Picture(s) of the Week 20 – Playing Rough!

These little Asian Elephants were playing rough today at the Hannover Zoo in Germany.

I took these pictures today at one of the best zoos I have ever seen. It is actually more a perfectly made theme park with animals than a zoo. It is not surprising that it has more than 1.6 million visitors per year.

Yesterday we have been at the Burger’s Zoo in the The Netherlands, another one of the leading zoos in Europe and tomorrow we will be at the Leipzig Zoo in Germany.

Enjoy the picture!

PS: I will be back in the USA next Thursday evening.

Picture of the Week 19 – European Zoo Trip

This weeks picture is of a Pallas’s Cat (or Manul). The picture was taken at the Zürich Zoo in Switzerland.

European Zoo Trip

Tomorrow I will be leaving for a trip to three European zoos. First to the Burger’s Zoo in Arnhem in The Netherlands and then to the Zoos in Hannover and Leipzig in Germany.

I will be back in the USA on Thursday May 17. If I get a chance I will post some images while I am in Europe!

More about Pallas’s cat:

Pallas’s Cat (Otocolobus manul), also called the Manul, is a small wild cat having a broad but patchy distribution in Central Asia. The species was named after the German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas, who first described the species in 1776 under the binomial Felis manul.

Pallas’s Cats are about the size of a domestic cats. They are solitary and territorial. They spend the day in caves, rock crevices, or marmot burrows, and emerge in the late afternoon to begin hunting. They are not fast runners, and hunt primarily by ambush or stalking. They feed largely on diurnally active prey species such as gerbils, pikas, voles and Chukar partridges.


Picture of the Week 18 – Climb!

Small Cheetahs – as all other small cats – love to climb. Once they grow up it is much harder to get onto trees with their “semi-retractable” claws. These claws are designed like spikes to aid fast acceleration.

Nevertheless, in the picture below an adult male Cheetah climbed a low branch for a better look around in the morning mist.

Enjoy the pictures 🙂

For more Cheetah images go to http://www.sperka.biz/cheetah

Picture of the Week 17 – Smack!

These two Cougars cubs were smacking their lips when I took the picture(s).

This picture is a merger of two almost identical images with one of the cubs smacking the lips in the one picture and the other in the another picture.

The picture series was taken at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

More about Cougars:

The Cougar (Puma concolor), also known as puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther, depending on the region, is a mammal of the family Felidae, native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America.

Although large, the cougar is most closely related to smaller felines and is closer genetically to the domestic cat than to true lions. While it is a large predator, it is not always the dominant species in its range, as when it competes for prey with other predators such as the jaguar, grey wolf, American Black Bear, and the grizzly bear. It is a reclusive cat and usually avoids people.

For more Cougar pictures go to http://www.sperka.biz/cougar

Picture of the Week 14 – The tree that shines from afar

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This African Elephant is browsing in between Fever Trees on Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa.

In the Zulu language the Fever Tree is called umHlosinga (the tree that shines from afar). This beautiful acacia has a pale white bark and green foliage. It is one of the few trees where photosynthesis takes place in the bark. The yellow color on the Elephant’s skin is from rubbing against one of the trees.

Enjoy the picture!

The Tree That Shines From Afar ( Fever Tree – Acacia xanthophloea)


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I took this Dwarf Mongoose picture many years ago at Ngala Private Game Reserve, South Africa. It gave me a curious look before disappearing in the bush.

More about Dwarf Mongoose:

The Dwarf Mongoose (Helogale parvula) is a small African carnivore belonging to the mongoose family (Herpestidae).  It is the smallest mongoose and it is Africa’s smallest Carnivore. The soft fur is very variable in color, ranging from yellowish red to very dark brown.

The Dwarf Mongoose is primarily found in dry grassland, open forests, and bush land, up to 2,000 meters in altitude. It is especially common in areas with many termite mounds, their favorite sleeping place. The species avoids dense forests and deserts. It ranges from East to southern Central Africa, from Eritrea and Ethiopia to the Transvaal in South Africa.

Picture of the Week 12 – Surprise!

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I was very surprised when, on one of my first game drives at Thanda Private Game Reserve in 2010, this male Leopard crossed our path just as we left the lodge.

In Kwazulu Natal Leopards are usually very shy and are very hard to view, as they are still prosecuted by humans in many areas. Unlike in the Kruger National Park and the surrounding game reserves the Leopards in this part of South Africa have not be habituated to “non-threatening” human presence over many decades.

For more leopard images from my various trips to southern Africa go to www.sperka.biz/leopard.

I will start working at Thanda Private Game Reserve in June 2012.

Picture of the Week 11 – My Favorite Lion

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Between 2002 and 2008 I have taken hundreds of pictures of this beautiful male Lion. He was the dominant male of the Phinda North Pride for many years and whenever I think about Lions I first think about him.

Together with my friend and field guide Mike Karantonis I spent many days and sometimes part of the nights watching him grow older and stronger. In 2009 a coaltion of three younger males replaced him as the dominant  male of the pride.

I took this picture in December 2006 in the streaming rain (see also the second picture taken at the same time) in front of my room at Phinda’s Vlei Lodge.

About male Lions:

Male lions are not lazy. They have a very tough life. Only one out of ten males makes it to full maturity. Once their father has evicted them, they have to fight other male Lions for a few years. The very few that get not killed in this harsh selection process may become the dominant male of a pride after they successfully drive away or kill the previous “boss”.

Male Lions do usually not participate in hunts because they are very visible with their large mane and would make it much easier for the prey to “get wind” of the hunt. They also have to preserve their strength and avoid to get insured in a hunt, because they have to defend their pride towards other males and prides. It is in the interest of the whole pride that they are capable of doing so, because if another male manages to take over, the first thing he will do is to kill all the young lions of the pride (up to two years old). For the same reason it makes sense that male Lions eat first and plenty at each kill to make sure that they stay strong for any upcoming fights.

Picture Data:

Picture 1: Camera: Canon 1D MII / Lens: Canon L 2.8 300mm / Mode: AV / Shutter Speed: 1/400s / Aperture: f/2.8 / ISO: 800 / Exposure Correction -0.33eV / Metering: Central weighted / White balance: manual K6500 / Time: early morning / Freehand

Picture 2: Camera: Canon 1D MII / Lens: Canon L 28-300mm at 78mm / Mode: AV / Shutter Speed: 1/100s / Aperture: f/4.5 / ISO: 400 / Exposure Correction -0.33eV / Metering: Central weighted / White balance: manual K6500 / Time: early morning / Freehand

For more Lion pictures got to
www.sperka.biz/lion (for African Lion)
www.sperka.biz/lion2 (for African Lion in zoos)
www.sperka.biz/lion3 (for Asiatic Lion)

Picture of the Week 10 – Blitz

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Taking pictures of little cubs is always fun. A lot of my cub photo session I spend laying flat on the ground trying to get them on eye-level. This small Eurasian Lynx picture was taken at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. Blitz (that is his name) was born on the May weekend of the 2010 big floods in Nashville. He is now one of the stars in the educational shows at the zoo.

More about Lynx:

The Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, South Asia and East Asia. While its conservation status has been classified as “Least Concern”, populations of Eurasian lynx have been reduced or extirpated from western Europe, where it is now being reintroduced.

The Eurasian lynx is the largest lynx species, ranging in length from 80 to 130 cm (31 to 51 in) and standing about 70 cm (28 in) at the shoulder. It possesses a short “bobbed” tail with an all-black tip, black tufts of hair on its ears, and a long grey-and-white ruff

There are three more species in the genus Lynx:
– Canadian Lynx (Lynx canadensis)
– Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) – critically endangered
– Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Picture Data: Camera: Canon 1D Mark IV / Lens: Canon L IS 2.8 70-200mm at 70mm / Mode: AV / Shutter Speed: 1/3200s / Aperture: f/2.8 / ISO: 1600 / Exposure Correction +0.33eV / Metering: Central weighted / White balance: K6500 / Center point focus only / Time: noon / cropped to approx 40% / Freehand

For more Lynx pictures go to www.sperka.biz/lynx