We often only credit mammals with complex communication, yet reptiles, fish and even trees are capable of communicating over a fair distance.
The process of “Jasmonation” or “Methyl Jasmonate” is a tactic used by certain tree species to warn one another against a detected threat. This form of biocommunication is used by a variety of Verchellia and Senegalia species (previously known as acacias). They naturally emit a fragrance, and when they detect that they are being heavily browsed upon, they release a distress hormone of ethylene into their fragrance to warn other trees downwind of the potential threat. The trees downwind will then up their tannin levels making the vegetation much less palatable and difficult to digest.
Certain animals through evolutionary history have learned to interpret the trees’ ethylene signals to one another. In particular, the giraffe knows that all the trees downwind are going to have received the distress signal and will have tannin-laden leaves. To counteract this, the giraffe will walk and feed upwind, spending a few minutes at each tree before moving on to another that is unaware of the giraffe’s presence.
This relationship shows us the complexity of trees, their ability to communicate, as well as the ability of mammals to adapt and overcome challenges in their environment. This is fantastic to look out for whilst on safari, and lends a new appreciation for giraffes and the fantastic trees that surround them. Who would have thought that trees could talk!
Image by Sean Bissett, ‘A lesser spotted eagle at moonlight.’
The mere mention of the word “spider”, and many people will have a shiver running down their spine, and most likely, the majority of guests coming on safari would not add seeing spiders on their wish list of top ten things to encounter and get close to when in the African wilderness. With that being said however, many people are actually pleasantly surprised and intrigued when they do see one of the most elegant of arachnids: the orb web spiders.
Bushveld rain frogs are a species of uniquely southern African frogs, and these little frogs are a firm favourite amongst many guides. Reason being is that when confronted by a potential predator, they inflate themselves, giving the appearance of being puffed-up marshmallows. They are cryptically coloured and slow moving frogs that spend most of their time underground, and when they emerge on the surface, they comically walk or run rather than hop as most other frogs do.
One mornings we were planning our drive and decided to use our western boundary road to get up north. While driving we managed to spot fresh lion tracks crossing the boundary road towards our concession. We decided to track them and after following the tracks for about ten minutes we located five nomadic sub-adult lions, which we recognised to be a portion of the Shishangaan Pride. One of these five sub-adult male lions was the famous white lion. After believing that they might have left our concession forever we were so happy to see them again!
Often seen for only a brief moment on the road, the slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea) is by far one of the most ferocious predators on the planet! Weighing no more than 700 g and 60 cm in length, it has a knack for hunting insects, small birds and a variety of mammals, reptiles and amphibians with pinpoint accuracy and efficiency. As the name suggests, the long slender body is accompanied with short, lightning-fast legs and a super long tail with a one-of-a-kind black tuft at the tip. There is great delight in driving around and seeing this species cross the road.