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Early morning, and first light is barely breaching the heavy mist that hangs over us like a cold, wet blanket and mutes the first attempts at an avian dawn chorus. This is the Mountains of the Moon, where DRC & Uganda meet and legends are born. I sip my mug of heavily-gingered milk tea and quietly discuss our plans for the day with my trusted friend and fixer Benson Bamatura (sadly now deceased). Our objective is simple – find and photograph a bird that has never before been photographed in the wild (aside from a few fortuitously netted during biodiversity research). Shelley’s crimsonwing Cryptospiza shelleyi – a rare endemic to the dense highland forests of the Albertine Rift – mountain gorilla territory.
We never found the stunning forest finch, despite six visits to parts of its mountainous paradise and operating a two-year netting programme in collaboration with the Ugandan authorities. Subsequent attempts to plan another personal sojourn into southern DRC to find this feathered jewel were stymied by unrest and then Corona. Unfinished business.
I mention this because right now, we all need to hang on to our dreams and trust that this crisis shall pass. Keep believing, dreaming and planning. See you in Africa – soon.
Keep the passion
Simon Espley – CEO, Africa Geographic
From our Scientific Editor
I have a particular fondness for the meaning and etymology of scientific names, something that the eagle-eyed among you may have picked up as a common theme in many of my articles.
I love that some convey a wealth of information or provide a snapshot of history. Others are either unintentionally funny or a sly wink (or wonderfully childish humour) from the scientist describing the species. Our fact of the week is one of my favourites -the memory of a somewhat ridiculous misconception of nightjar feeding habits now forever branded into ecological history.
I am always on the lookout for fascinating or humorous additions to my list of scientific name gems, so feel free to send some suggestions by joining the club and commenting below!
From our Editor-in-Chief
This will be my final ramble in the editor’s chair at Africa Geographic. It is time for me to detach myself from my desk and (hopefully) head back out into the wilderness. Obviously, this is a privilege many of us wish for in the year to come – along with wisdom from our so-called leaders. Thankfully I live in a country blessed with an astounding natural and cultural diversity so even if crossing borders is difficult, I can find solace in South Africa’s mountains, oceans and wild lands. Smiles will come from her resilient, beautiful people.
Next week, South Africa’s major inland centres will disgorge large proportions of their residents to the Western and Eastern Cape provinces. Cars full of dazed adults, their over-sugared offspring and mounds of paraphernalia they’ll never use, will travel the major arteries. Most will head for sleepy coastal villages but others will explore the wildlife in these gorgeous provinces. As our first story below explains, a Cape safari is a brilliant, malaria-free alternative to the more traditional Southern African safari destinations.
In our second story below, we explore yet more of the fascinating social goings-on in a hyena clan. This time researchers have discovered that young hyenas inherit their mothers’ social networks in much the same way as humans (and other primates) inherit the social networks their families fit into.
That’s it from me. It has been a privilege to talk to you every week over the last 11 months. With any luck, you’ll be able to read stories from me in the AG club in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps we’ll meet again over a tipple as the last embers of the day fade at some magical spot in the African wild. Until then, stay safe and please come to Africa as soon as you are able – she needs you and your soul needs her!
Fascinating wildlife and malaria-free wilderness close to Cape Town and the Garden Route – this is the Cape safari experience.
INHERITED SOCIAL NETWORK
High-ranking spotted hyena cubs inherit a social network of allies which increases access to resources & breeding opportunities: New research
TRAVEL DESK UPDATES:
• Covid update: Analysts at JPMorgan have asserted that early data points to a more contagious but less severe Omicron – which would crowd out other severe variants and speed up the end of the pandemic
• United Airlines has resumed its 3 x weekly non-stop flights between its New York/Newark hub and Cape Town
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