Welcome to the temporary site for timhearnwildlife.com.

I'll be posting a few shots here while working on the main site, which is currently under construction...

Timhearnwildlife has been a long term passion and project of mine which is now reaching fruition. It is (or strictly speaking, will be) a commercial resource for wildlife and natural history photography and writing.

Over the last 10 years, I've been fortunate enough to travel extensively to all 7 continents, taking photographs and notes, and the site will showcase the results.

Please feel free to browse....

Monday, 26 July 2010


These two chimps were brilliant. One was clearly the brains of the outfit, while the other was slightly dimwitted, but provided the muscle.

They popped their heads round the tree, focussing on the alpha male further down the path on which I was standing with several other visitors and a couple of guides. The alpha male had his back to them, intent on winkling out some juicy shoots.

Realising that the alpha male was otherwise engaged, the smart one gave a signal, and the two of them grabbed sticks and charged down the path. A charging chimp is not to be messed with, particularly when wielding a club, so we humans moved aside to let them pass, although the slower amongst us did sustain minor cuts and bruises as Dimwit cleaved his way through us. Since they charged silently, the idea apparently was to make a sneak assault on the alpha while his back was turned.

Sadly for them, one of the minor cuts and bruises was sustained when a stick connected with the shin of a large American gentleman, who tumbled backwards off the path with a resounding crash and a terrified yell. This unfortunate moment raised the interest of the alpha male, who glanced round enquiringly, only to see the gruesome twosome barrelling towards him.

As the two usurpers realised that their cunning plot had been exposed, they threw the branches away, u-turned and strolled back the way they'd come, the picture of innocence. If it was possible for a chimp to casually whistle, they would undoubtedly have done so...

Like I said, chimps are brilliant.


A young chimp in Mahale, Tanzania.


As you might expect, mountain gorillas form extremely strong family ties, particularly between mother and baby. For the first 5 months, the infant is in constant contact with the mother, who in turn remains close to the dominant silverback of the whoop for protection. (A group of gorillas is a 'whoop' for any collective noun geeks). The infant will be suckling every hour or more, as seen in the first shot here.

After 5 months, the infant may stray from the mother for a few seconds at a time and then, at 1 year old, they wander up to 5 metres or so from her- again, only for a few seconds.

By 2 years old, the infants are nursing approximately every 2 hours. They are still sharing a sleeping nest with the mother, but beginning to wander farther afield, only remaining in close contact with the female for about 50% of the time.

Finally they are weaned at 3 years old, and the mother will begin ovulating again. At this point, the silverback has a large grin on his face.

Gorilla infants learn from watching the adults and sub adults, often just sitting nearby and staring at them with intense concentration.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


By the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Mahale, Tanzania, the chimpanzees are well habituated, having been studied for many years by Jane Goodall and then a succession of international research teams. It's one of the few places in Africa where good sightings of chimps are virtually guaranteed. And you get to stay in the lakeside paradise that is Greystoke camp. (This assumes that paradise has tsetse flies, obviously).

Chimps are brilliant animals. They're really characterful, and super intelligent. And their social structure and behaviour is complex beyond belief. The ones at Greystoke Mahale have had an ongoing dispute for some time now with the unhabituated group in the next valley. So, to put the frighteners on them, they deliberately lead the researchers up to the top of the ridge, where the other gang can see them hanging out with their big, dumb, ugly pink mates. This is a highly effective scare tactic, and frankly it's good to see animals exploiting humans for once.

This particular chimp had got a thorn lodged in his foot and was carefully extricating it. Oh, the joys of opposable thumbs....

More chimp shots soon.....


The first thing that strikes you about a mountain gorilla is just how human their actions are. After all, they have a lot in common with us in terms of DNA. So it shouldn't have surprised me that the preferred Friday afternoon routine of the young males is to lie around and get drunk (Sooo much in common....).

They achieve this by ingesting the alcoholic sap from fermenting bamboo shoots. The local guides know it as a gorilla shandy. This particular teenager, having downed a few shoots, threw his empties down in front of him (you can see the remnants in the picture) and laid into a few forest bar snacks- stripping the outer layers with his teeth to get to the goodness within. Not unlike me opening a pack of scampi fries.

Having got himself well and truly sozzled, he then lay there for a while, before staggering back to join the gang (and presumably tell them how much he loved them). All it needed was an enterprising golden monkey with a kebab van and it would have been just like a weekend in South London...sort of.




Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Good guides- worth their weight in memory cards.

Before you can take your shot, you need to find your subject and get into position. So a good guide is as important as a good lens- arguably more so. Fortunately the guides in Zambia enjoy the well deserved reputation of being the among the best in Africa. And they really turned up trumps for Anna and me on our trip. All our guides were great (as hopefully the photos here reflect) and it's unfair to single out anybody in particular...but I will.

Abraham Banda, the guide manager for Norman Carr Safaris, has just reached the final 3 in the prestigious Wanderlust worldwide guide awards. And it couldn't happen to a nicer bloke. That's him pictured. He's the one without the tusks. 'Abes' listens carefully to what you're after and then goes hell for leather to deliver it. He doesn't always pull it off- this is wildlife photography, after all- but even when it doesn't come together perfectly, you don't really notice because he makes it all so darned interesting. You can find Abraham in the South Luangwa National Park at one or other of Norman Carr safaris impeccably organised camps. It's worth seeking him out. And best of luck at the awards in September, fella!

The other standout guide that we encountered was the formidably passionate Etienne Oosthuizen, who manages Old Mondoro bushcamp in the Lower Zambezi with his wonderful wife Leana. When I developed an obsession with snapping white fronted bee eaters in flight (there's a sample above), Etienne, a talented photographer himself (here's his blog), rose majestically to the occasion by producing a makeshift hide (by which I mean a bit of old tarp) for us to lie under.

As we lay full length on the dirt of the riverbank in increasingly ovenlike temperatures, two thoughts occurred to me. The first was 'what a great guide Etienne is'. And the second was 'what the hell is crawling up my leg'? Whatever it was, it soon transferred itself to Etienne, judging from the stifled expletives. And that's what I mean- taking bites for the team; what more could you want from a guide?