Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kruger National Park (Gabby Salazar)


I have been in South Africa for one month and have finally arrived in Kruger National Park. We are staying in one of the staff camps towards the middle of the camp and are required to walk in groups of three because of leopards and lions. There have been two people killed by leopards in this camp in the last 5 years. Yesterday we drove from Hamakuya to the camp through the park. It was essentially a 10 hour game drive. We saw white rhinos, a monitor lizard, hippos, crocodiles, and many species of ungulates. As I am the only photographer, my shots have to be quick and steady as we only pause for a few quick seconds at each stop. We are not allowed to get out of the car and walk in the park without a game guard so most of my photography is confined to a car or game drive vehicle. When we do walk outside we have to do so under the supervision of a guard with a loaded rifle.


The park is very dry at the moment and the first rains should start any day. The rains will bring grasses and baby animals. Yesterday we saw a few baby elephants and young zebra. I am hoping to witness a birth during my time here.

After over a week in the village, the tourist camp is overwhelming. We have not been to a store beyond gas stations in over four weeks. The prospect of ice cream whenever I want it is fantastic.

Tomorrow we start a project on elephants with a professor from Johannesburg. We will be studying elephant age distributions within the park. Elephants are a major point of controversey within the park and South Africa in general. They have very few natural predators so their populations are not controlled. Culling is one option that has been explored in the past but there are many people who are against controlling the population in this way. If there are two many elephants, some scientists believe that there are negative effects on biodiversity and on tree populations within the park. Elephants strip trees of bark and they often push over large trees. Their motivations are unknown.

I will send more updates as research continues. For now I need to finish my project on mopane worm pupae (the pupae of the Emperor Moth). The worm is a common food source here in South Africa and we measured density and distribution within red Kalahari sands. Interestingly, we found a very low density and high mortality among the pupae we found. Further research is necessary to determine natural population levels so that sustainable harvesting levels can be determined. The worms are harvested before the adult moth stage when sexual reproduction takes place so overharvesting could devestate populations. This is just one of the many species about which little is known.



The top image is of a monitor lizard in Kruger National Park.

The next image is a little bee eater.

10 comments:

Nathanael Gass said...

Great pictures! Hope you are having a great time.

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