My East Africa, Madagascar & other wildlife photos

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www.flickr.com More of my other wildlife spotting photos

Friday, September 17, 2010

Madagascar Day 14: Weird Nymphs

7 August 2008 - Spiny Forest, Renalia Project, Ifaty, Madagascar.

Madagascar has some weird animals. Actually, most creatures out there are weird. But the weirdness is not restricted to the horned chameleons, flat-tailed geckos or lemurs hopping from tree to tree. Also the insects are weird.

These photos show the nymphs of the Madagascan Flatid Leaf-bug (Phromnia rosea). Nymphs is the juvenile stage of insects. Some juvenile states are catterpillars that transform into butterflies. They have a complete metamorphosis. Nymphs are typical for insects that have gradual metamorphosis to grown up adult. With each moult they will look more like adults. The adults of these flatid leaf-bugs - I could not find the Dutch name - are red-rose of colour and don't look like these nymphs at all. So they have quite some transformation to do.

The actual bodies of these nymphs are quite small. These nymphs excrete a sort of white waxy substance which 'grows' from the animal like long wipsy feathers. They appear bigger. If a bird of other predator makes a grab for one of these insects it gets a beakful of white nothing, and the animal hops away.

They are quite pretty. With the background of the Madagascan red sand glowing in the late afternoon soon, it makes a great picture with contrasts and a limited colour palette. But do imagine how hard it is to get the right picture. There is a big spiny shrub. In the center is where the insects are sitting. So you have to manouvre yourself and the camera at 50 cm height into the shrub. Not moving. Avoiding spines. Avoiding shaking up branches; the nymphs might go away, but more importantly: the branch will move. And then try to focus while your head actually does not fit between the branches. Hold still. Get those few nymphs in the center in focus. Only them. Try to get the right light and background and make a shot. Several attempts, but in the end, it worked out. I did not have to compensate for lighting, white balance or colours to get this photo. Enjoy it. If you like weird tiny insects scribbling around.



For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Arthropoda; Arthropods / Geleedpotigen
Class: Insecta; Insects / Insekten
Order: Hemiptera; True Bugs / Halfvleugeligen of Snavelvleugeligen
Suborder: Fulgoromorpha; Planthoppers / Lantaarndragerachtigen
Family: Flatidae; Flatid Planthoppers / ??
Genus: Phromnia; Flatid Leaf-bugs/ ??
Species: Phromnia rosea; Madagascan Flatid Leaf-bug / ??

Friday, September 10, 2010

L'Hoest Mogelijk?

Als je van wildlife spotten houdt, is het wel handig om te weten wat voor wildlife je dan wel niet spot. Vandaar dat ik een stapeltje wildlife boeken mee had genomen naar Oost-Afrika. Hieronder zat de Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals. Jonahtan Kingdon heeft een goede compacte gids gemaakt die je in het veld goed kunt gebruiken. Deze zoöloog weet erg veel van al het Afrikaanse wild en kan ook vrij begenadigd de dieren tekenen en schilderen. Commentaar die hij af en toe krijgt is de onnatuurlijke houding die hij dieren meegeeft. Soms lijkt hij lui te zijn en een lineaal te gebruiken om een rug of poot te tekenen. Niet echt natuurgetrouw. Hoewel het merendeel van de afgebeelde zoogdieren erg goede weergaven zijn, waarmee je vrij goed een dier in het wild kunt determineren.
The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals on Amazon

Goed kunnen determineren in het wild is soms erg lastig. Een leeuw of luipaard herken je nog makkelijk - hoewel sommigen luipaarden en jachtluipaarden misschien door elkaar halen als ze ze nog nooit gezien hebben in het wild. Maar met het cluster apen en dan specifiek Colobusapen of Meerkatten wordt het noodzakelijk goed te kijken. Veel van die apen lijken best wel op elkaar. En je hebt waarschijnlijk nog nooit van de meeste gehoord. Ik niet althans en ik ken toch redelijk wat dieren. Bewijs dat dit cluster eigenlijk een soort chaos is, is dat veel van die apen onder verschillende wetenschappelijke namen voorkomen. De ene keer is een clustertje apen allemaal een soort met een zooitje ondersoorten. De andere keer is een vermeende ondersoort weer een andere soort met zelf weer een paar ondersoorten. Zelfs de namen van geslachten worden uitgewisseld, al naar gelang van de laatste onderzoeken of wie je nu weer wilt aanhangen.

Zo ook de L'Hoëstmeerkat (L'Hoest's Monkey). Op het hele verhaal van wat voor soort het nu weer wel of niet is, zal ik niet ingaan. De flink bedreigde - IUCN status Vulnerable - L'Hoëstmeerkat is voornamelijk lastig uit te spreken. Nog best goed te herkennen. Ik heb er maar één gezien. Met telelens tussen de donkere bomen in de late middag een paar foto's van bedenkelijke kwaliteit kunnen maken. Bedenkelijk, maar wel herkenbaar. Ik kwam 'm tegen in de Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary in Oeganda. We deden daar een Swamp Walk. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary ligt tegen het Kibale Forest National Park aan. Die morgen hadden we in Kibale Forest de chimpansees getrackt. En gevonden.



Het is ook best handig als de gids in het moeras je weet te vertellen wat voor aap je ziet. Scheelt weer door je boekje bladeren terwijl je foto's probeert te maken. En dan dus even goed onthouden wat ie allemaal heeft gezegd bij welk dier en opschrijven na de wandeling. 's Avonds schrijf je dus op welke dieren je gezien hebt. Beter daar ter plekke doen, dan proberen een paar maanden later als je de foto's uitzoekt. Dan nog achterhalen wat je ergens zag in een glimpje is een stuk lastiger. Je loopt 's avonds bij zwak licht nog even door de Kingdon Pocket Guide heen om te kijken wat ze over die beesten schrijven. Die L'Hoëstmeerkat. Rechte rug. Rechte poten. In een onnatuurlijke houding bij elkaar. Beroerde tekening. Hoe komt zoiets in zo'n boek terecht?

Vele maanden later ben je je foto's aan het uitzoeken. De echt goede zitten allang in je Highlights Album. Je wilt kijken of je van elke diersoort die je gezien hebt ook een foto hebt. Wildlife spotting is een soort vliegtuigspotten. Maar dan veel leuker natuurlijk. Je bekijkt de enkele foto van de L'Hoëstmeerkat. Matige kwaliteit. Eigenlijk geen enkele echt goede. Maar. Hoe staat die gekke aap daar nu op de tak? Ziet er niet uit?! Die pose heb ik eerder gezien. Laat ik nu een foto hebben van een L'Hoëstmeerkat. Op een tak. Rechte rug. Staart in een krul. Rechte voor en achterpoten die met 4 handen de tak beetpakken. Vergelijk het plaatje hierboven. De foto. En de tekening uit het boek. Op de foto kijkt ie iets meer naar de camera. Kingdon had geen camera, die had een potlood. En welke aap staart er nu in een potlood? Als je zekerheid wilt of een vage foto van een bepaalde aap is: ik heb voor mezelf het onmiskenbare bewijs. Een 1 op 1 match. Nog nooit zo gemakkelijk.
Maar. Van veel diersoorten heb ik tientallen foto's. Geen een in de pose van de gids - dat zou ook wel te bizar zijn. Je hebt in totaal maar 5 foto's - en slechte - van een dier. Van deze aap. En een ervan is precies 'uit het boekje'.

L'Hoest mogelijk?


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Primates; Primates / Primaten
Suborder: Haplorrhini; Tarsiers, Monkeys and Apes / Apen en Spookdieren
Infraorder: Simiiformes; Simians / Apen
Parvorder: Catarrhini; Old World Monkeys and Apes / Smalneusapen
Superfamily: Cercopithecoidea; Old World Monkeys / Apen van de Oude Wereld
Family: Cercopithecidae; Old World Monkeys / Apen van de Oude Wereld
Subfamily: Cercopithecinae; Baboons, Macaques and Vervet Monkeys / Meerkatachtigen
Genus: Cercopithecus; Guenon Monkeys / Echte Meerkatten
Species: Cercopithecus lhoesti; L'Hoest's Monkey or Mountain Monkey / L'Hoëstmeerkat of Bergmeerkat

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 52: Selous Walking Safari

22 October 2009.
The last morning in Selous. Had an interesting night with sounds of bushbabies and a big elephant bull that plundered our kitchen - 20 meters from my tent. After breakfast we left with our Landcruiser fully packed to Mtemere Gate of the Selous Game Reserve.

Time for a walking safari with the 3 British lads, our guide Tende and an armed ranger. That ranger is mandatory. They don't want any tourists to get attacked by a piece of wildlife. Guide Tende does not like guns. He rather gets eaten than shoot an animal. And if you know how to read the tracks, signs and behaviour of animals, there is little danger you and up as a lion's hors d'oevre or practice some circus acts with raging elephants.

We did not encounter any predators. Unfortunately actually. But it was nice enough. We saw the tracks of various animals, including the less than 2 hours old fresh tracks of a hippo, giraffe and a hyena. The toilet spot of impalas. Interesting trees like ebony with its dark core. Also saw yellow baboons, a giraffe, trumpetter hornbill and a banded mongoose and a dwarf mongoose.

And a squirrel. Who - of course - ran off when it noticed us. Walking through the miombo woodlands is great. You are so much more part of nature than in the train of 4x4's in Ngorongoro Crater. And yes, you see less wildlife out there. It's not a zoo. The squirrel is not the rarest of species: a Striped Bush Squirrel (Gestreepte Boseekhoorn). But still, not everybody has the luck of actually spotting one.

I really have to get back to Africa...


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Rodentia; Rodents / Knaagdieren
Family: Sciuridae; Squirrels / Eekhoorns
Subfamily: Xerinae; Marmots, Ground Squirrels, Afrian Tree Squirrels / Marmotten, Aardeekhoorns, Palmeekhoorns
Genus: Paraxerus; Bush Squirrels / Afrikaanse Boseekhoorns
Species: Paraxerus flavovittis; Striped Bush Squirrel / Gestreepte Boseekhoorn

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 50: Zanj Sun Squirrel in Selous

20 October 2009.
After uploading a bunch of photos of and writing about undulates - hoofed animals - I decided to not continue with the next cousin of antelopes and cattle. Now one of the most abundant mammal groups. They are fast. They are less often seen and even less photographed. Perhaps they are not that interesting to many people. But I recon they are also too quickly moving and usually very precautious and well hidden.

Of course I'm talking about rodents (knaagdieren). There are mice, rats, squirrels (eekhoorns) and the likings everywhere. For instance I do know I saw mice at the eastern Naabi Hill gate in the Serengeti. Tiny. Under the leaves of a big tree. Impossible to get a photo. They were gone when I approached them.

Luckily at the Selous River Camp right next to the Rufiji river I went for an early morning strawl with my camera. This camp site is nice and quiet - unlike those in Serengeti or Ngorongoro - with lush trees and shrub. I think they had less than 10 guests in total. I saw a squirrel running and jumping from branch to branch and from tree to tree. In order to get a photo I actually followed it for a hundred or so meters. I managed to get a few photos in the early morning light.

It's hard to get a good photo when the light is not so strong and the squirrel is moving quickly, hiding for me as well, high up in the trees. I tried to avoid making any noise, but that's hard with all the leaves, twigs and bushes on your path.


I think it's a Zanj Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus undulatus; Zanj Zonne-eekhoorn). But it can also be a Mutable Sun Squirrel (Heliosciurus mutabilis). They are very similar in size and appearance. The Mutable Sun Squirrel is a bit more reddish or tawny than the Zanj Sun Squirrel. But to distinguish that with the minimal reference material I have, that's hard. Also the colour of the fur does not tell it all: the early morning sun gives it a reddish glow anyways and if I change the white balance of my camera a bit we already go from Zanj to Mutable ;-) Looking at the tail I'd say it's the Zanj Sun Squirrel. The tail in the Zanj Sun Squirrel is on average longer than its body and in the Mutable Sun Squirrel the body is a bit longer.

If you can tell me which one of the two squirrels it is for sure or have any reference material, please leave a comment here or on Flickr.
And if not: just enjoy the photos of this squirrel with its fancy striped tail!


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Rodentia; Rodents / Knaagdieren
Family: Sciuridae; Squirrels / Eekhoorns
Subfamily: Xerinae; Marmots, Ground Squirrels, Afrian Tree Squirrels / Marmotten, Aardeekhoorns, Palmeekhoorns
Genus: Heliosciurus; Sun Squirrels / Zonne-eekhoorns
Species: Heliosciurus undulatus; Zanj Sun Squirrel or Eastern Sun Squirrel / Zanj Zonne-eekhoorn

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 22: Wildebeests in Ngorongoro Crater

Whatever you can say about the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania: it's the place to make some - close up - photos that were missing in your photo collection. A confined area; the animals - except some elephant bulls - never leave the crater. Vast plains with few trees. Good overview. But how wild is the Ngorongoro Crater? To make an analogy: comparing Selous Game Reserve (very wild) to Ngorongoro Crater is like comparing Ngorongoro Crater to your local Safari zoo or park (like the Dutch Safaripark Beekse Bergen). Ngorongoro Crater is close to a zoo. The animals are so used to the queues of 4x4 vehicles that they are not scared anymore. Hyena's at 2 meter from the road. A wildebeest lying on the road and not moving away... The closest I got with a 4x4 from any wildebeests in Selous Game Reserve was maybe 40 to 60 meters. They ran off at that point. Here it was just 2 meters. Also, in Selous there is a different subspecies of wildebeest; the Nyassaland Wildebeest or Johnston's Wildebeest.





Nevertheless, the big herds make great pictures. The Western White-bearded Wildebeest of Ngorongoro is the same subspecies that is renown from the Great Migration in the Serengeti - Maasai Mara ecosystem. And for the Dutchies: Gnoe is the proper Dutch word, secondary it's Wildebeest. The English call it Wildebeest and occasionally Gnu. So we're talking about the Westelijke Witbaardgnoe here. What you see in Maasai Mara with the Great Migration is what is happening in Ngorongoro as well: trains of wildebeests. They prefer to walk in line, behind each other. On fixed trails. What sometimes may look like car tracks on the grass on some photos, is actually the wildebeest trail. Cars can't go offroad in Ngorongoro. Just have a look at my photos of Western White-bearded Wildebeests in Ngorongoro Crater if you want to see more.

And isn't the Western White-bearded Wildebeest the subspecies with the most poetic name? Great alliterations and vowel rhyme :-) Just say it out loud: Western White-bearded Wildebeest. You can make beautiful poems with it. Or do a five minute attempt:

Behold the Western White-bearded Wildebeest
Lives its livestocky life not as a mild feast
But the herd thinks of the carnivorous sorrows later
Already treading tomorrow's trails of Ngorongoro Crater

It's that Oscar Wilde's deceased, otherwise he'd write about this Wildebeest :P
Enough about poetry, on with photography.



The crater rim, blue skies, sunshine and a docile herd of wildebeests make great pictures, but does not give you the true 'wild' and safari feeling. If you like that, go to Selous Game Reserve for an off road and wild adventure. But don't expect to be approaching any wildlife as close as in Ngorongoro Crater.


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Artiodactyla; Even-toed Ungulates / Evenhoevigen
Suborder: Cetruminantia; Ruminants, Whales and Hippos / Herkauwers, Walvissen en Nijlpaarden
Infraorder: Pecora; Ruminants / Herkauwers
Family: Bovidae; Bovids; Antelopes, Gazelles, Buffalos, Sheep, Cattle / Holhoornigen; Antilopen, Gazelles, Buffels, Schapen, Runderen
Subfamily: Alcelaphinae; Wildebeests, Hartebeests, Topis / Koeantilopen
Genus: Connochaetes; Wildebeests / Gnoes
Species: Connochaetes taurinus; Common Wildebeest / Gewone Gnoe
* Subspecies: Connochaetes taurinus johnstoni; Nyassaland Wildebeest, Johnston's Wildebeest or Nyassa Gnu / Mozambiquegnoe
* Subspecies: Connochaetes taurinus mearnsi; Western White-bearded Wildebeest / Westelijke Witbaardgnoe

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wildlife spotting in het veld: hoe herken je gazelles enzo

Het is natuurlijk leuk. Op safari gaan. Je ziet wat beestjes. Maakt een foto. Lachen. Mooi. Maar je wilt natuurlijk ook weten wat je ziet. Je wilt niet eindigen zoals die mid-twintigers uit Engeland en Australië die een lange overland tour doen en eigenlijk alleen bezig zijn met: wat zuip ik vanavond en hang ik daarbij ondersteboven in een trapeze met een trechter, slang en bier of ga ik shotjes slammen?
Dat is ook leuk, maar vraag die gasten niet wat ze gezien hebben.

Goed. Je zit dus in je overland truck of 4x4. Je hebt geen dikke naslagwerken of Wikipedia bij je. En je bent nog geen expert in het veld. Hoe onthou je dan welk beest je ziet? Vooral al die gazelle-achtige beesten lijken op elkaar. En wat is nou een antilope, een gazelle of iets anders dat een beetje op een hert lijkt, maar dan geen of soms lange horens heeft. Geen gewei in elk geval. Dat heb je al wel gezien.

Voor een paar soorten zijn er handige manieren om ze te herkennen. Sommige beesten kun je herkennen aan de lijnen op de neus of de vlekken op de punt van de oren. Of de tekening op hun nek of borst. Heel leuk. Maar zodra je er maar aan komt gereden, rennen die springerige gazelles heel gezellig wel of ze staan verstopt in de bosjes. En rennen dan alsnog weg. Je hebt weinig gelegenheid om eens rustig tussen de benen te kijken of de bek open te trekken, want het gebit zegt ook heel veel bij determinatie! Je ziet alleen hun kont als ze wegrennen. En wat heb je nou gezien?

Het komt heel goed uit dat je sommige beesten erg goed aan hun kont kunt herkennen. Zeker bepaalde gazelles, bokken, antilopes. Ja, maar een deel van de beesten die een beetje op een springerig en slank hert met horens lijken zijn eigenlijk gazelles of antilopes. Heel verwarrend. De meeste gazelles zijn dan wel weer echte antilopen, maar niet alle antilopen zijn gazelles. En dan heb je ook nog die bokken dus. Rietbokken, waterbokken. Die zijn meest wat hariger. Maar goed.


Het herkennen van die beesten is handig. Er zijn ezelsbruggetjes voor. Neem nu de impala. De naam impala heeft een M in zich. Net als McDonald's. En impala's zijn ook een goede snack! In Oost-Afrika kun je ze niet eten, dus daarvoor zul je naar Zuid-Afrika moeten. Maar goed. Laat die impala nu een McDonald's M op zijn kont hebben! Heel helder herkenbaar. Nooit meer twijfel.

En dan de Grantgazelle. Die heeft een witte kont. Het wit loopt zelfs door tot óver zijn kont. Een soort vensterbank op zijn onderrug. In het Engels geven ze hem de bijnaam 1-11; one-eleven. Waarom? Nou, met die zwarte strepen op zijn dijen en die streep op zijn staart op die witte vacht is het net of dat er staat geschreven: one-eleven. Mooie rechte strepen. Ook goed te herkennen! En met zijn vierkante kont - de vensterbank - is het ook net een velletje papier. Maar dan anders. En je kunt ook nog makkelijk de naam Grantgazelle (Grant's Gazelle) linken aan die 1-11. De naam van het beest heeft ook 3 lange rechte stokletters: Grantgazelle. Net 1-11 dus :-)

Dan heb je de Waterbok, Waterbuck in het Engels. Dit beest is wat bruiner en plukkeriger. De wetenschappelijke naam voor de Waterbok is Kobus ellipsiprymnus, wat ongeveer zoveel betekent als: Kobus heeft een cirkel op zijn kont. Eigenlijk een wc-bril. Aan die wc-bril (toilet seat) kun je de waterbok ook herkennen. Heel makkelijk. En hoe onthou je de naam erbij? Dan moet je even de Engelse naam nemen: WaterbuCk. Van WC naar wc-bril is een kleine stap. Z'n vacht is poepbruin, dus dat moet ook geen associatieproblemen opleveren. Je moet echter wel opletten: het werkt alleen bij de Ellipswaterbok. Een ondersoort. De Defassawaterbok heeft meer een toiletdeksel. Niet zo spectaculair. In Kenia en Oeganda kom je de Defassawaterbok tegen. De Ellipswaterbok kom je weer tegen ten zuid-oosten van de Riftvallei. Dus deze 'tip' had ik alleen wat aan in Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. Maar als je dan eindelijk het beest herkent hebt en er een mooie foto van gemaakt hebt, is het net of je een Royal Flush hebt :-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Impala: common but beautiful



Impalas are quite well known to the common public. And the impala (Aepyceros melampus) is likely one of the first animals you'll ever see on a safari. As it goes with common animals: the first encounter the 4x4 or overland truck stops and everybody takes pictures of the impalas in a far distance. Better shots will follow soon as your safari adventure goes by.



However, at a certain point they become so common that you hardly take a shot of them at the next encounter. The vehicle won't stop for them anymore. That is why in some parks I actually have hardly taken a photo of impalas. Leaving me without proper 'spotting' of this wildlife on photo in a certain park. Well, I still have enough great impala photos!




Though the impala looks like your average gazelle or antelope at a superficial glance, they actually are not quite so much gazelles. Impalas have their own subfamily: Aepycerotinae. That subfamily consists of only one species: the impala. That makes the impala a special case. And still how common it may seem, it's a magnificent animal in all it's beauty.






For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Artiodactyla; Even-toed Ungulates / Evenhoevigen
Suborder: Cetruminantia; Ruminants, Whales and Hippos / Herkauwers, Walvissen en Nijlpaarden
Infraorder: Pecora; Ruminants / Herkauwers
Family: Bovidae; Bovids; Antelopes, Gazelles, Buffalos, Sheep, Cattle / Holhoornigen; Antilopen, Gazelles, Buffels, Schapen, Runderen
Subfamily: Aepycerotinae; Impalas / Impala's
Genus: Aepyceros; Impalas / Impala's
Species: Aepyceros melampus; Impala / Impala of Rooibok
Subspecies: Aepyceros melampus melampus; Common Impala / Impala of Rooibok

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Madagascar Day 2: Leaf-tail Geckos


Lined leaf-tail gecko / gestreepte bladstaartgekko



Lined leaf-tail gecko / gestreepte bladstaartgekko


26 July 2008.
In Exotic Reserve Peyrieras they also had a bunch of Leaf-tail Geckos (Bladstaartgekko's). These weird creatures form a distinct group, yet the lineage and their place between other geckos is still a bit of a mystery. But let's not go that way.

Giant leaf-tail gecko / reuzenbladstaartgekko



The Leaf-tail Geckos (or Leaf-tailed Geckos) are within the genus of Uroplatus. They all have flat bodies and a flat leaf shaped tail. They are incredibly well camouflaged. In a reserve like this one it's easy. They just take them out of their cage and you make the photos. In the wild I've also encountered several Leaf-tail geckos. I'm reasonably good at spotting wild life. But these geckos? The guide points them out. Still oblivious what he's pointing at. Only at closer inspection you actually see the gecko. Their camouflage is brilliant, they press their body flat against the trunk of a tree, blending in with the bark. The side edges of some species even have some mossy filaments so you won't see any transition between the gecko and the tree.

Southern leaf-tail gecko / mosbladstaartgekko


I love them. Even their eyes are camouflaged! When they open their mouths - when threatened they do so - you'll see less camouflage: bright orange and red colours. That sudden flash should scare away any predators :-)I've now published photos of 3 Leaf-tail geckos. Have a close look at the Southern Leaf-tail Gecko (Mosbladstaartgekko). The camouflage is striking. I have pictures - not yet online - of this one on a trunk of a tree. You just don't see it. You really have to look closely. Look at the eyes as well. I've never seen such beautiful, spectacular and even camouflaged eyes. Weird marble pattern...
With the Giant Leaf-tail Gecko you can see how it blends in with the dead palm leaves. The colour and texture is just perfect.
I've shown pictures of the Lined Leaf-tail Gecko (Gestreepte Bladstaartgekko) to my family. Especially my sister did not believe the picture - the first photo of this blog - was real. They sell a lot of toys and souvenirs to tourists in Madagascar. Made of sisal, palm leaves or raffia. She believed it was fake. It could not be a real animal. Until I showed her multiple pictures of the same animal, moving around. This Leaf-tail gecko has a stunning beauty with elegant lines. A marvel of natural design and evolution!

Southern leaf-tail gecko / mosbladstaartgekko


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the page for that rank in the biological classification.

There is still quite some debate within the scientific world on how to classify the suborders and infraordes within Squamata. Here I've joined the snakes and geckos together in one suborder (in a previous post I placed the snakes classically still in their own suborder).
Kingdom:Animalia (320)
AnimalsDierenrijk
Phylum:Chordata (284)
VertebratesGewervelden
Class:Reptilia (9)
ReptilesReptielen
Order:Squamata (9)
Scaled ReptilesSchubreptielen
Suborder:Scleroglossa (7)
Monitors, Snakes, Geckos, SkinksVaranen, Gekko's, Skinken, Slangen
Infraorder:Gekkota (7)
Geckos, Blind Lizards, Legless LizardsGekko's, Blinde Hagedissen, Slanghagedissen
Family:Gekkonidae (7)
GeckosGekko's
Subfamily:Gekkoninae (7)
Genus:Uroplatus (7)
Leaf-tail Geckos or Flat-Tail GeckosBladstaartgekko's
Species:Uroplatus fimbriatus
Giant Leaf-tailed GeckoReuzenbladstaartgekko
Species:Uroplatus lineatus (0)
Lined Leaf-tail GeckoGestreepte Bladstaartgekko
Species:Uroplatus sikorae (0)
Southern Leaf-tailed Gecko or Mossy Leaf-tailed GeckoMosbladstaartgekko

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hippo's all around!

So, I've uploaded a bunch of hippo photos. You can see them in the East Africa photo stream at the top of my blog.
The photos uploaded are made in Maasai Mara in Kenya, Queen Elizabeth in Uganda, Serengeti and Mikumi in Tanzania. Yeah, I also have hippo picks from Ngorongoro and Selous, but just did not upload them. You have to make some sort of selection...


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Artiodactyla; Even-toed Ungulates / Evenhoevigen
Suborder: Cetruminantia; Ruminants, Whales and Hippos / Herkauwers, Walvissen en Nijlpaarden
Infraorder: Cetancodonta; Whales, Dolphins, Hippos / Walvissen, Dolfijnen, Nijlpaarden
Family: Hippopotamidae; Hippopotamuses / Nijlpaarden
Genus: Hippopotamus; Hippopotamuses / Nijlpaarden
Species: Hippopotamus amphibius; Hippopotamus / Nijlpaard

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Geotagging done!

Finally, I\'ve finished geotagging my almost 9000 East Africa photos :-) Accuracy between 2 m and 30 km (when you have no clue).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Missing photos...

Turns out I missed out 100 photos of pristine montain rain forest of Mazumbai Forest in Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. First time I see them, thrilling! There is some cool stuff :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Madagascar Day 2: Madagascan Leaf-nosed Snake

26 July 2008. Still in the Exotic Reserve Peyrieras. They also had snakes there. Dangerous? Not really. Especially if the snakes have a comical spear shaped or leaf shaped nose. Hence the name Spear-nosed Snake or Leaf-nosed Snake (Bladneusslang).

In the pouring rain the pointy nose looked more comical since water drops were hanging on the tip. So. Lousy greyish light and rain. Ultimate photographing conditions :-)

And is this snake dangerous? No. An article describing Envenomation by the Malagasy colubrid snake Langaha madagascariensis tells you all. A researcher got bitten while he tried to measure the snake. These Leaf-nosed snakes are not your typical venomous snake. They even argue if it is venomous at all! It does not have fangs in the front of the mouth like with a cobra. It has to chew on you - your finger - to make sure via the back of its mouth it inserts its 'venom'. It causes pain, but is not really harmful. You really have to provoke this snake to get bitten. And even then: it has to be able to chew on you. Easy with a finger, not with an arm. Gentle handling - picking it up - causes no problem. Docile snakes. And actually quite pretty :-)


These snakes also have strong sexual dimorphism. The male has a distinct colour and nose shape. The male is left on the first picture and on the second picture. You have to be lucky to encounter snakes in the wild. I did not encounter these Leaf-nosed snakes in the wild, but did encounter a tree boa and a small water snake that slided over my bare feet - yeah - while I was taking pictures. But that story is for another time...


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Reptilia; Reptiles / Reptielen
Order: Squamata; Scaled Reptiles / Schubreptielen
Suborder: Serpentes; Snakes / Slangen
Family: Colubridae; Typical Snakes or Colubrids / Gladde Slangen
Subfamily: Pseudoxyrhophiinae
Genus: Langaha; Leaf-nosed Snakes / Bladneusslangen
Species: Langaha madagascariensis; Madagascan Leaf-nosed Snake / Madagaskar Bladneusslang

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Madagaskar Dag 2: Komeetstaartvlinder

26 juli 2008.
In Exotic Reserve Peyrieras hadden ze ook een vlinder. Of een mot. De meeste insecten die tot de orde van de vlinders (Lepidoptera) behoren zijn motten. En veel motten zijn niet van die irritante fladderbeestjes die op een zomeravond rond je lamp vliegen. Neem de nachtpauwogen. Dat zijn nachtvlinders, eigenlijk motten. Ze zijn de grootste en spectaculairste vlinderachtigen die er zijn.

De komeetstaartvlinder is er zo een. Hij komt alleen op Madagaskar voor. Het is een van de grootste motten die er zijn. Zeker niet de grootste. Wel groot. Kop tot staart zo'n 25 cm lang! De komeetstaartmotten zijn in het wild bedreigd, maar gelukkig worden ze met succes gekweekt.

De volwassen vlinders hebben geen werkende roltong en kunnen dus niet eten. Ze leven dan ook maar een dag of 5. Dus je moet geluk hebben als je er net eentje tegenkomt! Dit exemplaar zat in gevangenschap en was gekweekt. In het hotel in Ranomafana, aan de rand van het oerwoud, zat een wild exemplaar. Met beschadigde staart. Het zijn erg mooie en fotogenieke vlinders. En in tegenstelling tot veel vlinders, vliegen ze niet weg als je eraan komt. Vandaar dat ik foto's kon maken op slechts 5 cm afstand.


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Arthropoda; Arthropods / Geleedpotigen
Class: Insecta; Insects / Insekten
Order: Lepidoptera; Butterflies and Moths / Vlinders
Family: Saturniidae; Saturniids / Nachtpauwogen
Subfamily: Saturniinae
Genus: Argema; African Moon Moths / Afrikaanse Maanmotten
Species: Argema mittrei; Comet Moth / Komeetstaartvlinder

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 4: Zebra Crossing in Maasai Mara

4 September 2009.
The Maasai Mara. Highlands of Kenya: the altitude is well above 1500 meters. Vast hilly plains, the occasional acacia tree in the dry grass savannah landscape. Only cut through by some - dry - rivers with abundant green shrub and trees.



We encountered loads of small groups of Grant's Zebras. We also encountered the tails of the Great Migration: flocks of tens up to a few thousands of Zebras and Wildebeests. A great sight! Not as dense and migrating as you would expect, but this was only the 'achterhoede' as they say in Dutch.



With these Zebra photos you can grasp a bit of the vastness of the landscape. You feel the sun almost burning. The silence, only disturbed by the grazing sounds, the occasional - yeah what sound do Zebras make? I've forgotten it by now :-)



On the back of the Zebra you can see 2 - probably male - Wattled Starlings (Lelspreeuwen, Creatophora cinerea). If they are in their breeding period, their upper heads are yellow and they have a big black wattle (lel) under their chins. Now they are just piggy-back riding the Zebra.


For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Perissodactyla; Odd-toed Ungulates / Onevenhoevigen
Suborder: Hippomorpha; Horses and allies / Paardachtigen
Family: Equidae; Horses and allies / Paardachtigen
Genus: Equus; Horses / Paarden
Species: Equus quagga; Plains Zebra / Steppezebra
Subspecies: Equus quagga boehmi; Grant's Zebra / Grantzebra

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 4: Male lions in the Maasai Mara

4 September 2009.
Also this day in Maasai Mara we encountered several groups of lions. Just before lunch we took a side path. There it was. Hiding under a tree, high grass and shrub: a young male lion. Behind him another one, not well visible. If only they would get up.



They got up! The male lions walked behind each other. Right into the shrub, down into a ditch, out of sight. This was our bad luck. Going off the road is not alowed in Maasai Mara, for that you will have to go to Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. So we drove off, crossed a small bridge that overspanned the ditch the lions walked into about 200 meters to our right. Then we discovered a small track running alongside the ditch! We took the turn and luckily we saw the lions appearing out of the shrub and the ditch.


They decided to cross our track and walk past our overland truck on both sides. Standing there. Lying around. Rolling over. Taking a small walk, splitting up. Walking towards the camera. Posing in the landscape. The biggest of the 2 lions lied even so close to us that you could see every hair, scratch and fly on his face. Just a couple of feet from our truck! They proved to be great shots. Great present right before a well deserved lunch after a 5 hour game drive.



For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Carnivora; Carnivores / Carnivoren
Suborder: ; Cat-like carnivores / Katachtigen
Family: Felidae; Cats / Katten
Subfamily: Pantherinae; Big Cats / Grote Katten
Genus: Panthera; Lions, Leopards, Tigers / Leeuwen, Luipaarden, Tijgers
Species: Panthera leo; Lion / Leeuw
Subspecies: Panthera leo nubica; East African Lion / Oost-Afrikaanse Leeuw

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Conservation Status for Photographed Wildlife

You've probably heard of the Red List. The IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, produces this list. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A lot of species are endangered or almost extinct. The Red List is needed to focus on the conservation of the right species.
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I've added the Conservation Status for wildlife I photographed. With every species and subspecies in my Biological Classification menu (see the menu on the left as well). You can see the little icon if you go down to the species and subspecies level. If you hover over it with your mouse, it has a tooltip text explaining the icon, e.g. "Conservation status: Near Threatened". And at the bottom of that page you can find some stats about the number of animals with a certain Conservation Status.

Classification

Species are classified in nine groups, set through criteria such as rate of decline, population size, area of geographic distribution, and degree of population and distribution fragmentation.

  • Extinct (EX) - No individuals remaining.

  • Extinct in the Wild (EW) - Known only to survive in captivity, or as a naturalized population outside its historic range.

  • Critically Endangered (CR) - Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

  • Endangered (EN) - High risk of extinction in the wild.

  • Vulnerable (VU) - High risk of endangerment in the wild.

  • Near Threatened (NT) - Likely to become endangered in the near future.

  • Least Concern (LC) - Lowest risk. Does not qualify for a more at risk category. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.

  • Data Deficient (DD) - Not enough data to make an assessment of its risk of extinction.

  • Not Evaluated (NE) - Has not yet been evaluated against the criteria.


When discussing the IUCN Red List, the official term "threatened" is a grouping of three categories: Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable.

Source: Wikipedia.
See also: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Madagascar Dag 2: Tomaatkikker

26 juli 2008.
Ok, weer foto's uit Exotic Reserve Peyrieras. Wat inhoudt dat de beesten in gevangenschap zitten. De 'kooi' waar dit beest in zit is groter dan zijn territorium in het wild, dus hij zal het niet zo erg vinden. In de ruimte waar dit beest rondhopt door de modder - het regende lekker - zet een dierentuin een complete kolonie apen. Dus erg slecht zal ie het niet gehad hebben.

En als ie wel slechte zin heeft, dan scheidt ie gewoon een plakkerig slijmschuim uit dat je ogen en mond irriteren als je 'm probeert op te eten. Ik heb het hier over de Madagaskar Tomaatkikker. Een gek, tomaatgroot en -kleurig beest dat alleen op Madagskar voorkomt. Hij is wel enigszins bedreigd (Near Threatened), dus dat is wat minder. Maar hij staat er beter voor dan de meeste diersoorten op Madagaskar. Helaas gaat dat daar niet helemaal lekker. Versnippering en (illegale) houtkap zorgen voor het verdwijnen van habitat en verregaande erosie. De hooglanden van Madagaskar waren ooit allemaal bos. Nu is het meeste rijstveld, landbouwgrond, onbebouwd of kaal weggespoeld. Beetje jammer.

Ik heb deze Tomaatkikker maar als Dyscophus antongilii aangemerkt. Binnen het geslacht Dyscophus - Tomaatkikkers - zijn nog 2 andere soorten. Mocht iemand mij met zekerheid kunnen vertellen of dit inderdaad die Dyscophus antongilii is of een van zijn broertjes, laat dan commentaar achter! (hier of liever op Flickr)

De Tomaatkikker behoort verder tot de familie van Smalbekkikkers. Wat me weer aan die mop doet denken. Ken je die mop van die breedbekkikkers? Ze bestaan niet. Er bestaan dus geen breedbekkikkers. Arme ooievaar...

Friday, August 6, 2010

East Africa photos in the Biological Classification

By now most of the previously photos of East Africa I published on my blog are now organized in the Biological Classification (you can find it under the 'find wildlife photos' block on the left). All the mammals of my East Africa photos in the Flickr photostream you can see at the top of my blog are now clickable in the Biological Classification menu. So if you like to see all carnivores, the rhinos or find the relation between Giraffes and Reedbucks, it's now easy :-)
New photos will follow soon again!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Madagascar Day 2: Tenrecs are weird animals

26 July 2008. We went to Exotic Reserve Peyrieras. This is a private park. In this reserve they have captive animals that exist throughout Madagascar. Chameleons, geckos, insects, frogs. And tenrecs.

Tenrec you say? Most of you probably have never heard of tenrecs (tenreks in Dutch). Tenrecs come in quite some variety. They look quite similar to hedgehogs (egels) and shrews (spitsmuizen). In the past they were classified in the group of insectivores, together with hedgehogs, shrews and moles (mollen). And for the Dutch: yeah, shrews (spitsmuizen) are insectivores, not rodents (knaagdieren), since they are not mice and totally not related to them.

Since there were no hedgehogs, shrews and the likings on Madagascar - very limited number of mammal families do exist there, evolution did its trick. Convergent evolution made the tenrecs find the niches left untouched by the absense of shrews and hedgehogs. Tenrecs now look like shrews, hedgehogs (with spines!) and even otters.

So, tenrecs are not insectivores. What are they? Still weird creatures. Recent genetic research has shown that tenrecs must be put in a new clade or superorder Afrotheria. The Afrotheria is a bizar group of animals. Apparently with no relation at all. What's in there? Tenrecs of course. The better known are the elephants and sea cows or manatees. Furthermore hyraxes (klipdassen), the closest living relatives to elephants. They have the size of and look a bit like an Alpine marmot. Let's also not forget the weird aardvark (aardvarken). If you look at my photos in Biological Classification menu, you can see the close relations between elephants, hyraxes and tenrecs.

Tenrecs can be found on forest floors throughout Madagascar. It's hard to encounter one in the wild. Especially if you are mainly searching for lemures and chameleons during the day. We were lucky enough to be able to see these captive Common Tenrecs (Tenrec ecaudatus, Gewone Tenrec) in this reserve. The tenrecs did not know what to think of the presence of Youssouf though...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Schaapmans' Taxonomie

Nu ik druk bezig ben met de taxonomie van al mijn gefotografeerde dieren, zou je Schaapmans het best met de volgende wetenschappelijke naam kunnen beschrijven: Homo schapiens.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Find photos by browsing through the Biological Classification

Currently I'm in the process of organising all my photos of both Madagascar and East Africa. The photos will be tagged and categorized in a biological way: based on their place (rank) within the Biological Classification, a scientific taxonomy. So all undulates will have common tags, all primates will be put together. All photos of a certain species of baboons will be grouped.

This will make it easier to find photos of certain animals or animal groups. You only want to see elephants? Or want to find out that those weird Serengeti rock hyraxes, the tenrecs of Madagascar and elephants share a common ancestry? That will be easy!
Click to browse wildlife photos via the taxonomy
All those photos will also be a contribution to the Encyclopedia Of Life project. That way I contribute to the academic community as well by enhancing the encyclopedia with fresh photo material of sometimes rare species or unique moments. Being a biologist, I'm a curator at Encyclopedia Of Life as well. I maintain parts of the Primates sections.

In the left menu column on this blog you can click on the 'Find wildlife photos' section or the icon. It will take you to a new page, were there is an easy menu to browse through all the different ranks in the Biological Classification. From the class and order level, down to genus and species. Just click it, and you'll be taken to the appropriate Flickr photo page!

As I continue to add photos to Flickr and this blog, the taxonomy menu will be expended. For now there are only 2 species, but it will rapidly expand! I've already added a bunch of ranks (categories) (grayed out) of animals I photographed but did not publish yet. I hope you enjoy it or find it useful, any feedback is welcome!

You can go and browse animal photos via the Biological Classification menu right away!