Elephant gestation periods are the longest of any mammal - 22 months - and baby elephants form very close bonds with their mothers. Female elephants may even stay with their mothers throughout their lives until the mother dies. When a baby elephant is born it weighs more than 100kg. Within a few days of birth, the calf is able to keep up with the herd which is immensely protective of their young. Adult elephants have no predators but calves are vulnerable to lions and crocodiles.
The repetitive, almost mechanical-sounding trill of the Crested Barbet may be heard in a wide range of sub-Saharan habitats. This barbet's Latin name, Trachyphonus vaillantii, refers to its distinctive call, as trachyphonus means 'rough sound'. With colouring as raucous as its voice, the Crested Barbet looks a little bit like the punk of the African bush, and it has an attitude to match - often behaving aggressively towards birds that encroach on its territory.
This exquisite creature, hyperolius marmoratus, is called a marbled or painted reed frog due to its colourful patterns. There are many different types of marbled reed frog which have very different markings, but their taxonomy hasn't been sorted out yet. They are found in varied habitats within range of fresh water in many southern African countries. This reed frog can occasionally unexpectedly change its sex, a fact which plays a key role in the narrative of the Jurassic Park movies. The dinosaurs were meant to all be female but were bred with reed frog DNA and ended up reproducing.
A rare picture of a Kori Bustard in flight. These unusual-looking birds are reluctant to take flight, which is understandable, since they are rather large and thickset. Kori Bustards are more often seen walking sedately on the ground foraging for insects, seeds, carrion and acacia gum (hence their Afrikaans name 'gompou'). They are most often found in grassland, scrubland and bushveld areas in nature reserves in the Karoo, Highveld, Kalahari and Namib desert areas.
A black wildebeest basks in the afternoon sun. These wildebeest are also called white-tailed gnu due to their pretty blonde tails. This photograph clearly shows the rather fantastic nose tuft and neat mohawk-like mane that distinguishes these gnu from their 'blue' cousins. The blue wildebeest has a larger muzzle and a longer, less spiky, mane. The name 'gnu' is said to have originated from the Khoisan's name for these herbivores: T'gnu, which refers to the bull's mating call, "ge-nu".
One of the most popular and memorable ways of seeing the Okavango Delta is by makoro - a local variant of a canoe - which is one of the primary modes of transport in this watery paradise. In the past, makoros were made of local trees, but these days some Bayei fishermen find it more convenient to use synthetic fibreglass canoes. Poling is a very peaceful and scenic way to view the Delta and affords visitors exquisite views of sunsets like these.
A Coppery-tailed Coucal enjoys the last few rays of a winter sunset. This bird is often active just after dawn and in the evening, foraging on amphibians, fish, reptiles, rodents, insects and crustaceans. It also preys on weaver birds and sometimes Blue Quail. Coppery-tailed Coucals are thought to be monogamous and, unlike cuckoos, they look after their own young.
A Green Wood Hoopoe clutches a fly in its beak. These beautiful iridescent birds are highly gregarious and often fly around in family groups. Their presence is usually signalled by their mad, cackling call. Green Wood Hoopoes are cooperative breeders, meaning that a whole family group – up to ten birds - will work together to ensure the success of one breeding pair.
The winter sun sets on Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe. This peaceful scene shows a lush grassland which is relatively unusual in sub-Saharan Africa, because winters are usually so dry and harsh. ‘Mana’ means ‘four’ – a name which refers to the four pools that draw an abundance of animals and support a thriving aquatic eco-system during the dry season.
A herd of buffalo kick up dust around a muddy river bed at the Chitake River in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe. Walking tours are offered at Mana Pools and it can be pretty nerve-wracking to explore this riverine area with such large, powerful animals so close by. Female buffalo form a strong bond within a herd and are highly protective of their young. Herds can grow very large – into the thousands – if grazing permits.
Warm late afternoon light accentuates this Grey go-away-bird’s magnificent crest. These birds often frequent gardens in the dryer northern parts of southern Africa and their clumsy struggles to balance their large bodies and long tails on tiny perches are quite comical. Of course, their most distinguishing feature is their ‘kweh’ call for which they are named in many southern African languages: they are called umKlewu in isiZulu, Kwêvoël in Afrikaans, Mokowe in sePedi and Mokuê in Setswana. Their English name refers to the perception that their characteristic squawk warns of, or warns off, approaching danger.
Mana Pools is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Zimbabwe named for the four life-sustaining pools that attract teeming wildlife during the dry sub-Saharan winter. These leafless baobabs and the dry yellow grass around them show how little rain occurs in this area in midwinter - which is why the Pools are such a magnet for thirsty animals. In summer, these baobabs will sprout plentiful green leaves and large creamy flowers that bloom at night and are full of tartaric acid and vitamin C.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt - and after that as well. You can almost hear the angry growl of the lion cub on the right as its tail gets bitten and pulled like a rope-toy. Play is an important part of the learning and bonding process for lion cubs. They spend most of their waking hours stalking, scratching, boxing, pouncing on and nibbling one another.
This looks like the conclusion of a romantic-comedy movie set in the Animal Kingdom. Instead of a spaghetti-kiss, the protagonists share a fish-kiss. This is what feeding-time looks like for many Malachite Kingfisher parents, but this scene is a bit unusual since juveniles of this species usually have black beaks instead of red ones. In addition to fish and aquatic insects, these exquisite riverine birds also snack on crustaceans and riverine insects.
The Hycleus oculata beetle is typically found munching on flower petals. They have a number of quite descriptive names which tell us a lot about them. They are colloquially called ‘CMR beetles’ because their colouring resembles uniforms worn by the Cape Mounted Riflemen in South Africa in the early 1800s. As this aposematic (warning) colouring shows, these beetles are best left in peace. Their other name, ‘blister bean beetles’, refers to the poison that they secrete which causes blistering and swelling of the skin, and to their tendency to be bean and pea crop pests. This one was seen at Giants Castle Game Reserve, Drakensberg, KwaZulu Natal.
This is an image well-known to many movie-lovers – a roaring male lion is the signature of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film studio. However, despite the fact that most of us have seen footage of a lion roaring on film at some point, nothing can prepare you for what it sounds like in real life. A lion’s grunting roar can be heard up to 6kms away and seems to reverberate not just between your ears but in your ribcage as well. It is the loudest roar of any big cat and it is unbelievably humbling to hear it at close range.