Leopard lovers and a rival at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge!

7th January at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge:
No guests today- they left with a packed lunch by 4 am – I sat on the deck after seeing them off and enjoyed this sunrise, a hippo swimming upriver towards me, you can see his wake in the centre of the photo….

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watching vervet monkeys waking and stretching in the trees below Chilo deck…little knowing what delights the unfolding morning would reveal!
At 6.30 am the monkeys warned me that something was up- busy in the lounge, I asked Bonani to look, telling her she might see a leopard!! I guess I was hopeful, they could have been chattering at a snake for all I knew…

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Leopard sketch by Lin Barrie

 

She reported back with great excitement….. not one but two leopards!

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Clever Bonani! Peering across the wide expanse of the Save River, I was able to carefully focus my little camera on the two ….hence the fuzzy photos, but at least this gives a feeling of the lovely, graceful animals….A pair of slinky cats, one darker spotted with a white white belly and another gorgeous tawny pale cat.

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Patrolling the far bank, they were obviously very thirsty for water but hesitant to approach the crocodile infested depths! Panting, they kept lying down, then moving again…

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Between gardening and odd jobs, we all kept getting distracted by the gorgeous animals, who stayed on the far bank all morning. The female often moved, to lie close to the male…

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She reclined as he gently bit at her neck…..

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This was a couple in love! They both rolled in the dewy green grass, then got up to stretch, peering hard at the water, before creeping cautiously down the bank through the datura flowers, deciding to risk the crocodilians lurking for a long awaited sip of water….

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The dark spotted female had a quick sip at the edge of the Save but the male was too cautious… we caught him staring up at us and snarling, obviously very aware of our distant presence …

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Clive estimated that the dark female was an older animal, experienced, and the male a youngster, his massive tawny head showing sign of great promise once he reached more mature years…

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Work had to be done, emails and gardening calling me- but I admit that I did keep peeping across the river -the amorous couple drew me like a magnet, the interaction between these normally nocturnal and oh-so-secretive kittys entranced me! He kept walking up behind her and hooking playfully at her ankles with his gigantic forepaw….

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Eventually stepping over her, he led the way and they retired into deeper cover,

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She followed him through the datura flowers…

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and into deep shade, as the day warmed up….

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She stared up into the cool of the vine-twisted tree canopy as if planning a bed up there,

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They were thirsty (I wonder why 😏!) and so although they then disappeared into the thick undergrowth, I knew they would be back! The Chilo deck was deserted, no guests or loud noises, so, although sad that we could not share this special sighting with guests, at least the leopards would have a chance to become relaxed with our quiet movements as we watched them.
Yay! Cubs could arrive in three months time, and maybe Mum and Dad will become more and more relaxed with us, like our elephants now are!

8th January …..Wonderful!

I was, of course, eagerly watching from the Chilo deck, and at 6.30am there they were again….
The dark female a young animal; slim, muscled body and small head. A gorgeous, very “white” cat…her spots  jet black against a very white background, not much gold colour to her.
I first saw her lying down in long grass early this morning, while the large pale male seemed to keep guard, sitting alert a few meters from her recumbent body.

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he kept a close eye on her…

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7.45 am:
Reclining together in deep green grass and white datura flowers-she rolled her head back and bit gently at his rump, then as he sat up and moved away slightly she rolled sideways in the datura flowers and stretched a forepaw to pat his rump!
He turned to rub his head over hers and started licking and grooming her ears, then pinned her down with a forepaw as he licked his way down her neck and over her shoulders. Predictably, her eyes were closed in bliss….
He got up after half an hour and strolled up the bank to drop down ten meters away from her, still in the deep shade of the trees. She craned her neck to follow his every movement….
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The female got up and gently approached the alert male, sitting close then dropping her head onto his stretched hindlegs, one forepaw extended to make contact with his belly. They lay together, panting in the growing heat.
By 8.45 the decreasing shade encouraged them to move deeper under the trees, she leading the way and staring up into the thick Capparis vine-covered canopy, as if again looking for an aerial bed..or maybe thats just natural, to peer upwards and check for what might be in the trees above you…especially if you are a tree-loving cat!
He lay down as she diverted her attention to the river, creeping cautiously through the white datura flowers towards the edge of the water.
When she sat up to peer at the water, wreathed in vegetation, she was a Frida Khalo portrait, framed by green leaves and white flowers, her solid black necklace glowing on her throat.
She thought better of drinking, much as she seemed to want to…the day was already dripping hot…going to lie near her mate, as he re-arranged his position, standing to stretch languorously, forepaws extended white and soft against the red earth. The vervet monkeys on my bank gave quiet hiccups of consternation. Didn’t they understand that great swathes of deep dangerous water separate them from their dreaded enemies?!
At 11 am, one leopard was sitting right at the base of the vine-clad trees
Where was the other… up the tree?

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After lunch the lover-cats were not visible to me, but instead, in strolled two carefully casual mature male baboons, to squat under the very same trees that sheltered the cats hours before!
Intriguing, did these two “scouts” come to shoo the predators away? No sign of the cats or the rest of the normally vociferous baboon troop…and the two male dogs sat under the trees very obviously for a few hours.
Alerted by the barking of the two baboons, who soon made off up the bank and disappeared among the tumbled rocks. Hopefully we kept peering into the undergrowth, and shortly thereafter were rewarded for our patience…

IMG_7992lo res.jpg….along came a leopard, through the steep rocks and dense vegetation, to lie on the bank above the river.  At first Clive and I assumed it was the young pale male but we looked closer when Sam told us that he had earlier spotted the pair of lover-cats making their way further downstream, past the steep rock outcrops opposite the Chilo breakfast deck and toward the Parks Entrance…This was a new arrival!

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A big, older tawny male, scars faintly visible on his massive head, one slight scarred left eye, and very different in attitude to the younger male.Cooler, more relaxed, he paced the bank, squatting and marking territory repeatedly, almost seeming to follow the scent of where the female had been that morning.

IMG_8043 lo res.jpgWas this his own claimed territory? He was extremely thirsty, sitting staring longingly at the water from various vantage points,

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desperate to drink, but agonizingly cautious…

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and in between marking his territory at many points along the bank

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he approached the water yet again,  cautiously making his way down the steep bank for his first sip in the murky water of an elephant footprint in the mud, scared by every splash and ripple in the deep river.

IMG_8100 lo res.jpgVery  conscious of us watching him, a half snarl played on his lips as he occasionally looked up at us, warning us to keep our distance…or was he half- snarling at the many crocodiles that he knew were watching?

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After that first drink, he seemed to gain confidence, moving downstream

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marking territory…

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and boldly traversing the rocky outcrop over which the two lovers had departed earlier.

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IMG_8128 lo res.jpgThis was clean water, straight out of the fast flowing river, and I could almost hear the satisfied lapping sound of his long pink tongue as he drank of it deeply.

IMG_8139 lo res.jpgMy heart was in my mouth… he would have been easy meat for an ambitious crocodile, exposed as he was on the rocks, and immersed in the pleasure of drinking… I held my breath each time he approached the water and drank.

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he marked territory again…

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The last view we had of him he was continuing downstream, past a dismayed waterbuck who snorted at his passing in the undergrowth and then dashed for safety, and seemingly following the two lover-cats……
What would happen if and when they met? An eviction, a battle, a death?
yesterday was a cover day, with winds and rain by lunch time, no sign of the cats…

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sweet/bitter: senuko seasons past and yet to come

Watch out! Many gorgeous flowers such as my Adenium swazicum, harbour a resident crab spider, cute but deadly…(if you are the size of a fly)…

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Bitter Sweet reminisces…

Our year past, 2017, at our bush house, Tsavene, has been one of joy, wilderness, family and landscapes…..mixed with dreadful anticipation and trepidation for the year to come….

Fabulous views from Sunset Rock, New Years Eve, as my dad tends the fire..

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Camping on the deck at Tsavene; adventure for Jade and Rayne, our grandchildren…

waiting for breakfast….

and swimming above the waterhole…

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Getting inspiration for paintings on woodland walks…

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Christmas shared with family and friends,

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gathering around a pretty table, drinking Painted Wolf Wine, (very yummy vino, plus it benefits wild dogs with every bottle sold)!

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Wowed by the Christmas colours of the wet season crinum lilies blooming in profusion below our house, in shades of deepest pink…

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to palest ethereal pink

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Tending my garden, Dad and Olison planting trees…

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supervised as ever by Dzidzi and Shonge, the Jack Russells

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reaping a harvest of home-grown jalapeños…

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Cooking and eating, slow-food style, on our mopani fire,

jalapeno on the fire.jpgLiving and eating under the stars…..inspiring my painting “Night Sky”, oil and acrylic on loose canvas, 100 x 130 cm

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which has been included in the abstract Robin Sprong Wallpaper range that I created during the year past! Very exciting!

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The joy of collecting stunning wooden sculptures such as this stork from my  talented Zimbabwean artist friends, and creating new garden vistas,

Watching the nesting birds…this paradise flycatcher inside our house on the verandah chandelier,

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who decided we are good chaperones for her two surviving chicks…

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(sadly there were three, one fell out of the nest onto my artwork and although I rescued the little being and kept it warm until I could place it back in the nest, it later died…)

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and in our strelitzia nicolae, a bulbul nest…..

Of course I am always going to be painting the plants that I love in my garden...

Strelitzia nicolae, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 130 cm

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And after many encounters in our “backyard”…

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many delightful views of rocks and klipspringers..

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many enigmatic stare downs by buffalo beasts!….

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I am endlessly inspired to paint….

“Sunset Buffalo”, acrylic on canvas board, , 41 x 51 cm.

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…and sunset walks in the banyeni acacia woodland are inspiration for landscapes…such as “Acacia silhouette”, acrylic on canvas board, 51 X 76 cm

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Walks and musings with the dogs are balm for the soul….

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Adventures with my dad…

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Collecting feathers and creating elaborate play-scenes, watched over by a fond grandfather…

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climbing every fallen log, in case the next one “feels” different….

Tortoise tactics, when faced with an inquisitive pup…..pretend you are not at home…

discretion is definitely the better part of valour…

All of this, and the  gorgeous Senuko landscape surrounding our house, is wind for our wings,

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and for the wings of our resident Ground hornbills..

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Yet this special beauty is a weight on our shoulders that sometimes feels unbearable. We shudder at the responsibility of caring for all this….the innocence of young impalas resting below our bush house..

 

The gaze of an eland beneath my verandah…

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and the growing trust of the elephants that drink at our waterhole..

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Mixed emotions; euphoria and love for this wild beauty, mixed with dread, wondering when vultures might descend on us…

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We know we are facing the ongoing threat of poaching, especially for elephant tusks and rhino horn..

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Horn of Fire

Knowing how easy it is for losses to hit us in the face…remembering the death of our rhino bull “Luveve”,  below our verandah at Tsavene, our bush house, on  our very doorstep, in 2015…here remembered in the words of Wilson…

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The body of “Luveve” slowly degenerated. The rhino pelvis lay at the scene for many months, as we watched hyena and lion work away at the scattered bones and skin of the poor carcass…

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Eventually this last year we rescued it, collected with reverence by Wilson…..he who had witnessed and recorded the sad death so many months before….

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Now I keep it on our verandah as a beautiful natural object but more importantly as a grim reminder ….

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How can we prevent the only rhino left on Senuko and indeed in the whole of the Save Valley Conservancy, from being merely a wooden carved one on our Tsavene verandah table?

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I need, we all need, rhinos ALIVE. They are the inspiration for the save Valley Conservancy, for all of Africa, and they are icons of our wilderness strongholds….

“Black Rhino”, mixed media/oil on stretched canvas, 3 x 2 feet

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How best can we protect all these wild animals, so dependent on the vagaries of humans for their continued existence; animals such as “Jupiter” the African wild dog. Look at the raw wound on his neck, now healing thankfully…..

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rescued from the strangling, cutting snare wire that throttled his neck, by Jess and her team from the African Wildlife Conservation Fund

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How can we help Jupiter and his pack, and the other wild dog packs of Zimbabwe, to run free without fear of wire snares?

“Hunting”, mixed media on stretched canvas, 2 x 4 feet..

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How best can we maintain our loyal staff, people such as Anderson and Wilson, and their families, who care for our house and dogs. People such as the scouts who patrol our bush and protect our wildlife, and all the staff who keep Senuko ticking, limping along… They are all our friends in need, in the midst of economic uncertainty..

Anderson’s sweet family…

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Wilson and one of his daughters-Wilson’s clever daughter is deputy head girl at her school …

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The only way we can survive and create a stable future for ALL of us, man and animal alike,  the only way we can keep this vision going for the bigger picture of Wildlife Conservation and tourism,  is if the economic environment of our dear Zimbabwe allows! From having a dream, we need to move onto creating reality!

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Will Zimbabwe’s tourism really bounce back after the momentous happenings of last year? Everyone in the world press is talking about us, but are they really noticing us……

Have we “seen the sunrise in Zimbabwe?!”

 

PS: “Sunrise in Zimbabwe”, adapted by my dear friend Bud Cockcroft,  features on his album “Bits n Pieces”. It was written by Myles Hunter and Refugee, good friends of Bud’s from Canada, who fell in love with Zimbabwe.  It was used in an excellent Air Zimbabwe advertisement.

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Sandforest in the wet season; Millipedes and butterflies at Mahenye

A wet season wonderland awaits in the sandforest of Mahenye…life in the raw, strange and wonderful, beautiful and fierce…from the gorgeous wild hibiscus  in the sand forest near Chilo, admired by Rich Thornycroft….


to the frantic millipede desperately trying to escape the vicious attack of fierce little red beetles, minute predatory Davids overcoming the Goliath…

The great Nyala Berry tree is King here, looming inscrutably over all, the largest in Southern Africa we think, circumference about 15 meters at chest height…

it scatters  sticky fruit on a carpet of deep humus

as Clive and Rich squat beneath its venerable branches

what are they thinking, I wonder, (sucking up some of its ancient wisdom I hope…)

My dear dad, exploring the soft-footfall forest path,

overhung by a trellised network of the most delicate greens

beauty galore…a purple-tip butterfly

Then beetles get my attention,  with the motto “eat, or be eaten!”

Thinking food, here is the pockmarked Honey Gatherer’s baobab, a landmark in this special place, where the local Changana people still harvest a pot of wild honey regularly..

green cuteness….

back to life in the raw …

an ichumenid wasp drugs a hapless spider….

and hauls it to a hole, ready to lay eggs on the living abdomen of the spider;  a ready-made and helplessly living larder to supply nutrition to a new generation of baby wasps once they hatch!

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Elephants and orphans, Painted and Real…

I am tickled to have been part for a “One by One” initiative with Kikis Gallery, for elephant awareness….painting three dimensions is fun and inspiring, especially when painting a baby elephant!

John Kotze, fellow artist, produced this funky elephant who met one of Wild is Life’s baby orphans…look at the expression on baby’s face!

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and talented Marlene Bornman scrolled flame lilies all over her pachyderms, delightful!

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I started with some recycled elephants from Joy Denton of Birdwoods, loving the colours…

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and when I finished, my own little elephants were introduced to the “Wild is Life” inhabitants, including sweet Mirabelle, the giraffe…

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proud mum to tiny Sebastien…

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Elephants, giraffes, humans, we are all One Family…

“Elephants are symbols of immense power wrapped in a gentle and thoughtful soul…delicate and sensitive, they seem at odds with their size and at the same time extremely graceful. They can exert huge pressure but rarely do, and they are the ultimate family.” …quote by Lin Barrie.

 

So…..spots and dots and chevrons…I went wild!

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I had a lot of fun embellishing these lovely metal re-cycled oil drum sculptures, (note the Castrol logo!)

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next “One by One” artist will be Ingrid Tucker, creating her mosaic work on metal elephants I think…watch this space!

Signing off for now, with elephant love, from Lin Barrie Art….

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Baobab skins get a coat of chain mail; Elephants get something else to eat…..

I am always tickled by the look-alike skins of baobabs and elephants…from baobab trunk…

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to elephant trunk…

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Elephant Musings and water
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Acrylic on loose canvas

and the wrinkled limbs such as this foreleg…

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and this tiny little leg disappearing into the baobab trunk below…has that baby really just climbed into the fork of this giant baobab!?

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Baobabs endlessly fascinate me, each one as distinctive as the elephant characters we watch daily….subjects of many of my paintings…such as “Baobab Beauty”, acrylic on loose canvas, 90 X 90 cm:

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 Baobab Beauty, acrylic on loose canvas, 90 X 90 cm

Baobabs provide total environments for birds, bats, insects, snails, bees and humans, a cornucopia of shade, shelter and sustenance….

Baobab powder is just one of the products that we love eating, (I love it on muesli with yoghurt and honey…)

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…as long as it is sustainably harvested, as by our Changana mahenye community…

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Elephants and baobabs are so alike, but the sad fact is that elephants also eat baobabs voraciously at certain times of the year!

Best way to protect a two-thousand year old baobab skin from an elephant is to give it a snug corset of chain mail, such as this being wrapped around our Gonarezhou baobab whom I have named “Mr Steadfast”…..

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but unlike ancient medieval armour, this mesh link fence is gentle and unobtrusive, seen only at close range…

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We are lucky to have the help of wonderful donors to the baobab fund managed by the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust, (GCT)…donors such as Chicago-born Barbara Kipper, lover of wilderness, art, travel, and all things African, (especially baobabs and baobab powder!) whose help has resulted in Mr Steadfast Baobab getting his corset of chain mail…

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Leader of the baobab protection team, Bvekenya is a man with history...

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he is the grandson of the legendary “Bvekenya”- Cecil Barnard, ivory hunter who roamed these parts and would have sheltered under these very thousand year old trees…

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So, one more baobab of more than 50 protected baobabs so far is done and dusted in Gonarezhou….thank you Barbara!

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But of course the elephants will continue eating……..

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and eating…..

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and EATING!…..

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These gentle giants need more than 100 kg of food daily…

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and that’s a whole new story….IMG_4034 lo res.jpg

 

 

Posted in adventure travel, Africa, African flora, African Safari, african wildlife, animal rights, art, baobab, beauty, bees, bio diversity, birding, bush camps, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, citizen science, conservation, conservation education, conservation news, cooking, culture, eco-tourism, edible plant, elephants, endangered species, flowers, food, food culture, Frankfurt Zoological Society, giant African snail, Gonarezhou Conservation Trust, gonarezhou national park, great limpopo transfrontier conservation Area, Honey gatherers, insects, landscape, lowveld, organic slow food, Shangaana people, travel, Uncategorized, wilderness, zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Parks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bees, Baobabs and Baboons……

Bees, baobabs and baboons -a wonderful trio of treats for us at Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge

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Surrounded  we are at Chilo and in the Save Valley Conservancy, by baobabs of all sizes and characters, some awesomely misshapen, some stately…

All of them are inspiring to me, fueling  my art....

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and fueling my body… the fuzzy fruits yield the tasty powder that I love to sprinkle on my muesli, adding tang and huge doses of vitamin C to start the day…

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Smoothies made with yoghurt or milk and baobab powder are delicious; add a mashed banana and your day is complete!

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and at Chilo our favorite dessert is Cheese Cake made with the lovely stuff….

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But I am not the only one who loves this delectable powder….

Baboons go crazy for the fruits, amusing us with their antics, as in these fun photos by Gilly and Rich Thornycroft…

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and bees attack the exposed powder with glee…

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Not to forget the elephants and multitude of other eager users who seek out the pods

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We have a local source of this delicious food, the mahenye community, who kindly supply us with fresh fresh powder from the trees in their village…

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Chilo has hosted fabulous baobab weekends, one of which was the “Baobab Blitz” weekend with Sarah Venter, investigating flower pollination by bats, beetles or birds….

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Sarah Venter of Eco Products and Gus Le Breton of B’Ayoba market the  powder to eager local and international buyers, 

Posted in abstract art, Africa, African flora, African Safari, african wildlife, art, baboons, baobab, bees, bio diversity, birds, Chilo Gorge, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge, cooking, culture, eco-tourism, edible plant, elephants, endangered species, flowers, food, food culture, gardens and flowers, gonarezhou national park, great limpopo transfrontier conservation Area, Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, home grown food, homegrown, Honey gatherers, Lin Barrie Art, organic slow food, owls, Save Valley Conservancy, travel, Uncategorized, wilderness, zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Parks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iyachisa mulilo…..”Fire burns”, a Changana totem….

Of snails, of culture, of food, fire and art…read on by hitting the link!

Iyachisa mulilo…..”Fire burns”, a Changana totem….

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Iyachisa Mulilo, a two metre acrylic painting by Lin Barrie:

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