Kalahari: Little Creatures

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

So now it is the turn of some of the smaller mammals. Although they’re often overlooked in the search for the bigger animals, they’re not only there, they’re abundant. The Kalahari has everything from Meerkats or Suricates  (Suricata suricata), Cape Ground Squirrels (Xerus inauris), two different species of mongoose (the Yellow and the Slender Mongoose), Aardvark, Porcupine, Pangolin, Springhare (Pedetes capensis) through to several species of rats and mice.

First, there’s Willie’s personal favourite, the Meerkat (Suricata suricata). If the 4×4 screeches to a halt and there’s nothing to be seen, then it’s highly likely that Willie has seen one of these at the side of the road! These are often the first “wild life” one sees when entering the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. And they are fun to watch – the real clowns of the Kalahari.

Meerkat digging out its burrow (©2009 WMB)

Meerkats spend a lot of their day digging in and around their burrows. They’ve got a complex extended family structure, but you can usually see who is “the boss”. In the photo below, this (what appeared to be pregnant) female was definitely The Boss! She was sitting back and watching (directing?) the others in their digging efforts.

Meerkat mother directing the others in digging efforts (©2009 WMB)

Meerkats are very curious animals. If anything is going on around their burrows, they want to see.

Curious Meerkats (©2009 WMB)

I personally prefer the Ground Squirrels. They can often be seen around the camps foraging for food.  Like squirrels elsewhere, they’ve easily adapted to having humans around. Their one really neat trick is to use their tails as umbrellas to shield themselves from the desert sun. Those little feet still get scorched by the hot sand, so like the Meerkats, they dart around when the sun is up high.

Ground Squirrels keeping cool in the heat (©2009 WMB)

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.


About lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at http://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and https://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)
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8 Responses to Kalahari: Little Creatures

  1. Loving the ground squirrels – I saw a very cool documentary about them, and how they use their big tails to appear larger when confronted with snakes. Seemingly like all the animals in Africa, they know how to take care of themselves!

    • Thought you’d like the squirrels. (What is it with you and squirrels, anyway? Don’t they have them in Australia?)

      In the Kalahari it really is Adapt or Die.

      We have so few good photos of the smaller mammals, and less obvious predators (foxes, jackals etc). Going to do something about that when we go back there in 2011.

  2. I love your Little Creatures! I’ve always enjoyed watching documentaries about desert animals and thought the meerkats had a lot of personality. In that first shot, you can see the slightest bit of tooth.

    Interesting tidbit about the squirrel tails!

  3. Yes, Meerkats do have a lot of personality, and they’re very emotional and expressive animals. Which is why I think people can relate to them. The family dynamics thing is also almost human.

  4. Really fascinating–love this window into your world, as well. I didn’t realized squirrels used their tails for shade! Great post!

    • I am not sure that ALL squirrels use their tails as umbrellas, but these African ones do!

      If you like photos of African animals and scenery, click on the “Kalahari Series” tab on the upper right of the screen. This will take you to the links for individual posts.

  5. Jo Bryant says:

    These are beautiful shots – it is so good to see someone who looks for these little guys, they are so often overlooked.

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