Category Archives: SHOT FROM THE FILE

Burchell’s Zebra, Spotted Hyenas – The Fighter

The Fighter

The Fighter

     It was a titanic battle with Death, and Life fiercely fought back … but it was only a matter of time.

     The Burchell’s Zebra struggled diligently to keep up with its herd.  It had just survived a lion attack, and that encounter had left the equine entity disemboweled.  As the zebra’s strength wearily waned a Spotted Hyena clan’s relentless bedevilments became bolder and bolder.  The ‘dog-like’ predator-scavengers smelled that an opportunity was near at hand.

     Being mortally compromised, the injured zebra’s pace finally became insufficient to keep up with the herd and it dropped behind.  Three times the fold returned to its seriously injured member and acted in concert to foil the hyenas’ predatory plans and three times found success in moving the would-be assassins away.

     Following the third rescue the mood changed.  It was time.  The lead stallion approached its injured herd-mate.  The two touched noses.  The herd moved on.  The hooligan crowd moved in.

     But the story did not end there.  What ensued was a battle of will that reached tsunami proportions.  Repeatedly the hyenas charged.  Again and again the zebra met each assault with its sharp hooves flying.  The fracas continued for what seemed an eternity.

     In the final moments of its life, the zebra stood stalwart and defiantly faced its assailants.  Then the opportunists closed in and down went the equid.  There was rending of flesh, fast whoop calls and a confusing obfuscation of view as mortality was consummated.

     In the end the fighter was vanquished yet one aspect of the striped horse could not be diminished.  Its dauntless spirit lives and still wanders the vast expanses of the enigmatic Mara.

~ Anecdote and Burchell’s Zebra and Spotted Hyena capture, The Fighter © Jerry L. Ferrara, Kenya, Africa.

African Lions – The Inception

The Inception

The Inception

     Across the creek a pair of African Lions lazily lounged in the late lowering light of day.  Then the big handsome cats began to stir.  The opportunity for approaching closer was less than optimal as the conditions of the immediate terrain prevented forging the stream.  Suddenly our guide, Zack, slammed the four-wheeler into ‘hyper-drive’ and set a jarring, jolting bearing on the rugged road skirting the winding water course in zealous search for a place to cross.

     After what seemed an unbearable eternity, the opportunity to negotiate the stream magically appeared.  Splashing through the mud and water to the other side, we turned back in the direction we had just come from and raced pell-mell toward the lions.  

     As we arrived within viewing of the magnificent beasts, they began breeding.  We just made it for the inception.

~ Anecdote and African Lions capture, The Inception © Jerry L. Ferrara,  Kenya, Africa

African Lions – A Touching Moment

A Touching Moment

A Touching Moment

No matter what a child does
Motherhood accepts all the flaws
Rambunctious, trying and full of torment
There’s always time for a touching moment

~ Poem and African Lions capture, A Touching Moment © Jerry L. Ferrara, Masai Mara, Kenya, African

Serval – Giraffe Cat

Giraffe Cat

The Serval is a member of the cat family

Giraffe Cat

In high esteem so greatly awed
the Ancients thought you were a god

Those lines and spots on coat do tend
to make “Savanna Stalker” blend

With ears so large you hear the prey
so many others can’t assay

Four legs quite long to help jump high
and catch a bird that’s on the fly

Or reach inside a rodent’s den
and snatch with claws that sharply rend

That longish neck confers a view
so few others possess as you

Now stalk away ‘giraffe cat’ wild
your way of life is amply styled

~ Poem and Serval image, Giraffe Cat © Jerry L. Ferrara. The Tanzanian Serengeti, Africa

Cape Hare – As Motionless As A Statue

As Motionless As A Statue

As Motionless As A Statue

     First glance brought quite a shock as well as a flood of childhood memories to mind.  For a moment I thought I was back on our family vineyard in southern California [sadly those days are long gone].  The Cape Hare, sitting stone-still in full view, looked like the Black-tailed Jackrabbits that were such a prominent wild hallmark in our orchard.  The thing that was most-strikingly interesting about the Cape Hare was that it not only looked like the “Lepus” I remembered, but it behaved like it, too.

     At our approach, the wary creature exploded away like an unconstrained rocket only to go but a short distance and freeze as motionless as a statue.  It was a trick I witnessed the Jackrabbit perform many times and one surely designed to fool a pursuing predator.  With its prominent ears laid back to lessen its profile, and its wide-reaching peripheral vision taking in its surroundings, the Cape Hare anxiously waited.

     As we drew near, the evasive lagomorph suddenly put on another burst of lightning-like speed, zigging and zagging in a dynamic display of broken-field running … another behavior the Jackrabbit from my youth employed to foil a would-be assailant.  Then the Cape Hare simply and completely melted into the Tanzanian grassland.

~ Anecdote and Cape Hare capture, As Motionless As A Statue © Jerry L. Ferrara.  The Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa

Dik-dik – Tears of Assertion

Tears of Assertion

Tears of Assertion

     Although it’s not the smallest of the antelope, the Kirk’s Dik-dik is by no means a giant either.  It measures in at approximately 15 inches at the shoulder and tips the scale at less than 15 pounds.  Neither is the species a herding type of ungulate, preferring instead to share a territory while maintaining a monogamous relationship.  One way male and female Dik-diks affirm their property rights is by scent-marking their territory.  The Dik-diks’ anatomy bears special dark-colored organs located just in front of each eye called preorbital glands.  The glands secrete a fluid that relates information about the presence and status of the Dik-dik.  Here, a female Dik-dik deposits her “tears of assertion” from her right preorbital gland onto a twig:  “This territory is taken!”

~ Anecdote and Dik-dik capture, Tears of Assertion © Jerry L. Ferrara.  Tanzania, East Africa

Banded Mongoose – A Banded Band of Bandits

A Banded Band of Bandits

     A pack of Banded Mongoose anxiously surveys its surroundings for predators as some members assume an alert “high-sit” posture.  The Banded Mongoose is a “weasel-like” carnivore [approximately 14-inches long] that lives in territorial groups.  It belongs in a category of mammals referred to as the viverrids.  Banded Mongooses primarily prey on invertebrates, but will sometimes take small birds, lizards and mice.  It is a native component of the African Savanna.

A Banded Band of Bandits

A banded band of bandits in concert move as one
Crickets, earwigs, beetles: what chances have they … none
A scratching, searching, roving pack leaves no stone unturned
Banded Mongooses’ relentless quests result rewards quite earned
Also in large numbers, great value is derived
For when a predator comes near, there are abundant eyes.

~ Anecdote, poem and Banded Mongoose image, A Banded Band of Bandits © Jerry L. Ferrara, Southern Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa

Giraffe – When You See A Giraffe

When You See A Giraffe

The Giraffe is the tallest mammal on the planet due in large part to its extremely long neck.

When You See A Giraffe

You just might do the math when you see a Giraffe
and find its neck’s quite at height
But the length is a key, for the top of the tree
is no challenge to reach for a bite

~ Poem and Giraffe image, When You See A Giraffe © Jerry L. Ferrara, Tanzania, Africa

Black Rhinoceros – Captured In The Open

Captured In The Open

Captured In The Open

     As we hastily approached the Black Rhinoceros cow and her calf, the hook-lipped creatures moved quickly toward the cover of the nearby scrub.  Just as we arrived, they deftly slipped from view.  We then proceeded along the gravel byway through the thicket until an even narrower track led us deep into the bowels of the African bush.  After a goodly distance, the crowded vegetation thinned and cleared, revealing a large impounded reservoir.  Uphill, above the waterhole, sat two park rangers.  Each held a high-powered rifle.  I asked the purpose of the weaponized park personnel and was informed that they were assigned to track, watch and be in the presence of the reserve’s elephants and rhinoceroses.  They were a deterrent to poachers.

     At one time the Black Rhinoceros population [across its range] may have been as high as 850,000 individuals.  Today it hovers near 5,000 animals, up from a low point of roughly 2,500.  Its decline has been attributed to over-hunting, habitat destruction and poaching.  The latter, still a serious problem today, is driven by a demand for rhino horn and commands a high price in some Asian cultures.

     The rest of that day we searched for rhinos in vain, but came the morn we struck pay dirt.  Both the female and her young were caught and “captured” in the open.

~ Essay and Black Rhinoceros image, Captured In The Open © Jerry L. Ferrara, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, Africa

Striped Hyena – The Shadowy Subject

The Shadowy Subject

A nocturnal creature makes a rare daytime appearance.

The Shadowy Subject

     Our safari vehicle was headed in the direction of the lodge and my thoughts mulled around the fact that it was too early to call it a day.  Suddenly the four-wheeler lurched off the bone-jarring road and wound a meandering course, weaving through the wilds of the African bush.  In short order the view ahead opened to reveal a small waterhole.  That is where we came to rest … but only briefly.  Within seconds, a creature I never thought I would see in the wild came out of the nearby brush and took a quick drink by the water’s edge.  Then the Striped Hyena turned and casually walked up the escarpment.  Our guide put the vehicle into motion and speedily set a course for interception.  At the top of the rise we stopped and waited to see if the crafty creature would make a showing, and sure enough it did.  Click … and the shadowy subject was captured!

~ Anecdote and Striped Hyena capture, The Shadowy Subject © Jerry L. Ferrara, Tanzania, Africa.