Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Joe Dickinson sent some gorgeous photos from the Serengeti. The cheetah profile is one of the finest wildlife pictures I’ve put on this site. Joe’s notes are indented:

Here is a set from eastern and central Serengeti, where the rains still had not arrived. As you can see, we had very good luck with felids, which do not follow the migratory herds and rely through somewhat lean times on non-migratory species like impala and gazelles.

We start with a nice group of Masai giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) circling a thorny acacia.  I recently saw an article (in Science?) suggesting that several recognized subspecies of giraffe actually are good species.   Don’t know where these stand. [JAC: I’ve written about that here, finding their status as distinct species dubious.]

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Coke’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus) seemed to be one of the less common antelopes.  This landscape is fairly characteristic of the area, with scattered acacias and rocky kopjes in the background:

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And here, on top of a kopje, is one of my favorite sightings from the whole trip, a beautiful cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus):

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Another cheetah, within sight of the first one, was walking casually on a diagonal toward a group of gazelles, trying to pretend he did not see them and ascertain if they had seen him.  They had.

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This is most of the largest pride of lions (Panthera leo) that we saw.  You can see eleven of fifteen members that we counted, including several cubs.  This can’t be the entire pride since no males are present.  Once again, nearby zebras seemed relatively unconcerned.  I tried to explain to my fellow travelers that natural selection would not favor individuals that ran in blind panic at every sighting of a predator.  A cost/benefit analysis would doubtless show that frequent expenditure of energy (and loss of feeding opportunity) would decrease fitness more than taking a small risk (albeit occasionally fatal):

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Kirk’s dik-dik (Madoqua kirkii), a very small antelope almost always found in pairs that are mated for life.  Aren’t those wonderful eyes?

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A nice group of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) crosses a meadow with some zebras and cape buffalo in the background:

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In a nice segue, the rock hyrax (Heterohyrax brucei) is probably the closest terrestrial relative of elephants.  The Sirenia (manatees, etc. ) are sister group to elephants, and hyraxes are sister group to that combination.  This was suggested long ago based on anatomy, confirmed more recently by molecular data.

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And, finally, another prized sighting, a fine leopard (Panthera pardus) resting in a tree and rewarding some patient watching by getting up to change positions.

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15 Comments

  1. Merilee
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Grrrrrreat critters🐾🐾

  2. rickflick
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    These are great!

  3. jaxkayaker
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Great photos, thanks. I love cheetahs.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Great pictures but nothing like being there.

    • Posted December 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      I never promised readers the FULL SAFARI EXPERIENCE!

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 12, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I guess having pictures and looking at them is mostly wishing you were there.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 12, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      [Prepares boxes of mosquitoes and various digestive system parasites for those who want the FULL SAFARI EXPERIENCE.]

  5. allison
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    The hyrax/elephant kinship seems almost as improbable as President Trump!

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    A splendid set of pictures, from one helluva amazing trip. Congratulations!

  7. Damien McLeod
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Beautiful!

  8. Mark R.
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    These are a real treat. Thanks!

    Other than some bird species and humans, I don’t know of many other species that mate for life. I’d never heard of Kirk’s dik dik antelope. Lovely.

  9. Posted December 12, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Nice shots, what a trip!

  10. bembol
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Safari guides at this site https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV6HJBZD_hZcIX9JVJ3dCXQ have a strict interpretation of a lion pride – lionesses with their cubs. Dominant males ( a coalition )control territories which may encompass more than one pride.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 12, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Like a sailor – a partner in every port.

      • bembol
        Posted December 12, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. In the link above, the dominant coalition are the Birmingham Boys ( five originally but down to four )and they control the Nkuhuma and Styx prides, and possibly another one in the periphery of the traverse area.

        The three prides have their own territories but may overlap in certain areas.

        The four lionesses of the Styx pride lost all of their eight young cubs to mange. Very sad.

        The five lionesses of the Nkuhumas also produced eight cubs but a month ago lost two cubs to White Muscle disease.


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