Strange animals

At the gates to many of the National Parks they give you a map to roads and different sights with pictures of frequently seen animals and birds. They have scoring games for kids that designate points for the animals they see. They talk about seeing the Big 5 which are the Lion, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Giraffe, and Leopard.
When we took the river trip with our guide, Chai, on the Zambezi he talked about the Ugly 5, which are the Crocodile, Hyena, Hippo, Baboon, and Warthog. Personally I think the Ugly 5 are just a bit more unique, in an odd, familiar sort of way. For example, watching a baboon one day reminded me of my cousin Bob’s long face when he thought he might have to accompany Grandma to church.
I do like the Warthog, but wouldn’t go quite so far as Robbie who calls them adorable. I was wary during my first encounter because those large tusks that jut sideways out of their mouths look capable of doing some serious damage. But they are actually very timid and quite frightened of people. When Warthogs scoot around on folded forelegs immersed in hoovering the grounds and then speed off when they didn’t notice you coming, their pencil-like tails with the fronded tips stick straight up, waving in a gesture of surrender as they speedily retreat. The little guys follow mom with their frantic and erratic short steps and waving flags.
I have added the Warthog to my own list of the Funny 4, which also includes the Springbok, Verbet Monkey and my favorite, the Black Korhaan.
Springbok seem pretty benign most of the time, grazing in big herds or sitting under the shade of a tree but when you see a fellow feeling his oats it’s a whole different animal. We have observed this delightful display a couple times, always in the cool of morning or evening. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, one guy in the herd just goes ballistic and starts tearing around and raising dust like he just won the lottery. He’ll lock horns and have a tug of war with another guy for a bit and then go bouncing off like all his legs are spring loaded pogo sticks. It’s a sight that makes me laugh every time.
Who cannot enjoy the antics of the Verbet Monkeys (I was mistakenly calling them Burbot Monkeys) with their human-like bent for mischievousness. They are constantly chasing and playing grab ass with one another. The little tikes cling to their mother’s bellies or ride along on their backs looking about with wide round eyes. The agility of these monkeys is something to behold! When one of the little bastards stole my granola bar yesterday it happened in the flick of an instant and he was up in the tree before Robbie stopped screeching. Then he had the audacity to come back to open and eat it right above me.
Until we learned the proper name of the Black Koraan, we referred to these creatures as the helicopter bird. The first time I saw one I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. It looked like a black yo yo going straight up and plummeting straight down as a ragged ball of feathers. I still don’t know why it does this, probably a feeding technique to catch lizards or something. It looks normal enough when walking around with it’s orange beak and white patterned head and back on a black background, but it doesn’t sound normal. It is very loud and sounds like you’re backing out a rusty screw. Somehow it has a ventriloquist’s ability to sound just like the dang thing is right outside your window even though you passed it a couple hundred meters before.

The top of my list for Greatest Sound, of which there can only be one, excluding me under a cold shower doing a rendition of “When a man loves a woman”, is The King of Beasts, The Lion.
We have heard lions several nights while camping in different parks and one time in Kruger spotted a whole pride because we heard a couple gruffing to each other. At night their growls carry for a long way and often end with a woofing sound. But nothing compares to hearing them closeup, especially when you are unaware of their presence. If you can imagine being in a dark room and suddenly James Earl Jones magnified x 10 speaks up, well you get the idea.

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