Wednesday March 12, 2014
In August 2013 a US Professor was killed by an elephant in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania, while on a walking safari. In December 2013, a British tourist was almost killed when their car was turned over by an elephant in South Africa's Kruger National Park. In October 2009, a safari guide working with the BBC was charged at and killed by an elephant, while filming a children's show in southern Tanzania. And in September 2009, a British tourist narrowly escaped with his life when he was charged at by an elephant, upon arrival at his safari camp in Kenya. His leg was gored into quite a mess, but he's expected to make a full recovery. It does beg the question - is going on safari dangerous? And what's with these elephants?
Obviously the answer is, "yes, a safari can be dangerous". You're dealing with wildlife, it's unpredictable, that's part of the thrill of being on safari. If you take basic precautions, follow the guide, park and camp rules you should be fine. In fact tourists getting attacked by wildlife is quite rare, especially compared with the local population who have to live with the dangers every day. Farmers and pastoralists who live close to national parks and wildlife conservation areas are at much higher risk. Women for example, often have no choice but to wash cooking utensils and clothes in rivers where crocodiles and hippos live. And it's the hippo, not the elephant, that is responsible for most of Africa's fatalities by a wild animal.
The African elephant is larger and generally more aggressive than the smaller Asian elephant. There's no playing soccer or polo with an African elephant. And circuses are really out of the question. African Elephants charge when they feel threatened, they'll tend to be more aggressive in areas where there has been a lot of poaching. Elephants never forget. Guides and rangers can read elephants and will generally know whether one is about to charge for real, or whether it is mock charging. I've been mock charged several times and almost died from a heart attack, while my guide has merely chuckled. But in general, when respected, the African elephant will not harm you. It is in fact one of the most gentle and intelligent creatures on earth.
More About: Keeping Safe on Safari l Africa's Most Dangerous Animals l The "Big Five"
Elephant bull mock charging, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe - © Getty Images/Steve Allen
Sunday March 9, 2014
I've always had the sneaking suspicion that animal group names are more poetic than scientific. Come to find out, that many of them actually are made up by some eccentric lady more than 500 years ago. Dame Juliana Berners wrote an essay on hunting in the Book of St Albans in 1486. In the essay she classified groups of animals with nouns that she simply thought sounded good. And so we have a gaggle of geese, an army of ants, a school of fish, a pride of lions, a troop of baboons and some of my favorites:
A crash of rhinos
A cackle of hyenas
A coalition of cheetahs
An obstinacy of buffalo
A conspiracy of ravens
An intrusion of cockroaches
A murder of crows
A tower of giraffes
A bloat of hippos
A leap of leopards
Some groups of animals have more than one name. You can say a herd of buffalo, a troop or a gang. But I think an obstinacy of buffalo sounds best, don't you? The good thing about group names having their basis in poetry and not science is that we can simply make them up ourselves. How about a snort of hippos, a rumble of elephants, or a polka of leopards?
Find more group names from the San Diego Zoo and the NPWRC.
Tower of Giraffes -- © Getty Images/Theo Allofs
Thursday March 6, 2014
April brings spring to North Africa and autumn to South Africa, with lots of warm rain falling in between. The Egyptians celebrate the arrival of spring by "sniffing the breeze" and picnicking with their families. Coptic Christians in Ethiopia will be relishing some chicken and local brew on Easter Monday (21 April) that's when they break their traditional 55 day fast.
Runners with a slightly mad streak will be puffing through the sands of the Sahara in Morocco, for a grueling 6 day marathon. Sufi's in Fez, Morocco celebrate their spiritual culture. And anyone visiting southern Africa, do go and check out the International Arts Festival in Harare for a bit of music, dance and spoken word at the end of the month. Get more details about all of Africa's major festivals and events this April.
More About: March Festivals l May Festivals l Africa's Best Festivals
Harare International Arts Festival Poster - © HIFA
Monday March 3, 2014
Congratulations to Kenya's beautiful Lupita Nyong'o for winning an Oscar last night for Best Supporting Actress!
And now for something completely different ....
20 fun African wildlife facts to liven up your Monday ....
- The flamingos' diet of shrimp-like crustaceans are responsible for its pink color
- Hippos secrete a natural sunscreen that is colored red and eventually turns brown
- Giraffe tongues are dark blue and average around 20 inches in length
- Leopards are strong swimmers and eat fish
- Lions are the only cats that live in groups (prides)
- Warthogs can jump
- Chimpanzee females reach reproductive age at 13
- Male Nile Crocodiles attract females by bellowing, slapping their snouts in the water, and blowing water out of their noses
- Every zebra has a unique stripe pattern, just like human finger prints
- Hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs
- Impalas can jump over 10 meters (33 feet) in a single leap
- Aardvarks have ears like a rabbit, long tails, webbed claws, sharp nails, long snouts, and are not related to pigs (despite their name)
- Both Black and White rhinos are actually gray
- An elephant's trunk contains about 100,000 different muscles
- Cheetahs only need to drink every 3 or 4 days
- Cape Buffalo have good memories, they've been known to attack people that have harmed them years after the event
- Jackal males and females mate for life
- Male Vervet monkeys have a turquoise blue scrotum and a red penis
- Ostriches can sprint up to 43 miles (70 kilometers) an hour and use their wings as rudders to change direction
- An adult Mountain Gorilla will eat about 60 lbs of vegetation per day
Want to See All this Yourself?
Source: National Geographic and Image -- © Getty Images/Frank & Joyce Birek