The mineral Mica is found in the Balule Greater Kruger – very pretty.
Our dramatic landscapes and interesting geology has many a story to tell. We have several different rock types including one fascinating component within the rocks here; the sheet-like, multi-layered “books” of mica. There is a small village close-by named Mica where they have for many years mined this mineral.
Mica is essentially a phyllosilicate – meaning sheet silicates in layers and it is found in all three of the major groups of rocks.
Mica has a myriad of wide-ranging uses from insulators in missiles to the sheen in eye shadow cosmetics.
Many years ago, large sheets of transparent mica were used as early window panes in the area around Moscow, giving this type of mica the tag “muscovite”. Sheet mica is used in insulation of aerospace components, for “windows” of furnaces and ovens, optical instruments and electrical condensers.
Ground mica is a filler and stabiliser for asphalt road surfaces, for rubber products and drywall. It is added to the plastic components of automobiles where it adds strength and flexibility. It gives the pearlescent quality to automobile paints and the sheen to wallpaper.
On our evening drives when the moon is full, mica can be seen glittering on our roads and hillsides giving the bush a magic quality.
Kudu bulls with their spiralled horns and attractive facial markings are breathtakingly beautiful. Kudu antelope do not have territories and perhaps, for this reason, they exhibit a marked sexual dimorphism. The males typically weigh a lot more than the female. Their corkscrew horns can attain two and a half spirals and are have a wide span. When the kudu lifts his mouth to feed off trees his horns fit perfectly over his broad back. Likewise, when a kudu bull runs through the thick bush of the Kruger Park he needs to lift his head to run under low branches and his horns fit down over his back. Kudu generally walk through the bush slowly and quietly placing the back foot in the track of the front foot- this track -on track gait is typical of the spiral-horned antelope tribe. Quiet movement through the bush allows kudu to hear any danger in the vicinity. Their large rounded ears are highly mobile and can swing around pointing towards the disturbance. The pink lining of the ear is a capillary rich skin that helps cool the animal, rather than sweating.
Kudu are not water-dependent, getting most of their need for moisture from what they eat. However, where water is available, they will drink often. Kudu eat leaves off trees and are required to put their face right into the tree canopy to find the preferred shoots and buds. Accordingly, their eyes are positioned far from the small mouth and on the sides of their face. The pointed face and small mouth allow kudu to be selective about what they eat.
Kudu calves are born in summer when the cow leaves the group to give birth alone. The calves remain hidden in thick bush for 2 months with the mother returning to suckle the calf just once a day! Such discipline ensures survival!
The endearing Dwarf Mongoose is the smallest carnivore in Africa. These diminutive mongooses live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, occurring in packs of 10 odd individuals and moving in a circular route over a two-week period. The group normally spend the nights in the ventilation shafts of termite mounds. Their rotational feeding and semi-nomadic habits prevent the depletion of food in the area and also stop a build-up of pests and parasites in their temporary dens. The size of the territory of any one pack will depend on food availability and is on average about 30 ha.
Dwarf mongoose has an involved social structure where only the alfa pair will breed and the other members of the pack will help rear the young; characteristic of co-operative breeding. The Alpha pair somehow suppress the sexual maturation of the other members attacking them if the show sexual behaviour.
The dominant female will give birth to 4-6 young and apart from sucking her young, she will leave their care to other pack members. She needs to spend a lot of time and effort foraging to maintain her superior size and milk supply. Of the other pack members, both the males and females attend to the young and astonishingly some females even produce milk without ever being pregnant. The babies are carried from den to den as the groups move until at about 4 weeks, they are old enough to keep up. The “baby sitters” are also charged with teaching the youngsters to hunt, teaching by example. The youngsters learn quickly and are fully weaned by 8 weeks.
The strong bonds between pack members are cemented by constant contact and play as well as sleeping together in the den. They methodically mark their territory every morning when they emerge from the den and every time they change the chosen accommodation for the night. Dwarf mongooses have developed a mutualistic relationship with certain hornbill species. The hornbills and mongooses share much of the same prey species and warn one another when a predator is sighted.
All mongoose belong to family Viverridae, a large and diverse group of carnivores also including genets and civets.