South Africa Diaries: Day 8
We left Oliphant’s camp at about 6am again this morning, and spent the whole day driving to our next, and final, camp. We had a lot of distance to cover today so we drove faster than yesterday and didn’t see as much. We did, however, still see a fair bit. One really amazing and pretty rare sighting that we got was of a cat serval hunting small rodents, and I managed to get it on film. It's certainly not award winning footage, but I'm glad I managed to capture it. As well as the serval, we also saw a pride of lions and two leopards. Quite a day for spotting big cats!
We eventually got to Skukuza camp, and then drove out to the dam to see the sunset. African sunsets have to be one of the wonders of the natural world! Chenay, a Kruger worker, had invited us back to her house for a braai (South African barbeque). She works in Kruger as part of the scientific services team and told us how rare it was to see a serval, especially hunting - she hasn’t seen one in six years. She also explained to us how they do their animal counts in the park. Lions are counted at night by basically playing the sound of a dying animal from a massive speaker on the back of a truck, and counting how many animals show up. Similar methods are also used for counting some other carnivores.
Species Of The Day: Leopard
The leopard, Panthera pardus, is the most widespread of the five Panthera species (which also includes the lion and the tiger), with a distribution that spreads throughout most of sub-Saharan African, the middle east and Asia. There is even a small North African population remaining in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, but it has been driven to near extinction by poachers. They are classed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List.
Hunting is a major problem for leopards, whose populations are decreasing at the current rate. Interestingly however, it was found that trophy hunters are willing to pay more for a trophy if the money is benefiting the local communities rather than government bodies. This shows how trophy hunting of leopards does have benefits as well as draw backs, if done sustainably. It has been suggested that, as a result of inter-specific competition with lions, leopards are limited in their foraging ability in some areas, which affects their choice of prey.