inyathi

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inyathi last won the day on October 23 2016

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  1. All the rutting amongst the roe that is just starting at this time of year is of course to produce kids; it is one of those curious things about our deer that roe give birth to kids, fallow produce fawns and red deer produce calves, having said that fawn is a perfectly acceptable name for the young of most deer species. I guess the use of kid for young roe is another reflection of their slight resemblance to goats. Roe does very commonly give birth to twins or even sometimes triplets, the kids are normally born around the end of May or early June. As with many deer and antelope species the young when first born have very little scent, so that when their mothers need to go off and feed and leave their kids hidden in long grass or other vegetation it is difficult for predators to find them. Roe kids are also covered in white spots to help camouflage them, in woodland undergrowth, if a doe has twins she will leave them in different spots so that if a predator does get lucky it should only find one and not both of them. The does will leave their kids for quite long periods before returning to them and this behaviour goes on for two months, this is much longer than in other UK deer species, this keeps them safe from the predators we do still have, which are basically only red foxes amongst our wildlife but of course domestic dogs are obviously a danger. However this strategy exposes them to another risk, which is well meaning but ignorant people who stumble across them while out on a country walk, think that their mothers have completely abandoned them and so pick them up and deliver them to their nearest wildlife rescue centre, totally unaware that the mother was nearby and will return later to find her kid gone. They are also at risk of suffering a far worse fate, some kids if they’re left in agricultural fields may be killed by agricultural machinery, as they will sit tight rather than get up and run and if they do get up, may not be able to move fast enough to get out of the way. Roe kids in a maize crop, these kids are between 1.5 - 2 months old and are beginning to lose their white spots Roe kids are weaned at 4 months and stay with their mothers for around a year until a couple of weeks prior to giving birth to her next kids and then she will drive them away. Unlike any other deer species, to see to it that their kids are born at the right time roe deer employ diapause or delayed implantation so while the rut is taking place now at the end of July and early August, the embryos won’t be implanted until late December early January, the kids are then born usually around the end of May the beginning of June.
  2. @Zim Girl Thanks, interesting having had white fallow earlier to now have some black ones this is a sign of how these deer when they are kept in deer parks as they have been for a very long time have become semi-domesticated and deer managers have taken the occasional naturally occurring white or black animals and used them to create whole herds like this. @TonyQ It’s just the red muntjac that I know of that has been split, our Reeve’s muntjac seen in your shots is still just a single species I will post my own shots and some info later and a video if I can find it. Approaching roe deer in the open unseen is almost impossible and approaching them unheard in woodland likewise, however the deer themselves are not completely silent when they are moving through the woods, so if you step on a dead stick it doesn’t really matter, you just have to stay still for a while before moving on. As long as you aren’t continuously treading on sticks you may with luck be able to get reasonably close, if you move very slowly and the wind is in the right direction. You could of course also use a hide but then you are tied to one spot and completely reliant on the deer coming to where you want them to. If you can be absolutely certain that deer will come to the area in front of your hide then you’d probably get great shots but you’d have to set up well in advance and probably have to wait some time, this is only really practical for photographing deer in the evening, in the morning you'd really have to be set up before dawn to avoid disturbing them so it's really better just to try stalking them in the morning. You could also try a hunter's trick and call the deer in using a device that mimics the mating calls of female roe, that way you could be sure of getting bucks to come really close to your hide or chosen hiding place. I’ve not tried this but I’m tempted to give it a go, there’s a device called a Buttolo Rhe Blatter it’s basically made of plastic and rubber and a little like a pet’s squeaky toy, when you squeeze it the right way it will create all of the main roe calls, except for their alarm bark, a hunter would quite likely use a high seat to shoot from but that wouldn’t be great for photography. So to get any photos once you’ve attracted your buck you’d need to be very well hidden, a stalker only needs to get the one shot, but as photographer I’d want to try and get more than just one photo. You would of course need to use it sparingly and I would guess it takes some practice to get the calls just right. In the summer months when most of my photos of roe have been taken these deer have very red brown coats, in the winter months they are much more grey brown. Right now in July is a good time of year to photograph them the extra day length gives one a lot more time to be out and about looking for deer and from around mid July to mid August is their rutting season. At this time the bucks are often chasing after the does and are therefore rather more distracted than at other times of year allowing you a chance to get a bit closer than you might otherwise. Sometimes if I’m lucky I do succeed in getting nice and close.
  3. I’m not going to justify the shooting of this particular lion, however I will make a few points to try and I hope clarify things a little bit. The researcher described Mr Cooke as being one of the good guys meaning he is one of the good hunters as opposed to the the bad hunters , if you regard all hunting as bad you may not see the distinction, but the point is he obeys the rules and acts in accordance with the law clearly some hunters don’t. It is legal to hunt animals wearing tracking collars, so if he had a lion on quota then he was entitled to shoot Xanda just as much as any other lion, the collar doesn’t make any difference and the researchers are well aware of this fact. If a hunter sees that an animal is collared and knows it is a well known research animal it is purely down to his personal ethics whether he allows his client to take the shot or decides to hope for a different animal to show up. Obviously if he thinks this might be the only shot at a lion or elephant that my client is going to get on this trip, he may well completely disregard the fact that it is collared, but then he’s is under no obligation to not shoot the animal. Mr Cooke having allowed his client to shoot Xanda handed in the collar as required with all of the details of the hunt, besides wanting their collar back the information about the hunt that Mr Cooke provided may prove useful for their research. This pride evidently lives on the park boundary, so the lions naturally spend a fair bit of their rime outside the park, it has not been suggested that he baited Xanda out of the park, he just got lucky that the pride was outside the park at the time of the hunt. Unlike in Cecil’s case where it appears that they used a bait to lure Cecil out of Hwange and then attempted to destroy the tracking collar to cover up the fact that they had killed Cecil. Based on my understanding of what happened they didn’t even have a lion on quota for the area where Cecil was shot, so the legality of the entire incident was extremely dubious, even if no one was prosecuted in the end. Even if you don’t like hunting you have to accept that if hunting is going on, it’s better that it is done entirely legally than illegally as appears was the case with Cecil. It is questionable whether legal lion hunting is sustainable in all cases, but there is no question that illegal lion hunting is not sustainable. The researchers from the Hwange Lion Project have to be on good friendly terms with the hunters, the future of these and other lions will ultimately depend on scientists, conservationists and hunters cooperating. Xanda was 6 years old and the minimum legal age that a lion can be shot is 6, this age was determined by scientific research conducted in Tanzania, however Cecil when he was shot was 13 years old and appeared to still be in great condition so Xanda might if he’d been lucky might have had perhaps another 6-7 more years of breeding ahead of him. This then raises the obvious question is the minimum age of a shootable lion too low, does it need to be raised? it may be that differences in habitat mean that 6 years is the right age for the lions in Tanzania where that research was conducted but not for lions in Zimbabwe. Research will I hope answer this question, but I personally think the age should probably be raised to 8 years old, however hunters will object to this, therefore we need good solid evidence to demonstrate why this is necessary. Of course I don't know how easy it would be for a PH to identify if a lion is 8 years old or not. The researchers need hunters like Mr Cooke to do the right thing, they can as I said use the information that he provided in their research, the hunters need to stay on side with the scientists also because the last thing they want is the scientists trying to shut them down. A serious conflict between scientists and hunters where neither side trust the other would be a very bad thing, if the hunters believe the scientists are trying put them out of business and stop lion hunting altogether, they might perhaps then try to get the scientists kicked out of Hwange. There’s no evidence as far as I can see that there was any corruption involved in this hunt, but there is plenty of corruption in Zimbabwe, it's not be hard to imagine a scenario in which some corrupt official/.s decides to shut down the research or at least curtail their activities on behalf of the hunters. I also wonder whether anyone stops to think what the average Zimbabwean thinks of all of this, bearing in mind that it was reported only a few days ago that a ten year old Zimbabwean girl was killed by a lion when she went to relieve herself behind her hut. The story about Xanda being shot in the Independent has some 80+ comments from people very angry about this; the story in the same paper about the girl killed by a lion has no comments at all. I don’t want to make some point about how we’ve all got our moral compasses skewed because we care about a lion but not an African child, the point really is if we care about the survival of lions then we have to care about the loss of this child’s life or any person's life or even just the loss of livestock. People in rural parts of Zimbabwe and elsewhere living next to national parks or game reserves or just in still fairly wild areas, bear a heavy cost living alongside large dangerous wildlife, like lions and elephants and we who care about the survival of these animals need to bear that in mind. Not so much here on Safaritalk because nearly everyone has been to Africa, but elsewhere people express their moral outrage at the killing of this lion, but don't give a moments thought to what it's like for the people who have to live with these animals. There will be many in Zimbabwe who think that lions are a dangerous nuisance that need to be got rid of to protect their lives. Lion kills girl just metres from her home in Zimbabwe If we were to completely stop lion hunting we need to seriously weigh up whether that will be an entirely positive thing for all lions or whether it may in fact have a negative impact on some lion populations. Certainly an end to lion hunting would be good for the lions in Hwange National Park because it would put a stop to the problem of males being effectively sucked out of the park, males from inside the park gravitate to the territories on the edge or outside the park that have become vacant following the shooting of the resident male, because they don’t need to fight to take over the territory. However if people in and around these areas no longer benefit from these lions living outside the park will they tolerate them or will they try to get rid of them. At the same time the hunting of lions has to be sustainable, following the Cecil the lion affair Brent Stapelkamp the researcher who collared Cecil raised serious concerns about the sustainability of lion hunting suggesting that it isn’t. A Scientist Bob Smith studying the effects of lion hunting in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania published a paper on the subject showing that much of the lion hunting there, as it is currently conducted is not sustainable and gave various recommendations as to how it could be made sustainable. Here’s a link to the research paper. Sustainability and Long Term-Tenure: Lion Trophy Hunting in Tanzania The problem is that a lot people who oppose hunting (just generally speaking not here per say) haven’t got as far as thinking about what the alternative is or what will happen if hunting stops or just simplistically think that photo tourism can step in and take over. Equally a lot of hunting supporters and believers in sustainable use, particularly from America where conservation does rely pretty heavily on hunting, don’t seem to realise that not every country functions like America does. They don’t take in to account issues like corruption which is a major problem in many African countries and is one reason why lion hunting in Tanzania often isn’t sustainable. They also too often ignore the aspect of lion behaviour, namely infanticide when males take over a pride that makes hunting lions entirely different to hunting other species and that has to be factored in if such hunting is to be sustainable. It is all too easy for some to place all of the blame for the decline in lion numbers on pastoralists poisoning and spearing them or on habitat destruction or anything else other than hunting when in some locations badly managed trophy hunting is actually the major threat. I don’t much like the idea of trophy hunters killing lions but as I have said before I support sustainable well managed hunting carried out humanely, I can’t therefore even if I find the death of Xanda distasteful object to all lion hunting. What I hope is that WildCRU’s research, that the Hwange Lion Project will determine exactly what impact lion hunting is having on the park’s lions and whether or not it really is sustainable. That if it is not sustainable then new rules will need to be introduced such as raising the minimum shootable age of lions and perhaps reducing the number that can be shot within a given period of time. Hunters won't like it because it will impact on their business, but the survival of lions has to be the priority and if hunting isn't truly sustainable it will kill itself off in the end. Having said that it looks like almost all of the world’s major airlines have said that they won’t transport lion trophies or in some cases any big five trophies, animal campaigners have successfully campaigned for this as a back doorway of trying to get trophy hunting stopped. However I don’t think this will stop trophy hunting necessarily, but I assume it will make it very difficult or expensive for hunters to get their trophies home, the obvious assumption is that hunters won't want to hunt if they don't get to take home a trophy afterwards.
  4. Roe deer in common with most prey animals have very acute senses, their hearing, eyesight and sense of smell are all excellent, the adults may have lost all of their natural predators but they haven’t lost any of their wariness. The approach of many wildlife photographers going out after deer is to dress up in head to toe camouflage like an SAS trooper heading off on a stakeout, I haven’t tried this as besides a camouflage poncho I don’t have any camouflage clothing. Instead I just wear drab clothes much as I would on safari and rely on a very basic knowledge of field craft, this is probably why I’ve got quite a lot of shots of deer running away. All of my photos (in this thread) are taken using a Canon 100-400 mm lens Does and bucks in flight. Leaping roe buck by inyathi, on Flickr I would always prefer not to disturb the deer too much so I don't set out to get shots of running deer, however so often when they do run I end up with a load of out of focus shots because they're moving too fast for the auto focus, it's therefore nice to get some reasonable shots. Although the last one is perhaps just slightly too blurred but not in a good way like in the second shot.
  5. Thinking about where to go next I thought maybe it was time to head home to the UK as I’ve no posted any of my local wildlife before. In the UK we have 6 species of wild deer but only 2 of these are actually natives, generally speaking in the UK the definition of a native species of either plant or animal is one that colonised the British Isles unassisted after the Ice Age ended and the great ice sheet that covered most of the Northern Hemisphere had retreated. Species that occurred in Britain prior to the Ice Age and were then wiped out but for some reason were not able to make it back here afterwards are not considered native. One species that lived in southern Britain during the Ice Age roaming the Tundra south of the ice sheet was the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) as the ice melted they moved north with their habitat until they eventually died out due to the almost total disappearance of that habitat and very likely also overhunting. In the 1950s a herd from Sweden was reintroduced to the Cairngorm Mts in Scotland which is the only suitable reindeer habitat left in Britain but these animals are not truly wild and are managed much like domestic reindeer elsewhere. Another species that recolonised after the Ice Age but did not survive here to the present day is the Eurasian Elk (Alces Alces) formerly considered to be the same species as the moose (Alces americanus) in North America but now believed to be separate species. Elk likely became extinct in the UK due to loss of habitat most of Britain was at one time covered in forest now it is one of the least wooded countries in Europe but also because of overhunting. Paul Lister owner of the Alladale Estate in Scotland has attempted to reintroduce elk to his estate flying in a pair from Sweden as part of a rewildling program, although they did give birth to a calf I’m not quite sure what has happened to these animals so at present this species is considered extinct in the UK. The two deer species that did survive to the present day are the western or European red deer and the western or European roe deer, our four introduced species are the fallow deer, sika deer, Reeve’s muntjac and Chinese water deer. I have seen all but the last of these deer species in the wild here in the UK but I don’t have photos of all of them or not that I have found but there are already good shots of red and fallow deer. Although I don’t have photos of all of them and this is after all supposed to be a photo thread, I thought I would still for interest add species accounts for the 4 species that I don’t have photos of, as photos of two of them have already been posted and maybe someone from the UK will post photos of the other two. The western or European red deer In the UK the red deer Cervus elaphus is our largest truly wild terrestrial mammal, they are most common in Scotland especially in the Highlands and Islands in England they are quite patchily distributed being most common in the South West and in East Anglia and in Northern England, a few small populations exist in Wales. As far is known red deer were not originally native to Ireland but were introduced the first animals were brought over from Scotland 5,000 years ago, further introductions from other parts of the UK have occurred many times since. See @phil_b's photos posted earlier. As always the taxonomy of the deer tribe is complicated and exactly where one species ends and another begins is not known for absolute certain, the red deer is a very good example. The red deer Cervus elaphus is very closely related to the wapiti (which means white rump in the Canadian Algonquin languages Shawnee and Cree) this deer Cervus canadensis is more commonly known to most people in North America as the elk (see photos earlier). At times they have been considered subspecies of a single species or referred to as a superspecies, originally distributed from the UK and Portugal in the far west to the Pacific coast of Russia and then in parts of Canada and the US notably the Rocky Mountains, it is often stated that these deer occurred in Mexico but lack of convincing evidence suggests otherwise. At the moment they are now considered to be two separate species, with the red or western red basically confined to Europe and the wapiti distributed from Central Asia across to North America the latter species then includes Asian deer like the Bukhara deer also known as Bactrian deer, the Kashmir stag and the Kansu deer pictured earlier in the thread, these deer are still sometimes referred to as red deer. Remarkably the Central Asian Bukhara deer still found in small numbers in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan was recently in 2016 rediscovered in Afghanistan where it was believed to have become extinct. These Asian deer are often also known by the Turkish name maral but this name really refers to specific subspecies of red deer the Anatolian or Caspian red deer found In Turkey and the Caucasus region, the IUCN Red List entry for European red deer lists C. e. maral as a subspecies but for some reason the distribution map doesn’t show any red deer in Turkey or anywhere in the Caucasus/Caspian region and the map for wapiti doesn’t show these Turkish deer either. The only real information about maral that I have found online is from hunting websites offering people the opportunity to visit Turkey to bag a suitably large maral trophy stag. These hunting websites seem to suggest that these deer are intermediate between European red deer and Asian wapiti, I think all of this really just goes to show that we still don’t really know how exactly to define a species. While basically confined to Europe the western red deer is in fact the only true deer species to occur in Africa, A race known as the Barbary or Atlas deer Cervus elaphus barbarus occurs in the Maghreb region of North Africa. These deer may once have been found throughout the Maghreb but now they are entirely confined to the Medjerda region either side of the northern Algerian and Tunisian border. The precise origins of these deer isn’t entirely clear, according to Jonathan Kingdon fossils have been found in Morocco and Tunisia dating back to 1million years ago and he suggests that this population of deer has survived since that time. However the Barbary deer closely resembles the Corsican red deer and recent genetic evidence has shown that they are very close relatives, it is known that red deer were originally introduced to Sardinia and Corsica in ancient times so it has been suggested that perhaps deer were taken from North Africa to the islands. However the genetic evidence appears to suggest that it may have been the other way around deer may have been introduced to Sardinia and Corsica from Italy and then taken from these islands to North Africa. It’s possible then that original deer in North Africa died out but were then reintroduced back in ancient times, further research would need to be conducted to resolve this mystery. More recently Spanish red deer have been introduced to parts of the Moroccan coast and on Corsica red deer became extinct and have been reintoduced from Sardinia. European red deer distribution Map Wapiti distribution map Fallow deer The European fallow deer Dama dama occurred in Britain prior to the Ice Age some 400,000 years ago but were wiped out here and possibly the whole of Europe by the ice leaving the only surviving populations in Turkey, it is possible that some may have survived in Greece or southern Italy and Sicily. However it thought that the only autochthonous population that survives is an endangered population in the Anatolian region of Turkey meaning basically that these are the only European fallow deer living where they have always lived. It is thought that Neolithic people then introduced deer from this area to the Island of Rhodes. The Romans then reintroduced them to much of Europe. Later after the Normans conquered Sicily they introduced fallow deer from there to the British Isles and they have been here ever since. At least as far as anyone knows that is how they first got here, so they have been in this country for almost 1,000 years. In the days of the British Empire we introduced these deer to many other parts of the world like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia as illustrated by @graynomad's photo earlier. As a result of these introductions as well as the farming of fallow, they are now one of the most common deer species in the world. There are in fact two species of fallow deer the European and the Mesopotamian or Persian fallow and unfortunately the same cannot be said for the latter species. Fallow are differ from most other deer by having palmate antlers meaning that they are flattened out somewhat like the palm of a hand, in the Persian species Dama mesopotamica the antlers either lack this feature entirely or it is far less pronounced. Originally they were considered one species but have for some time now been regarded as two separate species, up until 1940 it was thought that the Persian fallow which formerly roamed throughout much of the Middle/Near East was probably extinct due do habitat loss and overhunting, but then in 1956 two tiny wild populations were discovered in the Khuzestan province of Iran. Some of these deer were captured and taken to a zoo in Germany and some have been moved to other locations in Iran, in the 1970s an Israeli General Avraham Yoffe a committed conservationist who wanted to restore the original biblical wildlife of Israel devised a plan to reintroduce these fallow deer from Iran, the following article recounts the remarkable story of how some of these deer brought from Iran to Israel. The Dramatic Tale of the Persian Fallow Deer Following the successful establishment of a captive population of Persian fallow in Israel founded with the deer brought from Iran and some from Germany at least three wild herds have now been established. Having come from a very small founder population these deer must be highly inbred, whether this will prove to be a big problem is not yet clear, but obviously the current relationship between Israel and Iran means that there is no hope of bringing fresh blood from the Iranian population to Israel. Photos of Persian fallow deer on ARKive The precise history and origins of Europe’s fallow deer still remains something of a mystery this interesting science article sheds some light on the matter. Phylogeography of the last surviving populations of Rhodian and Anatolian fallow deer European fallow deer map The following map shows just how endangered the Persian species is, there are just two tiny orange dots in Khuzestan indicating the extant populations, you’ll need to zoom in and scroll around Iran and Israel to find the reintroduced herds. Sika deer The sika Cervus Nippon is a native of the Far East found in the Russian Far East and China where a few small scattered populations survive and formerly in the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam where it may now be extinct. The largest surviving and most secure population is in Japan where they occur on all of the main islands and some of the smaller ones. Deer of various sika races have been kept in captivity in the UK in zoos and private collections in 1860 some deer of the Japanese race escaped and became established in the wild, there is now a well established and growing population all of which are thought to be of Japanese origin. The introduction of this species is of some concern to conservationists because they readily hybridise with red deer and it’s now uncertain whether there any truly pure red deer left anywhere on the mainland or whether the only pure animals are found on some of the Hebridean Islands. Here are some photos of sika on ARKive Distribution map Chinese water deer The Chinese water deer Hydropotes inermis is an unusual deer species in that the bucks are not armed with antlers but instead have long canine teeth or tusks, this species is listed as vulnerable there are two races Chinese and Korean the Chinese race is now confined to an area of the lower Yangtze Basin around Shanghai where the population is declining, the Korean race is restricted to the west coast of the Korean Peninsula it is apparently still quite widespread in South Korea but exactly how it is faring in North Korea is not known for sure. At the end of the 19th century water deer from China were brought to Woburn Park in Bedfordshire where they were bred successfully, deer from there were then sent to other collections and at some point some animals escaped allowing the species to become established in the wild. Being as their name suggests mainly a wetland species they are predominantly found in and around the Fens the area of low-lying marshland in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Norfolk In the east of England. Their population is growing but relative slowly, at least they have not spread far but before long the number in the UK could exceed the population in China. So far they are not known to pose a threat to any native species nor have they become an agricultural pest, so the UK population which is thought to be now about 10% of the world population is increasingly regarded as an important backup population given that they are still declining in China. However as they are an alien species to prevent their spread to other parts of the UK it is a criminal offence to release water deer into the wild. This is the one deer species in the UK that I have not seen having never tried to go and look for them, but I’m sure if you visit some of the Fenland nature reserves where they occur at the right time of day they shouldn’t be too hard to see, although I think they're quite crepuscular. Here are some photos of this virtual sabre-tooth of the deer world on ARKive Distribution map European roe deer There are two species of roe deer the western or European roe Capreolus capreolus and the slightly larger eastern or Siberian roe Capreolus pygargus formerly they were considered subspecies of a single species. The European is found pretty much throughout the whole of Europe and in the north of Turkey as far as the western shore of the Caspian Sea, these deer also occurred in parts of the Middle East but hunting and habitat loss lead to their extinction, attempts to reintroduce roe to Israel have not so far had much success, The Siberian roe is distributed from the far east of Europe across the north of Central Asia and southern Russia into Mongolia, China, Tibet and across to the Pacific Coast and the Korean Peninsula. The German name for the roe deer is reh and a species of African antelope endemic to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland was named the rhebok because of its resemblance to the roe deer and was given the scientific name Pelea capreolus. The actual name capreolus means little goat because as deer go they are a little bit goat like. Roe deer are absent from Ireland, but they successfully recolonised mainland Britain after the Ice Age and may be now our most common deer species. It might therefore come as something of a surprise to many people in the UK, at least those who regularly see these deer, that the roe deer had not in fact not that long ago become extinct in England and Wales and was entirely confined to Scotland, as a result of over hunting and habitat loss. Reintroductions carried out in Victorian times coupled with an increase in tree cover led to the roe deer making a remarkable recovery and they are now abundant once more and found almost everywhere. As far as is known roe deer are not native to Ireland and are entirely absent from the whole island, they were introduced but the only successful population was established on the Lissadell Estate in County Sligo in 1870 and after about 50 years these animals were hunted to extinction to protect newly planted trees in order to establish a forestry industry. As far as is known there are none anywhere in Ireland today. European roe deer distribution map Siberian roe deer distribution map European roe buck, England More to follow roe photos to follow
  6. @michael-ibk you really captured the colours on that roller very nice. I was extremely lucky to spot some lions right by the park gate on the way into Awash on my visit, I'm guessing the news on lions today is really not good, did you learn from your guide if there were still any lions in Awash at all or if there are any in Ali Deghe? Not too long ago there would have been giraffes and buffaloes in Awash and although I would guess much further back, also elephants and black rhinos. It's such a shame that so much of the large wildlife has gone, because Ethiopia's history and culture combined with its wildlife make it a pretty unique tourist destination amongst African countries. One can only hope that more tourists might encourage them to protect what wildlife they have left rather better.
  7. @jeremie Thanks for posting that itinerary, it's interesting to see that they are building a road from Port Gentil to Ombooue, getting to Loango NP by road has always been extremely difficult and not really a practical option, Gabon isn't exactly overburdened with roads. I’m guessing that flying into the park is still no longer an option, but driving would in any case be much cheaper and a better option than going by sea where I could imagine that if the weather is bad and the sea is rough you might not be able to go or could end up having an unpleasant journey. It says that it will take 4-5 hours but presumably it will be a good bit shorter once the highway has been completed. It would certainly in my view be a good idea to have more time on the river as this gives you more chance of seeing the red-capped mangabeys and other monkeys which you would be very unlikely see when driving and you might also get lucky and catch a glimpse of a manatee. You’d probably see a good few more birds as well at least the waterbirds though you should see some of these around the Lagoon. I think once the road is finished and it’s very easy to get to and from Libreville that will make a huge difference and actual just doing a trip like this, seeing the gorillas and the elephants 'on the beach' near La louri Lagoon and the buffaloes, sitatungas and red river hogs on the savannah around Tassi and then heading to STP to explore the islands and their colonial history or find their endemic birds if you're a birder and a perhaps a spot of beach time, would make for a great trip.
  8. Soemmerring's Gazelle This species Nanger Soemmerringii is found in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia it also occurred in Sudan in the past but is believed to be extinct there. The major threat to this species is again uncontrolled hunting and competition with and habitat degradation caused by livestock, these problems have been exacerbated by the conflicts that have blighted this region. As a result populations of Soemmerring’s gazelle are declining everywhere there are really now only two protected populations one that was introduced to the Dahlak Islands in the Red Sea off the Eritrean Coast and the other is in Awash NP and the nearby Aledhegi Wildlife Reserve in Ethiopia. In recent years these gazelles have declined in Awash I don’t know about Aledhegi, illegal grazing of livestock is a major problem for the gazelles and other large herbivores in Awash, the authorities really need to get on top of this problem somehow but I guess they don’t want to seriously antagonise the Afar communities around the park. However if the Afar continue to take their cattle and other livestock into the park further degrading the habitat and competing with the wildlife animals like the Soemmerring’s gazelle could disappear like the giraffes and buffalos that once lived in the park. Fortunately as with its close relative the dama there’s a good population of these gazelles in captivity and they also had a herd of them at the San Diego Zoo whether they still do I don’t know. Distribution map The following shots are all scanned slides These first two shot are from San Diego zoo These wild shots were taken in Awash NP when I visited there in 99 Crop from the previous shot I had thought that I had at least one better photo from Awash than these ones, but evidently not, however I’m pleased to see that @Atravelynn has just added a better one to her report, Above the Clouds. Exploring Ethiopia´s Extraordinary Endemics with I suspect more to follow, I’m sure there must also be photos in other Ethiopian reports here.
  9. To add to the point about binocular vision which is a typical characteristic of predators, monkeys are thought to have evolved from prosimians that would presumably have been pretty similar to some of the extant prosimians like the galagos, tarsiers, lorises etc, these animals are often voracious hunters of insects and even small lizards. Some of them like tarsiers are I think exclusively carnivorous where as galagos also eat fruit and sap and other plant food, so as well as the fact that binocular vision would be an advantage for animals that were originally arboreal, their ancestors were likely also predators for a time. If you had no problem finding bottled still water then I’m not that surprised you didn’t come across Ambo, a year or two after my trip I was in Singapore and visited the zoo and they had an Ethiopian exhibit, with an artificial cliff home to Hamadryas Baboons and Nubian ibex. On one side of this was a replica of an Amhara village and on the other side a Konso village and inside one of the huts was a cafe called the Konso Cafe and according to the menu they were serving the national dish injera with doro wat and Ambo mineral water. I wasn’t tempted even for old time’s sake and chose to eat elsewhere, but it stuck in my mind particularly the water, I don't know but I wouldn't have thought that Ethiopia does good business exporting Ambo mineral water and they must therefore have imported it specially, of course having said that the teff flour needed to make the injera would have had to be imported as well. I’m very glad to hear that the standard of food has improved and I would guess that the accommodation is overall of a much higher standard. Looking at that menu I do recall having tibs somewhere which I think was actually quite good. The one other dish that I had which sticks in my mind is steak a la Bismak a piece of beef with a fried egg on top, this is not a traditional Ethiopian dish it’s actually properly called steak a la Bismark and should be a beefburger with a fried egg on top. Not the most amusing of menu spelling mistakes I’ve seen, but for some reason it stuck in my mind.
  10. @Zim Girl @jeremie Very interesting thanks for the updates. It’s really great to know that the gorilla trekking in Loango has finally started, although other than the Steppes’ trip I haven’t managed to really find any information about this online. I guess it goes to show how long it takes to habituate gorillas fully as the habituation project had started when I was there in 2008. I hope now that after a few people have been there and done the gorilla trekking had a great time and come back with good photos of the gorillas, that they will then spread the word and this will kickstart further tourism in Gabon. According to the Steppes’ itinerary the gorilla trekking costs an extra 500 Euros that is unless I'm mistaken not much over a third of a Rwandan gorilla permit, I don’t know what the cost for Uganda is now. The fact that start of the gorilla trekking in Loango coincides with Rwanda’s massive gorilla permit price hike could prove to be a major stroke of luck for Gabon. Loango National Park is an amazing place with enough diversity that you could in my view if need be spent the best part of week there to give you a chance to see as much of the wildlife as possible, but really 3-4 days is probably enough. After you’ve done Loango unless you are just going to return to Libreville and hop over to São Tome and Principe for the rest of your time (definitely not a bad thing to do) then you do really need other places to go in Gabon. So I hope this will lead to more places opening up to tourism. For anyone visiting Gabon Langoue Bai has to be top of the list of other places to go in the country. As mentioned earlier in my report shortly after my trip the tourism experiment that WCS was running at Langoue Bai came to an end, WCS decided that they are a conservation organisation not a safari company and that running a tourist camp was not really what they were there for, so having not been able to find a safari company willing to take on Langoue they closed their camp to tourists. In the years since then I haven’t really been able to work out for definite whether it had closed permanently to tourists or whether it was in fact still possible to go there. I’ve found trips advertised online that include Langoue Bai, except half the time I realise after a little while that the webpage I’m looking at is seriously out of date and from before the camp closed. Some of them though aren’t, so I could only conclude that WCS were getting so many requests from people wanting to visit that they have taken to opening the camp to occasional groups. So I’m very interested to see that the Steppes trip includes Langoue Bai because this clearly confirms that the camp must be open to tourists, they have obviously come up with a new route to the camp travelling via the Ivindo River and then travelling by quad bike before walking. Perhaps the walk going via this route is easier or maybe it's exactly the same walk and only the boat and quad bike are different I don't know. @Kitsafari This Steppes trip certainly looks like a great trip to me and with the various river trips, the Bwiti ceremony as well as the walk to the camp at Langoue offers a good bit of adventure which I think is part of the appeal of visiting Gabon besides the opportunity to see rare Central African rainforest wildlife. Since you had such a great time following in my footsteps in Zakouma, perhaps in the near future I'll be reading your Gabon trip report.
  11. This is an immature fish eagle, when they're young like this and have this rather messy brown and white plumage they can be a bit confusing if you've not seen one before.
  12. @Soukous Yes Flickr is Yahoo, when I joined I must have created a Yahoo account but just in the process of joining Flickr, if you go to the Flickr website and click sign up, when you then set up your account you are creating a Yahoo account, however I don't use Yahoo for anything else. Out of curiosity I've just signed into my Yahoo account (fortunately my PC remembered the password), my Yahoo Mail is exactly the same as my Flickr Mail it's full of all the same messages and notifications that I have already read while on Flickr, as I already have my own email I don't need to use it for anything other than to send and receive messages on Flickr. The fact that I have this Yahoo account as well as my Flickr account is of no benefit to me as far as I can see.
  13. The Mhorr gazelles first taken into captivity were sent to Spain’s Experimental Station of Arid Zones (EEZA) in Almeria the only desert region in Europe as mentioned earlier they came from the now disputed territory of Western Sahara which was formerly a Spanish colony. As the animals in this herd were the only known mhorr left it was decided that having all their eggs in one basket was not wise and new herds should be established elsewhere. While reintroduction to the wild was the ultimate aim there was nowhere in Africa safe enough to attempt this with so few animals, in the 1980s the decision was taken that it would be best to send some to other zoos to create new herds. Some of these gazelles were sent to San Diego Zoo and for some time they had a breeding herd there. Sometime I guess a few years back the decision was taken that zoos in America should focus on breeding N. d. ruficollis and zoos in Europe on breeding N. d. mhorr. This I would I guess must be why Marwell zoo no longer have their herd of dama gazelles, they must have been sent to the US, the photos above were taken in 05 and 07 when I last visited in 2010 they no longer had these gazelles. Likewise as far as I can see from their website San Diego no longer have Mhorr gazelles. The mhorrs would have been sent to Europe or even to Africa. These scanned slides of mhorr gazelles at San Diego Zoo were taken in 2002. Conservation Review of the Dama Gazelle
  14. Great photos @Tom Kellie I thought it was time for an update, I hope then perhaps a few other members might add some photos. @jeremie According to the latest taxonomic revision there are 37 different species of gazelles, but as is always the case some of the newly elevated species are not recognised by some taxonomists so the actual number is disputed. Of these different species there are either 15 or 17 found in Africa, the other 20 or so occur from Israel and Gulf States across Central Asia to India, Tibet and Mongolia. The African species according to Kingdon’s Mammals of Africa and the second edition of the Kingdon field guide are as follows. Rhim, Loder’s or slender-horned gazelle Gazella leptoceros Cuvier’s, Edmi or Atlas gazelle Gazella cuvieri Dorcas gazelle Gazella dorcas (includes Pelzeln’s) Speke’s gazelle Gazella spekei Red-fronted gazelle Eudorcas rufifrons Eritrean or Heuglin’s gazelle Eudorcas tilonura Mongalla gazelle Eudorcas albonotatus Thomson’s gazelle Eudorcas thomsonii Peter’s gazelle Nanger petersi Grant’s gazelle Nanger granti Bright’s gazelle Nanger notata Soemerrings gazelle Nanger soemmerringii Dama gazelle Nanger dama Gerenuk Litocranius wallerii Dibatag ammodorcas clarkei In the recent book Bovids of the World by José R. Castelló Pelzeln’s gazelle is elevated to a full species Gazella pelzelnii separate from the dorcas gazelle and the gerenuk is split in two species northern Litocranius sclateri and southern Litocranius wallerii Whether there are 15 or 17 African species all of these gazelles are confined to Northern, Western, Central and Eastern Africa there are no gazelle species in Southern Africa, the southernmost gazelles are a population of Grant’s gazelles found in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park. Although it does closely resembles a gazelle the springbok Antidorcas marsupialis found in Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa is not a gazelle, again depending on your point of view there is either 1 species or according to Bovids of the World 3 species of springbok. Unlike gazelles the springbok has a dorsal crest of white hair which can be erected, this crest is otherwise hidden underneath two folds of skin that form a pouch lined with scent glands, hence the scientific name marsupialis ‘pouched’ from the Latin marsupium meaning pouch. Given their similarity in appearance to gazelles I was going to suggest that perhaps springbok photos should be added to this thread but I see there's already a photo in the Show us your small antelope species thread so maybe that is a more appropriate place as they're not gazelles. Sadly due to a combination of uncontrolled hunting and competition with and habitat degradation caused by livestock has markedly reduced the population of some of these gazelle species bringing them close to extinction in the wild. Several of them are listed as endangered by the IUCN and their populations are still decreasing, this coupled with the fact that they are living in some pretty remote, inhospitable and in some cases fairly unfriendly locations makes, getting to see some of these species in the wild a little difficult. For example the Dibatag is found only in Somalia and the neighbouring Ogaden Region of Ethiopia, visiting Somalia is out of the question and the Ogaden likewise I would think, as it is subject to serious travel warnings. The northern part of Somalia known as Somaliland which declared independence some years ago, but is not internationally recognised is safe to visit and it may be possible to see Pelzeln’s and Speke’s gazelle there which are endemic to this region. Fortunately good numbers of some of these endangered gazelles exist in captivity providing a source of animals for reintroductions and an insurance policy should they become extinct in the wild. I hope that at some point in the future someone may add some wild or semi-wild photos of some of these rarer off the beaten track species in the meanwhile I will add some of my shots taken in captivity and later on some shots of some of the wild gazelles I’ve seen. Dama Gazelle The dama or addra gazelle (Nanger dama) is the largest gazelle species, once extremely common around the fringes of the Sahara Desert particularly in the arid wooded grasslands of the Sahel this species shared almost the exact the same distribution as the scimitar-horned oryx. Severe habitat degradation cause by the overgrazing of livestock and out of control hunting following the arrival of motor vehicles and modern firearms in the region has had huge impact on large Sahelian/Saharan ungulates. Up until the 1950s dama gazelles were still common throughout much of their range but between the 50s and the 70s numbers declined markedly in large part because of Arab hunting parties driving out into the desert in search of animals to hunt. Dama are large conspicuous animals which made them an easy target for these hunting parties As a result they have been wiped out across much of their range, a major stronghold for the species has always been the Ouadi Rimé Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve in Chad in the 1970s there were estimated to be between 10-12,000 of them in the reserve. As with other populations these animals were targeted by Arab hunters as recently as 2001 groups of hunters were going to Chad to hunt this critically endangered species, the hunting was at least temporarily halted after a local NGO kicked up a fuss. The following is from the IUCN Redlist website For a time the OROA Reserve was the frontline in the war between the Libyan backed FROLINAT rebels and Chadian government troops, making it too dangerous for the reserve’s rangers or other conservationists to operate there. Oryx and gazelles were likely hunted for food by the warring sides, the oryx were ultimately hunted to extinction and the gazelle population significantly reduced to the point that it was thought that very few remained. Recent surveys have revealed that there are in fact still good numbers of dama gazelles in the OROA and this reserve offers the best hope for the survival of this beautiful species. Distribution map A number of different subspecies have been described but it’s thought that only three of these have any validity, the catastrophic decline in the population of these gazelles has made it difficult to establish the relationship between the different races and where the boundaries were between them. If indeed they are different races at all in the far east of their range damas are very largely white all over except for the neck and shoulders which are rich red brown, in the centre of their range the brown colour extends all the way down their backs, in the far west they are a much darker chestnut brown and this colour extends right down to their hind legs and also their forelegs. Those in the east are classified as Nanger dama ruficollis those in the centre as Nanger dama dama and those in the far west as Nanger dama mhorr, however some taxonomists think that these subspecies may not be valid and that the colour change just represents a cline rather than distinct subspecies much as is thought to be the case with plains zebras. The question of whether or not the different subspecies are valid has important implications for the conservation of the dama gazelle. The dark animals found originally in the far west and north of their range are known as Mhorr gazelles these animals have been relentlessly hunted for what in Morocco they call Baid-el-Mhorr which means Mhorr’s eggs, this is in fact what’s known as a bezoar stone and is produced in the animals gut. Many animals (notably goats) produce bezoar stones in their guts, since ancient times people in Persia and further east have valued these bezoars for the fact that they are supposedly an antidote to all poisons and as such they are a popular ingredient in traditional medicines. Having hunted out the Mhorr gazelles in the north of their range the Arabs would travel further and further south to find them eventually they were hunted to extinction in the wild. They now only survive in captivity and all of these animals are thought to descend from just four animals that were captured in the Western Sahara and taken to Spain, obviously the entire population is severely inbred. They may not always have done so in the past but these days zoos involved in captive breeding programs take great care to avoid mixing different subspecies to maintain their genetic integrity. If the different subspecies of dama are not valid then it would make sense to breed some of these Mhorr gazelles with other captive dama gazelles that are currently regarded as belonging to the subspecies Nanger dama ruficollis these animals are descendents of a herd captured at Ouadi Haouach close to the OROA Faunal Reserve in Chad in this case there were more founders around 20 so these animals are less inbred. There are enough of these two forms in captivity now that an experiment should be set up to crossbreed some of them as is suggested in the following scientific paper on this issue. Splitting or Lumping? A Conservation Dilemma Exemplified by the Critically Endangered Dama Gazelle (Nanger dama) While extinct in the wild the Mhorr gazelle has been introduced/reintroduced into fenced reserves in Morocco at Souss Massa where they are being bred for release into the wild further south and at Guembeul Reserve and Ferlo Nord Reserves in Senegal. The first re-established population was in the Bou Hedma National Park in Tunisia this attempted reintroduction or perhaps introduction as the park may be outside their original range has failed, the population never became properly established and declined to just three animals. The reasons for this are not clear but it’s thought that poaching was a significant factor and likely predation of newborns by jackals I have read a news article from a couple of years ago stating that these gazelles will be reintroduced to Mauretania but as far as I can tell this has not happened. There are no animals of the typical dama race Nanger dama dama in captivity. There is a significant population of N. d. ruficollis gazelles in zoos in the US now and also on hunting ranches in Texas so besides possible problems with inbreeding their future is pretty secure. The following photos were taken at Marwell Zoo near Winchester in the UK where they used to have a good sized herd of these animals, these animals are descendants of the animals originally caught at Ouadi Houach in Chad, and Marwell was the first zoo in the UK to breed them. The most recent surveys suggest that the population of these gazelles in the Ouadi Rime Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve in Chad is doing well enough that a reintroduction of this subspecies of the dama gazelle should not prove necessary. The recent reintroduction of the scimitar-horned oryx into the OROA should ensure that the gazelles will be much better protected as additional rangers will have been employed to protect the oryx.
  15. @egilio Interesting about the bee-eater sighting @janzin yes I imagine only a fairly small number were printed and when it was first published in 1998 there were no other books covering Zambia, but then in 2003 Birds of Africa South of the Sahara came out, with this book available I would think the market for the Zambian book is just too small to bother reprinting it.

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