South Africa Safari – Day 9

For our first full day at King’s Camp we were, as usual, out before sunrise. We found several white rhinos rather quickly browsing for their morning meal. Rhinos have always held a fascination for me because of their compact, powerful shape. They look as much like a train locomotive as anything else and that giant horn on the front of their head serves its purpose of appearing to be very threatening.

Click on any image to enlarge

In relatively short order we sighted some steenbok, a male Kudu, and elephants.

It was about 7:45 am when we spotted a pride of lions that appeared to be intently watching something. We approached cautiously so as not to disturb them. There was a herd of Cape Buffalo nearby that seemed to capture their full attention. We watched as they slowly got up out of the grass and slowly skulked their way towards the Cape Buffalo. It was fascinating to watch. Eventually they seemed to either loose interest or realized that their chances with this herd were not too great and settled back into the grass.

When we realized that the lions had given up the hunt we moved on to hunt for other animals ourselves. Alongside the river we found one of the leopards that we had seen the previous day. We watched it for a while but apparently it did not want company and disappeared into the bush. We also spotted a troop of baboons in the river bottom. One of the baboons had a baby riding on it’s back, horseback-style. We also saw a few more giraffes, always a delight.

The rest of the morning was fascinating as we came across a couple groups of elephants. We saw one group headed in the direction of one of the watering holes so we went on ahead and waited. In short order, the elephants showed up for their morning drink. Unfortunately, the light was very harsh, terrible for photography. But we got to watch as a family composed of a large bull, a matriarch, one young elephant and one baby came up to the hole for a drink.

They finished their drink and moved on and so did we. However, the same group re-appeared out of the bush and this time we were able to obtain some nice photos.

We arrived back at camp and had our usual splendid lunch. As we left the dining room we noticed that the front lawn was being mowed – South African style.

We began our afternoon drive by telling our ranger that we wanted to find some zebras. We really had not seen that many on this trip and I think that zebras are among the most beautiful of all the African mammals. We took off and had to drive for quite a distance but we were able to locate a small herd and obtain some great shots.

After leaving the zebras we started the long drive back towards camp. Our ranger “Remember” promised us something special. We passed up some more elephants (I think they were following us that day) and headed for one of the large watering holes. We arrived just as the sun was going down, and were astonished by the sight. We drove right into a herd of Cape Buffalo. The herd appeared to be 500 to 1000 animals strong. It was one of the most amazing sights I had seen and certainly one of the highlights of the safari.

The sun had now set and we headed back to camp. However as we passed another watering hole we saw two young spotted hyenas playing in the water. We had to stop even though it was almost dark. Time to crank up the ISO to 6400 and burn some electrons! We photographed the two hyenas for a while and then spotted the mother and an even younger pup. So of course we had to take a few more shots.

We headed back to camp, or so we thought. Some of us noticed that we were going in the wrong direction. We soon discovered that the day’s activities were not yet over. The camp staff had planned an elaborate bush dinner for us. “Oh the rigors of a safari…” Yet somehow we survived the evening.

Black Rhino to be Killed by Dallas Safari Club

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Black Rhino

As if the conservation news out of Africa were not bad enough I just recently ran across this bit of insanity.

A Texas hunting club said Friday it aims to raise up to a million dollars for endangered black rhinoceroses by auctioning off a permit to kill one in Namibia. (AFP – Fri, Oct 25, 2013)  The Dallas Safari club will sell the permit during its annual convention and expo Jan. 9-12 in Dallas and expects to raise between $250,000 and $1,000,000 with all proceeds donated to the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’s Black Rhino.

According to the Dallas Safari Club the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is fully supporting this action and promises to issue a permit to allow the importation of the rhino carcass/trophy. Tim Van Norman, chief of the branch of permits at the FWS said the US government has not yet issued any permit to the Dallas Safari Club to return a rhino’s carcass to the United States.

The individual hunter who is identified as the winner of the auction would first have to pass certain background checks and the animal chosen for the hunt would have to be approved as being beneficial to the conservation of the species for the US government to allow the trophy to come back inside US borders, he said.

According to DSC the Government of Namibia approved the permit in accordance with CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) provisions to generate crucial funding for rhino conservation initiatives including anti-poaching efforts—while at the same time managing the black rhino population within Mangetti National Park, where the hunt will take place.

Black rhinos are internationally considered an endangered species and the World Wildlife Fund says about 4,800 are alive in the African wild. As I reported in a previous blog posting, the sub-species western black rhino is now considered extinct. (By William Holt | Yahoo! News – Thu, Jun 27, 2013)  Namibia has an annual quota to kill up to five black rhinos out of its herd of 1,795 animals.

Female black rhino and calf

Female black rhino and calf

The theory behind this action is that older male rhinos that have already reproduced interfere with the access of younger males to female rhinos. According to Tim Van Norman of the FWS:

“Namibia has determined that older black rhino males that have already produced offspring and are in reproductive decline are the best targets for hunting.”

“Black rhinos are very territorial so you will have an older male that is keeping younger males from reproducing,” he explained.

“By removing these older males from the population, you get an increase in the production of calves. Younger males are able to impregnate the females that are in that area so you get more offspring than from some of these older males.”

Whatever happened to the good old idea of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Does not the competition of males for females assure that the most fit rhinos will pass on their genes?

So why is this a problem?

First of all, money is extremely seductive. Make no mistake about it. The government of Namibia is taking this action because it needs to money to fight poaching and to help preserve the species. If they had sufficient money they would not be killing off an endangered animal.

This action also perpetuates the concept of the wealthy gaining special access and being able to rise above laws and conventions designed to protect endangered species.

And finally, the concept of taking trophies of endangered species is repugnant.

This is not a screed against hunters. Most hunters have very strong feelings about conservation and strong ethical stands. Today’s hunters work very hard to track their prey and seldom take them just for trophies. They will field dress the carcass and haul it home for food. As long as you are not hunting an endangered species, this is fine.

I also understand that hunting and selective thinning can be an effective wildlife management tool. However, this is always applied to situations were a population has become out of balance (overpopulated). “Thinning of the herd” can prevent mass starvation and over-running of other species in the same area.

That is not the situation in Namibia. The chance of the rhinos over-populating there is zero. Will the removal of one older male rhino result in and increase in the number of calves? That is highly questionable.

My concern is that the government sanctioned killing of endangered species sends the completely wrong message to the world. Just in the past 6 months 100 to 300 elephants were poisoned by natives in Zimbabwe. Why shouldn’t the natives feel cheated. If it’s okay for the government to kill one rhino and collect $1 million why can’t they?

There is also the concept of trophy hunting endangered animals. While I don’t have any interest in mounting animal heads in my home I don’t have a problem with the ethical taking of trophies. A hunter who tracks a huge 12 point buck, kills and dresses it is left with the head and rack. I have no problem with mounting that head. The hunter showed skill and hard work in obtaining it. On the other hand I would be appalled at the concept of a hunter walking up to an animal in an animal park and killing it just for the head.

And that is exactly the situation with the black rhino. Even in a large preserve, it is not hard to find these huge animals. And while rhinos can be a bit aggressive at times, especially if they are with females, they are used to seeing the rangers and others in land rovers.  According to Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, “Shooting a black rhino in the wild is about as difficult as shooting a parked car.”

Land Rover closely approaches a white rhino

Land Rover closely approaches a white rhino

Finding and killing a black rhino requires almost no skill. How can the dead carcass of an animal killed under such conditions be considered a trophy? I would be morally ashamed to own such a trophy.

On his evening commentary, Stephen Colbert summed it up nicely when he stated,

“If you love something, set it free. Then, when it has a head start – open fire!”

To protest the importation on the black rhino trophy carcass contact:
Mr. Timothy J. Van Norman
Chief, Branch of Permits
Division of Management Authority
Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203

Telephone: 703-358-21040
fax 703-358-2281

email: tim_vannorman@fws.gov

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/429950/october-24-2013/the-word—philantrophy?xrs=share_copy

Addendum: The US Endangered Species Act
http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/international-stories.html

What activities does the ESA prohibit?
Except by regulation or permit issued for specific purposes consistent with the ESA, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. to:

    • Import into and export from the U.S. listed species.
    • Take—which includes harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, collecting, or to attempting any of these—of listed species within the U.S., its territorial waters, or on the high seas.
    • Possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship listed species taken in violation of the ESA.
    • Sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce; or deliver, receive carry, transport, or ship listed species in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity.

Does that mean that a U. S. citizen or resident may hunt an endangered species or a threatened species in another country?
The ESA does not prohibit hunting listed species outside of the U.S. In fact, the ESA does not have the authority to do so. While foreign countries determine whether hunting an endangered or threatened species within their boundaries is lawful, the ESA does regulate the importation of such species.

To import a trophy of a listed species, a person is required to obtain an import permit from the Service’s Division of Management Authority. Since the purpose of importing a sport-hunted trophy is for the hunter’s personal use, an import permit may only be issued if the import is for purposes that enhance the propagation or survival of the species. While the Service does not regulate take (i.e., hunting) in foreign countries, the import of listed trophy species may only be shown to enhance the species if it is taken from a well managed and supported conservation hunting program. It should be noted that the Service has only authorized the importation of endangered trophy species under very limited circumstances. In addition, some threatened species may be imported without an import permit if there is a special rule under the ESA that allows such an activity.

References:

http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2013/04/black-rhino-trophy-import-041613.html

http://www.iucn.org/media/news_releases/?12538/African-rhinos-wont-hold-out-for-much-longer-IUCN-experts-warn

http://news.yahoo.com/texas-hunters-sell-permit-kill-rare-black-rhino-182544084.html

Dallas Safari Club – http://biggame.org/

The South African Safari Begins

Getting There is NOT Half the Fun

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

September 20, 2013, San Francisco- After a year of planning and anticipation Cathy and I were off on our next adventure. At about 6:30 pm we boarded a British Airways 747 for the first leg of our trip. In just a few short hours (10) we would arrive in London. After a brief (6 hr) layover we would be whisked away for our swift (11 hr) flight to Johannesburg. I won’t whine further about the travel conditions. The trip was largely uneventful. All I will say is that even Cathy found the seats on British Air to be confining!

After a 27 hour journey we arrived in Johannesburg. We met up with Ed and Pat Nahin who were on our flight and whom we met in London. Ed and Pat were part of our small group going on safari. After collecting our baggage and getting through customs we caught a shuttle to our hotel.

Upon arriving at the hotel we noticed something unusual. The entire property was surrounded by  high fence and the entry had a guard and security gate. It turns out that Johannesburg is not the safest city in Africa. Unemployment is 25% overall and over 50% for young males. The US State Department’s website states

“visitors should be aware that criminal activity is prevalent throughout the country and can be violent…. violent crimes, such as armed robbery, carjacking, mugging, “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles, and other criminal acts are still common and do affect visitors and resident U.S. citizens.”

So much for arriving early and touring the city.

However, that is exactly what we did. Our hotel, the Protea, hosts a travel desk for a company called e-tours. They offer a wide variety of day tours. We signed up to take a tour of Johannesburg and Soweto. We were the only ones to sign up so we had a private driver to take us around the city.

Our driver was a very amiable black man and was well versed on the history and culture of South Africa. It was also clear that he was well versed in public relations as he consistently put a positive spin on any discussion of crime, race relations, and the economy. None-the-less he gave us a great tour.

The situation in Johannesburg is a bit dicey. All the nice homes in the city are surrounded by block walls or iron fences and topped with either razor wire or electric wire. As we entered the downtown area we saw that the city was alive with people everywhere. All the sidewalks were jammed with street vendors. However, overall the city was very dirty and dark. There were virtually no white people visible anywhere downtown.

It was a surprise when our driver pulled the van over to the curb, parked and started to get out. He opened our door and guided us to a shop across the street. He wanted to show us a traditional African chemist’s shop. As we went inside we saw that the walls were lined with bins containing herbs, roots, bark, animal parts and much more. Still more items hung from the ceiling along with items such as drums, bowls and staffs used for ceremonies. Our guide explained to us the role of the healer in traditional African tribal medicine. If you were sick you went to see the healer, who, based upon an examination and discussion with you would prescribe/prepare a potion for you. You would take the potion home and follow the prescribed course of treatment. If you got well you would return to the healer and pay him. If you did not get well you owed no payment. That sounds like a pretty good system to me.

Our visit to the chemist’s shop was a fascinating  look at another culture. However it was now time to move on to Soweto.

Soweto township is the site of the June 16, 1976 protest by 20,000 high school students that lead to a riot in which police eventually killed about 176 students. The students were protesting the government mandate that the schools must teach 1/2 the curriculum in Afrikaans, the German/Dutch language of the white minority. The Soweto uprising gained worldwide attention, led to the empowerment of the African National Congress (ANC) and ultimately to the downfall of apartheid with the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994.

Today Soweto is an interesting town. Although there is still extreme poverty, the mood is calm. Development is taking place. We were comfortable walking the streets in Soweto and got to see the original home of Nelson Mandela as well as the home of bishop Desmond Tutu. (Two Nobel Peace Prize winners who lived on the same street.) Nelson Mandela’s wife Winnie owns a restaurant across the street from their home. We spent about 45 minutes visiting a museum dedicated to the Soweto uprising and watched many newsreels of the events. Very interesting indeed.

Time to Move On

On Tuesday, September 24th we moved to a different hotel to meet up with the rest of our group. The Peermont D’Oreale Grand. OMG! This place was so over the top it was unbelievable. It’s like the designers went to Las Vegas, copied the plans for Ceasar’s Palace and built it in South Africa. They even bill it as the “Vegas of Africa.” There is a huge central casino, Forum shops and restaurants, four hotels and beautiful grounds. Unfortunately, since neither Cathy or I like Vegas we weren’t that thrilled with this imitation version either. However, it provided great contrast to the rest of Johannesburg.

The next morning we were finally on our way to our first camp, Londolozi. Londolozi, located just west of Kruger National Park, is famous for it’s leopards. And that’s what we came to see. In our previous trip to Kenya we were shut out. No leopards. We wanted to see leopards and hopefully leopard cubs!

To get to Londolozi we flew a 19 passenger Beechcraft 1900 airplane to a small airstrip at the camp. We were greeted by the camp staff and taken to the camp about a mile away.

The camp was beautiful and the staff very warm and helpful. We checked in, went to our rooms to clean up and then had a wonderful lunch. Meals were served on an open covered deck surrounded by trees. Wildlife was all around us with vervet monkeys, nyala and bush buck immediately apparent.

Each day we would have two drives. One beginning at 5:30 am and one at 3:30 pm. During the middle of the day the animals sleep and hide from the heat. After a quick break for coffee and biscuits we were off on our first game drive.

The camp provides Rangers and Trackers to drive the Land Rovers and track the animals. Each photographer had his own seat row, so there was plenty of space to lay out our gear and to move around and shoot.

The afternoon game drives would run from approximately 4 to 6:30 pm. Sunset was at 6 pm, thus we were typically out until dark. Our Ranger was Richard and our Tracker was Like. (Africans often translate their names from their native language to English, thus coming up with names such as: Like, Remember, etc.) Londolozi is a private reserve. This restricts the number of people and hopefully improves the viewing experience and reduces stress on the animals.

So off we went for our first drive. During the next 3 hours we saw grey herons, impala, water buck, lions, hippos, a blacksmith lapwing, Egyptian geese, giraffes, oxpeckers, Bateleur eagle, wildebeest and rhinos. Not bad for the first drive.

Hundreds of Elephants Poisoned in Zimbabwe

As I mentioned in my previous post, Cathy and I just returned from a 3-week visit to South Africa. This was our second visit to the continent, our first being our trip to Kenya almost 2 years ago. We were discussing our two trips last night and realized that we have just begun to appreciate all the things that Africa has to offer. We have traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and more and no place has had the impact on us that Africa has.

Large bull elephant - South Africa

Large bull elephant – South Africa

Much of the reason is due to the magnificent animals there. Nowhere can you find the same enormous collection and variety of animals. Elephants, rhinos, hippos, zebras, antelope, wildebeest, cape buffalo, birds… We realized that we will be taking many more trips to Africa in the near future.

However, for the same reasons that we have fallen in love with the continent we also feel great pain. Everyday I read news releases detailing the extent of the poaching problem over there. It is still beyond me that, in this day and age, people are still killing these magnificent animals for their horns and tusks. Here are just a few statistics on what poaching is doing to the wildlife of Africa.

  • In 1930, around 5-10 million elephants roamed the plains of Africa. [1]
  • Now, less than 1% of this figure remain (approx. 450,000) [2] and the number is rapidly diminishing on a daily basis
  • 2011 was the highest level of elephant poaching ever recorded, Central and East African countries were of the most concern.[3]
  • Elephants bordered on the brink of EXTINCTION after massacres in the 1980s more than halved the continent’s population.
  • A BAN ON IVORY TRADE was imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989.
  • Populations recovered well until 2008, when poaching resurged, following two one-off sales of stockpiled ivory.
  • EXCESSIVE DEMAND for ivory is again putting elephants at risk.
  • It is our responsibility to future generations to ACT NOW before elephants are assigned to the history books.
  • Sophisticated CRIMINAL SYNDICATES with international links are operating all over Africa.
  • Overall, seizures involving Tanzania between 1989 and 2010 represent one third of all ivory seized globally.[4]
  • Tanzania ranks first among African countries in terms of the total volume of ivory reported by large-scale seizures. [5]
  • The number of elephants in the Selous game reserve and Mikumi National Park fell by nearly 42% IN JUST 3 YEARS, which is 31,348 SLAUGHTERED ELEPHANTS! [6]

Statistics Source:
1 , 2.   http://www.africanconservancy.org/about/pressroom/wildlifestats.htm
3.       http://www.traffic.org/home/2011/12/29/2011-annus-horribilis-for-african-elephants-says-traffic.html
4,5.  Organized poaching, illegal trade (Mike Mande, The East African, 2010)
6.     Elephant population in TZ sanctuaries drops [Fumbuka Ngw’anakilala, Thomson Reuters, 2012]

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Baby elephant reaches out for its mother.

And now the latest news today from Zimbabwe is that native villagers are poisoning elephants in order to harvest their tusks. (Agence France-Presse, October 21, 2013)

It was reported on Tuesday, October 15, that 10 more elephants were found poisoned and their tusks harvested. That brought the number for the past month up to 100! The latest reports have increased that number to over 300 poisoned in just one month. And as if this is not bad enough, the cyanide poison is also killing lions, vultures, painted dogs and hyenas.

This is a new twist on the ongoing Capture-2problem of poaching in Africa. Normally we hear about heavily armed gangs of poachers killing elephants and rhinos. It this case the killing is being carried out by native villagers. According to the report:

“Twelve people have been arrested in recent weeks in connection with the killings, three of whom were sentenced in September to at least 15 years in prison each.

The magistrate also ordered them to pay $600,000 (440,000 euro) to the Zimbabwe Wildlife and Parks Authority for killing the animals by the end of the year.

Authorities have given villagers living around the park until the end of October to hand over any cyanide they might have or risk arrest.

Traditional leaders in Tsholotsho, a village bordering the park, pleaded with the authorities to pardon the villagers saying they were driven by poverty to kill the elephants and not by greed.”

Even if the villagers are driven by poverty the problem resides elsewhere. The villagers would not be killing the elephants if there were no market for the tusks. According to Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, “The problem is that a big cover-up is going on,” he said.

“Those who have been arrested and convicted are the small fry who are being used as scapegoats while the big and dangerous fish are untouched. These include politicians and big business people,” said Rodrigues.

Let’s hope that this latest activity does not continue. Before long there may not be any of the magnificent wildlife left to view and appreciate.

Rhino Poaching at Mala Mala

I’ve just had the pleasure of experiencing a three week visit to South Africa. This is the 0350-7262second trip that Cathy and I have taken to Africa, the first being a visit to Kenya two years ago. We enjoyed that trip so much that we were definitely looking forward to our return.

And we were not disappointed. We saw a plenitude of animals, including numerous leopards, one of our main goals.

One of the reasons that we are placing Africa at the head of our “bucket list” is because of 0350-7253the problems with poaching and loss of habitat. Vast numbers of elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered each year to harvest their ivory tusks or horns. All of the great cats are in decline as well. Each year becomes a bit more dire and we want to make sure we have a chance to see this incredible ecosystem before it is too late. It is also our desire to help forestall or prevent this decline if at all possible.

What we didn’t expect was to observe the problem up close during our visit. However, that is exactly what happened. During a game drive on the morning of October 1st our driver heard a report of a rhino killed by poachers the day before. We asked if it would be possible to go to the site and he agreed. It wasn’t hard to locate the exact location as there was a large congregation of vultures on site and in the trees to harvest the carcass. When we arrived we also found a leopard tearing off a large chunk that he hauled into the bush for dinner.

What we found was a medium sized rhino with its horns and one leg cut off. The leg lay 0350-7293nearby in the grass. The carcass had already been partially eaten and now it was time for the vultures to move in. Dozens of vultures flew in and covered the rhino until it was invisible under the mass of moving birds. It was an awesome sight to see nature at work but it was also heartbreaking to see such an incredible mammal killed for its horn! We watched the vultures do their job for a bit longer before moving on.

Each year tens of thousands of elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered in sub-Sahara 0350-7329Africa. This debacle cannot continue for much longer. The kill that we witnessed occurred in a private reserve just west of Kruger National Park. According to our ranger, in 2013 688 rhinos have been killed by poachers. One half of those were killed in Kruger!

There are multiple international programs underway to preserve and protect our natural wildlife and ecosystems. Whenever possible support the efforts of the conservation organizations of your choice. And just as important, get out and observe this incredible world of ours, while you still have the chance.

Panasonic GH-3 Passes the Test

Soon, Cathy and I will be making our second expedition to Africa. This time we will be visiting South Africa. We will be specifically looking to photograph the big cats; primarily leopards and cheetahs. In preparing for the trip we discovered one important difference between Kenya (our previous destination) and South Africa. The vehicles used in South Africa are a different design than the Land Rovers used in Kenya. When we were in Kenya we could stand up in the Land Rover, place a bean bag on the roof to stabilize the camera and lens and shoot.

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“Kenya” style Land Rover

Mark and Cathy shooting out the top of a Land Rover in Kenya. Note the bean bag supports for their cameras. Photo by Daniel Cox

Mark and Cathy shooting out the top of a Land Rover in Kenya. Note the bean bag supports for their cameras. Photo by Daniel Cox

The vehicles in South Africa have tiered seating and no roof to provide maximum visibility. However, this design leaves no place to put a bean bag. And there is certainly no room in the vehicle for a tripod. A monopod might be possible but I don’t care that much for monopods.

"South Africa" style vehicle.

“South Africa” style vehicle. No place to support our camera and lens.

Thus we are left with the option of hand holding the camera. Even with the advent of image stabilization this is not a great idea. Especially when you realize that we will be shooting for up to 8 hours a day for 2 weeks. My Nikon D700 with the f4 200-400 mm zoom lens attached weights over 9 lbs. This is just too much weight to handhold for extended periods.

As we thought about potential solutions to this conundrum our mentor, Daniel Cox, reported on his work with the Panasonic Lumix GH-3. The GH-3 is a mirrorless, micro four-thirds format camera. The micro four-thirds format has been advancing rapidly in recent years. Due to the smaller sensor and absence of the DSLRs mirror box, micro four-thirds format cameras can be designed to be much smaller and lighter than DSLRs.

Panasonic Lumix GH-3

Panasonic Lumix GH-3

After visiting a local camera store and shooting a few test shots we took the plunge and purchased a GH-3 body and a 100-300mm zoom lens. The combined weight of the camera and lens is only 2.35 lbs! We would be able to handhold this camera all day long and not suffer from fatigue. And get this, due to the crop factor of the GH-3 the 100-300 mm lens is equivalent to a 200-600 mm in 35mm format. A perfect lens for our Safari.

The question however remained, is the GH-3 good enough to replace our Nikon’s on this very expensive trip. I’ve never believed for a moment that the Panasonic 100-300mm zoom could replace my beloved Nikor 200-400 mm zoom. But is it good enough? To answer this question we spent the last couple of months testing the camera and lens.

We have taken photos at the Oakland Zoo, while whale watching in the San Juan Islands and at Safari West near Calistoga. The photos are included below.

We have been astonished how great the images from this little camera are. In addition, the auto-focus is very fast and reliable and if needed you can shoot at 5 frames per second. There are still issues with this format. The camera uses a high quality electronic viewfinder. It is bright and easy to use. However, if you are shooting in burst mode it is difficult if not impossible to track the action. I therefore do not recommend this camera for sports photography or for trying to shoot birds in flight. Most other features work seamlessly. If you are interested in an in-depth review of this camera I recommend that you check out the report at DPREVIEW.

We are thrilled not to have to lug our heavy pro gear half way around the world. Hopefully we will be happy with the results. Stay tuned and we’ll let you know what happens.

Click on any image below to enlarge it.

Western Meadow Lark - Grizzly Island

Western Meadow Lark – Grizzly Island

Oakland Zoo

White-Handed (Lar) Gibbon -Oakland Zoo

Minke Whale - San Juan Islands

Minke Whale – San Juan Islands

Cape Buffalo - Safari West

Cape Buffalo – Safari West

Sable Antelope - Safari West

Sable Antelope – Safari West

Flamingo - Safari West

Flamingo – Safari West

Vulturine Guineafowl - Safari West

Vulturine Guineafowl – Safari West