Wildlife

Tennessee Tragedy

The painted wolf seen being killed by a crocodile in the BBC “Dynasties” film was called Tennessee. She was a two-year-old daughter of Blacktip’s. This incident upset me greatly and still does. This is what I wrote in my diary afterwards and reproduced in my book “Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s Life”, which I wrote with Peter Blinston. I don’t want to show the graphic pictures in the book, because it is still too upsetting to see and far more disturbing than my baboon shots. Instead, this describes my gut feelings at the time for a wolf cut short in her prime and my pictures show her in happier moments of her life.

Close Encounters of the Gorilla Kind (2)

“Stand your ground. Stand tall and don’t look him directly in the eyes,” said the guide, calmly.

That’s all very well, but when standing in front of a six foot 500 pound silverback gorilla it was difficult to compose myself and follow his instructions. One minute I had been observing the silverback sitting quietly in a glade; the next minute he stood up, ran over and mock-charged me. He let out a deep, grumbling rumbling sound from deep in his belly: a silverback warning intended to intimidate without becoming physical.

Close Encounters of the Gorilla Kind (1)

I was instructed to leave everything behind except my camera. I left my rucksack on the dense forest floor and followed my guide, my excitement building. A variety of birds were perched on high singing. I spotted a fabulous looking Blue-headed coucal, its deep and resonant song calling through the forest. The air was heavy with a heady mix of heat and humidity.
A clearing in the dense forest afforded a unique view: Rwanda to the south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the west. I was in Mgahinga National Park, a least known about gem in south western Uganda.

CECIL AND THE HWANGE LION KINGS

In May 2008 researchers sighted two five year old male lions at Mangisihole Pan, and so named them the “Mangisihole Boys”.

Towards the end of the year they had moved from the eastern part of the park where they were first sighted and were now associated with the Ngweshla pride, led by a male named Ugly (I am curious as to the reason for his name). A ratio of 2 to 1 ensured the Mangisihole Boys won the fight easily. As part of their victory dance they did what all male lions do – they killed the cubs of the former leader and then went on to mate with the females to start their own bloodline. The larger male was darted and collared and given a name. A name we have all come to know: Cecil.

Lessons for a Hippopotamus Child

Last month, friends invited us to spend a few days on a houseboat on Lake Kariba. Our captain took us across the tranquil waters of the world’s largest man-made lake (by volume) to Palm Bay. In addition to a few elephants, a number of crocodiles and many impala we found ourselves parked near a pod of hippo. To our delight we saw a few heads poking out of the water with small spaces between their ears… there were babies in this hippo pod!

Flashback: The Macho Man and the Elephant

We like to go up to Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba in the Zambezi Valley, knowing that many elephant live wild and, to some degree, with man close at hand. One often sees them walking down the main roads and yes, if you’re sensible you always give them right of way – a rampaging pachyderm can do an awful lot of damage to a car. Going out to photograph these beautiful creatures can be risky. One must always remember they are wild and to give them the space and the respect they deserve. Taking friends that have been visiting us to Kariba, especially if they share my passion for photography, is always special.