I’ve resurrected an old trail camera. Last night I set it near a water point on the farm and captured some images of Eastern Grey Kangaroos coming to drink. The images are very low resolution which can be forgiven to some extent for infra-red images at night. Sadly the day time images are even worse. I may have to invest in a new camera.
So this African sojourn comes to an end. As always when I’m writing about travel I have picked up new subscribers. Welcome to you, it’s nice to know that there are people out there, but what have you got in store now?
My neck of the woods is the Goldfields region of Victoria, Australia. It has a rich history and is rich in wildlife. People travel long distances to see Australia so stick around and I’ll show you what I can of it.
This may not be as exciting as an elephant about to charge the side of the vehicle but I took it this morning about 200 metres from my house.
Defassa Waterbuck are large and handsome antelopes that are quite common along the Narus River in Kidepo National Park. They require fairly open grassland and they don’t stray far from water.
Any number of subspecies have been described but they fall into two groups. The more easterly group, Common Waterbuck, was the first described and given the scientific name Kobus ellipsiprymnus. Kobus is an African name given a faux Latin ending. Ellipsiprymnus is from Greek – ellipsi meaning ring and primnos meaning hind part. It was so named because of the white target on the animal’s rump.
The more westerly group was described as a separate species, Defassa Waterbuck, but where the ranges meet they hybridise readily and the two groups are now lumped in the one species. There is no white ring on the rear end of a Defassa Waterbuck. So it now has a scientific name celebrating a feature that it doesn’t have.
Only the males have horns and these are used in competition for access to females.
They are said to taste terrible which is quite an advantage when it comes to living with lions and human beings.
The camp at Kidepo National Park is remarkably relaxed. There is an armed guard at the gate on the road. He or she checks your ID then raises the boom gate … but there’s no fence. You are advised to take your torch out with you at night and to look around for wildlife before stepping away from your door.
Warthogs and jackals wander around the bandas. There are Waterbucks on the soccer pitch. One morning I was obliged to take an alternative route to breakfast because there was a buffalo between me and the restaurant. The following morning a lion could be heard roaring just outside the camp.
The warthogs and jackals are quite habituated to human presence, the jackal is the more cautious as well as the more handsome of the two species.
The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals offers three jackals to choose from – Black-backed, Side-striped and Common. On this basis this guy is a Common Jackal because of the coloration and the black tip to the tail …
but other authorities treat the group a little differently. The name Golden Jackal is preferred to Common and the subspecies that occurs in Africa has recently be proposed as a full species with the name African Golden Wolf.
It can be seen from this phylogenetic tree (other researchers have published different trees} that the Golden Jackal is not closely related to the other two jackals nor is it an immediate neighbour to the African Golden Wolf. The physical similarity between the (Eurasian) Golden Jackal and African Golden Wolf may be explained by parallel evolution.
Just to complicate matters all the wolf-like canids have similar morphology and 78 chromosomes. They can and do hybridise with other canid species in the contact zones.
Specifically, we find gene flow between the ancestors of the dhole and African hunting dog and admixture between the gray wolf, coyote (Canis latrans), golden jackal, and African golden wolf. Additionally, we report gene flow from gray and Ethiopian wolves to the African golden wolf, suggesting that the African golden wolf originated through hybridization between these species. Gopalakrishnan et al.
You’ll notice that I haven’t put a final diagnosis in the Jackal captions.
On this visit to the Budongo forest our attentions were focused on the bird banding team which since our last visit had matured into a very efficient operation. We hadn’t set aside any time to specifically follow monkeys or the star attraction, chimpanzees. But this is Budongo, any spare half hour could be put to excellent use.
The key to photographing the monkeys is simply to take your time. Approach quietly, when they start to examine their escape route just settle. After a while they resume feeding or grooming and soon you’re just part of the background.
They may walk right by you.
In that instance I was sitting on the ground and found myself shooting up at mum and her youngster. An older youngster got left behind and came running to catch up …
The next character and I conducted a lengthy study of each other.
The Colobus and Red-tailed Monkeys are a tougher prospect because they spend so much of their time high in the trees.