carving factories and 130 or so licensed ivory stores. These factories and stores are supposed to push legal ivory only. (Though historically numerous observers have found illegal ivory in these legal stores, the amount pales in comparison today to that of the off-the-grid, illegal ivory market.) The announcement out of China is silent on its plans to tackle this illegal ivory market. On the positive side, the closure of the legal network could serve as a “signaling event”, stigmatizing illegal ivory in China. On the other hand, the illegal ivory market far outpaces the soon-to-be-closed legal market. Continued virtual non-enforcement of the illegal market could result in status quo. (And yes, enforcement can actually be effective in a totalitarian state.) Separately, the “near-total ban” in the U.S. you may have heard of from a July 2016 announcement is nearly meaningless. None of the news articles written on this subject provide adequate background on the exact legal status of ivory, confusing the reader (but detailed and accurate pieces don’t sell newspapers these days). “China Banning Ivory, Thrilling Nature Groups” one says. Wait a minute, the ivory trade was legal in China? Some further Googling brings about even more surprising results: a headline from July 2016 reads, “U.S. Bans Commercial Trade of Elephant Ivory”. What? It took until July 2016 for the U.S. to ban such a gruesome practice? The fact is, there has been a ban all along… sort of… The ivory trade was banned, though only intra-country, in 1989 (i.e., Tanzania, for example, can’t sell to, say, the U.S., but the American citizens are allowed to buy and sell “pre-ban” ivory amongst themselves.) No international body had/has the jurisdiction to go beyond an intra-country ban. This system of an “international ban” and an effective grandfathering of in-country, “pre-ban” ivory buying and selling has been in place since 1989 practically everywhere in the world – that is to say, the laws governing ivory have been remarkably similar in China and the U.S., just to focus on the two countries (see footnote). There are, however, three important distinctions with respect to China: (1) China was granted a special, one-time, legal, CITES-blessed purchase of raw ivory (composed mostly of ivory from natural elephant deaths) in 2008 from four countries in Africa (the so called, “2008 one-off sale”); (2) the legal ivory market in China is institutionalized. Whereas one may find random shops in the U.S., as well as in many other countries, selling old, pawned-off ivory trinkets, there are 130 or so licensed, legal ivory shops and 35 or so licensed, legal ivory carving factories in China. Theoretically, these licensed carving factories and stores are to deal only in pre-ban and “2008 one-off sale” ivory, but this has not always been the case; and (3) China has had a rampant, off-the-grid illegal ivory market since the 1990s. In retrospect, the announcement of closing the legal, licensed factories and stores was the easiest route and the most PR “bang-for-the-buck” for China. Will this serve to stigmatize illegal ivory in China? Will China step up enforcement and bust a few powerful, connected people responsible for the illegal business? These are the unanswered, important questions. As well, the “near-total ban” in the U.S. falls short of the slogan. Not that the U.S. needs a “near-total ban”. The U.S. has not been responsible for the elephant poaching crisis since the 1989 international ban, contrary to some horribly misleading news pieces (see As alluded to, Americans have always had the legal right to, say, dispose of an inherited, pre-1989 ivory item, via a pawn shop, to an antique collector. The only substantive change that occurred this year is that such transactions can now only occur intra-state and under much more onerous conditions of proving that the item is indeed old enough. (There are a few states that have outlawed or are in the process of outlawing even intra-state transactions, but those rules may not survive court cases. This is beyond the scope of this thread.) So, a “near-total ban” it isn’t. And again, not that the U.S. needs a “near-total ban”. Footnote: Ivory is unique in terms of in-country enforcement: old ivory is legal. No other item I can think of has this temporal element in its legal status. Why not just make everything illegal? If you really take the time to think about it, you will realize, short of what essentially amounts to confiscation of property, what an impossible task that would be for countries with fair, developed legal frameworks.
  14. @@michael-ibk @@Bush dog I believe in that part of Hwange, one is more likely to encounter large herds of eland in the rainy season, as they are attracted by the herbs on the plains.
  15. @@michael-ibk It looks like you had outstanding sightings, even for Kgalagadi standards. You did well with cheetahs so far. The two males you saw on the Nossob side… where did you see them? I saw two pairs of two male cheetah coalition on the Nossob side. I have a sneaking suspicion the ones you saw are the ones I saw at Polentswa hunting. Also, I love the yellow mongoose sequence.

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