121. The Nile Crocodile

The Nile crocodile is the most common type of crocodile in Kenya. It is one of the largest reptiles in the world, growing up to 5 metres and weighing 900 pounds on average.
This aggressive, vicious reptile is one of the most dangerous species of crocodile and has been the cause of numerous human deaths every year.

Nile crocodiles are relatively social crocodiles. They share basking spots and large food sources, such as schools of fish and big carcasses.

Their strict hierarchy is determined by size. Large, old males are at the top of this hierarchy and have primary access to food and the best basking spots. 

Nile crocodiles are apex predators: predators at the top of afood chain, without natural predators themselves. 
They are ambush predators that can wait for hours, days, and even weeks for the suitable moment to attack.
Crocodiles are capable of taking almost any animal within their range. Their diet consists mostly of different species of fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.

From the 1940s to the 1960s, the Nile crocodile was hunted, primarily for high-quality leather, though also for meat and purported curative properties. The population was severely depleted, and the species faced extinction.
But, they’re baaaaaaaack. The Nile Crocodile is listed as “least concern” under the IUCN Red List,

113. It’s Mother’s Day

In recognition of Mother’s Day, National Geographic posted twenty-one photos of Beautiful Moments Between Animal Mothers and Their Babies in their Photo Gallery. Included with each photo was a short explanation of some of the more unique and varying mothering methods found in the animal kingdom.

“Every animal can thank a mom for making life possible,” writes the author.
“Some mothers lay eggs, in treetops or on the seafloor, while others labor through long pregnancies and live births. Many moms are on their own, but a fortunate few get help from babysitters or nursemaids. Mother-child bonding runs the gamut of relationship styles.”

Among the twenty-one animals featured in the photo gallery, five live on African soil.

And despite the heart-warming topic, not all the photos conjure up warm and cuddly thoughts.

Source: National Geographic, Photography by Zssd, Miden Picture

Emperor scorpion mothers give birth to an average of nine to 32 fully formed young. Here, an emperor scorpion, one of the world’s largest scorpions, carries her immature offspring on her back.

Source: National Geographic, photography by Nichols, Nat Geo Image Collection

Lion moms may live with their daughters for life. The African lions live in prides dominated by related females, like this cub-wrangling mom in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

Source: National Geographic, photography by Frans Lanting, Nat Geo Image Collection

During the early weeks of her cubs’ lives, the mother must move them every few days to avoid predators. If all goes well, cheetah siblings stay with their mom for about a year and a half, learning to hunt.
Some cheetahs are supermoms, not only raising their own young but fostering the cubs of others.

Source: National Geographic, photography by Zssd, Miden Pictures

Hippo calves are often born underwater. It’s up to Mom to push her calf to the surface to take its first breath.

Mothers are fiercely protective of their young, but they also have a softer side, cleaning and doting on their calves. If its baby dies, mothers even display what some scientists interpret as grief.

Source: National Geographic, photography by Madelaine Castles, Nat Geo Image Collection

Giraffe calves stand within 30 minutes of birth. It’s critical that they do so, as newborn calves are a favorite meal of many African predators.
Before they are born, mom has to endure a 15-month pregnancy, which allows for the development of a six-foot-tall baby with strong muscles and nervous system.

108. The Little Five

Some years ago, conservationists recognized what an important marketing draw the term “Big Five” had for safari agencies and camps. Wanting to bring attention to East Africa’s wonderfully diverse wildlife (little as well as big, feathery as well as furry, ignoble as well as dominate), they compiled a list of animals they called The Little Five.
They chose animals whose names aligned with the names of the already famous Big Five.

1. Antlion

Antilon or Ant lion, one of Africa's little five animals

Antlions live most of their lives underground (Good luck spotting one!) and are actually the larvae stage of a winged insect that, in adulthood, resembles a dragonfly. 

Source: antlionpit.com,
Photography by Mark Swanson

The antlion digs a funnel-shaped crater in sandy or loose soil. When potential prey approach, the antlion will pretend to fall down the funnel so as to lure the prey in, thinking it has found an easy meal.  Once its prey falls in, the ferocious little devil literally sucks its prey dry and discards the empty husk outside the hole.

Some species are considered endangered.

2. Buffalo Weaver

There are three species of buffalo weaver. All three are found in Kenya.

Source: Wikipedia, White-headed Buffalo Weaver

Like most weavers, the white-headed buffalo weaver is a social bird who forages on the ground for insects, fruits and seeds.  It’s noisy, with a wide range of cackles and squeaks.

The white-headed buffalo weaver is listed as threatened.

The white-billed buffalo weaver is a dark little bird with a light-colored beak. The red-billed buffalo weaver has, not surprisingly, a red beak. Buffalo weavers are known for their rather messy communal nests that appear to be nothing more than a mishmash of grasses and twigs.

The buffalo weaver is the easiest among The Little Five to find and observe.

3. Elephant Shrew

This tiny insect eating mammal gets its name from its elongated snout. It sniffs out ants, termites, crickets, beetles and caterpillars, and uses its tongue to catch its dinner. With its long legs, it hops in search of small bites to eat. 

The elephant shrew is food for snakes and birds of prey, so this little rodent has learned to be extremely cautious. It’s very shy and very speedy! It’s been seen running up to 17 miles/hr.

They are listed as vulnerable.

4. Leopard Tortoise

Leopard tortoise, one of Africa's little five animals

The leopard tortoise has beautiful leopard-like markings on their shells with perfect symmetrical black and yellow patterns.  As they mature, their tortoise shell color changes from dark brown to yellow. 

The largest ones can grow up to 18 inches in length and weigh up to 40 lbs. They can easily live for 80 – 100 years.
In both very hot and very cold weather they may dwell in abandoned fox, jackal, or aardvark holes.
Leopard tortoises graze extensively on mixed grasses, succulents and thistles.

Although most tortoises exported from Kenya and Tanzania originate in captive breeding programs, the United States banned their import because of the risk posed by heartwater, an infectious disease that could impact the livestock industry.

5. Rhinoceros Beetle

Entomologists estimate there are over 300 species of beetles worldwide that are considered rhinoceros beetles.

Rhino beetles are one of eastern Africa’s largest beetles.  The male beetle sports a large horn atop its head. This horn is used to dig and burrow for food. and to fight during mating season. They don’t kill their rivals, but lift them up with their horn and toss them off the branch instead.
Pound for pound they are said to be the strongest creatures on earth, with the ability to lift 850 times their own weight.  

Female rhinoceros beetles don’t have the prominent horns that the males do.

These insects are nocturnal, which makes them difficult to spot.
As fierce as they look, they are safe to pick up and examine, as they do not bite or sting.

17. Kenya and Locusts – Yikes!

Knowing that I’m planning a trip to Kenya, my friend Robin sent me a link to an article in The Guardian (Jan. 25, 2020):
Kenya suffers worst locust infestation in 70 years as millions of insects swarm farmland
The enormity of the infestation, the pitifully few solutions to end the problem quickly, and the damage already done to the lands are of biblical proportions.

Source: New York Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Telegraph

East African nations that are already experiencing a dangerous shortage of food are now witnessing large areas of their crops destroyed.
The United Nations has called for international aid to “avert any threats to food security, livelihoods, and malnutrition”.

If reading The Guardian’s description of the effects of the plague didn’t give you the willies, then try watching this video. It’s a segment from BBC’s Planet Earth, posted on YouTube two years ago. The stars of this video are the same nasty buggers that are plaguing Kenya right now.

Source: Associated Press

The Associated Press explains one of the reasons why this is happening
How climate change feeds Africa locust invasion.”

Is anyone surprised?

10. It’s Elementary – or is it?

A child’s rhyme helps travelers focus with a greener eye.

The Good Tourism blog has an interesting piece this month on
How Bees, Trees, & Tourism Reduce Human-Wildlife Conflict in Uganda.

I was originally attracted to the article because the title references tourism in Uganda, and is accompanied by an image of a mountain gorilla – both subjects that are pertinent to our African travels.

As I got deeper into the article, I became intrigued with the traditional beehives the villagers were taught to make.

That post piqued my interest, and with a little more research, I found this video.
I can get sidetracked very easily.