Gemsbok fight analysis 1

February 28, 2015

Gemsbok fight analysis (Part one).
During my recent trip to the Gemsbok Park (very dry end of February) I spent a few days observing and capturing images of the Gemsbok skirmishes around a water hole. I particularly concentrated on the behavior before and during the activities around the waterhole between the animals. 
I have always attempted to predict which the good fighters were while they were going about their normal business through attitude, size and injuries amongst others. 
During my recent  visit it was clear that the mating was a priority so when the herd gathered around the waterhole the females are in close proximity of males and males close to each other. This increased the likelihood of conflict. Certain bulls sneaked up to the water holes from behind and took their chances when the females were actually drinking with their heads down in the water to jump on top for a quick "mate". The females are not impressed with this. But it almost always triggered conflict between two or more bulls.
So whether it is because they want to drink in a pecking order or want to sort out the mating hierarchy list I must lean  towards the aggression associated with selecting (instinct) females as a cause for serious fighting.
When two males decide that they are going to fight is determined by some frequency or very invisible behavior or attitude as some times one can see the sudden minute change in direction towards another bull, the ears or eyes  that is followed by an accepted challenge in also changing direction from its normal path to the water. This is done as to get the right angle for the first attack, the most crucial strategy besides the genetic makeup as a fighter. At other times they would walk peacefully together or past each other and at the blink of the eye and no warning rush in for head contact. It is surprising how quick they react as being stabbed sideways by a opponent could be fatal. So they will ensure that the body is straightened as quick as possible to the angle of attack. 
We as humans tend to think the male with the biggest horns must be the stronger fighter. It really is not. Then we think that the size of the animal must be the second most important factor. Well it certainly counts as well as it certainly counts to have the longest horns as they could reach further down and afflict injury on a larger target strictly spoken just like the reach advantage of a boxer. The cows certainly pack mean long thin horns that kill lion frequently when used as a defense mechanism for the calves 
But the longest thin horns also break off during fights serving a short purpose as a defensive and offensive weapon or weapons.
The most important factor seems to be tactics and agility where the quick good eye counts certainly a lot. Training as a young animal could also impact its fighting ability later on as well as the deep instinct to mate and to mate with the right female and to mate soon could be cause the animal to perform above his weight at the height of his mating drive. Meaning all the other advantages we mentioned. And then the state of health will be a great factor . When a animal comes out of the dunes or are weak to some environmental or health reasons his chances is reduced to win a fight he could have won in good condition. Once again similar to a boxer.
In this image the focus is on the eyes showing the focus as well as the pressure the heads impact each other as the eyes if captured at the precise moment of impact will bulge outwards  as somewhat in this image. It is wide open to be able to see opponents entry angle of the horns and to position its body so as to not be in the direction of any of the horns. A gemsbok with a funny angle horn can inflict surprising injuries.
During the locking and bumping of horns there are slight sideways movements to inflict injury to the neck and chest and rib area. This is the determining factor by large that could determine the outcome of a fight. Some bulls show a huge amount of injury on one side of various fights and not due to one. When you look closely you can observe a slight daze in the one eye.
Now if one has to list the most important element of the gemsbok fight , the horns and the strategic and tactical use of the actual horns must certainly count as  80 -90 % .(necessity to win a fight ). I have seen many one horned animals in the Park on this trip in the south area. More so than 5 years ago and more than 10 years ago. I don't know whether the population increased or if there are other contributing factors. 
When the horns lock on impact one of the other important strategies is to keep the opponents horn tips away from the body. So it must defend and attack almost simultaneously very similar to a sword fighter. Same principles apply.
I have also observed a animal without any horns or piece of horn that had worked out a strategy to not stand back for those that thought he was an easy target. I will show his fight later. 
Joe Lategan.

Kalahari lion and flowers

January 25, 2012
 Crouching Kalahari lion.
A Kalahari desert lion normally blends into the red or   
other sand of the Kalahari desert to such an extent that  
animals can almost walk right into them without spotting them. So when there  
are exceptional rains for a short while, the desert turns into a heavenly garden of green and coloured wild flowers. During  
exceptional rains like the exceptional 2010 season Flowers cover certain  
areas that cannot be imagined during most of the year.  
The area around the wate...

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Arid Parks bad management.

November 8, 2011

During my visit at the Mata Mata camp the following substandard performances were experienced.
The road was in acceptable standards and maintained during my visit. The sewage seeped out from the toilets right into my campsite  along the fence with a terrible smell for the duration of my stay. It seeped out of the ground half a
meter from my tap and 2 meters from my tent. Cigarette buts have not been picked up for many weeks probably. I remember the days that the camp sites were raked before eac...

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Making of The Last ranger fine art Image

August 31, 2011

 I wanted to do a portrait of a camelthorn tree but it is always difficult to get a single tree or a situation where the background and foreground does not detract from it. At this specific point in the dunes and central part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park the opportunity was there including the backround that enhanced the message of the Camelthorn I tried to bring across. The Camelthorn is the major reason for the abundant micro habitats along the desert riverbeds that stimulate the cha...
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Hyena Nights & Kalahari days

July 19, 2010
A Must have book by the king of Hyena scientists in South Africa

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First DVD on Auob river ecological overview

June 2, 2010
The first film on the Auob river shot over two years covering a full years seasons or climatic conditions. The DVD is now available at the shops in Twee Rivieren and Augrabies falls. 
Otherwise do a internet payment and mail the proof to
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kgalagadiphotography web launch in Park

June 2, 2010
The web site is being promoted with a photo of a spectacular male lion at the entrance of the shop at Twee Rivieren.
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Twee Rivieren restaurant

June 2, 2010
The Twee Rivieren restaurant decorated their walls with our photos over the weekend and the website advertised in the  Shop entrance with photo of a spectacular male lion currently in charge of a pride along the upper Auob river. 
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First cold fronts

April 26, 2010
The first cold front  as predicted moved over the country and the Free State and Karoo received first frost and zero temperatures. It is now important to scrutinize the dunes on the side that receive the first sun-rays as the animals are still used to the warmer temperatures.In other words the animals move to the top of the dunes or high laying areas to get the first sun shine where they heat up for quite some time before moving in the late morning. This side of the dunes also naturally  have...
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wet to dry transition

March 24, 2010
It is now what is called approaching the "transition period" from the wet to the dry months. Although a few good showers could still fall, the grasses will start to turn yellow. The animals are in the prime condition and springbok can be found in river beds almost tired of eating. Male springbok are staking territories along the river beds and gathering the females for the second round the seaon. Long grasses make very nice backdrops to animal potraits especially early morning and late aftern...
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