21 March 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Things that Go Bump

You’ve just got to love an animal that wheezes and honks during its courtship. But hippos are not the only creatures to make strange sounds in the wild.

The male black wildebeest advertises his territory with an alluring hiccup. Quite a loud one, actually - you can hear it more than a kilometre away. Females indicate their willingness by lashing their chosen males’ faces with their dirty white tails.

But of course, the day sounds aren’t scary. It’s the night sounds that can terrify you - for no good reason at all. I met a poet from New York who almost paralysed with fear after hearing the ferocious sounds of impala rams during the rutting season. In fact, I was just as scared the first time I heard them. They shriek and roar at one another, making more of a racket than a horde of hungry lions.

That’s not nearly as unnerving as the sound a bush baby makes though. This innocent-looking pre-primate with its big eyes has a range of noises that will make you sit bolt upright if you hear them, especially a characteristic eerie wail. According to my Safari Companion (by Richard Estes), they also “sniff, knock, creak, squeak, whistle-yap, chirp, chatter, moan, rattle”.

Male ostriches too, make grunting sounds just like a lion when they’re seeking a willing female.

But in the dark, you can be fooled by anything. I remember lying wide-eyed in my tent, convinced there was a leopard just outside my tent, giving its characteristic call, which sounds like someone sawing wood.  It took me a good half hour of trembling before I figured out it was my friend snoring in the next tent.

Category: Wildlife

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