I just arrived in South Africa. My group arrives on Monday, but I came a few days early to do some lecturing, filming and procuring items for the museum. Today, I visited the Rhino & Lion Reserve, which is not exactly "the wild," but it's a great place for photography and filming. I had a close encounter with a very ugly and unusually inquisitive marabou stork:
Like all storks, marabou storks are predatory (and thus non-kosher), and they can be particularly aggressive, sometimes killing flamingos. I was somewhat nervous when this stork started poking his beak around my midsection. I realized that he was looking for food, and also water. So I turned on a nearby faucet, and he happily gulped the water down:
Here's a lucky shot that I took of a leopard yawning:
It was only after I transferred this photo to my laptop, and zoomed in, that I saw the most remarkable part of it. Once, I had my hand licked by a cheetah, and it was quite painful. Cats have sharp backward-facing spines on their tongue, called papillae, which they use for shredding meat from a carcass. The bigger the cat, the bigger the papillae. Zooming in on this yawning leopard shows the papillae very clearly:
Meanwhile, here's another picture that I took, of a lion cub tearing at some meat. Note his sharp claws protruding from their sheaths:
For the next two weeks, my posts are going to be light on the Rationalist Judaism and heavy on the wildlife!
(Thanks to Rabbi Gavin Michal for driving me around.)
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Amidst everything we do, we say Hashem, please help our soldiers bring our boys back home.