Viewing Africa’s wildlife is one thing, but watching curious animal behaviors at the waterholes is truly amazing!
Here they are in this, podcast Part 2, in the series “Curious Animal Behaviors” at the Waterholes in Etosha Pan, in Namibia. [Listen/read the first one here]
Listen or read about the brave or stupid impala and more…
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Curious Animal Behaviors at the Waterholes in Etosha Pan, Pt 2
“Where’re you headed?”
This is a favorite question I pose other campers while washing up in the ablution. Travelling campers are very interesting people, usually with some fun stories like seeing their first Cheetah or barely making it to camp after getting bad diesel.
“Etosha,” was today’s reply. “You’ll love it!” I say and I’m off telling stories of curious animal behaviors at the waterholes.
Etosha Pan in the northern part of Namibia is a very unique place where wildlife abounds despite the lack of apparent food and sufficient water. However, that’s why the waterholes (primarily borehole fed) are real magical spots to view wildlife and more fascinating than that, observe curious animal behaviors amongst and between species.
Curious animal behaviors like the…
Male Lion standoff
It’s after dark and we’re sitting at the waterhole next to Halali Camp. For night viewing the waterhole is spotlighted with flood lights. While watching the black rhino (next story) there is a loud roar of a lion to the left.
Shortly after the rhino retreat into the darkness a large lion and his lioness come on stage left. (Remember passed the immediate perimeter of the waterhole is darkness so it is a lot like a stage) Unlike other species they are not constantly watching over their shoulder, they simply pad over to the water and drink their fill.
To our surprise at center stage enters another male lion. He stops, lion one lifts his head. They stare at one another. The lioness appears unperturbed. Finally male one, having drunk his fill, turns to leave stage left as he had entered. Male lion two doesn’t move. He stands watching lion one and his lioness leave. But wait, the pair doesn’t leave, at least not yet. They stop to survey the scene. Male one looks back at lion two, then seemingly satisfied that male two knows his place in the pecking order, the pair exit.
Male lion two watches then moves in to the waterhole to take his turn at a refreshing drink.
Black Rhino protective or territorial?
What a sight! One then another rhino emerges into the light. They make their way to drink creating awesome reflections in the still water. (This is when I wish I had one of those super light sensitive cameras like the fella next to us… sigh!) The first rhino makes his way out on to a peninsula then steps into the water and wades across. I want to look around for the director of this performance so perfectly staged for us sitting up on the hill above the waterhole.
Stage right enter rhino three. Rhino one almost pushes rhino two behind him… okay, at this point rhino one is probably a her… Rhino three moves forward although cautiously. Rhino one steps forward and must say something nasty as rhino three backs up with rhino one continuing to move forward. She then stops, rhino two almost runs into her. The first two rhino slowly move closer to the waterhole again. Rhino three cautiously follows, only to have a repeat of the above retreat.
This dance is repeated a third time when two more rhino enter at center stage. The dynamics make another shift. The two new comers side with the lone rhino, however, rhino one remains the alpha it seems with the two new rhino being kept from the waterhole.
Is she being territorial or protective? An expert would probably be able to tell, but not me.
The lazy Lion and the Kudu bull
We set our alarm so we can be at the waterhole again by the crack of dawn. As we walk along the path a couple are on their way back. “There’s nothing there,” they say. We are not dissuaded. As we arrive at the sitting area we find the waterhole still and empty in the early morning light. However, there are birds, I count about six different species, in the brush to our left.
“Look!” Russ points to the right. A kudu bull is cautiously making his way to the water. He stops to look around at every step. Even once at the water’s edge he looks and watches. I’m sure he is very thirsty yet he is super guarded. Guess I would be too if my life depended on it!
He is about to drop his head when he spooks. There, entering at center stage not far behind the kudu is a male lion. It might be lion two from last night! Within no time the kudu exits stage right. The lion, like us, simply watch him leave.
“What! No chase?” This lion is either full or lazy! He looks in the direction of the kudu for a bit then turns the other way, starts walking and then… roaring loudly. His sound fills the expanse. Wish I knew what he was broadcasting!
Baby Elephant vs. the Kudu mamma
The elephant herd came in right behind our Land Rover. It’s a small herd of about a dozen including two young ones. The zebra give way as most species do when the elephant are ready to take their turn at the waterhole.
Across the water a few kudu mama carefully make their way to the edge, lower their heads and drink. As if timed their heads pop up alternatively assuring some measure of protection from predators. The smallest of the young elephants is watching the kudu obviously not pleased. The other elephants pay them no mind. Baby feels they are intruding. He swings his trunk back and forth… the kudu don’t pay much attention.
After a bit baby elephant steps it up and moves towards them flapping his ears. A couple of the kudu step back. Baby wants more retreat and finally charges at the kudu with ears unfurled. A narrow strip of water is still between them… the kudu mamas move away. Baby turns around looking mighty proud and reports to his mother, “I showed them Mom!” He seems to say. He turns around to take stock of the situation.
Alas, the kudu mamas are back at the water drinking and watching alternatively as before. Baby seems to sigh with a sense of resignation and say, “Okay… we can share.”
The brave or stupid Impala
Another waterhole, another elephant herd. This is a small hole with a cluster of muddy depressions in front of it. The elephants are milling around the hole, each trying to get his/her trunk into the refreshing water. Most of the adults give way to the little ones who miraculously don’t’ get trampled underfoot as they reach their tiny trunks into the welcome liquid.
On the outskirts a few zebra and impala wait. A couple of impala move in a bit closer to a muddy hole to drink. The first moves in rather close. A young elephant swings around ears flapping. The second impala is out of there, but not impala number one. Without batting an eye or raising a horn he keeps drinking.
The young elephant flaps his ears again. The zebra and other impala stay at a safe distance, but impala number one must be real brave or… stupid? Or maybe just very thirsty.
He keeps drinking and the young elephant watches with a quizzical look on his face.
Two ways to take a drink if you’re a Giraffe
Not sure about giraffe and drinking! Of all animals this species must put the most effort into getting hydrated. Not only do they have to lower their head dangerously low they must convey the water way up before it goes down.
Twenty, twenty one… twenty five… eventually we count thirty giraffe coming and leaving from the waterhole. Did you know that giraffe drink one of two ways? I sure didn’t!
It’s either the ‘bend’ or the ‘spred’ method. A giraffe either bends at the front knees or spreds her legs wide so that her head can reach the water. Neither is very elegant, but both get the job done. Wonder what makes a giraffe chose one way over the other? Do mother’s teach their young or is it simply personal preference?
Curious animal behaviors at the waterhole are so unexpected… I could sit and watch them all day!
Coming next time, even more intriguing… what we saw at the waterholes in Hwange Game Reserve in Zimbabwe:
Teenage hippo harasses a crocodile
Rejected baby elephant falls in the waterhole.