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pault

You can only lead a horse to water. You can't make it drink. @@inyathi has led the horses to water, with your support, Yes for sure it will be interesting to see if people go in 2017 and beyond, but you can't do that much more than you did. And I am sure not every horse you've led is an active Safaritalk member, and I am also sure that many hundreds more will hear about Zakouma from around the camp fires of luxury camps this year and next.

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TonyQ

@@inyathi

I have really enjoyed your writing and your photographs -the sheer number of birds is amazing. What realy brings this home is watching your videos as they pan across seemingly numberless birds - and the sound is wonderful to hear

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Caracal

@@inyathi 

 

THANK YOU - this is a superb report packed with so much fascinating information

  • Travel options and advices
  • History
  • Landscape and vegetation types
  • Mammal and bird species and subspecies with descriptions, distributions, comparisons.

and also packed with superb photos and videos to enhance it all.

 

Wonderful to learn there’s such a wealth of wildlife in a little known corner of Africa.

 

Would be very interested to learn the current distribution of the Kordofan Giraffe and its distinguishing features.

 

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Rwenzori

@@inyathi Definitely a very lovely report.

 

Do you know if APN is interested in taking on the management of the sorrounding faunal reserves (Siniaka-Minia & parts of Bahr Salamat) where wildlife disperse during the wet season?

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inyathi

Earlier I said

 

Quote

inyathi, on 30 May 2015 - 4:47 PM, said:

 

@@graceland I do think that actually one of the big problems for Zakouma more than the cost of staying at Camp Nomade or the logistics of trying to visit Zakouma without staying at Camp Nomade or deciding where else to go in addition, is quite simply the fact that people haven't heard of the park. I'm happy to put in the effort to have the satisfaction of knowing that this report and my photos on Flickr will be seen by lots of people who have quite likely never heard of Zakouma at all. If you look up Zakouma on Google you tend to find mostly stories from a few years ago about the poaching crisis and elephants being slaughtered in large numbers not the sort of thing that is going to persuade people to visit the park, I am happy also to be a part of hopefully changing that so that in future when people search they'll find lots of photos of the amazing wildlife and reports and articles about safaris in Zakouma and not just dead elephants. Of course people will only search for Zakouma if they know the name, having had the good fortune to visit twice I'm just glad I can do my little bit to make that name much more well known as it deserves to be.

 

 

It seems that my idea that this report might help a little bit to make Zakouma better known,  is somewhat flawed. When I type Zakouma into Google and click search 31 pages come up with our report from last year on page 3, however this report doesn’t come up at all until I ask it to include omitted pages and search again and then it comes up on page 13. So even if people decide to search for Zakouma,  perhaps as a result of learning the name from seeing my photos on Flickr,  they may well not find this report. It would seem that for people who aren’t already members,  unless they get here through last year’s report, they’re more likely to find this report,  because they’ve happened to have come to SafariTalk for some other reason,  but how people find SafariTalk and how to bring more people here.  is a subject for another thread. Even if (apologies to @@Game Warden) SafariTalk, doesn’t necessarily have as much reach as we might like it to, I will happily carry on with my report, I’ll just have to put lots of links all over the web to direct people here, as if I’ve understood correctly how Google works,  it should then show up in Google searches. I have to say also having looked at various other travel forums,  that apart from a short piece that @@Michael Lorentz has written on trip advisor and what he has written on his own site SafariousI haven’t really found anything much at all about Chad,  never mind Zakouma on any other forums. So,  I recognise that my infleunce on Zakouma never mind on Camp Nomades bookings will likely be minimal

 

I’m actually not in the least bit surprised,  that Camp Nomade is fully booked already for next season,  because the professional guides like Ralph Bousefield who participated in the recce trips will likely have some regular clients, who they have guided many times before,  who could easily be persuaded to visit Zakouma. Then of course companies like Steppes,  who are offering Chad trips will have a whole mailing list of people,  who’ve been on trips with them. To some people (hopefully not here) the idea of visiting Chad, might still seem a slightly mad idea, but not if they are a seasoned safari goer and the idea has been put to them by a trusted guide, who they probably also regard as a friend or a company like Steppes that they have used before and trust.

 

@@Caracal North and South Kordofan/Kurdufan are provinces of Sudan, I imagine perhaps some British gentleman, shot a specimen or two of this giraffe subspecies in Sudan during the colonial era and named them after the region. Sadly though I don’t think there are any giraffes in either province or anywhere in Sudan anymore and precious few if any remaining in the west of South Sudan, originally their distribution would have been from the Nile West across to northern Cameroon. The giraffes found in northern Uganda in Murchison Falls and Kidepo NPs are Rothschild’s giraffe G. c. rothschildi and those found in Garamba NP in the north of the DRC are Congo giraffes G. c. congoensis, however the taxonomy of giraffes is complicated the Mammals of Africa refers to Garamba’s giraffes as Kordofan. Quite where the Congo giraffe and the Kordofan begin and end I’m not sure. Kordofan giraffes still survive in northern Cameroon and in the north of CAR in parks like Manovo Gounda St Floris, however Zakouma must now be their most important stronghold given the chaos and instability in neighbouring CAR. Giraffes to the west of Lake Chad that were originally found wherever there is suitable habitat from Nigeria across to Senegal, are of the Nigerian or West African race G. c. peralta only about 300 of these animals remain all in the southwest of Niger. There are some giraffes in the Bandia and Fathala Reserves in Senegal, but unfortunately these are not West African giraffes, but giraffes imported from South Africa, along with other with other non native species like zebras. Genetics has confirmed that the West African giraffe is separate from the Kordofan, as they have at times been considered the same, indeed it is now thought that 6 of the 9 giraffe subspecies may in fact be separate species.

 

This is what the Giraffe Conservation Foundation has to say about the Kordofan giraffe which is much the same as in the Mammals of Africa

 

Quote
G. c. antiquorum. The Kordofan Giraffe is a (sub)species whose native range includes some of the most hostile areas in Africa: southern Chad, the Central African Republic, northern Cameroon and northern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is estimated that there are less than 3,000 individuals surviving across these war-ravaged countries. The Cameroon populations were formerly assumed to be G. c. peralta (see below), but recent research proved this incorrect. Similarly in 2007, genetic studies resulted in giraffe from zoos all across Europe, which were initially thought to be G. c. peralta being reclassified as G. c. antiquorum. As a result, ISIS records indicate that today there are in the region of 65 individuals kept in zoos. The Kordofans’ spots are pale and irregular with a covering that includes their inner legs.

 

 

 

Giraffe subspecies map

 

Here's a bigger general distribution map

 

@@Rwenzori yes I understand APN are hoping to expand the park but .... will probably know more than I do.

 

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inyathi

Before leaving for Chad I said in another thread

 

Quote
 

inyathi, on 29 Mar 2015 - 11:36 PM, said:

 

I’m sure I’ll come back with a couple photos of some LBJs or something that I might post for the benefit of anyone thinking of a future trip to Zakouma who needs a further push in the right direction.

 

 

It must be about time I made good on my promise to post some photos of LBJ’s Zakouma is not all big flocks of beautiful cranes and storks.

Edited by inyathi
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Bush dog

 

Don't be too modest. You, and@@inyathi also, certainly brought your bricks to the edifice. The short documentary of T. Dumortier also contributes, at least as far as I am concerned, to the discovery of this edenic place.

 

I would have booked Camp Nomade for 2016 but I was stopped by health problems. So, I might do it for 2017 when, at least I hope, this problems will be far behind.

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inyathi

I did say I took more than a few shots and videoa of LBJs so here they are finally as promised

 

Red-billed Queleas

 

On our last year’s safari during our brief visit to Rigueik we visited the site of a red-billed quelea roost; these birds Quelea quelea found across Sub-Saharan Africa are probably the world’s most common wild bird. The birds were not actually in residence at the time so all we found was an overpowering stench of guano and some tree branches broken by the weight of roosting birds. We did see some modest flocks of queleas coming to drink from pools on the Salamat but nothing particularly spectacular. So we were all excited to learn ahead of this trip that there was a very active quelea colony close to the location of Camp Nomade at Rigueik, LBJs aren’t generally much cause for excitement to all but the most serious of birders except perhaps when it’s suggested there may be around 10,000,000 of them. The colony was a relatively short distance down the pan in a small patch of bush over on the other side, on occasion we could see them from the camp sometimes flocks of them would even appear right in front of Camp Nomade. We would also quite often see small flocks of them flying around when we were looking at other wildlife as seen in the video in post 205 and in this photo.

 

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However to really appreciate the truly extraordinary spectacle you have to get up close and in amongst them and since the colony was only about 15mins drive away we took the opportunity to visit them most mornings and evenings to witness their comings and goings and work out how best to photograph them.

 

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A slightly bigger flock

 

At dawn great swirling masses of queleas leave their roosting site and descend onto the floodplain like some giant shape-shifting super organism dancing over the grass, constantly rising and falling as each bird dipped into the water to drink. At moments it appeared as if this chattering avian cloud might settle only for it to erupt back into the air in a great explosion of little brown birds. Each bird its morning thirst quenched would set off on the daily commute to find food, forming a great seemingly endless broad snake of queleas streaming across the sky stretching from the roost site to the distant horizon.

 

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inyathi

In the evening as the sun goes down, the queleas come streaming back in from their day’s foraging, before returning to their favourite roosting spots and retiring for the night, they take another quick drink.

 

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standing inside the colony, whether at dawn as they are leaving or at dusk as they return, watching this almost unending chattering mass of birds pour over your head, is just incredible. The following photos and videos include ones taken at both dawn and dusk.

 

 

 

As they settle down to roost for the night, every tree is completely festooned with queleas, covered in a dense mass of small brown birds. Underneath are mounds of guano, producing a somewhat overpowering stench, one of the less pleasant aspects of visiting the quelea colony, in the wet season all this guano will be washed away, helping to fertilise the surrounding plains.

 

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Standing out on the edge of the pan, watching the swirling flocks, while the air might have been somewhat fresher, proved a little hazardous at times due to the presence of a number of flowering Kigelia trees which were covered in bees. Several of which launched an unprovoked attack on us, one of them attempted to sting me on the forehead, but thankfully only got its sting half way in, so the pain was relatively mild and short lived, one of my companions was less fortunate and got stung properly, the lesson is to make sure you don’t stand next to any sausage trees, when they are in flower, especially if you’re near a quelea colony, with the noise from the queleas, we wouldn’t have heard the buzzing of all the bees. They do say that African bees are so much more ferocious than European honey bees, because they have many more predators, well given the number of honey badgers, we saw during our stay, perhaps Zakouma’s bees are more ferocious than most.

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inyathi

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inyathi

In this report, I’ve said at least a few times that we saw more of X or Y, than I have ever seen anywhere before, that was certainly more than true in this case, I have to conclude that in many years of wildlife watching, I don’t believe, I've ever seen any species as numerous as these red-billed queleas at Rigueik. Not the multitudes of wildebeest streaming across the Mara River or grazing the short grass plains at Ndutu, nor the great flocks of flamingos in the Rift Valley, the only sight that perhaps comes close, is that of a colony of wrinkle-lipped bats emerging from a cave in the jungle near Khao Yai NP in Thailand, that numbered in the region of 2,000,000. Of course that’s the estimated number of bats in the colony, I probably only saw a small fraction of them, just as I didn’t see every single quelea at Rigueik. I cannot begin to estimate how many birds we might have seen, on our visits to the colony, the most I can say is that it is one of the most astonishing wildlife sights, I have ever seen.

 

 

18011640871_fea316e4a0_o.jpg 

 

Queleas are often referred to as feathered locusts, because they can be devastating agricultural pests, consuming almost entire crops of sorghum, millet, rice and other grains, causing severe food shortages and even potentially famine. Leading some farmers, those who have access to such things, to use flamethrowers or explosives and barrels of petrol mixed with diesel to create incendiary bombs, which are placed under the roost trees, to literally roast the birds alive. Aerial sprays of a pesticide called Fenthion also known as quelea-tox, is one of the more common ways of controlling them, none of these control methods are particularly good for the environment, in most parts of Africa, where poorer farmers don’t have access to such methods, they have to resort to the environmentally better, but less effective method of simply trying to scare the birds, into moving elsewhere. The irony is that it is agriculture that has turned the quelea into the world’s most common wild bird, with an estimated population across Africa of 1.5 billion. Fortunately though the queleas at Rigueik feed entirely within Zakouma, so they are not an agricultural pest and have no need to be controlled, but while they may be free from human persecution, they are under attack from a variety of natural predators notably raptors. This explains their flocking behaviour which makes it difficult for birds of prey to target individual queleas, however, the black kites that are common around Zakouma, do their best to pick them off.

 

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There are several black kites in this shot trying to snatch a quelea

 

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Sometimes they get lucky

Edited by inyathi
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Sangeeta

Wow, wow and many more wows! That's what I would call a 'tornado of birds'!! Amazing videos and amazing shots, @@inyathi. Yes, this can certainly be called a wildlife spectacle of a lifetime.

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graceland

NAT GEO MOMENTS....if you send it (to them) they will come, I am sure....and give Zoukouma the recogntion it deserves.But if you do mention me, so they will take me along

:)

truly

 

 

Great sightings; thank you!

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Marks

Truly awe-inspiring flocks. It's nice to see in post #222 what they look like up close, but still en masse.

perhaps Zakouma’s bees are more ferocious than most.[/font][/size]


Wait, I thought you were trying to encourage us to visit! ;)

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twaffle

@@inyathi I love the quelea blurs in post 221, quite novel. The quelea flocks don't appear to give the same effect as the starling murmurations but your blur images get close. Perhaps it's because they don't appear to be flying quite as high as the starlings, but I'm only going on your videos which is, I suppose, when they are coming and going from the roost. Fascinating.

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Zim Girl

Wow, those quelea flocks are amazing.

 

What a tremendous spectacle that must have been to experience.

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Caracal

@@inyathi - many thanks for the comprehensive information on the Kordofan giraffe and for those links.Their history goes to show just how precious and important the Zoukoma population is.

 

As for those photos and videos of the red-billed quelea - what a marvel of nature you witnessed.

 

I cannot now think of them as LBJs! I will now think of their amazing massed formations and unisons of movement.

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wenchy

@@SSF556

 

self drive to the NP is doable. first 400kms are paved with signage. Manageable French is a necessity IMO. Not much English even amongst expats. As pointed out it would be a two day drive. There are a few missions in mongo for overnight accom. checkpoints and friendly bribes en route but nothing out of the ordinary. No idea about rentals for self drive but you can hire driver/SUV out of Ndjamena. Will warn though nothing is cheap. There is no " budget " option.

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inyathi
On 6/3/2015 at 3:17 AM, twaffle said:

@@inyathi I love the quelea blurs in post 221, quite novel. The quelea flocks don't appear to give the same effect as the starling murmurations but your blur images get close. Perhaps it's because they don't appear to be flying quite as high as the starlings, but I'm only going on your videos which is, I suppose, when they are coming and going from the roost. Fascinating.

 

When they are as it were commuting the queleas just fly more or less in a line, one evening at sundowner time on the Salamat, we had a constant stream of them flying overhead, heading for a different roost site somewhere. There was nothing that spectacular about the way they were flying, what made it an amazing sight was purely the number of birds, the fact that as we sat there, they just kept coming in their thousands. When you see them around the colony and when they come down to drink, they do create similar shapes to some of these starling murmurations, from Camp Nomade once or twice looking down the pan towards the colony, I could see them doing this. As you suggest, the difference is that they are generally much lower to the ground so much of the time there is a background of trees and bush, rather than purely sky, so the effect is not nearly so obvious, the panorama at the start of post 223 is reminiscent of a starling murmuration but you can't see it properly because of the trees. I have seen a murmuration of starlings, though not a huge one as they can be sometimes and it was an amazing sight, but the flock was much higher in the sky than the queleas ever were, when we saw them flocking like this.

 

We spend a lot of time trying to work out how best to photograph the queleas, trying out different shutter speeds, flash settings etc to capture the roosting birds, making sure that you are properly focused on birds you can hardly see, was perhaps the biggest challenge. Much of the time we were walking around inside the colony or on the edge of it, to catch the birds leaving in the morning you need to be there at dawn and to get them coming back at dusk. This did mean that we were walking about in the half light or even a little bit in the dark, so we did have to be pretty cautious, as there were plenty of bushes that could be hiding lions or perhaps buffaloes. While there probably are ways that you could be able to photograph or film the queleas, so that they are more against the sky, just how creative you can get is perhaps a bit limited by safety considerations. If you sat down very low or even lay down with your camera on a tripod I’m sure you could get amazing shots, but it would be too easy to get so wrapped up with photographing the queleas, that you failed to notice that a couple of old bull buffalos or lion has emerged from the bush, somewhere just behind you. Squack wasn't taking photos so he could pay more attention to whatever else might be happening to make sure we stayed safe.

 

An amazing sight and sound, I'm very glad that my camera takes video as well as stills, I'd never thought I wanted to be able to shoot video before, but I love it almost more for the amazing sounds it records, I'm just glad it can't capture smells too. :lol:

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twaffle

Thanks Inyathi, excellent explanation and what an experience it must have been.

 

It seems to me though, from your descriptions that you would spend most of the great early/late light with the quelea rather than look for other animals to photograph, is this a compromise you had to make?

 

Glad you had Squack on lookout! :D

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inyathi

@@twaffle Yes there was a bit of a compromise, perhaps we devoted a little bit too much time to the queleas and should have spent a couple of mornings doing something else instead and if I could do the trip again that would be my preference. However every visit to the quelea roost was amazing, I would think that the photos I’ve posted include shots from every visit so purely from a photographic standpoint the time wasn’t wasted. The reason we went so often was partly because at first we didn’t know exactly what time we needed to be there but also to try and perfect our photographic techniques as we weren’t too sure of what we were doing at first. Really you need to experience the queleas from inside the roost to have thousands of them pouring over your head while listening to that incredible noise and to see entire trees completely covered in them and then you need to see them from the outside to watch them drinking and see their flocking behaviour.

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inyathi

Northern Carmine Bee-eater

 

Another common bird in Zakouma that is both spectacular and beautiful is the northern carmine bee-eater Merops nubicus these birds form large nesting colonies usually in sandy river banks. Last year we had exceptional views of them thanks to the presence of a breeding colony at The Junction Pool right next to the lodge at Tinga. To ensure that we didn’t miss out by not staying there this time, our fly camp on the Salamat was put up on a high bank just above a carmine colony in a sand bank the other side of the river. A hide had even been set up to allow us to photograph them without causing any disturbance but in fact this didn’t really prove necessary as the bee-eaters were really not bothered by our presence at all. The northern carmine breeds from Senegambia across to Somalia in East Africa it occurs primarily as a non breeding visitor in the north of Uganda and in northern and eastern Kenya down the coast into eastern Tanzania. The closely related southern carmine Merops nubicoides is distinguished from this species by its carmine throat, in these birds the throat is the same turquoise blue/green colour as the crown the southern is also slightly larger however the difference is largely academic as their ranges do not overlap. The southern does also occur as a visitor in Tanzania but only in the west it breeds primarily in Zimbabwe.

 

Northern Carmine Map

 

Southern Carmine Map 

 

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As well as this colony by our fly camp, on our drive south, we stopped and had our picnic lunch beside the Salamat next to another colony.

 

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Safaridude

@@inyathi

 

Absolutely love the flash/slow shutter speed/pink hues in post #222. That's the magic minute within that magic hour.

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graceland

@@inyathi

 

Spectacular carmine bee eater series. I first saw them In Botswana; and fell in love with the mass of colors. I would love to see this. :rolleyes: They are having their own music festival!

 

Starting a fund.$$$

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Marks

Ditto on the bee eaters! As hypnotic as the queleas appear, the vibrancy of the bee eaters' color is no less remarkable.

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