Lake Kariba was formed in 1959, but was made famous when “Operation Noah” was implemented in the early 1960′s when thousands of animals were trapped on various islands as the water level rose. At the end of 5 years of struggle and rescue, some 6,000 animals had been saved. Many of those animals were released in Matusadona National Park, where Brian took this photo a few days ago. The sunset is intensified with the dust and smoke from various bush fires, a typical occurrence at this time of the year.
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On Brian’s final evening in Hwange National Park last week, he and his group witnessed an amazing procession of elephant families arriving just at sunset to drink and socialize. Brian stated in his blog “……a profoundly moving experience of such joy, with babies and adults touching, vocalizing, playing and bathing once the more serious behaviour of drinking was finished.” A total of some 116 elephants were counted.
Brian picked up this Nile crocodile egg on a sandbar way up a narrow gorge adjacent toLake Kariba a few days ago. The egg was laid on top of the sandbar instead of in the nesting hole. Between 25 – 80 eggs are laid in a deep hole dug by the female in a typical nest. They then guard the nest until the youngsters hatch, and unusual behaviour for reptiles. Brian hopped out of his guides boat to collect and examine this egg. He reports that there were no fewer than a dozen large crocodiles in the immediate area, all likely guarding their one subterranean nests. Needless to say, his departure from the boat to collect the egg was very brief indeed.
Often voted as the most beautiful bird in Africa, the Lilac-breasted roller is a true visual gift. Brian photographed this beauty in the diminishing low evening light from the vantage point of his Land Rover last week in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
This week on the CBC’s The Homestretch, Brian Keating talks about his close encounter with a Pride of Lions near the Zambezi River.
Brian found this elephant skull last week, deep in the wilds of Zimbabwe. His guide indicated the big male died in his prime, at about 45 years of age, during the drought of 2012. Some 2,500 of the estimated 30,000 elephants in Hwange National Park perished during that difficult year. This year, however, there is plenty of food. The rainy season dumped twice what is considered normal in this region!
Brian and his group have been walking every day in the African bush, often with the objective of just sitting quietly watching elephants do what elephants do. Along the way, however, the more subtle stories of the African bush is often revealed. Here Brian’s wife, Dee, is examining a tusk from another elephant that also died in the 2012 drought.
Brian and his safari group met Sylvester the cheetah at Elephant Camp near Victoria Falls recently. This magnificent cat was found barely alive after his mother was chased off and his siblings killed by a lion in April 2010. Named after the warden who found him, Sylvester is now an ambassador for his species, educating both students and tourists from around Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, Elephants used to be culled in large numbers, keeping the ever growing populations in check. This elephant and several more were just youngsters when their herd was killed, and are now kept in the semi-wild environment of the expansive property of Elephant Camp, next to Victoria Falls National Park, where Brian spent two nights with his safari group. Poaching has returned to levels not seen since the late 1980′s to many countries in Africa, with much of the illegal ivory heading straight to Asian markets. This has re-ignited the fear that these magnificent keystone animals may soon disappear from much of their range. Some estimates indicate that 80 elephants a day are disappearing from the continent. Brian wrote in a recent email that “every wild elephant I see, I drink in the sighting and celebrate their presence.”
Brian is seen here examining a fresh Wild dog kill of an impala. Clive Stockhil, wearing the cowboy hat, joined Brian for 7 days of camping at Mana Pools National park in Zimbabwe last week. Clive is a Wild dog expert, and is the founder of the Save Valley Conservancy in southern Zimbabwe, an important stronghold for wild dog, rhino and elephant. He’s a highly respected conservationist who won the 2013 Prince William Tusk Conservation Award for lifetime conservation work. Brian reported that it was a sincere privilege to spend so much quality time with one of Africa’s great wildlife heroes!