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By now, you know I saw a lot of birds while traveling with members of the Intermountain Bird Observatory to South Africa and Mozambique. But we saw mammals too, both large and small. During our three-weeks, we stayed at two game reserves. Gorongosa Park in Mozambique, and &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa. Birds were abundant everywhere—so were mammals.

In Gorongosa, we saw waterbuck galore. There were so many of these large antelope that while we were there, a helicopter roundup was necessary so that excess animals could be culled out of the Gorongosa herd and trucked to another reserve which needs more of them to sustain a healthy population.


They were everywhere, but I missed a good photo. Attribute to Animalspot.net

We saw many different antelope varieties: nyala, sable, kudu, bushbuck, and  impala. We had glimpses of blue wildebeest, a small pride of lion, elephant, and a ton of warthogs, vervet monkeys and chacma baboons. We had a quick night-time glimpse of African civet, slender and white-tailed mongoose, and genets, small cat-like creatures.

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At Phinda, nyala roamed the grounds of the compound like buffalo stroll the across parking lots in Yellowstone. The much smaller red and grey duiker were shy. We usually caught only glimpses of them in the distance before they bounded into the brush. Mini-antelope called Suni are even more shy. The size of an Italian Greyhound, they stole my heart. We also saw zebra, giraffe, more elephants, hippos, more lion, cheetah, leopard, and white rhino. One member of our group missed a morning drive due to exhaustion. He enjoyed a casual morning on the grounds and gleefully showed us a photo of an elephant drinking out of the swimming pool!

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One particularly memorable event was a conclave of rhino moseying down a road that intersected ours. We stopped to watch as they shuffled and milled hesitantly near the intersection. Our tracker pointed out that there was a lion resting in the tall grass beside the road. The rhino, having very poor eyesight, sensed the presence of danger, but couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. We watched this for quite some time before the group ambled off, casting cautious glances behind them as they went. Our driver crept up to the intersection and we waited for the lion to put on a show. We could see only his head sticking up above the grass. Then he began to roar—oh my did he roar! And his girlfriend was nearby, but sounded rather unimpressed. “ROAAAR!” “Yeah, I hear ya.” “ROAR!” “Yeah, yeah.” “Roar!” “Yeah, ok honey.” Be sure to have your speakers on and watch to the end of the video as the Lion King collapses in utter exhaustion. It’s tough being royalty.


Worried Rhino

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Our visit to Gorongosa culminated with an early morning drive in search of wild dogs. Last year, 14 dogs were brought into the park. Since then, 28 pups have been born. The pups are born in a shallow, broad den—often an abandoned warthog den. While the pups are small, the pack will change den locations two or three times. As they grow larger, they are left with an adult aunt or uncle while the pack hunts. The pack brings down large prey by running it down,  brutally tearing the animal apart while still on the run. The dogs don’t stop running till they get back to the den, where they regurgitate undigested food for the pups. Digestion doesn’t begin until the dog rests, at which time blood returns to the stomach to trigger digestion.

Interestingly, shortly after the 14 dogs were released in GNP, the pack split into two groups of four and ten, with an alpha female in each group. Then the females of both groups each had a litter, which is quite unusual. The two females continue to raise the two litters as one family. A very healthy, balanced family.

48749997186_89b35e16ae_nWe drove to a site in the woods where game cams have been recording dog activity. We waited for maybe 45 minutes until suddenly the pack came bounding into view, their big round ears alert and listening for the pups. The pack ran past us, then circled back to where they had entered and bounded back out again with little fanfare. Test, our guide explained that regurgitation elicits a racket of little barks and yipping, which we did not hear. He guessed that the hunters came in, gathered the pups who are now old enough to move on their own, and ushered them somewhere more private for the breakfast feast.

At Phinda we were treated to more giraffe, and up close and personal elephant action! Interestingly, the group of females present more danger than the males, who appear somewhat threatening in the next video. The park ranger just told the boys to mind their manners and they huffed and retreated.

Our last game experience was observing  a young leopard wrestle with his huge waterbuck kill which was too big for him to pull into a tree and even too large for him to pull into a thicket, so between panting rests, he began butchering right before our eyes.


Young leopard with his kill

These experiences with the mammals were really the highlights of my trip to the African Continent.