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. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Family | Memory Catcher

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  3. I have never been to Africa. Great to gaze through your lense. This was a delightful surprise and very good choice for the challenge, Tina. Gorgeous shots of the animals, it’s hard to pick a favourite!
    Love, Dina

    • Thanks Ese! I can’t say I blame you for the envy-Africa is as life-changing as everyone says it is. If I had a zillion dollars one of the first things I’d do is take my whole, very large family there to experience it!

  4. Yet another post that is soulful, informational and beautiful. the family quotes resonate, and the animal families almost make me feel I am there–the information and context as rich as the photos. Just superb!

  5. Great post Tina! Instinctual families indeed. I am struggling with your new format. I do not do well with sensory overload but your posts are always SO GOOD! I will keep trying!

  6. Beautiful photos!!! And yr right about safaris being life changing ….I travelled to Africa in 1987 and did a tented safari in the rift valley Masai Mara. I still remember vividly that experience. Thanks for sharing : ) Trees

  7. You have become one of two of my favorite photographers…I think your writing skills equals your prowess behind the shutter..Bigstew

  8. Well, you have generated a lot of responses☺️
    I like C.Jaybell C.’s comment the best.
    Your artistic bent expresses this beautifully .
    Wish I could have been on sight w/ you . Nothing like it.
    Sensory overload!!

    • Hi Molly – thanks for stopping by!! I loved that first quote myself – hence it’s position in the premier position 🙂 Appreciate your lovely compliment – hope to see you soon.

  9. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Family | Khana's Web

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  11. WOW!! I also posted animals as “family”, you’re right it doesn’t depend on certificated and blood lines. My animals are a little more domesticated though 🙂 Love your pictures!

  12. LOVE these families especially buffalo & monkey’s…the ‘proud pride’ looks like my family….gary, myself & tiger….guess who is the roaring one….it’s tiger….the head of the household!!

  13. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: family (More Lensbaby 4) | What's (in) the picture?

  14. Tina, I am so glad that you featured how the animals bond and protect each other as a family. These animals are the epitome of family way better than humans. I do believe that we can learn from them and in fact protect them as important species in the world. Thank you. Perpetua.

    • I agree Perpetua, there’s much we don’t understand about them and it is arrogant for us to think we are the only intelligent, feeling beings. One day surrounded by elephants is enough to show us otherwise. Thanks for your visit and comment.

  15. Pingback: My Four-Legged, Furry Family | Eyes to Heart

    • 🙂 Thanks Alexandria. I actually did a walking safari one day, feeling quite safe. It was soon after that the man was killed. But it is incredible to move among the animals who for the most part ignore you. As for the lions, we were DEFINITELY in a jeep and even so were a bit nervous if I’m perfectly honest!!

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  17. We tend to forget the sentient nature of animals and the strong bonds that link them. This is a wonderful in-depth post Tina. The quotes are food of thought and your text informative…. the poaching angle and the loss of species is very pertinent too.

    • Thanks so much Liz. The poaching thing is just horrific. Thankfully the Chinese government is beginning to campaign against the illegal ivory trade, which I know you support wholeheartedly. Appreciate your visit and comment.

  18. You had me at “Families are made in the heart…” Perfect sentiment. Your photos are tremendous and captures the meaning of family, the attachment that adults have towards children is so strong in humans ~ but I like how you also make it clear that it is the same throughout the animal kingdom. Instinctive love…I’ve never thought about it this way. All these photos are great, but I like the Lion family and its cubs, that relationship always strike me as the most dynamic of all.

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