Stick insect on steroids
An insect in disguise and antelope behaving badly – send your questions to email@example.com
QTONY JAMES from Joburg asks: Recently, during a visit to Mabula Game Lodge near Bela-Bela, my son saw what we believed to be a stick insect in the road. But it was enormous! Do stick insects get this big?
AEntomology expert DUNCAN MACFADYEN says: They do! This is a giant stick insect – females grow to 250 mm and males are generally half that size. This species is one of the more convincing stick mimics within the Phasmatodea family. The body is uniformly dark greyish-brown, with rough, bark-like texture and a pronounced double spike on top of the head. The males have fully developed hind wings – the smoky brown membrane is marked with darker veins and clear spots. When disturbed, it will sway rhythmically backwards and forwards. Males may also flash their wings in a threat display and are capable of weak, sustained flight. They’re attracted to lights at night and occur across the warmer areas of South Africa. They’re more common than you might think, precisely because they’re so easily overlooked. injury must have been recent and it was only a matter of time before she succumbed, not being able to eat or drink. How do you think she sustained this injury? Or could it possibly be a disability she’s lived with since birth?
AWildlife LD VAN ESSEN says: The jaw is not dislocated – the unusual shape is probably the result of a birth defect or an injury she sustained soon after birth. I’ve seen photos of this cow before – going back to 2009. She has been photographed several times over the years in the Pretoriuskop and Stolsnek area. Neil photographed her at Shingwedzi – about 300 km away! It’s not impossible there are two giraffe cows with the same abnormality in the Kruger, but it’s highly unlikely. There’s a video on YouTube in which you can see how she eats – search for “Giraffe with deformed jaw”.