After an exciting afternoon of safari photography at Mashatu Game Reserve, we spied a hint of the milky way appearing up in the skies. Stoked, we looked around, ascertained that there were no animals (especially predators) nearby, jumped out of the car for a quickie shot. It was the fastest milky way photography I have ever done ;)
Me: 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.
An adult giraffe keeps an eye on a young one as it feeds on the leaves of an acacia tree. A giraffe’s extra-thick saliva gets its antiseptic properties from the acacia leaves that they eat. Its tongue also has a thick, tough layer that protects it from being cut by the super sharp thorns (from personal experience, ouch) of the acacia tree, while its antiseptic saliva thoroughly coats the thorns so they come out of the digestive system pretty intact. The saliva helps it to heal quickly too should it be cut by the thorns or anything else. So if you have a cut, you can try getting a giraffe to lick on your wound – if you can ever get close enough to one in the wild :)
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.
Do your part to save the wildlife by contributing to the African Wildlife Foundation
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As much as I wanted to capture a successful hunt, much of me was rooting for the steenbok to escape. The little guy survived, phew.