Harriet Smith Photography


"For The Love of Africa"

AFRICAN SAFARIS - Trips Of A Lifetime

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Country: South Africa
Location: KwaZulu-Natal
Reserve: Phinda Game Reserve
Camp: Phinda Vlei Lodge


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This picture shows an imposing, dominant male lion; mostly, his teeth, tongue and mane in a green, brown and blue gray setting of dense grasses and scrub palms. His teeth are well adapted for killing their prey and eating it. Notice that the great canine teeth are spaced such that they can slip between the cervical vertebrae of their favorite-sized prey animals, and sever the spinal cord. The shape of the back teeth, which are called carnassials instead of molars, makes them work like a pair of scissors, for cutting pieces of meat. His jaw is not capable of moving side-to-side, like humans. This helps keep the carnassials teeth in alignment for cutting. The rest of the teeth are conical, and designed for cutting and tearing. Lions, like all cats, do not chew their food, but swallow it in chunks. The tongue is covered with rough spines, called papillae. This helps the lion scrape meat off of bones, and acts like a comb for grooming.

His dark, heavy mane is both a protection when fighting other males and also makes him appear larger than he is to potential enemies. His mane hairs are stiff and wiry, like horsehair. Besides his mane's primary role of protection, it has been discovered that female lions prefer males with bigger and darker manes. The color of his coat and mane is not so much determined by the color of the hair, but by the ratio of light-colored to dark-colored hairs. Unfortunately, his mane also attracts trophy hunters.
This picture was taken at Phinda Game Reserve. Cradled between the arms of the Lebombo Mountains to the west, and the azure sweep of the Indian Ocean to the east, the 60,000 acre Phinda Private Game Reserve is situated in Maputaland, one of Africa's most ecologically diverse regions, with an extraordinary range of ecosystems and wildlife. In 1991, Phinda undertook the biggest game relocation in a private reserve in the world at the time, restoring what has now grown to a total of 60,000 acres of degraded farmland to pristine wilderness.
Phinda lies adjacent to the 'Greater St-Lucia Wetland Park' - a UNESCO World Heritage Site by virtue of its diversity and scenic wonder - and incorporates no fewer than seven distinct eco-systems that can be explored. The reserve is dominated by open broad-leaved woodlands, acacia-bushveld, and palmveld-grass savannah, with a very high carrying capacity for Africa's large mammals. Mountains, wetlands, freshwater lakes, and the Indian Ocean coastline all bring their own distinct habitats and diverse species of animals, birds, and plant-life. Phinda has possibly the best cheetah viewing anywhere.

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