In the foreground is a dung midden left by a male white rhino.
These elephants are standing in a wallow and throwing dirt on their backs.
(If you want to zoom in you can see a cloud of clods released by the trunk of the cow on the left.) They butt trees down.They dig, wallow, trample, eat, and generally delight
in throwing their weight around. Masters of Disturbance.
This is wilderness. But our words "pristine," "unspoiled," and "untouched" seem not quite right. Much of our common "natural areas thinking" doesn't quite fit here.
Does that suggest we may need better words for our own work?
When we put this baboon spider back, the ranger carefully camouflaged the opened burrow
to protect this treasure from parasitic wasps.
The park folks think a lot about the visitor experience. Visitor support
is what keeps the park funded and safe from inappropriate development.
Zebras, like buffalo, eat grass. Giraffes, like white-tailed deer, eat bark and leaves.
Large areas of the park have few trees higher than giraffes, as they continually browse the tops, maintaining a kind of fifteen-foot-high "woody lawn."
When walking through tall grass we often came across areas where the vegetation was very short. Some rangers explained that these were areas where the grass was very nutritious, so the grazers kept them eaten down. But I could rarely detect so much as a nibbled blade. A later ranger explained that these were "sodic sites" - with high sodium because hydrology brought mineral-laden water to the surface here, and most plants couldn't grow in the mineral soil. He also said that those that did slowly grow here had high mineral content that some animals sought out. Many animals also liked to loaf in these areas, perhaps because of the breeze and the safety of good visibility?
In this case, we watched four young cheetah siblings from a car. Big cats, rhinos, and elephants don't seem to abide us walking close to them. But they don't much mind people in vehicles.
Cars, as "blinds," are an important part of experiencing the park.
to look at tracks, or a flower,
or bug, or whatever,
one ranger typically went off
by himself to listen,
Rangers heard subtle
soundsthat might reveal
what was invisible in a thicket - from the rumble
of an elephant's stomach
to the call of one bird
that might mean rhinos
or other birds
that might indicate
a large predator.
A person cannot learn most
such skills in a classroom
or from books.
You come to know
key parts of nature
by learning in nature.
We continue to think about Kruger.
Any thoughts, questions, or insights you might have would be much appreciated.
Photos by Jeanne Dunning, Linda Masters, and Stephen Packard