Tag Archives: Eastern Cape

Southern Right Whales

Approximately 10,000 southern right whales are spread throughout the southern part of the Southern Hemisphere.  Like other right whales, the southern right whale is readily distinguished from others by the callosities on its head, a broad back without a dorsal fin, and a long arching mouth that begins above the eye. Its skin is very dark grey or black, occasionally with some white patches on the belly. The right whale callosities appear white due to large colonies of cyamids (whale lice).

Video credit: RailTime Photography

Right whales do not normally cross the warm equatorial waters to connect with the other species and (inter) breed: their thick layers of insulating blubber make it difficult for them to dissipate their internal body heat in tropical waters.

Life span is not clear although whales seem to reach over 100 years old.

The southern right whale has made Hermanus, South Africa one of the world centers for whale watching. During the winter months (June to October), southern right whales come so close to the shoreline that visitors can watch them from the shore as well as from strategically placed hotels. Hermanus also has two boat–based whale watching operators. The town employs a “whale crier” (cf. town crier) to walk through the town announcing where whales have been seen. Southern right whales can also be watched at other winter breeding grounds. In False Bay whale-watching can be done from the shore or from the boats of licensed operators in Simon’s Town. Plettenberg Bay along the Garden Route of South Africa is another mecca for whale watching not only for southern rights (July to December)but throughout the year. There are both land based and ocean safaris boat based whale encounters on offer in this beautiful town. Southern right whales can also be seen off the coast of Port Elizabeth with marine eco tours running from the Port Elizabeth harbour, as some southern right whales make Algoa Bay their home for the winter months.

The Book Scorpion (pseudoscorpion)

A pseudoscorpion, also known as a false scorpion or book scorpion, is an arachnid and can be found on Sibuya Game Reserve.  

Photo taken by Chris Ovens

Pseudoscorpions are generally beneficial to humans since they prey on clothes moth larvae, carpet beetle larvae, booklice, ants, mites, and small flies. They are tiny and inoffensive, and are rarely seen due to their small size, despite being common in many environments. Pseudoscorpions often carry out phoresy, a form of commensalism in which one organism uses another for the purpose of transport.

Pseudoscorpions spin silk from a gland in their jaws to make disk-shaped cocoons for mating, molting, or waiting out cold weather. However, they do not have book lungs as most of their closest relatives, the spiders, do. They breathe through spiracles, a trait they share with the insects.

Little Five Game

In Africa, the little five game animals are:

1. Elephant shrew: a small, insect-eating mammal with a long nose. Elephant shrews are very common in Southern Africa but seldom seen.
2. Buffalo weaver: the buffalo weaver is the easiest among the little five to find and observe.
3. Leopard tortoise (commonly found at Sibuya Game Reserve)
4. Antlion or ant lion
5. Rhino beetle

The term little five was brought to life, after safari tourists’ successful wildlife experience of the big five in Southern Africa. It was after a call by nature conservationists for visitors also to acknowledge the smaller — less noticed — but still enigmatic, animals of the savanna (called bushveld in South Africa).

Each “little” species is a contradiction in sheer size to the big five animal, but the first part of its English name relates to one of the famous bigger five animals one-on-one.

Mantis

Mantises are distributed worldwide (and can be found on Sibuya Game Reserve in Eastern Cape, South Africa) in temperate and tropical habitats. They have triangular heads with bulging eyes supported on flexible necks. Their elongated bodies may or may not have wings, but all Mantodea have forelegs that are greatly enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey; their upright posture, while remaining stationary with forearms folded, has led to the common name praying mantis.

(Baby Praying Mantis – Photo taken by Ranger Drikus on Sibuya Game Reserve)

Mantises are mostly ambush predators, but a few ground-dwelling species are found actively pursuing their prey. hey normally live for about a year. In cooler climates, the adults lay eggs in autumn, then die. The eggs are protected by their hard capsules and hatch in the spring. Females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism, eating their mates after copulation.

Mantises are among the insects most widely kept as pets.  Because the lifespan of a mantis is only about a year, people who want to keep mantises often breed them.

Nigel, our resident Nyala at Forest Camp

Description

Adult males and females look totally different.  Males are slate grey to dark brown with up to 14 distinct white stripes across the back going down the flanks.  They have white spots on their thighs and belly.  Females do not have manes or fringes of long hair.

Habitat

They are restricted to reedbeds and adjacent grasslands of the Okavango and Chobe. During the annual flood they move out of the reedbeds for a short period.

Nyala Nigel 2

Diet

As a herbivore, the nyala’s diet consists of foliage, fruits, flowers and twigs. During the rainy season they feed upon the fresh grass. They need a regular intake of water, and thus choose places with a water source nearby.  Today the nyala are found in South African protected areas in the KwaZulu-Natal Game Reserves of Ndumo Game Reserve, uMkuze Game Reserve and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, Kruger National Park and Sibuya Private Game Reserve. According to statistics of 1999, 10-15% of the nyala occur on private land.

Fishing at Sibuya Game Reserve

The Kob is probably one of the most targeted edible saltwater fish off South Africa’s coastline and is known by many names in Southern Africa: Kob, Daga, Drum, Daga Salmon and Kabeljou. The Kob grow to big sizes and put heavy tackle to the test. They are also a great species to target on boats in estuaries with lures. Kob are aggressive fish and mainly move around in shoals where they feed on smaller fish and crustaceans.

Fishing - Sibuya

Breeding Habits

Most adults migrate from the Cape to KwaZulu-Natal to spawn between August and November. Juveniles enter the upper reaches of estuaries where they remain until they about 15cm. The juveniles prefer the sandy or muddy substrates in shallow embayments.

Feeding Habits

Most kob species are voracious, shoaling predators and some species have become highly specialised for feeding in their muddy, murky environment. Their lateral line system (a sensory system found in all fish that enables them to detect vibrations and pressure changes in the water) is very well developed and this, in conjunction with the sensory barbles which some have on their snouts, makes the kob less reliant on sight when feeding. Small fish, crustaceans such as prawns and crabs, and molluscs such as squid and cuttlefish are all eaten by the various kob species.

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher is not a migrant and although it is a bushveld bird commonly found on Sibuya Game Reserve, it is resident in leafy suburbs of South African towns and eastern coastal regions.

As with other kingfishers, pairs stick together and may hold the same territory for several years.
It has a broad and varied diet, eating a wide variety of insects, but rarely eating fish.

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher is known in Afrikaans as Bruinkopvisvanger.

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher has a height of 24 cms and weighs around 60 gms. The head is coloured brown while the bill is coloured red. The Halcyon albiventris has a white coloured throat, orange legs and a black coloured back. The eyes are brown.

The male Halcyon albiventris has physical features that are slightly different from the female bird.

Photo taken by Ranger Scott

Photo taken by Ranger Scott

Feeding Habits

This bird forages for food on the ground and feeds on the tree trunk.  This birds forages for fish and other aquatic dwellers through surface sizing and diving for food in the water.  This bird has a specially adapted bill which helps it hunt for fish, crabs, shrimp and other aquatic animals in the water.

This bird eats insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts and ants. These invertebrates are usually hawked aerially, killed and then eaten.

Breeding, Habitat and Nesting Habits

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher is a monogamous bird which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. The bird lays between 2 to 5 eggs and they are coloured white.

The bird builts its nest in a hole in the ground.

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher is mainly found in light and densely wooded forests, where there are Mopane trees.

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher is found in the Southern African wetlands, riverine forests and moist grasslands.

The bird is at home in riverine forests and close to water bodies such as lakes, dams and streams.

Seen in Flocks, Singles or Pairs Normally

The Brown-hooded Kingfisher is mainly seen singly or in pairs in the wild.

It is also seen in flocks.