Monday, October 8, 2018

Things Africa Taught Us

I wanted to share a video with you that was done by our first safari company.
It will give you a good idea what we experienced while there.

While seeing wild and unusual animals is definitely an exciting part of a trip to Africa,
for me it was so much more.
It gave me a chance to think about how interconnected all of the different species
on this earth are.
Each day illustrated how delicate the balance is between everything in nature.

Sometimes we think about our earth and its inhabitants as if it is "us" and "them"...
when in reality, it is everything all together...
interdependent... interconnected... in one great big web of symbiosis.

There were so many illustrations of this interconnectedness that we saw along the way.
For example...

This particular fig tree grows the most unusual fruit along it's trunk and main branches.
Atypically, the flower of the tree is contained within the fruit.
In order for the flower to be pollenated, a very special species of wasp
invades each fruit, laying its egg within the fruit and pollinating the flower while it is inside.
The larvae then develops within the fruit.
The tree needs the wasp and the wasp needs the tree -
two totally different types of species that are dependent upon each other for life...

You may have noticed this bird in several of my photos.
It's the oxpecker and it can be seen hitchhiking on many species of grazing animals.
The animals provide food for the oxpecker in the form of insects,
and the oxpecker acts as pest control for the animal on which it rides.

The baboon has a relationship with the elephant in that the elephant eats seeds and nuts
from trees which pass through its digestive tract, being literally "cooked".
The baboon then picks through the elephant dung for the highly nutritious seeds
that it would otherwise be unable to digest.

We also saw the effects that loss of habitat has on the animals.
Without adequate grazing lands,
elephants, for example, can be extremely destructive on their environment.
They require the consumption of hundreds of pounds of leaves daily...
so, if their grazing area is reduced, they can literally wipe out the vegetation of an area.

And although poaching (a heinous act) has been a nightmare for the elephants,
encroaching civilization and anti-poaching efforts create another problem...
increased herds with loss of habitat = diminished food sources = destruction of habitat...
a vicious cycle.

 The above picture is of Mopani woodland within a national park with a great number of elephants.
These Mopani trees are 30 to 40 years old, but are only about 6 feet tall.
Each summer, the elephants completely strip the vegetation from these trees (as it is one of their
favorite food sources) effectively stunting their growth. 

Another interesting relationship between animal and food source can be found
with the giraffe and the acacia tree.
Giraffes will eat up to 66 pounds of acacia leaves daily.
In order to protect itself from over-foraging by giraffes,
the acacia tree adapted by growing long thorns.

The giraffe, in turn, adapted by developing tough skin on it's lips and palate.
It's long, slender tongue works more like a finger and can negotiate the spaces between the thorns
quite easily to obtain the leaves.

The trees next defense is the release of tannins that change the taste of the leaves to bitter.

The giraffe then leaves that tree and heads to the next.
(note the ever-present oxpeckers in the two above photos!)

The most fascinating part of this story, however is what happens below the ground.
Tree #1 then sends a signal to the nearby trees causing then to release tannins as well...
so the giraffes keep grazing as they move along from tree to tree...
never totally stripping any trees.
fascinating and amazing!!

A visit to Africa also serves to educate one as to how poorly we have done
in caring for humankind.
It is eye-opening to visit a place so lacking in infrastructure.
Don't get me wrong... the cities are modern and bustling... but just a few miles beyond the city
borders, it's inhabitants live a completely different lifestyle.
Macadam roads quickly turn to dirt and the standard of living plummets.

It is a place where so many people live with so little.
Grass huts with dirt floors... outdoor pit latrines... no indoor plumbing...
many have to walk miles just to obtain water for the day's use.

Daily diets consisting of some type of cooked meal (corn or wheat) and whatever
fruit may happen to be growing nearby.
No transportation... a bicycle if you are really lucky.
Lack of availability of health care.
I could go on and on...

We are so very lucky to have been born in a place where opportunity abounds.
There are many lessons to be learned when one travels...
it just takes looking a little deeper than the surface.
It is hard to visit Africa without feeling just a little bit "changed."

Staying in safari camps made me think of how much we can live without...
and still live a meaningful, comfortable life.

And lastly... when you travel with a camera... always take a small notebook along to jot down notes about each particular photo along with the photo's number.  (or use the "note" app of your phone to dictate a small note).    Each photo in your camera has a number assigned to it.  That number stays with your photo even when you download it to your computer.  That way, you can refer back to your notes about any given photo.

Even if you delete photos from your camera.... the others retain their original number.
I have to say, though, my notebook looks like chicken scratching... as it is incredibly hard to write legibly while bouncing around in the back of a safari vehicle!!  I could never have remembered all the names of all the animals without my notebook.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yes, it's loss of habitat that threatens species all over the globe. Yet it continues on apace, because that's what fuels our wealth. It's the Devil's Contract, to use a melodramatic term.

Beverly Frankeny said...

Yes, I agree....there are way too many humans in this world.... and we keep multiplying!

Lynne said...

Love your photos . . .
The Giraffe are so pretty, graceful . . .
I would be excited to see them in the wild.
Any of the animals must be a treat to see, in their habitat.

Missy George said...

Now I can leave a comment. Makes no sense. Wonderful photography. Love these posts. Xxoo

diane in northern wis said...

Now I can leave a comment too...and I haven't been able to for days. Thank you for the wonderful video and pictures and all the new knowledge you have acquired, which you're passing on to us.

Carine said...

Thank you for taking us with you literally. what an awesome experience and oh so educative. I also think "how much we can live without...and still live a meaningful, comfortable life" and am practicing on a daily basis. Just one thing I don't find the chameleon a creepy critter, it is an amazing animal, so much in sync with his environment and his tongue is an incredible tool!


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