How To “Shut Off” a Cat According to Science

If your cat is anything like mine, for one hour of the day (every day) and for NO apparent reason, it will take supreme pleasure in tearing up your couches, running from one end of the apartment to the other and generally acting like a drug-crazed hippie at a trance party. The other 23 hours of the day it’ll spend sleeping and being anti-social. So, it’s when your cat sinks into its daily delirium that you can make use of the following nifty trick called “clipnosis” – the official way to hit your cats “off” button, according to science!

Video Source: “Cat Clipnosis | Outrageous Acts of Science” Uploaded by Science Channel to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRciHfhLzrA

Snake Uses Hilarious Adaptation to Thwart Danger

This has got to be the funniest wildlife video I’ve seen in a very long time… The Western Hook-nosed Snake has developed a rather unique adaptation, which it makes use of to temporarily alarm enemies. It farts. Yes, it farts: something the guy in this video calls “popping noises, which it makes by squeezing air out of its cloaca” (biology speak for butt). Yeah, last time I checked, squeezing air out of your butt is called a fart. I especially LOVE how the snake continues to squeeze out little nervous farts while the guy handles it. If you can remember any of what he says, I applaud you. I was too busy laughing. Enjoy!

Video Source: “Western Hooknose Snake” uploaded by Orry Martin to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pGJMHOUD7o

Crazy Schmuck Lets a Black Mamba Bite Him

Yeah, so the video title pretty much says it all. I’ll spare you the preamble and let you get straight to this INSANE video…

Video Source: “Surviving a Black Mamba Bite” uploaded by Science Channel to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s0V62Q5__g

Baboons Cartwheeling (No, This Is Not a Joke)

Baboons – and most monkeys and all apes really – are remarkably like humans. We have a social hierarchy, we have figured out our environment pretty well, we’re insatiably curious and we love to play games… cartwheel down hills to be more accurate. This clip comes from one of my FAVOURITE movies of all times – Beautiful People – a documentary set in the Kalahari desert. This movie chronicles the life and times of the flora and fauna that inhabit (and thrive) in this seemingly inhospitable place on Earth, all set to a musical score that is beautifully fitting. If you ever come across this film, check it out.

Video Source: “Funny Monkey” uploaded by sammylovver to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkuX0nKiAlU

Baby Sloths Get Bathed & My Insides Just Turned to Mush

Grown men and the odd lesbian, listen up! Sending this video to the object of your affection is GUARANTEED to flood her squishy organs with progesterone, which means you can swoop in for the spooning! Adult sloths may be somewhat gross (because they’re lazy as a rusted engine and they tend to pee on themselves), but their babies are utterly divine. Suddenly, I feel the urge to quit my life and become a volunteer at a sloth sanctuary…

Video Source: “Bath Time for Baby Sloths | Too Cute” Uploaded by Animal Planet to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1mAGQAw3Oc

Wildlife Photographer Interrupts Mating Tortoises… Slowest Chase Ever Ensues

Have you ever been in the middle of giving someone a good rodgering when a friend calls, your flat mate walks in on you or your mother knocks on your door asking for your dirty laundry? Most of us have… now imagine you’re “doing the dirty” and some wildlife explorer sneaks in, does a shoddy job of concealing himself and films you! The very audacity of it all! And that’s precisely the train of thought the gigantic male tortoise featured in this voyeuristic video has when it embarks upon a chase of the offending explorer. Needless to say, the chase is anything but fast and furious.

Video Source: “Explorer Interrupts Mating Tortoises, Slowest Chase Ever Ensues” uploaded by National Geographic to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjtCS0EEoCY

9 Exceptional Reasons to Become a Nature Photographer!

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Clouds of Hummingbirds Fed by Hand!

They’re tiny little jewels that float in the air like bumblebees, but they’re not. They’re hummingbirds!

Video Source: “Hand Feeding Hummingbirds” by Highway 20 Productions on YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUEZkwJulBY

The Largest Glacier Calving Event Ever Caught on Camera!

The event shown in the video below has been entered into the 2016 Guiness Book of World Records – and into all other historic records – as the largest glacier calving event to have ever been captured on film. For about three minutes, we watch tier after tier of ice breaking off the parent glacier and crash into the choppy, chunky icy waters below. Where things get truly UNBELIEVABLE is towards the end of the film, when things are put into perspective for us and the true scale of the event is revealed during a presentation of the footage. Absolutely fantastic!

Video Source: “CHASING ICE” captures largest glacier calving ever filmed – OFFICIAL VIDEO” uploaded by Exposure Labs to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC3VTgIPoGU

Bird Watching: Making Your Safari Way More Awesome

Juvenile Bataleur Eagle
Picture: An immateur Bataleur Eagle taken at the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Thea Beckman (2015)

It can be said without a doubt that bringing a bird with you on your safari makes it way more awesome. Especially if said bird looks tight in a bikini. You can share in the joy of spotting that elusive leopard, watching cheetah chase ill-fated gazelle across the savannah and being stranded in a herd of elephant; desperately hoping that amorous-looking bull doesn’t take a fancy to your Jeep. But I’m not talking about THAT kind of bird. Birds, the feathered variety, are awesome. And the next time you drive home from Magaliesberg feeling short-changed because you didn’t see any lions AGAIN, perhaps you’d better start thinking about becoming a twitcher.

Bird-watching: A Definition

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Green-spotted dove, Kruger National Park in South Africa.

I’ve harboured a deep interest in birds since I can remember. Some people are addicted to nicotine, amphetamines or Robert Pattinson. I love bird watching. I really do. And I’m pretty sure that, psychologically, it has something to do with a love of collecting meaningful things. Every time my family would go for a weekend, week’s or month’s vacation somewhere in southern Africa, I would make and keep a list of the different species of birds we identified during the course of that holiday.

Bird watching and safari
This trusty field book has travelled with me all over southern Africa and bears the dirty smudges, rugged braai (barbecue) smears and cheap brandy stains to prove it.

 You experienced a shudder of awe and excitement when you saw a lion on your African adventure. I experienced a shudder of awe and excitement when I saw a Violet-eared Waxbill at the Karoo National Park. Partly because, against the drab semi-arid landscape, it is one of the most beautifully coloured creatures you could ever imagine; something straight out of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. And partly because this particular species of waxbill didn’t appear on the Karoo National Park’s bird list, meaning that we were the first to report seeing it there. Essentially, we made history.

I See Your Lion and Raise You a Bataleur Eagle

Bataleur Eagle
Mature bataleur eagle, Kruger National Park in South Africa. Picture by Thea Beckman.

I experienced another shudder of awe and excitement when I saw a Drakensberg Prinia in Pilgrim’s Rest; a Pallid Harrier at the Blyde River Canyon; a Collared Sunbird at the Nelspruit Botanical Gardens; a Striped Cuckoo at the Pilansberg Nature Reserve outside Rustenberg and again when I saw a flock of Southern Bald Ibises in the Drakensberg. None of these are particularly striking birds – except perhaps the Bald Ibis, whose head resembles an unmentionable male body part. But they were all new! I had never seen them before! It’s like discovering the Mufasa marble in your Engen Garage lucky packet back in the day when the Lion King and marbles were all the rage.

For the record, the Lion King was, is and always will be awesome.

Identifying a brand new bird and ticking it off in your book may sound completely nerdy, inane and lame. But it actually makes you feel amazing; like you’ve accomplished something. It’s a tiny intellectual victory and one of those ingredients that makes life rich and exciting.

I saw a brand new species of bird!

You saw a lion.

I saw a Crowned Eagle!

You saw another lion.

I saw a Giant Eagle Owl!

You saw (oh wow!) another lion.

I saw a Carmine Bee-eater.

You saw (surprise) a lion!

Lion yawning 2

For every one species of awesome animal you see on safari. I see 10, maybe 20 different species of birds. This is no war, my friends. No competition. The point I’m trying to make here is that if you can culture and develop an appreciation and then a love of identifying birds, you can get so much more out of any holiday, any getaway and any safari experience. You’ll also totally impress your chick who, through your appreciation of soft feathered creatures, will see your softer and more vulnerable side.

And then you’ll get to show her your softer and more vulnerable body parts.

 Kgalagadi Case Study, August to September 2009

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African Ground squirrels (Xerus inauris) enjoy an eclectic diet of roots, seeds, insects, pods, fruits, grains, bird eggs, small vertebrates and pink marshmallows.

Many years ago, I went on a 10-day vacation to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which straddles the three borders of Namibia, Botswana and the Northern Cape. The bird list I had kept for that holiday totalled 106 different species. The animal list I made totalled 12. Actually, it was more like 11. Animal #12, which we thought was a leopard prowling around the camp at night, turned out to be nothing more than my mother’s snoring. Or so we suspected after three consecutive nights of rhythmic zzzggghhhnnnnngggg, zzzggghhhnnnnngggg, zzzggghhhnnnnngggg-ing, which is actually quite similar to a leopard’s cough-like grunting.

We saw ONE lion that entire holiday. And it was a female so pregnant with zebra meat that she had hitched a leg up onto the bole of the acacia tree she was food coma-ing under in order to make more space for her distended gut. She didn’t so much as bat an eyelid at the rocks we were throwing at her to get her to move.

I am, of course, just kidding.

On that same trip, we spotted a beautiful Giant Eagle Owl in her nest in broad daylight; identified the tiny Pygmy Falcon killing machine; heard the haunting yelps of Pearl-Spotted Owls at night and kept the campsite company of the flamboyantly coloured Burchell’s starling.

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The handsome Burchell’s starling, Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Class Dismissed: The Take-Home Message

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Wahlberg’s Eagle? Malachite Kingfisher? Violet-eared Waxbill? Now that’s a handsome bird list…

I have always kept bird lists for the various holidays our family has been on. I also keep a list of animals on the occasions we go to wildlife reserves. Every single time, my list of different bird species, which has often stretched into the hundreds, dwarfs the list of different animal species. Nothing can be more exciting than actually spotting a leopard in a tree, seeing cheetah in action or watching a hippo emerge from the water (or doing that funny tail-thing when they poop.) But to go on safari and never notice the activity constantly going on around you, in the bushes, in the trees, on the ground, in the sky… well you are cheating yourself out of 90% of the fees you paid at the park entrance.

Open your eyes friends.

And whatever you do. Never, ever sit under a hornbill perched in a tree. They have impeccable aim.

African Birds and safari
Zazu, I mean, Yellow-billed hornbill, Kruger National Park in South Africa