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Sharifa

Kruger: Images and memories

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COSMIC RHINO

it is good that your parents brought you up to love nature.

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Sharifa

@@COSMIC RHINO - that is how it all started and yet my siblings do not like Kruger or Game Reserves.

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Sharifa

There were many changes and new developments happening in Kruger in the 1980s/1990s; in 1982 a new entrance gate in the south, at Malelane, was opened. New Picnic sites were Afsaal and Mooiplaas. Some of the existing camps increased and revamped their accommodation facilities, and there were new camps earmarked for Kruger.

 

One new camp was Berg-n-Dal, an Afrikaans word, meaning “hill and dale.” It was opened in Febrauary 1984 and is 12km west of Malelane. This camp varied from the regular rondavels and was built in modern face brick units but has maintained its rugged feel. The camp is set on the banks of the Matjulu Creek and overlooks a dam. Special care has been taken to preserve the natural vegetation of the area in camp. This was the first time underground cables were used for the supply of electricity instead of the normal unsightly overhead cables.

 

The habitat around Malelane and Berg-n-Dal is tall granite koppies with pockets of mixed knobthorn sweetveld. We first stayed in this camp in December 1984 and game was sparse due to the building operations but now it is once again a good game area. However, we have always had good leopard sightings in this area.

 

The mountainous area around Berg-n-Dal is the only place the rare southern grey rhebok and oribi are found in Kruger. We have yet to see them in Kruger.

 

The 12km between Malelane and Berg-n-Dal is an excellent road to see leopards early in the morning. The drive around the rocky Matjulu Loop, S110 is great for rhinos and elephants. There is a waterhole 4km from the camp on the S110 which is ideal for sundowners before heading back to camp. If you are lucky you might get to see wild dogs as well.

 

If you travel north from Malelane to Skukuza, 21km from Malelane is Afsaal Picnic Site. In Afrikaans it means ‘a place next to the road where one breaks the journey to have a rest.’ Our best cheetah with cubs and leopard cubs sighting was on this stretch of the road. This was when the camera packed up. There is a resident African Scops owl at Afsaal and the tree is signposted for visitors to see this owl.

 

We had a wonderful sighting of wild dogs on the corner of the H3 and the S114 one morning upon entering the Park. The S114 right up to Skukuza has always been a very productive road for us. The dilemma has always been whether to stay on the H3 tar road or divert onto the S114 to Skukuza.

 

Malelane Camp was an old Rangers Post that was converted to a Private Camp accommodating 18 and had to be booked en bloc by one group. In the early 1990s it became a small camp where you could book individual units. Although B & D has a far better setting and ambience, the advantage of Malelane Camp is you can get on to the H3 or S114 before the B & D people and be greeted by sightings like these (I am using my old film photos wherever I can)

 

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The other advantage of Malelane is you can park of on the Matjulu Bridge in the evening and stay out that bit longer than the people staying in B & D

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Game Warden

Thank you so much for this @@Sharifa - have you got the book, Kruger, Portrait of a National Park? It was one of the things that started me off loving Kruger and safaris when I bought it in the Skukuza camp shop back in 93. Alas it took me many many years to return to Africa...

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COSMIC RHINO

I have a south african friend who lives in Sydney. To use her own words when growing up the family holiday regulary involved a visit to a ghastly whaling station , almost anything would be better.

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Atravelynn

 

Interestingly he did not eat the cheetah but dropped it to the ground the next morning.

 

 

Perhaps the leopard did not like fast food :rolleyes:

 

As a cheetah fan I take offense, but I have to admit that's a good one.

 

That dead cheetah in the tree is a disturbing sight, though it is just nature's way. I'm not surprised it was not eaten, especially with other prey plentiful. Cats are not supposed to be very tasty. Were there others who had witnessed the entire event, so that's how you know what happened to the cheetah? My Tanz guide had mentioned seeing a cheetah carcass in a tree one time. Very rare. When you are so familiar with an area and spend a good deal of time in it, as you have done in Kruger, the rewards are unusual and unique sightings.

 

Thanks for sharing this.

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Sharifa

Thank you so much for this @@Sharifa - have you got the book, Kruger, Portrait of a National Park? It was one of the things that started me off loving Kruger and safaris when I bought it in the Skukuza camp shop back in 93. Alas it took me many many years to return to Africa...

 

@@Game Warden- This book has been our Kruger bible. We have planned many a trip following his book.

 

This book and the two books by Bruce Aiken- Nightstalk, story of a Kruger Pride and Kruger The Supreme African Wilderness are books that my son wanted to be read to him every night. No fairytales for him.

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Sharifa

 

 

Interestingly he did not eat the cheetah but dropped it to the ground the next morning.

 

 

Perhaps the leopard did not like fast food :rolleyes:

 

As a cheetah fan I take offense, but I have to admit that's a good one.

 

That dead cheetah in the tree is a disturbing sight, though it is just nature's way. I'm not surprised it was not eaten, especially with other prey plentiful. Cats are not supposed to be very tasty. Were there others who had witnessed the entire event, so that's how you know what happened to the cheetah? My Tanz guide had mentioned seeing a cheetah carcass in a tree one time. Very rare. When you are so familiar with an area and spend a good deal of time in it, as you have done in Kruger, the rewards are unusual and unique sightings.

 

Thanks for sharing this.

 

 

@Atravelynn- I am still disturbed everytime I look at those photos, I have a soft spot for cheetahs too.

Unfortunately no one saw the whole scene play out so I was just speculating and I guess we will never know what really happened.

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Sharifa

Still on the S114, this is big 5 Country

 

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Rhinos in a territorial fight

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Just have to share this beauty in the early morning sun with you

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and also a very good chance of finding spotted hyenas dens.

 

Hyena carrying cub across the road

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Hyena and cub

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From Afsaal we now travel west to Pretoruiskop (P’kop). On the Voortrekker Road (Pioneer), the H2-2, you will see a famous landmark, Ship Mountain, it is said to look like an upside down ship but I am still trying to figure that one out after all these years. Next time any of you drive that way please look out for it and then tell me if it looks anything like an upside down ship to you. If you are fortunate, you can find the kudu, sable antelope, the Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and rhinos.

 

Sable near ship mountain. Have not seen them here in recent years. The S36 north of Tshokwane is excellent for sables. More about that later

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Lichtensteins Haartebeest - these were extinct in Kruger and reintroduced. Still a very rare sighting in Kruger

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Predators can also be found regularly on this road. There are a few historical sites and plaques on the H2-2. One is the first concrete dam to be built on the Mitomeni River, meaning at the jackal-berry trees. This was the road the Voortrekkers (Pioneers) used to travel to Mozambique in those very early days. Also a memorial to Kruger’s most famous dog, Jock of the Bushveld

This area is steeped in history. Numbi Gate is the nearest entrance to P’kop. The first tourist to enter the Park entered through Numbi Gate in 1927.

 

P’kop was one of the first camps to open to the public and also the area where the first rhinos were released when they were re-introduced into Kruger. They had become extinct as far back as 1896 due to hunting and poaching. The white rhino was re-introduced in the PK area on 13 October 1961. Two bulls and two cows were captured in a game reserve in Natal and released in a boma (enclosure) near P’kop.

P’kop is the only camp to have alien jacaranda trees and bougainvilleas. They were planted by the local ranger in the early days and are kept for historical reasons. It has the most inviting pool. It is built around the granite rocks which are in abundance in and around P’kop. The granite forms part of the one side of the pool.

 

 

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Sangeeta

Fabulous information.

 

You are so right about siblings being different despite the same upbringing.

 

But PP and you are a couple made in heaven :) How lovely to share the same passion. Does that ever make things a bit difficult, though? Deciding where to go next etc?

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Sharifa

Yes, things do get difficult @@Sangeeta when we have to decide not only which Park but also which Camps. In the end I get my way most times as PP is just happy to be out in the bush.

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Sharifa

We do not stay much in Pretoriuskop (PK). The area is sour grass and although you can see all of the big 5 in the area and also Sable Antelope it is not as good for game viewing as other Camps in the South.

 

Having said that we have had two amazing sightings on the H1-1 which is the road from PK to Skukuza. These were some time back and not the best photo quality.

 

Mating African Rock Pythons - another once in a life time sighting.

 

 

 

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Also Mating Water Monitor Lizards

 

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This python resting its head on a stone on the S114

 

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Other reptiles seen in Kruger are puff adders and Flap Necked Chameleon

 

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Water Monitors can be found all over the Park and are seen often. This one at the Biyamiti Weir which is the area I will go to next.

 

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johnkok

Sharifa, on 23 May 2013 - 1:51 PM, said:

In the end I get my way most times as PP ...

Not only is PP an awesome ambassador for wildlife parks in RSA, he is also a very very wise man Edited by johnkok

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Shreyas

It's so fascinating to read the stories of you lucky folks who were born in Africa, Sharifa.

70 trips to Kruger surely makes you both pioneers of the park. Can only imagine how much fun it'd have visit the park in the days when wildlife was plenty, and tourists and poaching were low.
You bring a lot of memories of my trip to Kruger in Jan. 2010. I explored most of the roads around Satara, Lower Sabie and Skukuza in the limited time that I was there, and can only second your opinions on all your recommendations.
Just for everyone's sake, thought will add a link to this map (http://www.krugerpark.co.za/dnl/kruger-park-map-pdf.pdf) that I used for my self-drive trip, which will add more perspective to your details of the park.
Funny that you mention of the dilemma of the "junction" of H-3 (or perhaps H-1?) and S-114. Right on that corner, I was mock charged by a grumpy lion who was probably in a fight the last night (with fresh scars), and a lodge jeep with 5 tourists harassed the hell out of him. I however did the loop of S-112 and passed by Stevenson Hamilton's grave and the area was very nice.
And am sure this too will ring more bells - only with a different species :-)

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Many thanks for sharing this report!

 

Shreyas

 

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Sharifa

@@johnkok and may he never lose his wisdom :)

 

@@Shreyas thank you for the link to the map and a stunning photo.

 

We have seen the Park grow and seen many changes too. Camps increased in size and new camps built to accommodate the increasing number of tourists.

 

In 1981 the Parks Board felt they could increase the number of day visitors to 1410 cars without disrupting the balance. These days I sometimes feel there are that many cars at one sighting.

 

It is unfortunate that we do get some people who enjoy disturbing the animals. I do not understand what pleasure they get from doing that. The animals just get up and move away so everyone loses.

 

Seriously though there are times when we do still have quality sightings all to ourselves.

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Sharifa

The area between Crocodile River and Sabie River is known for rhino sightings, both Black and White. But you can count yourself lucky if you spot a black rhino. We have only seen 7 Black rhinos in Kruger in all these years. Rhino are found throughout KNP but less of them as you go north. We also are faced with this massive poaching problem right now.

 

With his Guardian Angels

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In a hurry

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After a visit to the Spa

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Chilling

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Up Close

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Inquisitive Baby

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And another

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Seeking Comfort

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And the one with the longest horn in KNP that we have seen

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I have put music to some of these photos as a plea from our rhinos.

 

 

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Atravelynn

Unfortunately no one saw the whole scene play out so I was just speculating and I guess we will never know what really happened.

 

Maybe it is best not to know.

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Sharifa

Skukuza.

 

Skukuza means “he who sweeps clean.” This name was given to the first Game Warden, Colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton, who was appointed in 1902. Built on the banks of the Sabie River, Skukuza is the nucleus of Kruger. Today Skukuza is more like a little town than a Rest Camp. It has all the amenities: bank, post office, police station, a fairly large, well stocked shop, a library, Doctor, museum, restaurants, auto workshop, information centre, plant nursery and an airport. There is a large staff village with its own amenities like a primary school, a sport complex for rugby, cricket, soccer, squash, tennis, swimming and golf.

 

Apart from that there are the Park’s nature conservation and research centre, veterinarian, laundry, workshops for refrigeration, motor and road maintenance, weather station, abattoir and by-products factory. These are all situated away from the tourist roads.

 

It is steeped in a very rich and colourful history. Skukuza was first called Sabie Bridge or Reserve. The name was changed in 1936 in honour of James Stevenson-Hamilton’s 30th anniversary as Warden in the Park. Skukuza was part of the original Sabie Game Reserve which was made up of Lower Sabie, Crocodile Bridge and Skukuza area.

 

Just east of the camp there is a large steel bridge, the last relic of the Selati railway line which ran through the Park. The railway line was closed to traffic in 1973. Now the railway siding boasts a beautiful restaurant and bar in refurbished old railway saloons. Cocktails and a’ la carte meals are served in the three car lounge, dining car, named Lundi and kitchen combination attached to an old British-built 24 Class steam locomotive (#3638).

 

The station is also built in the old style and boasts a hand-painted name board “Skukuza – 875ft above sea level.” This now houses the Selati Railway Museum.

 

S1 is the oldest hut in the camp and has been turned into a museum. It is known as the Campbell 1929 Hut Museum, named after one of the founder members of the National Parks Board of Trustees, Mr. W A Campbell.

As you enter the camp not far from the reception is a clock erected in memory of Herbert Boshoff Papenfus, who was a driving force for the proclamation of the Park and a member of the first National Parks Board.

 

Skukuza is the largest camp in the Park and a hive of activity but do not be put off by this. The roads around Skukuza are just as rich in game as the camp is in its history. Take any road out from Skukuza and you will be rewarded with a good sighting, especially lions and wild dogs can be seen regularly. The H4-1 to LS hugs the Sabie River and is known as the road to have the highest concentration of leopards in the Park.

 

As you drive along the river you can see elephants and hippos are always sunning themselves on the banks or rising and disappearing in the pools. Large families of baboons can be seen on the road and can keep you entertained.

 

Your bird viewing can start right at the reception area at Skukuza.

 

The Impala Lily at Skukuza Reception

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An Aloe attracts butterflies and Birds

 

White bellied sunbird

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Purple Crested Turaco

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Barred owlet

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Can you spot the African Scops Owl

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Dark Capped Bulbul

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This is what Skukuza looked like in 1977. Today you will not say it is the same place.

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Since I am on the topic of Birds, what I will do as we go from camp to camp is show you the different family of birds found in Kruger like Eagles, Rollers, Hornbills, Bee-Eaters, Vultures, Falcons and Kestrels, Owls, Storks, Water Birds etc.

 

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Sharifa

The Skukuza area produces regular Wild Dog sightings

 

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These from back in the day seen 2 km from Skukuza

 

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Sharifa

Lower Sabie Camp

 

The Sabie River meanders past Skukuza and travelling on the H4-1 about 45 km south east you come to Lower Sabie (LS), another of the first camps to be built in the Park. Sabie means “be careful or fearful” in the indigenous languages of the area. It was not the crocodiles or the hippos you had to be careful of but the slippery rocks you had to step on to cross the river.

 

LS is also situated on the banks of the Sabie River and is spectacular with its massive, old trees around the camp. It is also extremely popular with the regular travelers to the Park, for the combination of wonderful birds and the game, travelling in any direction from LS.

 

Just south of LS are some dead leadwood trees which are a favourite perch for Fish Eagles

 

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A good spot to complete the day and have a sundowner is Sunset Dam just outside the camp gate. You are likely to see the hippos and animals come for a last drink for the day.

 

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The birds to see are the kingfishers diving for the catch of the day, wonderful for photographers, since the dam is close to the road. Stocks and herons also roost on the dead trees in the water. If you are lucky you could see a fish eagle and hear it call.

 

Black headed heron and yellow billed stock

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The camp is also good for birds

 

Blue waxbill

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Diedericks Cuckoo

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Jacobins Cuckoo

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Jamesons Firefinch

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The Lower Sabie area is a prime game viewing area, tell you more about it in the next post.

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Sharifa

Travel north from LS on the S29 to Mlondozi Dam, a picnic spot set on the top of the Nwagovila hill overlooking the dam. The open grassland around here is great for cheetahs and honey badger sightings. If you are fortunate enough and at the right time you might see the zebra or wildebeest migration. Though not on the scale of the Mara one.

 

Carry on with the S122, called the Muntshe Loop. This is a very scenic road, winding up to the top and with majestic views of the Park. The S122/H10 is our favourite area to see the serval. We were lucky enough to see serval a few times on these roads. In fact the only roads that we have seen serval on.

We only had this to show for all our sightings

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Until April 2010 when we got this beauty for about 15 minutes

 

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View My Video

 

The H10, S122 and S29 are also good for all the cats with cheetah frequently seen in the Mlonodozi Dam area

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The S128 also north of LS, is a gravel road running parallel to the Muntshe Loop and the H10. This is where the Amur Falcons and Lesser Kestrels roosts from October/ November to March and you can see them congregate on trees in late March getting ready for the long flight back to their breeding grounds in Siberia and northern China.

Amur Falcons
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Lesser Kestrel
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Until recently the flight path of the Amur Falcons was not known exactly. In January 2010 10 birds were fitted with transmitters to give an idea of their route during migration. The Amur Falcon has the longest migration fligt for a Raptor and it comes to Africa by one route and returns by a slightly different route to Mongolia/Russia.

95773 is one such Amur Falcon see the links below

 

http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/flight-95773-1.1088948#.Ua-GUvId-ng

 

 

http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/flight-95773-part-2-1.1089729#.Ua98C_Id-ng

There have been attempts to plot the transcontinental migration, but all ornithologists have been able to rely on are odd sightings through east Africa and the Middle East. Whole legs of the journey have been missing. Now we have a better idea of the route

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Between December and March every year, an estimated 26 000 Amur Falcons take up residence in the tall pine trees that line Allen Street, a major thoroughfare through the town.

Amur Falcons Roosting Site in newcastle, South Africa.

 

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In Kruger however, they do not reach such numbers but still it is a spectacle to watch them. There could be twenty to thirty roosting in one tree and they take off as one when you come close up.

Only one of the 10 falcons is still alive, 95778.

 

http://www.iol.co.za/scitech/science/environment/a-little-falcon-s-60-000km-journey-1.1321839#.Ua-A__Id-ng

 

 

As at December 2012 she had done 75000 km and if she gets back to Mongolia just about now she would have clocked 90000km

Edited by Sharifa

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Geoff

@@Sharifa thanks for the Amur Falcon migration links. Absolutely fascinating!

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Sharifa

@@Geoff it is a fascinating journey they make considering that thousands get killed along the way - see link below. The conservationists were quick to show outrage though and hopefully will stop the killing this year.

 

http://www.conservationindia.org/news/joy-as-migratory-amur-falcon-reaches-its-wintering-grounds-again-in-south-africa

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Atravelynn

Great rhinos and Amur Falcons. Nice migration map to put the journey of these birds in perspective. I like your term "guardian angels" for the birds around the rhinos. That species needs some guardian angels.

Edited by Atravelynn

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Sharifa

The rhinos really need guardian angels @Atravelynn Sadly, 394 rhinos have already been poached this year.

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