Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun

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Botswana – The Little Mousey who would be Shrew

Elephant ShrewMe: Oh, so this little mouse-like creature is called a Sandshrew?
My pal Kai: Err, it is actually called an Elephant Shrew. Sandshrew only exists in Pokemon Go.
Me: Oopsie! :p
Confessions of a Pokemon Go-holic” at Mamagua, Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana

The elephant shrew (also called sengis) are represented by a single family, the Macroscelididae, with all 19 living species found exclusively in Africa. The cute little mammal gets its name from the long, pointed head and very long and mobile trunk-like snout. While they look like mice, the elephant shrew is more closely related to a group of African great mammals that includes elephants, sea cows, and aardvarks.

Smaller elephant shrew species like this one are found in the uplands of Southern, Eastern, and Northwestern Africa in dry forests, scrub, savannas, and open country covered by sparse shrubs of grass, while the larger four species of giant elephant shrew prefer to live in forests, closed-canopy woodlands and thickets usually in a nest made of leaf litter. The elephant shrew eats invertebrates like ants, termites, beetles, spiders, millipedes, and worms.

Elephant shrews are monogamous (yay! proud of you) and mate for life. They give birth 4 to 5 times a year. Highly territorial, they stake an area spanning a few acres. When other shrews enroach its territory, the elephant shrew behaves true to its name – they will waste no time in screaming, kicking and sparring – like a human shrew – to drive the trepasser away.

The couple do not hang out together all the time though – they go about on their own looking for food, using sent-marking to let its mate know it is still around and not gallavanting elsewhere. This musky smell also serves as a deterrent against predators such as birds of prey and snakes, as well as help to point our food sources.

The elephant shrew has been listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with the loss of its habitat to urbanization being the biggest threat to their survival. Help conserve the elephant shrew.

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Botswana – Playful Lion Cubs

Lion Cubs
Cute lion cubs playing at Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana

Once ranging across the African continent, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and even northwest India, lions have declined from about 450,000 just 50 years ago to as few as 20,000. They now inhabit the grasslands, bushes and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. A small population also lives in India’s Gir Forest.

The name for a baby lion is a cub, whelp or lionet. Lionesses give birth to 2 to 3 cubs at a time. Generally, a few females give birth around the same time. The cubs are then raised together as a pride. All lactating females in a pride nurse each other’s cubs, showing no favoritism for their own offspring. This is because each lioness is enhancing her own genes’ success by helping to raise her sisters’ offspring. African male lions generally play no paternal role when it comes to raising the cubs – in a nutshell they get the females knocked up, leave the females to raise the young and hunt for food for the whole pride while they sleep 16-20 hours a day, spending the rest of the time patrolling his territory and going home for meals the lionesses have caught for him. (If the lion was human we would have called him an a**hole, but that’s how the animal world works. It’s all about survival and ensuring your own lineage. Without the male lion’s protection, the whole pride may be eaten up by other predators)

Vulnerable to predators like hyenas, leopards, black-backed jackals, and prone to being trampled by large animals like buffaloes, lion cubs have a 60-70% mortality rate. They are also susceptible to being killed by other adult male lions who will kill all cubs not sired by them so they can have their own with the lionesses when they take over a pride. For this reason, cubs remain hidden for one to two months before being introduced to the rest of the pride. In the wild, lions live for an average of 12 years and up to 16 years. They live up to 25 years in captivity.

Lionesses stay within the pride all their lives but male lions either leave of their own accord or are driven off by the pride males at two to three years of age (we call that the “awkward teenage period”). Usually there is only one male lion per pride, or a few male lions from the same offspring may form a coalition to have a pride. This makes the pride stronger and less susceptible for takeover by other male lions.

Information sources: National Geographic Kids, Animal Fact Guide, and our guides Isak Pretorius and Kyle De Nobrega.

Do your part to save the wildlife by contributing to the African Wildlife Foundation

Enjoying this post? Follow my travel adventures in Botswana.


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Film Camera Shopping – Love at First Sight

Siam TLRI have been shooting with a DSLR for two years now, and I wanted to really get back to the basics of photography with a fully manual film camera, as a way to move on to the next higher level. So I made it a point to visit Siam TLR, which came highly recommended to me by my photography friends, during my recent trip to Bangkok.

I stepped into the shop with nothing specific in mind, and I knew I had found THE ONE when the first camera that the owner showed me was this amazing green ostrich vintage darling. It was simply love at first sight.
Siam TLR
Siam TLR is relatively easy to get to, being located at Mahatun Plaza which is just next to Phloen Chit BTS.Siam TLRTake Exit 2 or 4 from Ploen Chit BTS. You can see Mahatun Plaza from the BTS itself. You do not need to walk into the building; Siam TLR is located at the side of the building where 7-Eleven is.
Photo source: Siam TLR
Siam TLR
I can remember the sense of anticipation as I approached the shop…which vintage hottie will I be bringing back with me? :)Siam TLRThe spacious shop is basically an enthusiast’s workroom –  rows and rows of lovingly-restored vintage cameras sit atop shelves, looking pristine and almost mint. You can feel the love and pride of the the owner, who started out Siam TLR 10 years ago as a hobby and online resource for Thais who were interested in old cameras. Khun Surasak restores all the cameras himself at the workroom, and if you are looking for an Olympus, Polaroid, Lomo or Kodak vintage camera, you are at the right place.
Photo source: Siam TLR (I was so excited, I forgot to take photos :p)Siam TLRMe with the owner Khun Surasak – he is so superbly nice and patient! I think he was rather amused with my excitement as I feasted my eyes on my rare green ostrich leatherette Olympus OM1-N (1972 model – which happens to be older than me!). Khun Surasak told me “10 years in business, and this is the first time I see this green one!”

The bimbo in me asked Khun Surasak many, many questions about how to use a film camera, and he answered every single one of them with ease. He speaks a smattering of English, which really helped since my Thai was limited to ordering food and asking for prices or different sizes lol. It feels very different when a shop owner loves his cameras versus one who is only interested in closing a deal.Siam TLRYou know I am into a serious relationship when I not only get the camera, but a family of lenses. All the equipment were in amazingly good condition, and Khun Surasak threw in the lens filters – how absolutely kind! I am so gonna take good care of this special camera, and everytime I click on the shutter button, I will remember the friendly and kind man who sold me this treasure. I will be back for more, Siam TLR! :)

Siam TLR
Address: Mahatun Plaza Building Ground Floor, Phloen Chit Road
BTS: Phloen Chit
Tel: +66 (0)8 1431 0351
Opening Hours: 11:00AM till 6:30PM daily
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/SiamTLR.Shop