Animal encounters on the Garden Route
Apart from the remarkable birdlife surrounding Treedom, this area is also home to many wonderful wild mammals! Recently we have been surprised with footage of a mother leopard and her two cubs in a nearby forest, as well as evidence of Oupoot, our Knysna elephant, visiting the overnight huts on the Outeniqua hiking trail.
The Garden Route is home to 85 species of mammals with the most notorious being the Elephant. It was estimated in the 1880s that there were between 400 and 600 Elephants roaming freely through the Knysna Forests, but today these numbers have diminished to as low as 10 or less. Apart from the expected encounters with our regular animal friends, there have also been some unexpected wonders over the past few months.
A range of wildlife awaits you
The forests are home to Bushbuck as well as Blue Duikers while Common Eland can be found on the slopes in the east of the nature reserve, and Common Duiker are sometimes seen in areas with clearing between thickets along the coast. Savanna Baboons and Vervet Monkeys are found throughout the region. One of the most seen mammals in the area, especially at Storms River Mouth is Rock Hyrax or Dassies. Plus, if you are patient and quiet expect to be treated to a night-time view of the beautiful bush pig with his glorious silver mane!
Here is a full list of animals you can expect to find on the Garden Route: Animals on the Garden Route.
A mother leopard and her two cubs spotted along the Garden Route
Now while you are extremely unlikely to wonder across a leopard in our forests, they are definitely there! Wildlife Biologist Jeannie Hayward says ‘Leopards in the Cape mountains are notoriously elusive and shy of people, and the best way to study them is by using remote-sensing field cameras.”
And that is how Geo Parkes & Sons Timber Merchants had a pleasant surprise. On 16 April 2020, their motion cameras filmed a leopard and her two cubs wandering through the forest. The exact location of the animals has not been disclosed to protect them from any human threat.
Hawyard went on to explain that the leopards have always roamed these areas and that the sightings don’t necessarily have anything to do with lockdown.
Look at the footage of the mother leopard and her two cubs here: Leopard and cubs spotted on the Garden Route
Mother leopard and her two cubs
Mother leopard and her two cubs
Knysna elephant tackles Outeniqua trail
Towards the end of April, SANParks rangers working in the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park, found one of the overnight huts on the Outeniqua hiking trail had been damaged. The damage, as well as the evidence of the dung found nearby, suggests that the culprit was an elephant.
The number-one suspect, of course, is Oupoot, touted as the last remaining elephant in the Knysna forest. The elephant is about 46 years old, and like many other wild animals at the moment, she is probably enjoying her freedom to roam without the disturbances and sounds of human activity.
Oupoot - may be the last remaining elephant in the Knysna forest
Dramatic sighting shows hunter turned prey
Kelsey Green from Hoekwil in the Western Cape had an amazing wildlife interaction with a heron and a caracul!
While driving through Wilderness one late afternoon in November, she spotted a black-headed heron searching for prey close to the road. Kelsey made the most of the opportunity. “I tried to get some nice shots despite the rainy weather, following the heron as it caught a small rodent and swallowed it whole.” Kelwey's attention was focused solely on the bird, and as the heron was about to move out of her site she got ready to drive off.
Suddenly a flash of russet whizzed past in Kelsey’s peripheral vision. “My first thought was that it was a spooked duiker or grysbok until I managed to pinpoint the heron and saw a caracal hanging on to its neck. I was shocked…”
“When the caracal tackled the heron, I heard a quick snarl, followed by the flapping of the heron’s wings. The bird was dead within seconds after which the caracal picked up its catch and carried it into the forest.”
Black-headed Heron with rodent
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