A Pictographic Gallery of Cats, Dogs & Monkeys
Capturing Safari Moments: Part I
The digital camera has brought the world of safari appreciatively close, drawing on tried and true tricks of photography. It has evolved through experience, and with times has eliminated snapper-jargon like exposure, stops, film and shutter speed. The time being, globally integrated and diverse engineering of cameras – notably on mobile phones – incorporate by default balanced casting, zooming, lighting and lots of easy-to-pick modes for shooting. Even so, the composition of a memorable safari portrait needs a few pointers. And if that sound dramatic, know that it sounds easy because a lot of snappers now have the hang of it. “For the most part, the secret of successful photography lies in the photographer’s ability to master and control several major factors – those of exposure, lighting, depth of field, definition and composition. If all these factors are successfully mastered you will be producing many memorable pictures” – Traveller’s Guide.
Cats & Dogs
A Pictographic Gallery of Big Cats and Dogs in Kenya
Is the largest carnivore (flesh eater) in Africa, once abundant in open country everywhere, but now is more restricted in habitat. “Prides” or family parties spend most of the day lying in shade. At dusk they start hunting, with the lioness taking charge and usually doing the stalking. This majestic cat’s populations are on a slump and fast disappearing, regionally extinct in 7 African countries and declared as “vulnerable” in 1996.
The swift mammal in the world, hunts during the day by running down the smaller antelopes with a terrific burst of speed and with a body to suit: relatively long legs compared to its body size, a big heart and lungs and wide nasal It has been timed at over 60 miles an hour! Unlike the true cats it’s not able to retract its claws into sheaths. The cheetah’s habitat is now only 21% of its former range.
It has an extremely varied diet, even inclusive of insects which, with its weariness and nocturnal habits, accounts for the success of this animal in existing in areas where other large animals have been exterminated. Uneaten food is usually stored on trees out of the reach of the other carnivals. The leopard is the most secretive and elusive big cat favoring rocky dense bush, and riverine forests.
Is a spotted member of the cat family that exists in many parts of Kenya, where it preys on birds and other small mammals. It is a slender, long-legged animal with large black-tipped ears and like most cats is nocturnal. The serval has the longest legs – relative to body size – of all cats. The serval is normally tan with black spots.
Wild Cat, (Paka Povi)
Is another nocturnal cat which very much resembles the usual domestic cat, and is known to breed with domestic animals. It feeds mainly on rodents, insects and small birds. It is agile and an expert climber and concentrated in many parts of Kenya. It spots medium-brown coat with black stripes and can reach 50-80 cms in length and weight about 6 kgs.
Golden Cat, (Paka Mwitu)
Is about twice the size of the domestic cat. It’s colour may vary from grey to golden brown with equivalent blotches on the place underside. This cat has relatively shorter legs compared with the serval and its head is also small relative to its body; with rounded and untufted ears. It has white spots around its eyes and cheeks.
Genet, (Kanu au Kala)
Growing upto 20 inches in length with an usually long tail, it lives mainly in dense areas. Classified as a carnivore, it is in truest form actually omnivorous: eating what is most available. Genets avoid open habitats opting for dense vegetation including woodlands, savannas, forests, and sometimes thrive in farmlands near villages.
Caracal, (Simba Mangu)
Is a lynx-like cat with a tawny coat and tufted ears, inhabiting drier bush areas where it feeds on birds and smaller mammals, from rodents to small antelopes. With a sleek, streamlined body often spotting a reddish gold coat with dramatic markings on the face, the caracal is an agile and formidable hunter. It utilities tall grass as camouflage to hunt prey.
Wild or Hunting Dog, (Mbwa Mwitu)
Unlike the Jackal, hunts in packs of upto 20 much the same way as wolfs. Antelopes, large and small, fall prey to this close relative of the domestic dog. Its body marks are variegated and usually white, yellow, brown and black, and it is about the size of the Bull Terrier. African wild dogs are among the most successful social hunters in Africa, once widespread, but now endangered. They live in groups.
Is often seen near lion ‘kills’ or loping along in pairs in search of small animals or carrion. There are three species in Kenya – the Side-Stripped, the Golden and the Silver Backed Jackal. Jackals are cunning and spirited. ‘Like other members of their genus, jackals sing at evening; their cry is considered more dismaying to human ears than that of hyenas’. Pups are self reliant at 6 months.
Is a smaller often grey coloured nocturnal carnivore best seen in open country, usually in small groups. It lives in burrows in the plain and can often be seen in the Nairobi National Park nearby the entrance to its dugouts, enjoying the afternoon sun. And unlike its larger relatives this pretty animal feeds on insects and varied other small creatures it can capture. It is easily identified by its conical large ears and bushy tail. This fox is named for its enormous ears.
Is nature’s most adept scavenger. The powerful jaws of the hyena easily crush bones and very little of a dead animal is left uneaten. Hyenas are cowardly creatures and never attack a healthy adult animal but they will do for newly born young and animals that are aged and weakened. Depicted as scavengers, hyenas are actually masterful hunters. Hyenas don’t laugh and are not related to dogs.
There are as many Africas as there are books about Africa – and as many books about it as you could read in a leisurely lifetime. Whoever writes a new one can afford a certain complacency in the knowledge that his is a new picture agreeing with no one else’s, but likely to be haugthily disagreed with by all those who believed in some other Africa. Being thus all things to all authors, it follows, I suppose, that Africa must be all things to all readers.
Photographic Gallery of Monkeys in Kenya
Patas Monkey, (Kima)
Is a long-limbed monkey with a brown-reddish coat and a white underbelly. It wanders in troops like the baboons and because its coat looks like a smart military uniform it is dubbed the Soldier. The smart red coat and solider-like white mustache of the Patas has led to them also being known as “Military Monkeys”. Continual deforestation has devastated the habitats for many primates not just in Africa but the world over.
This the commonest monkey in Kenya, usually seen in the gallery forests along the river banks. The body colour is olive-brown, with a black face, part of its underside is often bright blue. Ears, hands, feet and the tip of the tail are also black. Humans pose the biggest threat to the vervet’s survival. It has a refined array of vocal cues.
The Blue or Syke’s Monkey, (Kima)
Is often seen in the tall trees where its thick, dark grey fur gives the effect of blue hue at a distance. Survival threats to blue monkeys include wanton habitat destruction, such as the clearing of rain forests. Blue monkeys are also killed for eating cultivated crops or destroying exotic trees.
Black and White Colobus or the Gueraza Monkey
Known as Mbega in Swahili, all Colobus monkey feeds on leaves which are digested in ‘stomach-pouches’, and it lacks the cheek storage pouches present in other monkeys. Unlike other monkeys, they don’t have thumbs. The two kinds of black and white colobus monkeys found within Kenya are those that inhabit coastal forests and those in inland high-country areas. Red colobus monkeys are also found in East Africa, but are endangered and quite rare to see.
De Brazza’s Monkey
Is comparative in size to Syke’s Monkey but is more spectacular in its coloring of grey-green with patent black, white and chestnut markings. It is mostly found on the slopes of Mount Elgon. The troops have a single adult male at least three females and juveniles, although some adult males tend to be solitary. They communicate with booming sounds and variety of facial expressions and signals.
Mangabey Monkey, Nyani
Occur in forests at the extremes of lower River Tana in the south of Kenya chiefly at Tana Primate National Reserve 202 kms from Garissa. Tana magabeys are one of the world’s most endangered primates and almost endemic to this forest fragment. Mangabeys, any of 10 species, are fairly large monkeys. They have odd cheek pouches with deep depressions under the cheekbones. They are highly social, vocal, and nimble.
White Nosed Monkey
Is a commonly sighted monkey which lives in the tropical forests westwards from Kakamega town. It has a conspicuous white nose and a long red-brown tail. Male sound resonating alarm calls to warn the group of predators and enemies. Their dark coloring also doubles as camouflage within the dark tree canopy, allowing them to hide from predators: leopards, hyenas, crowned eagles and man.
Chimpanzee, Sokwe Mtu
Is the most quick-witted of the man-like apes. An affectionate animal when young, it later on develops to a highly intelligent animal. Much of a chimpanzee’s life is spent on the ground but it is an admirable acrobat as well. The Chimp is one of our closest living kin. Ol Pejeta in Laikipia run a nice chimpanzee sanctuary.
Baboon, (Nyani Mkubwa)
Commonly seen on the roadside, turning over stones in a constant search for tasty morsels such as scorpions. The troops consist of many females and young males under the leadership of a big old male. The baboon is a most-liked prey of leopards. It is one of the largest monkeys in the world. Its coat has a greenish cast to which the name ‘Olive’ refers. Baboons are omnivores which can modify their aliment to what is available.
Is the world’s largest ape that’s represented in East Africa by a few families which inhabit south-west part of Uganda and Virunga Mountains in northern Rwanda. Though extremely powerful and well-built animals, Gorillas are peaceful and retiring by nature. Mountain gorillas are the largest living primates. Listed critically endangered in 1996, only about 1,000 members exist in the wild.
Africa – You can see a sunset and believe you have witnessed the Hand of God. You watch the slope lope of a lioness and forget to breathe. You marvel at the tripod of a giraffe bent to water. In Africa, there are iridescent blues on the wings of birds that you do not see anywhere else in nature. In Africa, in the midday heart, you can see blisters in the atmosphere. When you are in Africa, you feel primordial, rocked in the cradle of the world. – J. Picoult
The Art of Animal Tracking: Part II
“A live hunt” is too short an epithet to describe the trill of watching this unfold in the wild, perhaps the pièce de résistance of any game safari. Animal tracking, laboriously negotiated through vast wildlife reserves and conservancies, always has the element of surprise and is a unique experience every day. Experienced guides are a big whip-hand in tracking animals and uncovering great moments for safari, often by a knack of tracking where wildlife is found at different times of day. To be at tandem with their logic it’s important to know a few basic. “The first thing to learn about tracking is knowing where to look for animals. Much of this is done by what is called “sign tracking”. And signs are anything besides a track proper that is an indication of an animal” Outdoor Action. Studying the landscape is a wise-to-ways to know where to find wildlife. “In most landscapes there are “islands” where many species will be found. One way to look is to find the best “islands” for herbivores. And wherever there are herbivores, carnivores will follow”. Plains game (and herbivores) tend to stick to certain routines and home ranges. As a general rule, these prefer: thick tangles of vegetation, brush, rocks, to hide in and escape to; proximity to a watering hole (although this may not be a guaranteed success because many herbivores don’t need it and they get water they need from plants); transitional areas or zone of intersection between two habitats like plains and riverine or forest and rivers. Finally, the lay of land determines where animals are found. Animals will tend to take the easiest route of travel across a landscape and although these trails may be non-specific, and rough and ready, there is some definite wearing into the landscape but it varies.