Skepticism

Ostrich Hues

I must admit that I was disappointed when I learned that there are no giraffes or lions running wild in downtown Cape Town or Johannesburg. At most, one sees a few stray baboons wandering the streets and trying to steal wallets, watches, and other shiny objects from gullible tourists. To see real wildlife– lions, giraffes, and tigers (yes, tigers), oh my!- one must venture outside the cities of South Africa.

During my recent trip to Johannesburg, I stayed for a few days on the Rhino and Lion Park Nature Reserve. As the name suggests, the reserve’s largest animals are rhinos and lions. The reserve also contains wild dogs, cheetahs, tigers (imported from Asia), ostriches, zebras, all kinds of buck, warthogs, and various other smaller animals.

The reserve is located about an hour outside of Joburg. I was staying just outside the city anyway, so after less than an hour’s drive I was able to have a taste of wilderness and wildlife.While I hope to take more time in the future to visit some of the larger, more remote wilderness areas in South Africa, this little park was a delightful weekend get-away.The animals at the Rhino and Lion Park are fenced into various, large enclosures, but they are wild enough. The predators are fenced off in a separate area from the main part of the reserve, so you can drive and walk around without having to worry too much about your safety. Of course, you still don’t want to approach a wild zebra or buck or rhino or even, as I learned, an ostrich.

Ostriches can be surprisingly aggressive although, honestly, they don’t seem very bright. Apparently, if you lie flat on the ground and don’t move an aggressive ostrich will become confused and won’t be able to see you. I learned this from the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy 2,” but my South African friends confirmed that it is true. I wasn’t quite brave enough to try it out by taunting an ostrich. Maybe next time. Or better yet, I’ll make my South African friends taunt the ostrich and show me first. My South African friends have certainly tricked me before with their tales about wild animals. My one friend had me convinced that dassies (a small, harmless, guinea pig-like animal) were vicious killers. I guess he meant in the Monty Python small, fluffy, white rabbit sense.

Anyway, while I traveling around the reserve, I learned another cool piece of information about ostriches (this one confirmed both by a game ranger and by wikipedia): female ostriches are gray while male ostriches are jet black. This is because females sit on the eggs during the day while males sit on the eggs at night. Isn’t evolution cool? And aren’t female ostriches cool for giving the males night duty?

Here are a few great photos from my trip to the Rhino and Lion Park:

Evelyn

Evelyn is a geologist, writer, traveler, and skeptic residing in Cape Town, South Africa with frequent trips back to the US for work. She has two adorable cats; enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking; and has a very large rock collection. You can follow her on twitter @GeoEvelyn. She also writes a geology blog called Georneys.

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12 Comments

  1. HAHA! Rav, EXCELLENT reference!

    I want to rub a tiger's belly! I've only (once, haltingly) pet the back of a tiger cub…but a belly rub, well, that would ROCK. HARD.

    Also, Evelyn, you're quite right to be hesitant about ostriches. Those bastards can gut a person with one slice if they get a good shot at you, and that'd be just a silly way to go out, I think.

  2. TIGERS! Iei! Winner of the "Best-Dressed Predator" award for 5 million years consecutively. Why are tigers bright orange? To give everyone else a sporting chance.

    Seriously, those things are freaking ninjas… Bright orange, ten feet long, one of them SWAM by ten feet away from me and I didn't see it. How crazy is that?

  3. I grew up with ostriches behind the back fence. It was in the midwest, but the rich guy who owned the property behind ours kept some exotic animals including ostriches and emus…and Llamas who would spit at us.

    Anyway, I can personally confirm that ostriches can be aggressive. Another oddity is that since the two parents share in care of the young, both the females and males have been known to commit infanticide out of jealousy over the attentions of the other parent.

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