Mashatu foxes, cats and jackals

It was late spring in Mashatu in October and it was hot and dry.  The first good rains had yet to fall. The wildlife was pairing up for what looked like preparation for the breeding season. We saw numerous pairs of Bat-eared foxes and Black-backed jackals, and in the twilight, Wild cats.

“The best things in life aren’t things.”~ Art Buchwald

What was particularly heartening was that we found numerous pairs of Bat-eared foxes. We have not seen Bat-eared foxes since 2011. The general speculation was that many of the Bat-eared fox families drowned in their den at night when the Limpopo river flooded its banks in a massive flood in early 2012. The miracle of nature, if left alone, it will slowly rebuild itself. All the Bat-eared foxes we saw were in pairs. They were very wary and so they should be of humans!

The male Bat-eared foxes frequently moved away from their den perhaps as a decoy.

The Bat-eared fox females never seemed to venture far from their dens, preferring to hunker down or dive into the den.

One of the intriguing aspects about photographing wildlife and wild birds is that you can spend many hours trying to get a decent image of a particular animal or bird with not avail. Then out of then blue one particular animal or bird poses beautifully completely unperturbed by you. These are treasured moments when you get an insight into that animal’s life and its behaviour, if only for a brief period..

This Black-backed jackal female lay down in a hollow in the road where the sand must have been soft and cool and she relished it.

We must have spent about fifteen minutes watching her just sunbathing in the early morning light as the sun was beginning to warm up.

At first light one morning on our way out of camp we found this female Black-backed jackal tending to her pups. 

She had kept them out of harms way in a small drainage pipe under the road.

“Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live unreflectively and begins
to devote himself to his life with reverence in order to raise it to its true value.
To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will to live.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

Not 200 metres away was a hyaena den. Needless to say any one of the hyaenas would have happily  taken a jackal pup as a meal.

The jackal den was effective and the female was an attentive mother. The pups were still nursing and we were very fortunate to get a glimpse of them when she called them out of their confined den.

Bat-eared foxes are fairly common throughout the drier regions of Southern and Eastern Africa, where they are most often seen foraging at night or in the early morning in warmer months and during the day when the weather turns colder.

Bat eared foxes dig their dens to provide shelter for their young from high temperatures and predators. They eat small invertebrates such as ants, termites, spiders, scorpions and crickets but will also eat small birds, mammals and reptiles, and even desert truffle if the opportunity arises.

In the late afternoon, the crepuscular and nocturnal wildlife becomes more active. We saw quite a few African wildcats but they were very skittish.

This was the only African wildcat which stayed put long enough to get a photograph. Somewhat ambitiously, the wildcat moved off to the right through the thicket as a Swainson’s spurfowl  wandered past and the wildcat thought it had an opportunity for an early meal. Unfortunately the wildcat missed the spurfowl so dinner would be later.

Large-spotted genet. This not particularly good image was taken on our way back to camp one evening after the sun had set. The Large-spotted species is clearly distinguished because it is bigger than the Small-spotted genet and it has a black tip to its tail. The Small-spotted genet has a white tip to its tail and has more distinct black and white coat markings.

“If you look at the creation of the earth, you’ll see that all the forces of physics combined to create an ebb and flow that keeps everything running in a continuous, harmonious circle of life.”
~ Amy Leigh Mercree

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.

Have fun,

Mike

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