Photo of the week – September week #2: Wildlife sightings when hiking Table Mountain

Much as hiking Table Mountain takes you into pristine nature, it serves up little in the way of wildlife i.e. big game. The reason for this is two-fold: the longtime presence of Europeans and the vegetation type. The decline of large game at the Cape started with the arrival of Dutch settlers in 1652, who hunted antelop as a source of fresh meat, trapping and killing lions and leopards for their skins and for safety reasons. Trophy-hunting also led to the decline is big cats. Little changed when the English occupied the Cape in 1806. The last lion was shot in 1802; the last leopard in the 1890s. Antelope species were hunted as recent as 1910 and brought populations to the brink of extinction. Precious little remained: a few pairs of klipspringer (antelope) and the odd lynx / caracal. Smaller animals include rock hyrax, the Cape grey mongoose, genet and porcupine. Historically, Table Mountain never teemed with big game like the African plains due to  fynbos – a plant type low in nutrients and unable to sustain large herds of grazers. But what did occur on the mountain was systematically decimated by unrestricted hunting.

But Table Mountain hiking is not so much about game-viewing than it is about views, landscapes, the peace and quiet of unspoiled nature and unique plant life. What the mountain lacks in fauna, it makes up for in its unmatched diversity of flora.