Animal pics

This is one of a series of absolutely stunning black and white photographs of African wildlife, called Africa Magnifica, taken by photographer Nick Brandt.

Magnificent animals. They are highly intelligent, sensitive and social. They live in matriarchal families, consisting of an older adult female with her sisters, daughters and grand-daughters. Juvenile males stay with the herd until they reach adolescence, and then they go off into the bush to roam around and do boy things, like play football, posture and fight. Adult males visit the herd of females only when they are required for breeding. Sounds like a good system… If you want to learn more about African elephants, have a look at the work of Cynthia Moss. She worked with elephant researcher Iain Douglas-Hamilton and in 1972, she started the now famous Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya. She observed the elephants for many years, drawing conclusions about how the survived and reproduced. She actually developed a better understanding than Douglas-Hamilton, because she was able to see how different weather patterns (for example whether there was a drought, with limited food supplies, or more rain and more abundant food) affected herd size, the extent of the herd’s territory, the size and reproductive success of the herd, and the relations both within the herd and between different family groups. Douglas-Hamilton had over-generalised from one type of climate.

Another beautiful shot by Nick Brandt, showing the tender maternal relationship that is typical of elephants.

For inspiration, Punchline drew on the cruelty...

This is a beautiful engraving from a book about the relationship between wolves and humans, including the place of wolves in human symbolism, mythology and literature. The picture is inspired by the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

People over the years have believed that wolves are aggressive animals, a danger to humans, who maintain control in their pack by means of dominance – a myth which has been used to justify oppressive and even brutal training methods for dogs. In fat research shows that wolves’ displays of aggression are mainly that – displays – and that furthermore, relationships within the pack are characterised primarily by affection.

I have many books about wolves, full of the most gorgeous photographs, documenting the life of these animals in the wild. And that’s where they should be – in the wild. They came close to being exterminated in Europe and the US, but they are being re-introduced. I read a fascinating article about the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, and the impact this had on the ecology of the whole park.


Yellowstone wolf running in snow in Crystal Cr...

A newly released and collared wolf in Yellowstone National Park crashes through the snow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In the US, regrettable, it has become fashionable for people to adopt wolves and wolf hybrids as pets. I totally disagree with this. They are wild animals, very different from domesticated dogs. I have read that some 4,000 wolves and wolf hybrids end up with rescue organisations in the US every year, because people take them on as pets and then cannot manage them. This should stop.

And you think you have a problem with group stays! These are not even domesticated animals…

A portrait of Rodatt Asta, the most highly titled German Shepherd in Australia, owned and trained by Wendy Seng-Pha, using positive reinforcement methods. I auditioned and chose Wendy and Asta to take part in a short film called Bear Hug, produced an directed by my neighbour’s daughter, Miranda Troynar. Asta had to go into a bedroom where a girl was sitting playing a clarinet, and retrieve a teddy bear from a pile on the bed. This was done ignoring the lights, boom mike, camera and various other crew clustered around on the small set. They were asked to do five takes, and Asta performed perfectly each time.

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