Weekly Photo Challenge – Family

 “Family is family, and is not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and adoption documents. Families are made in the heart. ”

C.Joybell C.



The moment I saw Josh’s challenge this week, I thought of the many examples of family we encountered on our safaris in Botswana and South Africa. –  starting with the world’s largest land animal, the African Elephant. Now let me begin by saying, I have a great family. A wonderful husband, four brothers (and their lovely partners), 13 nieces and nephews, a step-son, a daughter-in-law and the world’s most adorable granddaughter. But honestly, I don’t think we’re very interesting to anyone except each other. The wild animals of Africa, on the other hand, appeal to most everyone.



“You must remember, family doesn’t depend on blood…Family members can be your best friends…best friends, whether related to you or not, can be your family.”

Trenton Lee Stewart

Elephants have been proven to form deep family bonds, living in large matriarchal societies. Calves are raised and protected by all of the members of a herd, which can be as large as 100 members. The matriarchs use their incredible memories to return to watering holes during long dry seasons, and communicate with other herd members using sub-sonic rumbles which can travel over 50 miles and are inaudible to humans.  We saw several examples of how carefully they protect their young – in fact, soon after our visit a walking safari participant was killed when he accidentally came between a mother and her calf.



“Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know.”

Mitch Albom

Elephants were not the only species we observed caring for their families; zebras too are protective of their young. They live in small family groups that typically include a filly, several stallions, and their foals. Often the family groups will merge with other families to form a herd, which helps protect them from the lions and hyenas who hunt them. Herds can grow into the thousands, but the families will stay together no matter how large the herd around them grows.



“We must take care of our families wherever we find them.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Speaking of lions, we know that they live in prides, family units of one to three males, up to a dozen lionesses and their cubs.  All of the lionesses are related, staying within the pride as they age, while the young males eventually leave to start their own prides.  Scientists report that only 32,000 individual lions remain from the hundreds of thousands estimated to have roamed Africa less than 50 years ago. Their demise is due primarily to loss of habitat because of ever-expanding human population. Elephants, while susceptible to the same loss of habitat, are endangered much more by poachers, who slaughter them to fulfill the demand for their ivory. Their numbers have dwindled from the millions to some 300,000 – with an estimated 30,000+/year falling victim to poaching.



Familes are webs. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.”

Diane Setterfield

Another favorite on the lions’ list of prey is the African or Cape Buffalo. Buffalo calves form a strong bond with their mothers, and are completely dependent on them for a year after birth. Typically females will stay with the family as part of the herd, which forms a circle around any calves to protect them when danger threatens. At the sound of a calf’s cry, the herd will turn on any predator as a mob, most often succeeding at driving off the aggressor. Males either form their own herd or live a solitary, and therefore vulnerable life. The buffalo is one of Africa’s most dangerous animals and incredibly is known to hold a grudge for years against attackers. They are responsible for killing more humans in Africa than any other predator.



“As goes the family, so goes the world.”

Voddie T. Voucham, Jr.

Mother giraffes give birth to their calves standing up, which often times is quite a rude awakening. Falling as far as five feet, they are able to stand within 30 minutes of birth and run within 10 hours.  Once they’re a few weeks old, they will join a group of other young giraffes known as a creche. Mothers take turns guarding the nursery while other mothers go off to feed. Females remain with the herd until they are ready to become mothers, and then they will raise their own families near their birth herd. Males leave at about 15 months to start their own all-male group.  Mothers are fiercely protective of the calves and will deliver aggressive kicks at any predator who threatens their young.



“The way you help heal the world is you start with your own family.”

Mother Teresa

Finally, a familiar favorite, the monkey.  Vervet monkeys are quite common in Southern and Eastern Africa, where they live primarily in the trees. They assemble in troops of up to 50 animals, including adult females and their young. Males live separately and tend to wander between troops to socialize and mate. Infant vervets are a source of great affection for all of the members of the troop, with young females helping to care for them. Bonds are formed for life within the troop.

Over a year ago one of my first posts featured the elephants of Africa. If you like elephants, check it out here. Afterwards, click here to visit the families of some other bloggers.

147 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge – Family

  1. Beautiful and uplifting post Tina. I was fortunate to have enjoyed the Indian forests flora and fauna in my young days. This quote sums up my feelings “I feel like I’m nothing without wildlife. They are the stars. I feel awkward without them” ~ Bindi Irwin

    Thank you 🙂

  2. Tina, Great post. I think that your photos of the all of the animals are terrific. It is amazing that so many people when taking photographs they are afraid to take pictures up close. Whether they use a telephoto or physically get up close. Taking a photo from afar leaves too much junk in the photos that makes it distracting. One ends up sometimes missing the point of view.

    • Well thanks James 🙂 I agree with you about capturing the animals close-up as that’s when their personalities shine through. I have some fun shots from further away tho – like the bears in my next post. Difference is I was in a jeep in Africa but on foot in Alaska – distance becomes your friend LOL! Thanks for stopping by.

      • Your absolutely right about distance. It’s like the song that says knowing when to hold them. It is the same as knowing when to stay your distance or when time to get the heck out of there.

  3. I’m late getting to view your Family post, but I’m so glad I did! The photos are wonderful, for the subject matter, composition, colors and the way your shots made me feel like I was right there with you. So many people commented on the elephant families. In about 1980 one of the elephants at the Portland Zoo gave birth, accompanied by two other female elephants. When the calf was born one of the females trumpeted and trumpeted with elation. Ever since I have been fascinated by the dynamics of the elephant herds, I hope that some drastic measures can stop the poaching before we lose the elephants in the wild.

    • Many thanks RS. I too love the elephants, they truly are the gentle giants they’re said to be. Their affection for one another is quite obvious and they are also really playful. I am always sad to see them in zoos, but of course that’s the only way many people will ever see them, and it’s important for conservation efforts that people fall in love with them. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. great photos – and LOVE the starting quote:
    Family is family, and is not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and adoption documents. Families are made in the heart.

    well said

  5. A lovely post, Tina. Some really interesting facts here(didn’t know the buffalo can be more dangerous than the predators). Fascinating to see how love for ones own family is a common thread that runs between all species. As for the photographs, I love them all – each one is a representation of strong family bonds. ‘Baby makes Three’ is my favourite! Captured at just the right moment, I love the unique composition of this photograph.

    • Thank you Uday – yes, it was one of my favorite discoveries from the trip. We don’t often think of animals as having families but clearly they do and they protect and care for them as much as we do. As for your favorite – I loved that one too. At first glance it just looks like 2 zebras but then on further examination, voila, the little fella in between!

  6. What an amazing gallery Tina!! We are planning a safari in Tanzania this year, I will be happy to bring back images half as good! What lens do you typically carry for wildlife photography?

    • Hey Madhu, nice to hear from you! I’m very jealous of your planned trip:-). I typically use my nikon 70-200 VR 2.8 lens. It’s a tad heavy but excellent in low light (safaris are at dawn and sunset as animals sleep during the hot days). It had plenty of reach as the animals are quite close. I had a 1.7 teleconverter but found that often it brought me too close for the best shot. I also used an 18-200 for landscape shots. If possible, use 2 cameras rather than change lenses in the field. dust is everywhere. Have a great time and thanks for stopping by!

  7. It’s very moving to view these family photos and read the stories. Global warming probably is another factor for their demise, and we are responsible for that…
    Thank you, Tina!

  8. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge – Family | Joe's Musings

  9. What a wonderful entry on families! Excellent photos. We recently were in South Africa and visited the Addo Elephant park and enjoyed hours of watching elephant herds, wondering about them!

    • Thanks Hechters! Yes the elephants are totally absorbing – we were surrounded by them many times. They are so affectionate toward one another, and protective as well. Once or twice they gave us a definite sign that we needed to keep a bit more space, and one time our guide had to use his jeep horn to move them away from us. It was incredible

  10. You have met many families … stunning animals all of them!!!! The elephant is my favorite – saw many many years a TV program, where a little elephant was killed and the filming team couldn’t do anything about .. and I can still the images. So terrible sad, but that is life … the leopard needed food for her small too.

    • Thanks Viveka – one of the things you learn first-hand in Africa is that indeed the predators starve if they don’t capture their prey. We saw a leopard kill an impala and then a hyena steal another leopard’s kill. It’s brutal at first but then you come to understand. The lions were really suffering, especially the young males. It’s really fascinating.

    • 🙂 Who doesn’t love Babar?! Thanks PT – we saw many calves, often they were suckling with mom but because moms are so gigantic you can’t see the babies’ faces until they come “out from under” LOL. It was a great adventure!

  11. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Family (What’s With The Portrait?) | 2812 photography

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