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Posts Tagged ‘etosha’

Striking, with their distinctive black and white stripes, zebras form part of the wonderful array of African wildlife that makes a visit to a national park or a hike through the mountains so fulfilling. A visit to an Etosha waterhole wouldn’t be the same without our attractive equine friends, nor would a walk through the Fish River canyon be as wild or wonderful without the clattering sound of hooves on rock as a zebra group escapes to the safety of a lofty vantage point.

Although a zebra has a unique pattern of stripes as each person has his/her own individual fingerprints, it is possible to distinguish between the two southern African species at a glance. (The third zebra species, the larger and more mule-like Grévy’s zebra, inhabits the semi-arid grasslands of Ethiopia and northern Kenya.) Burchell’s or plains zebra and mountain zebra have more than their environments to separate them.

Equus zebra hartmannae (7 Cent), issued in 1980, artist: Paul Bosman

Equus zebra hartmannae (7 Cent), issued in 1980, artist: Paul Bosman

The most obvious way to tell the difference between the two is by their stripes. The mountain zebra subspecies, Hartmann’s zebra, like the Cape mountain zebra of South Africa, has solid stripes while Burchell’s zebra, seen in abundance on the grasslands of Etosha National Park, has additional faint stripes superimposed on the white and referred to as shadow stripes. On closer observation, it will be noticed that the Hartmann’s zebra stripes don’t join on its stomach and continue down to its hooves, whereas Burchell’s stripes extend onto its underparts and often fade towards its hooves.

There are two more obvious differences. Hartmann’s zebra Equus zebra hartmannae has a grid-iron pattern across the top of its rump and a prominent dewlap on its throat. Equus burchellii lacks both of these features.

The stripes tell the difference between Hartmann's and Burchell's zebra (below). Photo: Ron Swilling

The stripes tell the difference between Hartmann's and Burchell's zebra (below). Photo: Ron Swilling

Sometimes overlapping, the two species favour different habitats. Burchell’s zebra prefers arid savannah with access to water, while Hartmann’s is found in central and southern Namibia in the rugged terrain of the mountain escarpment and adjacent flats.

Hartmann’s zebra live in small breeding groups of four to five animals comprising one stallion with his mares and foals. They are difficult to spot against their mountain terrain but evidence of their presence is seen in their kidney-shaped droppings, the zebra paths that meander up mountains and their rounded tracks that are etched into the dusty soil. A barking ‘kwa-ah’ alarm signal can sometimes be heard as a group agilely negotiates a koppie. The stallion stands for a few moments behind his family as the rear-guard before trotting off with the others.

Burchell's zebra. Photo: Ron Swilling

Burchell's zebra. Photo: Ron Swilling

The better known species, Burchell’s zebra, is more social than its shyer cousin, congregating in large groups where there is good grazing and often grazing alongside other species like blue wildebeest. Being habituated to people in Etosha, the herds provide ample opportunities for photographs and to observe wild equine behaviour.

These odd-toed ungulates are the quintessential African animal. Their apparent healthy plumpness even during drought, partly caused by the fermentation of bacteria in their gut, adds to our glimpses of an Eden from long ago. The feisty equids are hardy survivors in the fluctuations of the natural world where the eyes of predators are never far away. A new-born foal can stand within fifteen minutes and can run with the herd within hours of its birth. In addition to the protection that their striped patterning may allow, their powerful kick can deter a lion, break a jaw or kill a spotted hyena.

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The stand of Gondwana turned into a popular meeting place for hundreds of visitors to the Namibia Tourism Expo, held from 8 until 11 June 2011 in Windhoek. The Expo jury voted the ‘Gondwana Shebeen’ the best stand in in the Food & Beverages category and awarded the platinum certificate.

The stand had been modelled on the Oshebeena Bar at Etosha Safari Camp. The bar introduces our guests to something which is part of the African population’s everyday life, in the townships and in the populous northern parts of the country. Gondwana loves to combine adventure and astronomy. Apart from taking in our country’s unique nature we want our guests to be able to relate to its population and history. Therefore we have established information centres at some of our lodges. Then there is the inimitable restaurant at the Cañon Roadhouse which sports yesteryear’s vehicles, petrol pumps, tools and street signs. And there is the Osheebena Bar at the Etosha Safari Camp.

During the Namibia Tourism Expo we ran a competition to come up with an authentic name for this bar. The result was a clear vote against corruption – the overwhelming majority of participants was in favour of ‘Down Corruption Bar .o1’. The lucky winner carried off a prize to the value of N$ 80,000: 101 nights, including breakfast, at any of the Gondwana lodges.

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The competition also served as a fundraiser for the Gondwana Social Fund. A total of N$ 47,000 in cash and in kind was raised for the fund’s first project, the Okaukuejo Primary School. A heartfelt thank you to the sponsors and all the participants in the competition!

The school will make good use of this support. Headmaster Erastus Shipahu would like to enlarge the school hostel. Currently it has room for 70 boys and girls but according to Shipahu demand is considerably higher. Furthermore the children urgently need an area where they can have their meals under a roof. So far they use stone benches and tables in the yard which are almost completely exposed to the sun and the elements. Okaukuejo Primary School is attended by a total of 319 children up to Grade 8 – with between 29 and 45 children per classroom.

Through its accommodation facilities Etosha Safari Lodge and Camp (9 km south of Andersson’s Gate) Gondwana has special ties to the school: the children of staff members attend this school and the management has already helped with smaller projects several times.

The Gondwana Social Fund is the financial foundation of the Gondwana Collection’s social commitment. And social commitment is one of the three pillars of the company’s philosophy, together with tourism and nature conservation. Tourism generates income and thereby creates jobs which in turn benefit the country’s nature and people.

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