Tembe Elephant Park is a place for mystery and new discoveries. Too often we get caught up with the sexy animals, the “big-and-hairies”. It is natural to want to scan the bushveld in search of a hunting lion, stalking leopard or rampaging rhino. This is what gets the adrenaline rushing. This is what sells the tickets. But for those conservation volunteers who have done this and have travelled to Tembe in South Africa and seen – you start to notice the smaller things around you.
The colourful birds and the foraging banded mongooses. The tall Torchwoods and Pod Mahoganies that dominate the Tembe skyline along with the waving grasslands and stunning wild flowers. Fluttering amongst these are the beautiful butterflies. And when we look even closer – the bustling insects and web-spinning spiders. They are everywhere. Insects and Arachnids make up such a huge proportion of the ecosystem and play such a vital role – but they are so easily ignored or disliked due to the multiple legs or busy bustle.
But if one stops, just for a moment, and starts to look into this small world all around is – it amazes you. Our ecosystem is a complex and diverse system that needs to be healthy across the board for everything to function correctly and ecosystem services to be utilized. Just think for a moment of the plight of the honey bee in many countries across the world and what impact that could have on pollination, crop production and germination of trees and other plants. There are few places that have as much diversity and beauty in insects than Tembe Elephant Park.
So without much further ado, I bring you some invertebrate snippets from Tembe Elephant Park:
Imagine trying to find this little guy amongst some dead leaves?
Wearing perfect green camo, this acacia katydid spends his nights on top of the Acacia burkei “singing his lungs out in search of a mate”.
We found this HUGE inch worm outside research kitchen, which promptly crawled up a branch an began to impersonate a stick. Once you spot it, see if you can find the tiny thread of silk that suspends it in its hidden in plain site position.
A female Hermit Spider (close family of the Golden Orb Web Spiders) with the tiny male on her back…
This Green katydid (or bushcricket) with a smug look of satisfaction on its face…
The tiny moustached Portia sp. jumping spider – said to be the most intelligent of all spiders – looks up at the camera Wooky-like.
Not only are our Tembe Elephants huge – we even have branch insects!
Stunningly regal. Need I say more.
Odd looking beetle of some sort. One of a thousand unknowns we stumble upon during Summer insect time.
Introducing….the magnificent Ghost Mantid – one of the dead leave mantids that become impossible to see in brown leaves…
A Grass Mantid munching down on a slow moving moth…
This stunning longhorn with boxing glove feet landed on our porch one night.
Post and pics: Clinton Wright (Wildlife Monitor: Tembe Elephant Park)