Most guests visits wildlife areas to see all the large animals you may find and maybe some of the smaller creatures that are easily seen. One of the small ones most people miss however is the Ticks. Ticks belong to the Arachnid family and there are millions of them all around most wildlife areas, but almost never seen because of their small size.
Some animals like Giraffe can host up to about 7000 ticks and others like Buffalo almost around 10000 and although they might be of little significance to these animals, only one tick on a human could cause severe illness by causing a disease called “tick bite fever” which could be extremely dangerous. This just goes to show how incredible these animals’ immune systems must be .
Often on game drives we notice a small bird called an oxpecker on animals, they actually feed on all these ticks and even sometimes the terrapins would take of ticks from the host while it is wallowing or cooling down in a water hole.
Another bird that has a huge influence on tick numbers is the Helmeted Guineafowl found quite commonly around this area. As Guineafowl are mostly terrestrial they would pick of ticks from grass stems and of the ground while they lay in wait for the next animal to come past and become the new hosts.
Another reducing factor would be regular grass burning plans which would also then kill off big amounts of these small but potent critters.
Ranger – Southern Camp
This morning while out on safari, Moses my tracker, picked up very fresh spoor of Elephants. We decided to try and find these mighty beast of the wild. After a good hours’ tracking and predicting we found a small satellite breeding herd with a few juveniles, sub adults and to our disbelieve a very young calf no more than a month old. While most of them were feeding on the trees around us, the Calf and one of the juveniles gave us a spectacular show on animal behaviour.
They were running around and playing as children would do while the Matriarch kept an ever watchful eye on the youngest. After a while the calf turned his attention to us by charging our vehicle, and trumpeting with his ears flapping. He stopped about 10 metres away from us, turned, and ran back to his mother as quickly as he could. All this time she didn’t seem phased by his boystrousness at all. The whole vehicle broke out in fits of laughter for this youngsters bravado.
Mike Butler – Southern Camp
During the rainy season we find lots of little pools of water all over the reserve. Obviously this provides lots of water for a myriad of animals to wallow and cool down in. As humans we would probably pay lots of money for these “mud treatments” in a health spa, something our wallowing animals get completely free of charge. We had an incredible sighting of two Rhino cows enjoying this little luxury. It was amazing to see an animal of that size rolling and getting the mud all over them.
The main reasons why animals wallow is firstly to cool themselves down, and secondly to get rid of ecto parasites by layering their whole bodies with mud. After the mud has dried they would make use of “rubbing posts” to scratch all the hard to reach places. This exfoliates the skin and as the dry mud falls of, so does the parasites and ticks that got trapped.
The animals you are most likely to see engaging in this past time is Warthog, Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo, to mention a few….
Just goes to show that even our animals enjoy a little luxury every now and then and who knows… maybe even care about their appearance!
Tim Verryenne (Ranger – Southern Camp)
The Giant African Millipede is a rather common resident in most gardens, cities and Game Reserves mostly seen after or before rains. This is mostly due to the fact that they lack the waxy outer layer on their exoskeletons and in dry conditions lose much of their water through the surface on the skin.
Millipedes starts of as small diplopods with only 6 legs, and as they grow it adds segments to the body. Fully grown millipedes has 2 pairs of legs per segment and can have anything between 80 and 120 legs as adults. When millipedes feels threatened they can roll themselves into a ball, tucking the head tightly into the middle for protection. They also secrete a type of Hydrogen Cyanide as further deterrent and this may be strong enough to stain your skin yellow or orange. A fairly large millipede can secrete enough of this toxin to actually kill a bird or small mammal about the size of a chicken.
Males can be identified as they have a modified pair of legs on the 7th segment which are used to pass on the spermatophores to females of their species.
Millipedes are most commonly seen close to rhino middens, decaying plant matter and moist areas, so keep a look out for these in your area.
Snr Ranger – Southern Camp
It is quite ironic that the very water we depend on for survival can sometimes become such a destructive force that you can just watch in awe as tiny trickles of water becomes raging torrents and leave behind total devastation in it’s wake.
Last week we got to experience a cyclone in our area and basically got our whole seasons’ amount of rain in 48 hours. This off course caused massive floods in our area and unfortunately we were not completely spared the chaos and devastation that comes with that much water.
Roads were damaged, bridges and dam walls collapsed and we also lost one of our lodges which were build on the banks of the Klaserie river which is normally a serene little waterway that added to the ambience of the once awesome Karula lodge, who’s guests had to be airlifted out as none of the roads leading there was accessible.
For quite a couple of days game drives was just impossible and should we have attempted that, it would have been extremely dangerous as in some areas the ground was just too soaking wet and unstable, and tiny drainage lines on the reserve became torrents like these below and other images from in and around our Reserve.
Despite all the damage, the total loss of life according to authorities was only 6, which is a miracle if you take into consideration that 47 informal villages towards our South were completely destroyed. We are however over the worst and our operations are back to normal. We are also planning to repair Karula as soon as possible and we should manage to do that in just a little over three months.
Floods like these are not completely uncommon in the area, as we went through a similar event in February 2000. During these floods however the most damage where to our South –east and the well known Kruger National park had to bare the worst of those which luckily just caused a bit of heavy rain on our side, I guess you can’t be that lucky all the time and mother nature surely knows how to get your attention every once in a while…