Tag Archives: Uganda

World Elephant Day

Today is World Elephant Day. Elephants are amazing creatures, but their survival is in the balance. I’ve been lucky enough to see both African and Asian elephants in the wild. Here are some of my favourite photos of them. If you enjoy looking at them, please check out how you can help elephants.

Elephant in Ghana
Elephant in Ghana
Retired working elephant in India
Retired working elephant in India
Elephants playing in a lake in Ghana
Elephants playing in a lake in Ghana
An elephant against the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda
An elephant against the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains in Uganda
Elephant in Ghana
Elephant in Ghana
Close up of elephant eating
A close encounter
Elephant reaching for a high branch
And stretch…
Elephant flapping its ears
Because I’m worth it…
Elephant having a shower
Time to cool down
Elephant mother with calf (and another one trying its luck)
Elephant mother with calf (and another one trying its luck)
Ugandan elephant
Ugandan elephant
Elephants on the move in Uganda
Elephants on the move in Uganda
Elephants on the move in Uganda
Elephants on the move in Uganda
Asian elephants
Asian elephants
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Bedtime story 1: Why the hippo scatters his dung

This is a bushman story left on my pillow one night while I was staying at the Mweya Safari Lodge in Uganda. Hope you enjoy it!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

“This is a story about why Hippo scatters his dung. When the Creator was giving each animal a place in the world, the pair of hippos begged to be allowed to live in the cool water which they loved so dearly.

“The Creator looked at them, and was doubtful about letting them live in the water: their mouths were so large, their teeth so long and sharp, and their size and their appetites so big. He was afraid that they would eat up all the fish. Besides, he had already granted the place to another predator – the crocodile. He couldn’t have two kinds of large, hungry animals living in the rivers. So the Creator refused the hippos’ request, and told them they could live out on the open plains.

“At this news, the two hippos began to weep and wail, making the most awful noise. They pleaded and pleaded with the Creator, who finally gave in. But He made the hippos promise that if they lived in the rivers, they must never harm a single fish. They were to eat grass instead. The hippos promised solemnly, and rushed to the river, grunting with delight. And to this day, hippos always scatter their dung on the river bank, so the Creator can see that it contains no fish bones. And you can still hear them laughing with joy that they were allowed to live in the rivers after all.”

Ugandan wildlife pictures

Vervet monkey
Vervet monkey
Pied kingfisher
Pied kingfisher
Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee
Elephants against the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains
Elephants against the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains
Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus
African fish eagle
African fish eagle
Buffalo wallowing in a mud bath
Buffalo wallowing in a mud bath
Lion's stare
Tree climbing lion

Here are some of my favourite pictures from our recent trip to Uganda. Hope you enjoy them! Butterfly Water lily Sleeping tree-climbing lion Alert lion

Lion on termite mound
Lion on termite mound

Observations on watching wildlife

Our recent trip to Uganda has led me to reflect a bit about the process and experience of wildlife watching. Back home in the UK, my approach usually centres on stealth. I try to be as quiet as possible, wear clothing that will blend in, and stay downwind of my target. In Uganda, for at least some species, a different approach was needed.

ZebraThis came home most strongly on a safari walk in Lake Mburu National Park, where we were looking for antelopes and zebra. I turned up in my safari gear, ready for a couple of hours of hushed observation. Then our guide explained that it was important to keep talking. The animals are suspicious of quiet humans (and leopards), as predators tend to use stealth to creep up at attack them. By talking, and trying not to be stealthy, they knew where we were, and that we were unlikely to pose much of a threat.

Generally, when wildlife watching, my ideal is to see animals oblivious to my presence, behaving ‘naturally’. Being in a car really helped with this – most animals paid very little attention to us when we were out on drives. But one of the most vivid memories of my trip was not like that.

Sleeping tree-climbing lionWe were in the Inshasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, famed for tree climbing lions. Our car was stopped by a tree, and we were watching a male lion who was sleeping in the branches. Eventually he woke, fidgeted a bit, then, hearing a noise in the distance, became alert, using smell, sight and sound. After satisfying himself about whatever it was that was happening in the distance, he turned a long, intense gaze straight at me. It’s quite disconcerting having such a large, powerful predator look you straight in the eyes. We both knew who was top cat.

Alert lion

Lion's stare

The crucial role of termites in African savannahs

You might have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet (or at least brief) lately. That’s because I’ve been in Uganda for the last couple of weeks. As part of my work I travel to Africa fairly regularly. This sounds a lot more glamourous and exciting than it often is in practice. This time I wanted to see something beyond the hotel meeting room and the odd health facility, so Dr C and I tagged a safari onto the end of a work trip. We saw all sorts of exciting wildlife. As you can imagine, I took a few photos… well, around 1300… You’ll be relieved to hear I’m not going to put them all up here, but you may be a bit surprised by my choice of photos for this particular post…

I’m saving telling you about chimpanzees, tree climbing lions and hoards of hippos for another day. What I want to tell you about today is a little more down to earth: termite mounds.Termite mound in the mist

I remember seeing termite mounds on my first trip to Africa, and after the first shock of realising just how big they can be in real life, I soon stopped noticing them. Look around a savannah landscape and they’re everywhere, like giant molehills.

This trip I started noticing them again. I started paying attention to one because a lion was sitting on top of it. Lions aren’t the only creatures who like to make use of termite mounds as a platform. We saw many antelopes of various sorts standing alert on top of termite mounds, using the additional height to help them spot far off predators. (Although, as Jamil, our guide, pointed out, this may not necessarily be a good idea, as it also makes them more visible to predators.)

Lion on termite mound
Lion on termite mound

14 02 07_Lake Mburu_2483_edited-2web

Then, when we arrived at Lake Mburu National Park, I started noticing that many of the termite mounds were next to, or under, trees and bushes, dotted round the grassy plain. I wondered which came first – did termites prefer building mounds in the shade of trees? The answer, as one of the rangers told me, is that the termite mounds come first. Termites play an important role recycling dead vegetation. Dead plant material gets incorporated into termite mounds, making the soil of mounds fertile. Birds, like lions and antelope, enjoy perching of the mounds, and sometimes deposit their droppings there. These droppings often contain seeds, which germinate in the rich mound soil, turning old mounds into oases of shade in the grassland, which are used by many creatures, including leopards during the day.

Pied kingfisher on termite mound
Pied kingfisher on termite mound

Termites themselves are an important food for some animals. Every now and then we’d spot a big hole in a termite mound, made by an anteater. These holes then get used as dens by creatures like warthogs, bush pigs, and even hyaenas. Smaller creatures also use termite mounds as homes, like these dwarf mongooses (or is it mongeese?)

Hole made by anteater in a termite mound
Hole made by anteater in a termite mound
Dwarf mongooses on a termite mound
Dwarf mongooses on a termite mound

Termites are vitally important within savannah ecosystems, and they play an important role in shaping the landscape. Is there a British equivalent?