Saturday, March 16, 2013

Leopard cub(s?)!!!!

It is quite difficult to see the clear evidence in these photos and for that we apologise. There were very few of these prints remaining because their path crossed with the path of a supply boat being offloaded early this morning. It was then that we found the leopard tracks with accompanying tracks i.e. a cub!

The gestation period for leopards is 90-105 days. These prints are pretty small; cubs can walk from two weeks but don't usually come out of the den to learn to hunt until 2 months. We think ther den must be very close!

It was impossible to tell if the tracks were from more than 1 cub (a litter is usually 2 or 3), but we sincerely hope so as fewer than 50% of leopard cubs reach the age of 1 year, therfore it would better the odds significantly!

You can see the cub print on the left above the word 'left', and the mamma cub's print on the right of this photo.

We really hope to keep seeing this mamma leopard with accompanying tracks for some time to come, and of course, not just the tracks - we recently had one guest who had a motion-detecting camera in use overnight. We knew the leopards were around thanks to the askari's nightwatch. Sadly the camera didn't 'capture' any leopards, despite setting up the camera in the places where we thought it most likely to spot them. As soon as we have any evidence beyond prints, be sure you will hear about it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stinky Mushrooms

This is a Netted Stinkhorn, Dictyophora duplicata. Also known as the Skirted Stinkhorn or Veiled Stinkhorn, this mushroom takes its name from that lacy fringe that hangs down from the cap. In this case the fringe is particularly long.

As you can guess from this blog post's title, this mushroom really smells terrible.  When spotted on the jungle pathway between the managers' room and Banda 7, it was detectable from quite a few meters away. It’s way of propagating is by attracting insects who are drawn to the gooey cap which is covered in a sticky, sweet layer that the insects feed on, within which are the mushroom’s spores. 
Their spores can’t be carried on the wind, as with most mushrooms, so it relies entirely on insects, primarily flies and butterflies to procreate.

Unlike most fungi, which have a root-like network, stinkhorns begin life as an egg. The fruiting body begins at"egg" stage, from which the phallic body emerges over the course of just a few hours. The growth of a stinkhorn from egg to full length is incredibly fast- less than a day. It was spotted at 3pm and there was no evidence the next morning at first light, in our case. For a lifecycle video see this YouTube video: Netted Stinkhorn Mushroom

Some members of this group of mushroom are considered a delicacy; in China it’s considered an aphrodisiac, eaten at "egg" stage or after maturity once the cap has been removed. They are even cultivated and sold in shops, fresh or dry! For us the smell was too off-putting to consider trying to eat it, and don’t worry, that’s not where any of the mushrooms on the menu are sourced!