“No chance,” said Jacque.
“Can’t be…was a steenbok”
“ But look at the rear” I replied, fervently hoping for my esteemed colleagues to see the little grey grizzel I saw.
We were looking at a somewhat grainy photograph on the back screen of my old Canon camera. The bush around the focal point of the photo was dark. Very dark. You could detect a little bit of camera shake- I have not (yet) been able to get my ultrasonic super-duper anti-shake lens.
I looked at the photograph again. “Still there,” I thought. This is Sharp’s Grysbok.
Nocturnal animals can be described as animals that, for the most part, spend their lives living in darkness. You can divide them into two distinct groups based on the time that they get active, and the time that they go back to their daydreams.
The first group we shall call the Crepuscular ones. These are not true nocturnal species, as they do not move around or feed right through the night.
The word ‘crepuscular’ is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, describing their twilight living ways. These animals will start becoming active just before sunset, and be active ‘till around ten or eleven. They will typically be active in the small hours of the morning again, or until the bitter winters cold drives them under.
Kaingo has a few of these species. White-tailed mongoose, Caracal (which can be diurnal, day living, as well), Serval, Honeybadger, Small- and Large-spotted Genet and a myriad of smaller rat, mice and gerbil species can be found in this group.
Because of their shyness, they are very often overlooked and very seldom photographed. Night photography is truly where the pros are separated.
To get a glimpse of these creatures, one has to be active and driving at the silly hours of the night hoping not to succumb to the hypnotic swing of the spotlight as we slowly drive through the Kaingo bush. It takes dedication, a sharp eye and warm clothes to make the late-night game drives a success, but, when you are looking at an animal very few people have ever heard of, never mind seen in real life, it all comes together!
The true nocturnal, (night living creatures) will only become active around sunset and be active until sunrise the next morning, with a little snooze-time included just for good measure.
Bats, aardvark, Striped polecat, African Wildcat and African civet, among others, make up the bulk of this group. In areas where leopard have been persecuted, they tend to turn nocturnal as well. Bushpig, that evil-looking long-haired nightmare of an animal will occasionally walk around in broad daylight, typically when overcast and wet weather makes it too cold to move at night. We have seen them sunning themselves in small patches of open bush occasionally. But have a look at our library of camera trap photographs and you will realize that most of their time is spent under the cover of darkness.
The only truly nocturnal antelope species on this list is the Sharp’s Grysbok. The Duikers, Red-Blue-and Grey or common Duiker will become diurnal if left undisturbed but will turn crepuscular if needed.
Which brings me all the way back to the beginning.
Nocturnal, rocky hillsides living, territorial little Sharp’s Grysbok. I am convinced that Kaingo has at least three pairs of these little antelope.
But as the saying goes: Show me the photograph (a clear, unequivocal mugshot) or it does not exist!
And I will be waiting, camera at the ready, at night and with all my winter woollies for another glimpse, another shot…