Saturday, 7 September 2013

Poaching in Kruger

It's a sad fact but poaching appears to still be on the rise in South Africa (and elsewhere). Guides we spoke to estimated that up to 1000 rhino will be lost to poachers this year. 1000 rhinos. That's an unspeakable national disaster. I read one story where a well known naturalist and bushie from RSA was trying to educate the local resident villagers into the idea that poaching animals and of course, particularly rhino, was counter productive. Education in the villages has, it seems, had some impact but mostly because anti-poaching groups are increasingly active in these areas. They tend to shoot poachers dead on sight and leave them to the wild animals. If the poachers are shot and the incidents reported, it's the shooters that get jailed NOT the poachers, if any survive. The simple answer to this is that they shoot poachers on sight and don't tell anyone. It's the kids in the villages that get hit the hardest when their fathers never return from a "trip". Personally I think the shoot to kill policy is good simply because the official response is always too little, too late.

We were snapping a cute herd of waterbuck when the guide noticed something odd about one of them. Through his binoculars he saw a snare - the wire still attached round the waterbuck's neck. Not a pretty sight but it seemed at least that the snare hadn't cut into the neck area - no sign of blood - even so, it was a nasty reminder that even in the safari heaven that is Honeyguide and Manayleti, dark deeds continue.
The guide duly reported the incident and, hopefully, a vet was going to try to locate the animal, dart it and remove the wire snare.

I was reasonably happy with this quick pan shot of a male waterbuck trotting into cover.
(1/13s @ f36, ISO 125)
This is an old female waterbuck doing what they do best: hang out near water.
We drove past and took a few snaps and she was still there when we
returned 30 mins later, enjoying the water
or just so old she no longer cared if we were a threat!
Here's a classic exposure problem. Perfect silhouette but a dull result. The very bright sky and direction of light produced a dull, under-exposed result. Shoot with the camera set to Exposure Bracketing and you'll get a bright frame, normal frame and a dark frame. Choose the most appropriate, and delete the rest.
Alternatively if the shot is really dark use the most versatile exposure adjuster: the exposure compensation feature to add more light by setting it to + one or even two f-stops to brighten the resulting snap. This is far more efficient and produces radically better results than if you just brighten up a heavily underexposed image.
I think waterbuck are seriously cute but at the same time they really look out of place mingling with zebra and wildebeest. Here's a typical view - we got a few metres too close and they moved off, male up front in the lead. One female stops and turns side on to get a better view of the danger. They clearly display that typical toilet seat or target on their backsides. I think they look more like a cross between a red deer and a moose, especially with all that hair! Beautiful and quite graceful critters.

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