A real treat

7 10 2014

When you go on a photographic safari in Africa, it is usually the big animals that steal the show. Finding the smaller, more shy antelopes is not on everyone’s to-do list, so they are not often on the business end of a camera. On a recent safari however, we went in search of one of the rarest antelopes in South Africa, the diminutive but adorable suni.

Standing thirty to forty centimetres at the shoulder (12 – 17 in) these little antelope are quite difficult to find. We spent a good deal of time searching the thick undergrowth where they like to spend the day hiding from predators (they are more active at night which doesn’t really help us either). Being so small in Africa means there are a lot of safety concerns, because even the eagles are bigger than you, and because of this, they rely heavily on their camouflage, and don’t move until the last second when they flee into the thickets. We searched an area of forest called Sandveld Forest, where they are known to occur, and managed to see a flash of movement as they ran away on a couple of occasions. On our second day of trying, we spotted a beautiful female standing in the open, sort of. It took a bit of creative manoeuvring to get the camera through the initial wall of leaves, but eventually we got to get a clear look, and managed two or three photos before she went bounding off into the forest. The males look almost the same, but have short, sharp, straight horns.

It is the first time I ever been lucky enough to get photographs of a suni antelope. It needs no explaining how happy I am.

To join me on safari, click here!

An interesting little antelope

2 05 2012

It is easy to get distracted by the glamour of the lions and leopards, and the might of the big heavies; the elephant, rhino and buffalo, but if you take your time, look far up into the rocky outcrops, there is a little antelope which is just as interesting.
The Klipspringer, (which translates directly to rock jumper) is one of the smaller antelopes found in Africa. As the name suggests, it likes to …jump, on rocks… Usually, you see them as a silhouette, right at the top of one of the outcrops they call home, but every now and again, you catch one of them crossing open ground. While they are no slouch in a foot race, the predators out-match them on flat land. When they reach the safety of the rocks however, they are almost untouchable! In fact, their biggest threat would most likely be from the air, as the bigger eagles could quite easily snatch a young one.
They almost glide over the rocks, bounding away from any danger as if impervious to the sheer cliff faces they dance across. They are so specialized, that their feet have even evolved to deal with the challenges of rock face living. The hoof has become almost rubbery, as opposed to the hardened nail type hoof of its cousins, and the shape of the foot has changed, so they are effectively standing right on the tips of their toes (imagine a ballerina with four legs and you will start to get the idea)!
The other ace of spades up their sleeves is that they never need to physically drink water! This is a rather handy trick when living in the relentless heat of Africa. They obtain all the moisture they need from the leaves they eat – now if a little puddle of deliciously fresh water pooled up in one of the rocks they live on, then they are not above putting their heads down and slacking their thirst, but it doesn’t happen often.

Photographically, these chaps do pose a number of interesting challenges. To start, they are quite difficult to find, and then once you have found them, they are right on the top of the rocks, way out of reach of the cameras lenses! Technically, because of the distances involved, it is nearly impossible to create an image that works, and when you do get close enough, they usually run away! Luckily though, I have had a few opportunities, and I made the most of them!

The rare and elusive

29 06 2011

Just when I thought I had photographed most of the species in the area, I was pleasantly surprised by the arrival of three immature Sable Antelope!
Now, like any red-blooded wildlife enthusiast, you are probably wondering, why all the fuss over some antelope?
To let you know just how rare these antelope are, in this area over the last seven years, I have seen pangolin on three occasions, (see: https://kurtjaybertels.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/the-good-luck-continues/), and sable only twice! The last time I did cross paths with these insanely beautiful animals (2006), I was a little unlucky not to get any photographs – I chalked that one up to bad planning.
This time was different however!
After patiently waiting for a good half an hour, the rather shy antelope finally emerged from the thicket where they had been spotted, and moved into a grassy clearing. The sun was sitting comfortably, right behind me, which meant only the best morning light for the rare and elusive sable! I set the cameras, and started clicking away at a steady pace, (given the subject), when the front runner, true to his position, pulled a runner, and made a dash across the clearing to the relative safety of the thicket on the far side.
The clicking of the camera was no longer at a steady pace, but rather a frantic blur of shutter, sable, shutter, sable, shutter, sable! The other two antelopes joined in the race to the thicket, giving me a shot at trying something a little different. This I did with great success. (The blur shot of the sable running is a shot I have wanted for quite some time!)
Not long after it all started, the sables reached the thicket and the fun was over – leaving me smiling with some great images!