Why neutral colours?

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Oct 12th, 2005, 07:20 AM
  #1
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Why neutral colours?

Iíve been thinking about why ďneutral coloursĒ are recommended for safaris, especially walking safaris. I understand itís practical because of dirt and dust, but isnít it a bit ďprimate-centredĒ to think that bright colours will alarm animals? I donít know that much about colour vision, but from what Iíve heard/read, most ungulates and predators canít differentiate between red and green. Maybe you should avoid blue. Some birds and insects see colours that humans canít see. Isnít movement more important than colours? Is there anyone who could explain this?
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Oct 12th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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Neutral colours allow you to blend with the environment and are less likely to attract attention.

Bright colours and white etc have the opposite effect. If you are going to Zambia, leave the navy blue in your bag otherwise you'll have a swarm of tstetse flies across your back.

If you are doing the 4x4 routine, go as you please.

And yes: movement will give you away faster than colour. ever tried spotting a kudud standing still? you'll definitely notice it when the ear or tail moves.
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Oct 12th, 2005, 11:23 AM
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bwanamitch
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Re tsetse flies & clothing colours: during the last three weeks a watched very closely which colours are preferred by these nice little creatures. From this experiences I would recommend to leave the green, dark green and dark khaki in your bag too.

Light khaki, stone and beige are the best colours to wear.

Mitch
 
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Oct 12th, 2005, 12:38 PM
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Hello,

Animals may not see colour the way we do, but they are much more sensitive to contrast and intensity than we are. However, as it's difficult for humans to conceive of contrast and intensity in the absence of colour, so the easiest way to ensure that you blend in is to stick with colours that match the background (i.e. neutrals).

Blending in is important whether you are in a vehicle or on the ground. Anything out of the ordinary will draw an animal's attention, and since most of us are there to observe animals behaving as naturally as possible it's best to dress to avoid drawing their attention.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 12th, 2005, 01:32 PM
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Thanks,
So, even if they donít see the colour, animals perceive the contrast and intensity. I would like to know exactly how they perceive me, but I suppose thatís impossible.

Mitch, did you wear different colours noticing with which colours you got bitten or did you observe people who got bitten and what colours they were wearing? I suppose you did both. Iíve always thought that insects just prefer some people Ė people like me. Iíve never been to Zambia, but Iíve been attacked by tsetse flies outside the Mara. I was wearing light khaki and everyone else was wearing red. No one was wearing blue or any dark colours. All the flies went for me. Except for possible illnesses they arenít worse than normal horseflies. It would be different to be in a place where you find them everywhere though.
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Oct 12th, 2005, 01:45 PM
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Hello,

Insects are attracted primarily by chemical signals (often contained in sweat or breath) and it's not unreasonable that they may be more attracted to some people than others based on a particular chemical combination. I'm one of the lucky people who are not very attractive to insects, whereas my mother and sister are apparently a mosquito's version of a Michelin 3-star restaurant. I believe I read a study which found that mosquitos do seem to find women more attractive than men on average, which may have to do with hormonal influences on sweat content.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 12th, 2005, 01:59 PM
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Sand flies bite me as well; it has happened in Tsavo and Samburu. I never hear about other tourists who get bitten by sand flies in Kenya. They are worse than tsetse because they give you blisters on your feet.

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Oct 12th, 2005, 02:08 PM
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Nyamera,

I noticed that people with green clothes (ZAWA scouts in dark green/khaki uniforms, people with dark green fleeces) were preferred targets of tsetse, while people with beige/stone clothes were relatively unharmed, even if only sitting half a metre away from the 'greens'. I observed this on several occasions.

Mitch
 
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Oct 12th, 2005, 02:18 PM
  #9
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Interesting, Mitch. I would like to know why they prefer these colours.
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Oct 12th, 2005, 02:28 PM
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Tsetse flies are attracted by colours that resemble buffalo skin, normally black or dark blue...
 
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Oct 12th, 2005, 02:38 PM
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Aha, sounds very reasonable. Now I would like to see a green buffalo. I hope I'll dream about one tonight. Maybe some buffaloes look green to tsetse flies
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Oct 12th, 2005, 02:42 PM
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I don't believe flies can perceive colour -- in all likelihood, they are responding to contrast and/or intensity.

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 12th, 2005, 02:52 PM
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All the tsetse traps in Botswana and Zambia are made of blue/black or blue cloth...
 
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Oct 12th, 2005, 02:55 PM
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Interesting point, Mitch -- admittedly I'm not an expert on insect visual systems, so perhaps they can perceive only blues, and home in on things which are 'bluer' and/or darker than the surrounding area (which would explain why green is preferred to beige).

Cheers,
Julian
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Oct 12th, 2005, 03:00 PM
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bwanamitch
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I assume the tsetse's visual system is very sensitive to this wavelength range...
 
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Oct 13th, 2005, 06:00 PM
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Wear whatever you like. You can theorise (is that a word?) as much as you like and everyone will have a definitive answer but I have had a raving Queen travel with me dressed in Flamboyants, darling, smelling of peaches and pears in Marula territory and I got bitten.
Relax and enjoy
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Oct 13th, 2005, 09:23 PM
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In Botswana, we were in a truck w/6 people. One person wore a bright red sweatshirt. Another person wore a jacket that was the exact color of the tse tse fly traps. While on game drives with these people over a 2 day period, we saw a pack of 13 wild dogs, several lions, 3 cheetahs, and an aardwolf, and countless elephants, giraffes, antelopes, etc, without a single bug bite.

Don't worry about your clothes. Just wear enough to be not too hot and not too cold.

judy
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Oct 13th, 2005, 11:44 PM
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Julian's reply suits me. It's as close to any advice I've ever received from safari guides. I don't know whether it's a matter of brightness/contrast, or colour, or even of natural or artificial scent (certain perfumes and aftershaves are said to be attractants rather than repellents), or a combination of several things. But I've found neutral tones to be an advantage and bright ones to be a disadvantage when trying to photograph birds and other animals close-up in the wild. I've always suspected it's because a slight movement on my part will be seen more easily if I'm dressed, say, in white or bright yellow.

As for insects and colours, try leaving a black or dark coloured plastic bucket and a light coloured one out in the garden side-by-side. I have, because my garden is good for mozzies. The dark bucket soon attracts many mozzies, the light one remains empty. I'm told it's because the mosquitoes like dark colours for concealment. In the bush, they hide on the dark underside of foliage or other objects during the day.

That said, I've just returned from a photo expedition in the bush. The Australian bush and flies go together like the tundra and mosquitoes, if that helps people in the northern hemi understand what I'm saying. It didn't matter what we were wearing, the flies pestered us mercilessly, and DEET repellent was only partly successful. I got them up my nose and in my mouth, and that's a problem when you're breathing heavily while trying to focus a macro lens. When the flies left off at dusk, the mozzies took over. I guess body warmth, sweat and odour play more of a role than clothing in those circumstances.

It just makes good sense to me to try to blend in with the environment as much as possible. You don't wear loud colours any more than you would behave loudly and boisterously while watching wildlife.

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Oct 13th, 2005, 11:49 PM
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Judy,

The anti-tsetse program in northern Botswana was very successful over the last few years (did you see all those blue/black flags of the tsetse traps?), and currently you will hardly find these flies in most tourism areas anymore. In some areas nature has filled up the resulting niche with some nasty small black flies which fortunately don't bite.

Mitch
 
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Oct 14th, 2005, 07:05 AM
  #20
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Some time ago I heard that for mooses itís difficult to see red apples on green trees and Iíve heard things like that before but I canít find a good website or book about how animals actually see things Ė maybe because you canít ask them. I was hoping some expert would tell me to wear red and yellow on walking safaris, so that I could tell other people and feel clever. It seems like itís best to wear neutral colours anyway. Regarding insects: many of them can see ultra-violet light.

Africantroublemaker, Iíve read your comments in other threads and they are always very ďinterestingĒ. Are you, by any chance, a close friend of someone who writes regularly on this forum?
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