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Namibia Etosha all the Big Cats


25th September Etosha/ Mushara

We had been recommended (and booked on) the early morning Etosha Big Cat game drive as our driver-guide, Johannes, was said to be the best in the area. This turned out to be totally correct, as within 2 hours of arriving back in Etosha he had found a small lion pride, two hunting cheetahs, a large leopard, a young leopard and a large lion pride for us. Not to mention two hyena, several rare black and white rhino, a few elephant herds, a jackal and a rare Bat-eared fox. The couple with us were equally pleased.
Our first sighting, en route to Fishers Pan, was of a lioness in the grass eating her kill. She was soon joined by a large male. No one else was around so we watched for a while as they interacted.
We got a message that two cheetahs, brothers, were hunting around the Aroe area. Johannes knew which ones they were and instead of heading to the waterhole edge tried a different way in. Fortuitously they had moved this end and we saw them hunting up close. It took a while for the other jeep to join us, so we had uninterrupted views. Johannes had an idea there was a leopard not far away, towards Okevi, and he was right. A large male hunting around the termite mounds.
After a while he decided to look for different animals and headed towards Chudob waterhole. On the way we came across a bachelor group of elephants, a jackal and a rare Bat-eared fox lying on the pan. A large bull elephant chose to walk in front of us on the road, which held us up for a while. Perhaps this was lucky, as when we turned onto Chudob access track we came across a young female leopard heading along the road towards the waterhole. We followed her for a long while, observing a lot of leopard behaviour.
Eventually we headed back to Namutoni fort for a toilet break. Whilst Steve was out, I spotted a mongoose skittering around the camp. Johannes thought we had time to venture out again before lunch and we tried several waterholes, seeing elephants, zebra, giraffes and many antelope types. At one point he stopped; he said he could tell there was a predator close by due to the springboks nervousness. He thought it was probably a leopard, but it was too late in the day for it to be hunting as they like dawn best. At one waterhole he roundly told off a tourist who was out of the car. Not surprised because it’s dangerous to be out (and the safe toilets were not that far away anyway). A final drive up to Stinkwater, mainly so we could view the pan, had a great surprise; a large pride of lions comprising several females, a large male, several near-adult male cubs and several younger cubs. They roared (well the male), came down the slope, walked around the car (you could have patted them if you were mad enough to try), and headed to a flat plain for a rest about 50m away. We really enjoyed seeing them, but after 30 minutes had to head home for lunch. Our guide kindly told everyone we met en route where the lions were.

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the fastest land mammal and can reach speeds of up to 105 km/h. As it can only keep this pace up for 300 - 400 metres, stalking their prey to a distance of around 50m is preferred before setting off on the chase. Males form coalitions whilst females remain solitary. Cheetah are at home in either open grasslands or savannah woodland and often the fringes of desert. Their occurrence is usually governed by availability of specific prey species. They are found in neither forest nor woodland with thick underbush or tall grass cover, although they will use these habitats for shelter. Water is not essential to their survival as they can survive on the moisture from their prey. Namibia is home to a large portion of the world's remaining cheetah population. The cheetah's main prey is medium antelopes such as steenbok, duiker and springbok and they chase baboons, ground-living birds, bustards, hares and porcupines. Males sometimes join together to hunt larger prey such as wildebeest Colouring: This cat has a beautiful strongly spotted coat and by a long tail, half as long as the length of its head and body. The tail has a unique pattern of striped markings. Litters average three cubs, born in the shelter of tall grass. Cubs stay with their mother for about two years. Cheetahs are around 2m from snout to the tip of the tail, with a body mass of between 40 – 60kg. They stand about 80cm at the shoulders, which is accentuated by an erect crest of hair.
Leopards (Panthera pardus) are solitary animals, except during mating season or females are accompanied by juveniles. They are primarily nocturnal but can be seen in the daytime, particularly in national parks. As they are very secretive, making contact is difficult. They can be recognised by their repeated hoarse rasping cough. In the early morning they habitually lie in the sun on vantage points such as rocks and rocky ridges, giving them a wide view of the surrounding terrain. They are accomplished tree climbers; a trait associated with leopards is to secure their kill high up away from other predators. They hide during the rest of the day and hunt at night. Their hunting technique entails stalking and pouncing, killing larger prey with a holding bite to the throat which suffocates larger prey. Smaller prey are killed by a bite to the back of the neck which usually severs the spinal cord. Plucking fur off the carcass follows, before feeding on the softer parts of the body. The remains of the catch is put in a tree or covered with grass and sand. They are agile climbers and when there is competition from other predators, the carcass will be cached out of reach in the fork of a large tree. Males defend large territories which overlap the territories of two or even three females who defend their territories against other females. Although no other wild cat is spread over such a wide range or with the diverse prey base as the leopard, it is still under threat in many regions. Once common in all parts of Africa apart from the deserts of the Sahara, it has now disappeared from most parts of northern Africa, apart from a few remote areas of the Atlas Mountains, and extreme west of the continent around Etosha. A varied diet from mice to mammals twice their size emphasises the adaptability of the leopard, although they generally feed on medium/ small antelope, or the young of larger game. The range of species eaten depends on availability in the area. They have have been known to feed on hyrax, baboon, fox, fish, reptiles and domestic dogs. The leopard is also well-known for predations of sheep, goats and poultry. Leopards have black spots arranged in rosettes, contrasted on a yellow-golden background and single black spots on their limbs and head. Their tails are white-tipped on the underside. Females give birth to 2 or 3 cubs in hidden lairs or natural holes, thick bush caves and hollow trees. Males are 2.1m inc tail, and 60kg, but females only weigh 32kg.
Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) have a reputation of being scavengers, but are actually very efficient hunters with powerful jaws. This is perhaps best appreciated when an individual is seen running from a kill carrying the hind leg of a wildebeest or other heavy section of a carcass, high off the ground. Adult hyenas can run at up to 60km/hr. Females are larger than males and have an erectile clitoris (which makes it virtually impossible to distinguish between the sexes). Clans of hyena are led by dominant females. Spotted hyena have particularly heavy fore quarters with relatively lighter hind quarters, over emphasised by tucking their tails between their legs when they are running away, giving the impression of sloping backs. Distinguishing the spotted hyena from the brown hyena is tricky; the body spots of the spotted hyena are usually visible, except in very old individuals, it has more rounded ears and a shorter, less shaggy coat. Both spotted and brown hyenas garner very little notice from prey species when walking or lying down. It is only when one runs towards them, that their intended prey is alerted. Once widespread in Namibia, spotted hyenas can now mainly be found in Etosha and Kaokoland, with small populations in the Namib Desert, and Skeleton Coast. Food is dictated largely by what is available, but adults and calves of wildebeest and zebra are the main target.
Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea) is famous for its weird howl, which resembles a hysterical human laugh. The name is descriptive of their dark brown colour. It has a typical hyena profile of appearing higher at the shoulders than the rump. It has a massive head, neck and shoulders, the extra weight being borne by larger fore feet than the hind. They have powerful jaws and strong teeth that enable them to crush and eat even large bones. They are poor killers, confining their kill to small prey. It is highly unlikely that they could tackle kudu or zebra. Brown hyena steer clear of lions or their kills, but have no trouble appropriating the kills from cheetah and will steal from leopards. The African wild dog will drive them off carcasses and their greatest rivals for food are black-backed jackals. Brown hyenas are found in central Namibia, as far north as Etosha and south to the coastal Namib Desert, scavenging along open beaches, where carrion is often washed ashore. Brown hyena are predominately scavengers but their diet also includes a wide range of small mammals, birds, reptiles, fruit and insects. Water is not essential as they can rely on the moisture from their food. This gives them a distinct advantage when water may not be available for long periods of the year, Under these circumstances, they make use of tsamma melons and gemsbok cucumbers to fulfil their water requirements.
Banded Mongeese (Mungos mungo) are a sturdy little animal with a large head, small ears, short, muscular limbs and a long tail, almost as long as the rest of the body. They live in regions of dry, thorny bushland, open savannah, or open forest and grassland areas, especially near water. The banded mongoose is especially common in areas with many termite mounds that serve as housing and food. Banded mongoose are gregarious and live in mixed-sex groups of between 6-40 individuals, averaging ±20). These groups sleep together at night in underground dens, which are often abandoned termite mounds. They are known to change den frequently, up to every 2-3 days. They live on open savannah, open forests and grassland, especially near water; dry, thorny bushland. Namutoni in Etosha is a good place to see them close up. They dig up most of the their food, such as insects and grubs, with their strong claws. They are also partial to snails, small reptiles, wild fruits and the eggs and young of ground nesting birds. Their rough fur is greyish brown, with several dark brown to black vertical bars across the back. The limbs and snout are darker, while the underparts are lighter than the rest of the body. All females in the group give birth on the same day.
Bat-Eared Fox (Otocyon megalotis) is so named because of its large ears, a characteristic of the species. They belong to the same family as jackals and resemble them, but are smaller. Other characteristic features are the broadly black tipped bushy tail (around 25cm long) and black limbs. They are monogamous and can often be found as just a mated pair and their offspring. Predators include large birds of prey, spotted hyenas and larger cats. If a family member is caught, other bat-eared foxes will attempt to rescue it by bravely attacking the predator using harassment techniques which include ankle-biting. Although not noisy animals they can also be heard calling one another with a shrill 'who-who-who' calls. They mark their territorial boundaries by urinating on bushes and trees. The bat-eared fox is an endangered species, mainly due to the trade in their skins. They live in all of Namibia as they follow the rains, which coincide with plentiful insect activity. They favour short grass with bare patches, instead of dense bush. The massive ears of the bat-eared fox allow it to detect invertebrates below ground. It will then dig frantically to unearth its favourite meal of termites. It also feeds on other insects such as beetles, small rodents, lizards, small snakes and wild fruit. Their fur is a beautiful silver-grey colour.
We headed back for lunch at the camp and a cool down before our complimentary afternoon drive with Johannes who found another lion pride for us and generally gave us the opportunity to look around without worrying about driving. We were even lucky enough to find a family group of white rhino, which is rare indeed. As we left a hyena watched us.
That night the lodge put on an outdoor buffet, which made a nice change. The obligatory singing experience was included, of course.

Ovambo, or Ovawambo (Kwanyama) are the biggest of the Aawambo sub-tribes; a Bantu ethnic group native to Southern Africa, primarily Namibia. They are the single largest ethnic group in Namibia, accounting for about half of the population. They have retained many aspects of their cultural practices, despite concerted efforts from Christian missionaries to wipe out ‘pagan practices’. The Ovambo reside in the flat sandy grassy plains of north Namibia, sometimes referred to as Ovamboland. These plains are generally flat, stoneless and at high altitudes. Water courses, known as oshanas, irrigate the area and tropical vegetation is sustained by seasonal rainfall that floods the region into temporary lakes and islands. The Ovambo people are a Bantu-speaking group. In Namibia, these are the AaNdonga, Ovakwanyama, Aakwambi, Aangandjera, Aambalantu, Ovaunda, Aakolonkadhi, Aakwaluudhi and Aambandja. The Ovambo started migrating from the northeast around the 14th century from Zambia to the Angola-Namibia border; then south in Namibia in the 17th century. They have a close cultural, linguistic and historical relationship to the Herero found in more southern parts of Namibia. In contrast to most ethnic groups in Africa, the isolated, low-density pastoral nomadic lifestyle left the Ovambo largely unaffected by Arab and European traders before the 19th century. When Germany established a colony in Namibia in 1884, they left the Ovambo people undisturbed. After WWI, Namibia was annexed by the South African government into the Union of South Africa as the Territory of South West Africa. This brought major changes, with South African plantations, cattle breeding and mining operations entering the Ovamboland. The Portuguese colonial administration in Angola, previously focused on coastal operations, entered southern Angola to form a border with the expanding South African presence. The Ovambo launched several armed rebellions against South African rule in the 1920s and 1930s, all suppressed by the Union Defence Force. The South African administration in Namibia continued the "Police Zone" in south, a region created by the Germans with a Red Line covering about two-thirds of the province later to become Namibia. Ovambo were not allowed to move into the Police Zone, and other tribes and Europeans could move north without permits. This isolated the Ovambo people, preserving traditional authorities. Due to labour shortage in the Police Zone and South Africa, from the Herero and Namaqua genocide, the South African government allowed migrants. South African Apartheid rule was brought into Ovamboland in 1948 and declared Ovamboland as independent province in 1973. The Ovambo rejected the development, and in 1975 the chief minister of Ovamboland was assassinated. In conjunction with the armed SWAPO movement, Namibia and its Ovambo people gained independence in 1990. The Ovambo religion has a supreme, Kalunga, with rites and rituals centred around sacred fire like many ethnic groups in southwestern Africa. Kalunga cosmology states that the Supreme Being created the first man and woman, who had a daughter and two sons. The daughter's lineage created Ovambo, according to the traditional beliefs of the matrilineal Ovambo people. Rituals involve fire making and keeping ceremonies, rain making dances, and rites that involve throwing herbs in the fire and inhaling the rising smoke. The head priest traditionally was the king of a tribe, and his role was in part to attend to the supernatural spirits and be the chief representative of the Ovambo tribe to the deities. Christianity arrived among the Ovambo in the late 19th century with Finnish missionaries.

Posted by PetersF 12:43 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals birds elephant zebra cheetah namibia antelope lion giraffe leopard springbok etosha hornbill weavers mushara

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