In the midst of the vast Karoo devoid of light pollution, there roams across the sprawling landscape an invisible array of night creatures rarely seen.
At dusk, as sunset reds yeild to a celestial velvet black punctuated by a glittering array of stars, the first of the crepuscular creatures emerge to forage. Yet beneath the glimmer of the Southern Cross, how do you account for their presence without disturbing them in the beam of a bright light?
Recently I acquired a infrared trap camera, a stealth device that can be placed out along a game trail to unobtrusively capture images as night critters stroll past.
One of the best locations to place the camera is along a path leading to water. Under the glow of infrared and in the blink of the shutter, I have been able to capture an array of Bushbuck images both at home and at various sites that we visit for bird monitoring for wind farms in the Eastern Cape.
Owning a pack of demented mutts spurred on by a Fox Terrier that can hear a blade of grass grow at 100m, there is little chance of capturing anything close to our house.
Leaving the dogs at the house I ventured down to the river, choosing a post past which spoor indicated regular activities by Bushbuck.
Over the course of ten days I managed to capture some exciting photos of Bushbuck, Bushpig and porcupine.
Happy with the results I loaded the camera and set off to the Karoo north of Port Elizabeth and slightly East of Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape.
Here, instead of the tolerant Bushbuck on our farm, I was hoping to photograph Kudu, Warthog, Caracul, hopefully Jackal and with a bit of luck, an Aardwolf.
There was just one snag – we arrived on the farm a few days before the close of the hunting season. Here the seasons prime target had been the Kudu, so we could expect this normally alert species to be extremely skittish.
The first camera placement offered an unexpected record, a pair of Mountain Rheebuck. Another elusive species, that were traversing a slope towards a livestock water trough. A difficult species to approach closely, they were blatantly wary of the camera when it was triggered.
Disappointed with the scarcity of photos, I relocated the camera to a section of open thicket further down the slope.
It was while doing a walked transect along a drainage line shrouded in closed thicket that we observed numerous spoor, an indication of high traverse rates by a variety of species.
This had to be the next camera location, without a doubt! Scouting the thicket revealed a plethora of suitable ambush locations.
I selected the confluence of a service track and two game trails. And this was the jackpot. Kudu, Bushbuck, Duiker, Warthog and Porcupine all in one night.
Of important note was the absence of mature male Kudu. Obviously very little planning for the hunting season was made and for the next season there will be no trophies available. Another classic example of miss management of wildlife resources.