The Etosha Pan
“One day a village was raided and everyone but the
women slaughtered. One woman was so upset about
the death of her family she cried until her tears
formed a massive lake. When the lake dried up
nothing was left apart from a huge white pan.“
– San origin legend about the Pan
Part of the Kalahari Basin, the massive salt-clay floor was formed around 1000 million years ago of a lake fed by the Kunene River. Thousands of years ago, the course of the river changed and the lake dried up leaving a large dusty depression of salt clay with water springs along its edges. With so little fresh water available, these springs and watering holes attract large concentrations of wildlife and birds, including 114 mammal species and 340 bird species that have been recorded in the vast park of 22,270 square kilometres.
There is much more to the park than the pan, and nothing can survive on it, although if it fills with water, the flamingos and pelicans will flock to it by the thousands. This happened in 2013, and the last one prior to 2013 was in 1930. And this year there’s the drought. The vast pan has its own stark beauty, though.
We drove to the Anderson gate of Etosha National Park and entered one of the most important reserves and game sanctuaries in all of Africa. Etosha is particularly famous for its black rhinos and we looked for them to the east just after the Anderson Gate.
A Crash of Black Rhinos
Status: Critically Endangered (but numbers increasing)
Their name comes from the Greek, rhino meaning nose and ceros meaning horn. The name group name, a “Crash” of Rhinos, only enhances their coolness. Everything about them says, I am ugly. I am nasty. Deal with it.
In 1961, the World Wildlife Fund was the first organization to launch an international effort to save black rhinos from extinction. Large scale poaching and land clearance comprised for the almost disappearance of the species. They were too late for the Central-West Black Rhino subspecies, which has been completely wiped off the planet.
The Black Rhino species as a whole has seen its population decline by approximately 97.6% since 1960. Its original distribution comprised the entire African continent south of the Sahara except for the Congo Basin. Currently the Black Rhino’s distribution is very fragmented, with about 96% of the wild Black Rhinos in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. As of December 2010, there are about 1,920 Southwestern Black Rhinos.
It is interesting that an animal that looks so dangerous, and can be, of course, with two formidable horns which grow as much as 3 inches (8 centimeters) a year, are herbivores. Black Rhinos are browsers and get their nutrition from eating trees, bushes, branches and fruits, they show a preference for acacia. They eat an average of 52 lb (23.6 kg) of food a day. They only use their horns for defence.
I don’t suppose the term “crash” comes up all that often, because the Rhinoceros are mostly solitary. The only social unit is the mother and her calf, and this fact, along with this image, makes them endearing, even adorable. Males are solitary until it’s time to mate. Temporary associations are sometimes formed but they do not last long. Huh.
Here is an animal whose “camouflage” is black; who came here for water, and the lake dried up thousands of years ago leaving a white salt plain. I thought this would be a better place for the white rhino, but it isn’t white, either (just a mixup in translation way back when). But the black rhino here is coated in a layer of white salt dust, and while evolution may not have left it with white skin, it seems the black rhino and the Etosha pan today are sympatico.
We saw two black rhinos from afar and this is the best possible shot, but it does show the paradox of the name, Black Rhino.
We spent a day and a half in the park with one of those days from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Our excellent guide, Tuhafeni from Wild Dog Safari, popped up the roof and opened the windows and away we went. The evidence of the drought was distressing and there weren’t the masses of thousands of animals at any given waterhole, but it was still absolutely amazing and we saw more than we could have dreamed for.
Queen of the Savannah, King of the Beasts, Pride of Africa
Status: Vulnerable (habitat loss)
There are so many misassumptions and fun facts about the beautiful, elegant lion. It is the female who is head of a pride of usually about 15 lions. The females do the hunting, the male defends the territory. Although the male eats first, the queen will have female “favourites” who get the most and best meat after the male, so the cubs of the pride may cosy up with the favourites over their own mother.
Lions do not live in the jungle, they live on savannahs, like the land surrounding the Etosha pan..
The lion was once found throughout Africa, Asia and Europe But is now only in Africa save for one park in India.
A lion’s roar can be heard from as far as 5 miles away.
The mating process is quick, we barely noticed!
A lion can run for short distances at 80 kph.
A lion may sleep up to 20 hours a day, which is how we found them, although we were lucky, we waited – they woke up!
This was only Day 1 in the park!