Rhinos, Elephants & Big Cats

- travel photography

Another journey to Africa is in the wings. I prepare for it by going through photos from my previous trip. Here is a selection of ten new images from Kenya.

The majestic Black Rhinoceros, (Diceros bicornis), is slowly being driven to extinction. The West African Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longpipes) – one of the black rhino sub-species –  became extinct in 2006. With over 100 000 individuals alive in the 1960s, the current population of Black Rhinoceros is around 3000. Outside of the countries with an active conservation program, black rhinos are under constant threat from poachers. Though scientific research shows no medicinal benefits from rhinoceros horns, they continue to fetch very high prices in Asia. To reduce demand for rhinoceros horns, alternative medicines are being promoted in the Far East, with mixed success. Poaching continues. One of the two main sub-species of rhinos and the world’s rarest  – the Northern White Rhinoceros – is now very close to extinction. The last four northern white rhinoceros remaining in the wild are feared to have been killed for their horns by poachers. Northern White rhinos are now believed to be extinct in the wild. From several hundreds individuals 40 years ago, the Northern White population is now 6.

Adult rhinos are the size of a small car and weight between 1000 and 1500Kg. Black rhinos are usually solitary and not particularly territorial. Mothers and calves will sometimes congregate for short periods of time. During the mating period, males will attempt to mate with any female but won’t bond with them. To keep competitors at bay, males will often spray over a female’s urine.

 

Unlike male rhinos, elephants are very sociable creatures. Young elephant are often surrounded by larger females and one matriarch. Offspring hang around the family group for many years. Many elephant families may inhabit a common area and will greet each other around feeding and watering holes.

Cheetahs are known for their extraordinary visual faculties (spotting prey several Km away) and their extreme speed (over 110Km/h).Cheetah mothers are devoted to teaching hunting to their offspring. They will often bring back small live antelopes to their dens and will release them so their cubs can chase them. Unlike other African cats cats, cheetahs usually hunt in the early morning or late afternoon and occasionally on moonlit nights. Cheetahs like to scan the savannah from termite mounds before stalking their targets. Despite their speed and agility, some animals like the antelopes – one of its favourite preys –  can easily outperform cheetahs when it comes to endurance. The most common cause of failure in hunts is that the prey sees cheetahs before they charge. Cheetahs are successful in two out of seven attempts.

Elusive, solitary and arboreal (well almost). I’ve always want to photograph leopards in the wild and it happened. But it only lasted a few seconds. Enough to take one shot, with the wrong shutter speed… For several days, I tried to find the leopard in the picture below, but failed.

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