Ongava Research Centre Blog...


2015 - Week 14
- (Added 5. Apr. 2015 - 11:00)

I was reviewing some of late last year’s camera trap shots of our elephants, and was taken by how well-matched the colour of the mud and the skin colour of the elephant are in this shot. We know that elephants spray themselves with water and mud in order to help with protection from both the elements and skin parasites. In doing this they take on the colours of the soil. This can be very well seen in Etosha National Park, where the so-called ‘white ghosts’ are elephants that spray themselves from a water source that has a pale clay as its surrounding soil base. Whatever the colour, elephants always seem to enjoy the experience…



2015 - Week 13
- (Added 29. Mar. 2015 - 11:00)

Last year we showed some examples of melanistic and leucistic animals (a dark gabar goshawk and a pale kudu). In both conditions, the cells that make skin colour express pigment in a way that is different from normal. In general terms, being a different colour than others individuals of the same species is bad news, since coat colours for most animals have evolved to be optimum for their habitats. Hence whether you are predator or prey, then you will be more conspicuous, and likely to be less successful. In some cases however, the defect might be advantageous, in which case it is called ‘adaptive’… hence evolution! Here we see another melanistic individual on Ongava, in this case a rock hyrax. I’d say this coat colour is unlikely to give much advantage; hyraxes are the preferred prey species for Verraux’s eagles…

Photo credit: William Novell, Ongava Lodge



2015 - Week 12
- (Added 22. Mar. 2015 - 11:00)

Vigilance is crucial for the survival of species that are potential prey. Groups of antelope are particularly alert when drinking – the flight response for animals that have their heads down may be delayed by a few milliseconds, and that may mean the difference between escape and capture. Often we will see that not all the animals in a group drink at the same time, at least some are on the lookout. However, when an alert is sounded, the group acts as one, as the gemsbok below. Hence the term ‘safety in numbers’, since predator hunting success is found to be significantly higher for lone prey. One species will also react to warning calls from other species – a well-known example is that of warning calls made by monkeys and baboons being interpreted by other species. Interestingly, we see that species appear to have different ‘credibility’ ratings – for example, repeated alarm calls from a lone wildebeest male seem to be ignored, while the merest snort from a kudu send the entire drinking ensemble off into the hills.



2015 - Week 11
- (Added 15. Mar. 2015 - 11:00)

I imagine some of you will have seen the well-known scene from the ‘Karate Kid’ movies – the crane kick, where, in preparation for a kick, the protagonist balances on one leg, arms outstretched. Presumably the name for the kick derives from the behaviour of male cranes when fighting. Well, it seems secretary birds adopt a very similar pose when threatened. They use their long legs to stamp on prey (often snakes) with significant force. Not that the warthog here seems particularly impressed. Mind you, it takes a lot to chase off a warthog…



2015 - Week 10
- (Added 8. Mar. 2015 - 11:00)

Optimistic!




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