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African Crocodile

The African crocodile is recognisable by its narrow snout. It has three or four rows of protective scales on the back of its neck, which merge with the scales on its back, other members of the Crocodylus genus have only two rows of scales. The fourth tooth of the African crocodile’s lower jaw sits outside the crocodile’s lips even when its mouth is closed.

Crocodiles are found primarily in freshwater rivers that have dense vegetation cover. They can also be found in large lakes. Crocodiles are most at home in the water, but are able to travel on land.

Crocodiles are carnivores. They use their sharp teeth for catching and holding their prey. Their diet is thought to consist primarily of fish and small aquatic invertebrates. Young crocodiles feed on worms and insects. While adults eat frogs, tadpoles, and opportunistically on larger prey if it becomes available including humans.

The African crocodile is generally not found in groups, except during the onset of the breeding season. At the onset of the rainy season female crocodiles construct nests out of plant matter on the banks of rivers, although breeding occurs year-round. Female African crocodiles lay between 13 to 27 eggs about a week after they have finished building their nests.

The female remains close to the nest for the 110 day incubation period, but does not defend it quite as ferociously as many other species of crocodile. Once the eggs begin to hatch, and the hatchlings emit their characteristic chirping, the female breaks open the nest to assist in the hatching process. Predators of the hatchlings include the soft-shelled turtle, but most young African crocodiles survive to maturity.

Although the African crocodile does not have many natural predators, the crocodile population is declining due to over-hunting by man. Areas where the crocodile population is severely depleted, if not entirely wiped out include Angola, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal, Zambia, Congo and Togo. The largest population stronghold exists in Gabon. Habitat destruction has also contributed to the population depletion.

Poorly-enforced protection exists for the remaining populations, although some countries allow regulated hunting. Before significant action can be taken in conserving the crocodile population, studies on ecology, population dynamics and status need to be undertaken, which is difficult in areas subject to political instability.

Black Wildebeest

Black Wildebeest are highveld antelope: they are not exactly black (as their name suggests), but rather buffy-brown, although they are darker in colour than their relatives, the blue wildebeest, which are actually grey. Their most obvious feature is their white tails, as well as their massive humped shoulders which slope to their lightly built hindquarters. Black wildebeest have high, shaggy manes, a distinct beard of long hair, an elongated patch of long hair on the chest that extends from between the forelegs almost to the belly, and probably the noisiest tail in the animal world. When alarmed, the animal swishes its long tail back and forth so vigorously that the loud whistling or hissing sound it creates can be heard for almost a kilometer. This is part of a ritual that may include loud snorting, highkicking with the back legs, and eventually a comical flight in which the herd will gallop off, wheel around, retrace its steps and halt, facing the real or imagined enemy.

Black wildebeest, also known as gnu because of the bellowing snort they use when alarmed, onced roamed in great herds of hundreds of thousands, but were brought to the brink of extinction due to over-exploitation and agricultural development. They are now off the danger list, due to being protected on numerous farms and game reserves. Black wildebeest are primarily grazers, but during winter they will browse to suppliment their diet. They are a species of the central plateau open plains, and are gregarious, with a social organization involving territorial males, female herds, and bachelor groups. The bulls carefully mark the boundaries of their territories with urine and faeces, and keep females in their territories by herding. Because there are few predators in their areas nowadays, most wildebeest calves reach adulthood. A single calf is born. The bond between the mother and calf is very strong, with the calf remaining close to her for the early part of its life.

Blue Wildebeest

Wildebeests thrive in areas that are neither too wet nor too dry. They can be found in places that vary from overgrazed areas with dense bush to open woodland floodplains. Wildebeests prefer the bushlands and grasslands of the southern savanna.

The wildebeest is a large antelope. It has a large muzzle and cow-like horns. The horns are long without ridges and the males' horns are thicker with the appearance of a boss. Wildebeests have short hair covering their bodies, and their color ranges from slate gray to dark brown, with males darker than females. There are also black vertical stripes of longer hair on the back of the wildebeests. Wildebeests also have black faces, manes, and tails. The different subspecies of the wildebeest vary in color.

Unlike most African mammals, the wildebeest has a three week period in which most of the young are born. The conception rate among wildebeests is very high because their sexual peak is associated with good climate conditions. The sexual peak occurs at the end of the rains and the animals are in good condition. Wildebeest, if properly nourished, can begin to conceive at 16 months; they commonly first breed, however, at 28 months. The gestation period is eight to eight and a half months. Most of the calves are born at the beginning or a month before the peak of the rain season. Labor lasts one and a half hours at the most. Once a calf is delivered, the mother begins to lick it. After six minutes, the calf is able to stand on its feet and attempts to be nursed. It is very important that the mother stays close to the calf for two days in order to assure that imprintation occurs, which begins with the first suckling. Mothers initially identify their calf by scent alone. Young have a better chance for survival in a large group than in a small group. At eight months, the young leave their mothers and form peer groups.

The wildebeest is a territorial, gregarious animal. Small herds are made up of females and their calves. These herds tend to occupy a small amount of space, and different herds overlap. Males leave these herds after a year and enter into a bachelor group. When males reach the age of four or five, they leave the bachelor groups and become territorial. The makeup of groups with cows remains constant and if a new cow tries to enter, it is harassed. When there are many herds grouped close together, it is common for cows to transfer from one group to another. At the end of the rains, cows emerge in their own groups but as the dry season goes on, the separate groups lose their identities. The number of times a group moves and how many cows are in a group depends on the rainfall, the dry season pasture, and other environmental factors. One large migration of wildebeest is known as the Serengeti migration. During this migration, wildebeest move from the open plains to Lake Victoria in search of forage. On this journey, wildebeests swim across rivers and many wildebeests are killed. When the wildebeest travel across land, they walk with their heads bowed down, which is most likely related to the fact that the scent gland for wildebeest are in their hooves and they bow to follow the group.

The beginning of rut in wildebeests is associated with the full moon. Territorial bulls, however, are always ready to mate. Whenever they are approached by another wildebeest, they greet the stranger with a rocking canter movement. If the newcomer is a female, the bull tries to herd or mount her. There is considerably more calling, herding, and fighting among the wildebeests during periods of sexual activity. A male that is sexually excited tries to herd as many females as possible and does not eat or sleep as long as a female is in his territory. Every territorial bull that sees a female in heat will try to mount her. If a female stands still, copulations are repeated often, at a rate of over two a minute. A female may encounter several dozen males in a day if her group is moving. A female in full heat will always be found by the side of a male.


The bongo is the largest and heaviest forest antelope. These spiral-horned creatures are found only in special dense forest habitats across tropical Africa. The East African bongo is larger than its West African counterpart.

The bright chestnut color of the bongo becomes darker with age until old males are almost black. The flat-sided body is highlighted with 12 to 14 narrow white stripes on the shoulders, flanks and hindquarters. A black and white crest of hair runs the length of the spine, a white chevron appears between the eyes and two large white spots grace each cheek.

The large ears are believed to sharpen hearing, and the distinctive coloration may help bongos identify one another in their dark forest habitats. Bongos have no special secretion glands and so rely less on scent to find one another than do other similar antelopes.

Both males and females have spiraled lyre-shaped horns that resemble those of the related antelope species of nyalas, sitatungas, bushbucks, kudus and elands. They have a hunched posture, with the head held up and the horns extended along the back.

Bongos are found in rain forest with dense undergrowth. Specifically they are found in the Lowland Rain Forest of West Africa and the Congo Basin to the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan.

As young males mature, they leave their maternal groups. Adult males of similar size or age seem to try to avoid one another, but occasionally they will meet and spar with their horns in a ritualized manner. Sometimes serious fights will take place, but they are usually discouraged by visual displays, in which the males bulge their necks, roll their eyes and hold their horns in a vertical position while slowly pacing back and forth in front of the other male. Younger mature males most often remain solitary, although they sometimes join up with an older male. They seek out females only at mating time; when they are with a herd of females, males do not coerce them or try to restrict their movements as do some other antelopes.

Although bongos are mostly nocturnal, they are occasionally active during the day. They are timid and easily frightened. They will move away after a scare, running at considerable speed, even through dense undergrowth. They seek cover, where they stand very still and alert, facing away from the disturbance and turning their heads from time to time to check on the situation. The bongo's hindquarters are less conspicuous than the forequarters, and from this position the animal can quickly flee.

When in distress the bongo emits a bleat. It uses a limited number of vocalizations, mostly grunts and snorts. The females have a weak, mooing contact call for their young.

A large animal, the bongo requires an ample amount of food, and is therefore restricted to suitable areas with abundant year-round growth of herbs and low shrubs. Such restrictions probably account for the animal's limited distribution.

Bongos range widely in their quest for appropriate vegetation. In the Aberdare mountains in Kenya, a population of about 100 animals exists, following a seasonal cycle by moving to the highest elevations in February and March and to the lower elevations during the long wet season. Bongos eat a variety of plants, including bamboo, one of its major food sources at certain times of the year. All bamboo species flower at the same time, at irregular intervals of three to 10 years. After flowering, the plant dies back and during the second year of regrowth, it becomes toxic. Bongos, and giant forest hogs, are frequently poisoned by the toxic bamboo, unaware of the deadly changes in the plant.

Females prefer to use traditional calving grounds restricted to certain areas. The newborn calf lies out in hiding for a week or more, receiving short visits by the mother to suckle it. The calves grow rapidly and can soon accompany their mothers in the nursery herds. Their horns also grow rapidly and begin to show in 31/2 months.

Bongos are susceptible to disease such as rinderpest, in the 1890s this disease almost exterminated the species, but various predators also take their toll. The young are vulnerable to pythons, leopards and hyenas. Lions have also been reported to kill bongos, but today the most serious predators are people living near forests, who often hunt bongos with dogs and set snares for them.

Large-scale and continuous hunting has completely eliminated bongos in some areas. Dense human populations live near all the known East African bongo refuges, and so special efforts in protection are needed to ensure the survival of this beautiful antelope.

Hunting has eliminated bongos in some areas. In the past taboos may have helped bongos survive, but that is no longer the case. Bongos are shy animals. They often are solitary, but sometimes accompany one another in pairs. Females and their young form small groups.


The shy and elusive bushbuck is widely distributed over sub-Saharan Africa. In East Africa it is found in a variety of habitats, though rarely on open land. Bushbucks have a lot of individual and regional differences in their coat colors and patterns. As many as 40 varieties have been described. In general, bushbuck inhabiting deep forest have darker coats.

All varieties and both males and females have geometrically shaped white patches or spots on the most mobile parts of the body - the ears, chin, tail, legs and neck, as well as a band of white at the base of the neck. Males make the markings more visible during their displays when they arch their backs and slowly circle one another, walking in a tense, high-stepping gait.

Though under some circumstances makes fight in earnest and death results, the highly ritualized displays usually make fighting unnecessary. The hierarchy among males is age-based, as they get older and the chestnut color changes to dark brown, they white markings are more conspicuous. Only male bushbucks have horns, which are between 10 and 20 inches long and grow straight back. At 10 months, young males sprout horns that are strongly twisted and at maturity form the first loop of a spiral. Other antelopes with spiral horns are sitatungas, bongos, elands and kudus.

Bushbucks are forest edge antelopes. They live in habitat including rain forests, montane forests, forest-savanna mosaics and bush savannas.

Bushbucks are basically solitary animals. Most group associations, except for a female and her latest young, are very temporary and only last a few hours or days. These antelopes have small home ranges, which may overlap with those of other bushbuck. Even so, there still is not much contact as adult individuals prefer to stay by themselves in their separate areas. Mature males usually go out of their way to avoid contact with each other.

Usually most active during early morning and part of the night, bushbucks become almost entirely nocturnal in areas where they are apt to be disturbed frequently during the day. When alarmed, individuals react in a variety of ways. If they are in forest or thick bush, they may "freeze" in one position and remain very still, their coloring camouflaging them. Sometimes they will sink to the ground and lie flat, or they may bound away, making a series of hoarse barks. When surprised in the open, they sometimes stand still or slowly walk to the nearest cover.

Bushbucks need some water but can subsist on dew if necessary. Foods vary in different habitats, with leguminous herbs and shrubs making up most of the diet; grass, fallen fruit, acacia pods, tubers, bark and flowers are also eaten. Bushbucks move about slowly and quietly when feeding, carefully selecting their food.

Bushbucks are not territorial but will defend an area that a female in heat in using. After giving birth, the mother cleans the newborn calf and eats the placenta. She leaves the calf well hidden. When she visits and suckles it, she eats its dung so no scent remains to attract predators. They young calf does not accompany its mother for long periods during the day until it is about 4 months old. A female and her calf often play together, running in circle chasing each other.

Bushbucks are most vulnerable to predators when on the run, but if cornered the male will fight bravely; if attacked, it may become a dangerous foe.

The principal predator is the leopard, but lions, hyenas, cheetahs, hunting dogs and crocodiles prey on bushbucks too. The young are also caught by servals, golden cats, eagles and pythons as well as chimpanzees and baboons. Even though baboons sometimes eat the young, bushbucks continue to associate closely with them at times, picking up fallen fruit and other foods that foraging baboons drop.

Unlike buffaloes and many other animals, bushbucks do not tolerate oxpeckers or other birds that help control insect pests. As a result, they often have numerous ticks on their head and neck. They also suffer from the common ungulate diseases, including rinderpest, which diminished their numbers in the last 19th century.

The bushbuck's hunched-up gait makes it a slow and clumsy runner, but it is a good swimmer and can jump 6-foot-high fences. Although bushbucks live in both moist and dry habitats, their most important requirement is good cover of forest or bush to provide shelter and food

Cape Buffalo

The Cape Buffalo coat is short and thin. Adults are usually black to dark brown without markings, young are black or dark brown, then change to yellow-brown, then to reddish or chocolate brown.

Cape Buffalos were formerly found in the northern and southern savannas, but are now only found in lowland rainforests where the buffalos inhabit clearings, swamps, and floodplains.

Cape Buffalos are most abundant in swamps, floodplains, and savannas where water is easily accessible. Herds can live in open woodlands, but prefer high grass or thickets for cover. Herbs and foliage make up 5% of the buffalo's diet. This percentage is considerably higher during the dry season, when grass is scarce. Cape Buffalos must drink daily if grazing on hay, otherwise they can go without water for several days as long as the food has absorbed water.

Cape Buffalos are considered nocturnal, but can also be seen during the day. They typically spend about 5 to 10.5 hours each day hunting for food. It is not uncommon for a herd of buffalos to travel 17 miles for food and water during the dry season. However, in the breeding season herds only range about 2 mi daily.

Cape Buffalos live in large herds and are quite sociable. Herd sizes depend on habitat and size and productivity of pasture. For example, on a broad floodplain herd sizes range from 19 to 2075, with the average being about 450 members. In the forests and other small areas there are typically about 50 buffalos per herd. Home ranges vary in size from 4 sq miles for a herd of 138 buffaloes to 114 sq miles for a herd of 1500.

The gestation period is 11.5 months, which is one of the longest known. Birth peaks come early in the rainy season while mating peaks are later. A female has her first calf by the age of 5 and males mature by the age of 8 or 9.


Caracala can be found in the Veld Grassland in South Africa, and in central Africa and India. This environment is generally dry and hot. The cat's habitat can also be savannah, scrub and acacia woodlands, or mountains and hilly areas.

Its head/body is 24-36 inches long, and its tail is 9-12 inches long. Its shoulder height is 15-20 inches. Its weight is 28-42 lbs. It has a shape like a cat but it's bigger and has bigger ears. The cat has a short coat whose color varies from tawny-brown to reddish-grey, sometimes even getting as dark as wine-red. Its head is shaped like an upside-down triangle. The ears are black on the outside and pale on the inside, with two-inch tufts of black hair coming out of them. The fur around the eyes is paler than the rest of the coat. The caracal has powerful jaws on a short muzzle. Its claws can retract into its large paws. It is faster than any other cat its size.

The caracal male is sexually mature at 12-15 months of age, and the female at 14-16 months. They mate year-round. Their gestation period is 69-78 days, and they usually have 1 to 6 young. The kittens weigh about 10.5 oz. As soon as they are born, the kittens have bold facial markings. At first, they only eat, sleep and make some noise. Their mother carries the kittens in her mouth by the back of the neck. They play with each other, and they learn to hunt that way. They are independent after about a year, when their mother will have another litter. The male does not help to raise the children; caracals live alone, not in pairs or groups, except when the mother raises the cubs.

The caracal is solitary, and can live as long as 17 years in captivity. They are active at night, mostly hunting smaller mammals, such as rabbits and porcupines, or even larger mammals like sheep, young antelope or deer. They have a special skill at catching birds. Their strong legs enable them to jump high enough to actually bat birds out of the air with their large paws.

The caracal's only predator is man. Humans hunt the caracal for its fur and meat in many places, sometimes to prevent this cat from killing livestock, mostly in Namibia and South Africa. There is no national legislation to protect the caracal. However, in some places these animals are protected legally. Hunting the caracal is forbidden in 10 countries in Africa. Hunting and trade are regulated in 6 countries in Africa. However, in areas where the caracal is not in danger, there are no laws protecting them.


The Cerval, caracal and wild cat make up the group of small to medium-sized cats of East Africa. They are not as well-known as the large cats, probably because they are smaller, mainly nocturnal and solitary.

The Cerval is much larger than the domestic cat. It is long-legged, the hind legs longer than the front legs. Its neck is long and its head small, with large, erect ears.

The Cerval's coat is yellowish-tan, with black spots, bands and stripes. The tail is ringed with black, and the underparts of the body are white or light tan. Individual Cervals can be identified by their unique features-diverse patterns of spots and stripes, nicks or cuts in their ears, and variations in color.

Cervals are common on the savannas where there is plenty of water. They seem to prefer areas of bush, tall grass and dry reed beds near streams, but are found in high-altitude moorlands and bamboo thickets. Black Cervals occur in Kenya's high country.

The Cerval is mainly nocturnal, but even in the daytime it can be difficult to see in tall grass. It hunts by sight and sound more than scent. With its acute hearing, a Cerval can locate prey that is moving underground. If hunting prey above ground, the Cerval raises its head above the grass and listens for movement. Once a sound is located, the Cerval stealthily approaches, then leaps and pounces. It often plays with its catch before eating it.

A Cerval has a territory of up to 5 square miles that it continually marks by spraying urine on grass and bushes along the borders. The marking alerts Cervals in overlapping territories to keep their distance.

Cervals eat a great variety of prey, including birds, snakes, lizards, frogs and insects, and are notorious poultry raiders. They are quite successful hunters, catching an average of 50 percent of all prey hunted; they seldom eat carrion.

Cervals lead solitary lives and come together in pairs only for a few days when the female is in heat. Cerval kittens, born in litters of two to four, are difficult to observe as the mother hides them well and frequently changes the hiding place. Because the female raises the litter alone, she has to hunt frequently to feed them.

When the young are large enough to hunt, the mother drives the males out. Young females remain there somewhat longer, but when they become sexually mature they too leave to establish their own territories.

Cervals are prey of hyenas, hunting dogs and leopards.

Cervals have a variety of vocalizations, including a high-pitched cry used to call other Cervals. When angry they snarl, growl and spit. When content they purr. Cervals are found in most parts of Africa, with the exception of central equatorial Africa, the very southern part of the continent and the Sahara region.


The lion is said to be majestic, the leopard ferocious and shrewd. But elegant and graceful best describes the cheetah. The cheetah is smaller than the other two cats, but by far the fastest at speeds of 70 miles per hour it can run faster than all other animals.

Now restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, wild cheetahs once were found in most of Africa, the plains of southern Asia, the Middle East and India.

The cheetah is built for speed. It has long, slim, muscular legs, a small, rounded head set on a long neck, a flexible spine, a deep chest, nonretractable claws, special pads on its feet for traction and a long, tail for balance. Although fast, the cheetah cannot run at full speed for long distances, 100 yards is about the limit, because it may overheat.

Cheetahs have distinctive black "tear stripes" that connect from the inside corner of each eye to the mouth that may serve as an antiglare device for daytime hunting.

Cheetahs are found in open and partially open savannas.

Cheetah mothers spend a long time teaching their young how to hunt small live antelopes are brought back to the cubs and released so they can chase and catch them. Unlike most other cats, the cheetah usually hunts during daylight, preferring early morning or early evening, but is also active on moonlit nights.

Cheetahs do not roar like lions, but they purr, hiss, whine and growl. They also make a variety of contact calls, the most common is a birdlike chirping sound.

Once a cheetah has made a kill, it eats quickly and keeps an eye out for scavengers lions, leopards, hyenas, vultures and jackals will occasionally take away their kills. Although cheetahs usually prey on the smaller antelopes such as Thomson's gazelles and impalas, they can catch wildebeests and zebras if hunting together. They also hunt hares and other small mammals and birds.

Although known as an animal of the open plains that relies on speed to catch its prey, research has shown that the cheetah depends on cover to stalk prey. The cheetah gets as close to the prey as possible, then in a burst of speed tries to outrun its quarry. Once the cheetah closes in, it knocks the prey to the ground with its paw and suffocates the animal with a bite to the neck.

With a life span of 10 to 12 years, the cheetah is basically a solitary animal. At times a male will accompany a female for a short while after mating, but most often the female is alone or with her cubs. Two to four cubs are born in a secluded place. Their eyes do not open for a week or two, and they are helpless at first. When the mother is hunting, she leaves them hidden, but by 6 weeks of age they are able to follow her. They are suckled for 2 to 3 months but begin to eat meat as early as 3 weeks.

By 4 months the cheetah cub is a tawny yellow and almost completely spotted; the tail has bands of black and by adulthood a white tip. The grayish mantle disappears more slowly; the last traces are still visible when the cubs are adult-sized at 15 months.

A shy creature that roams widely, the cheetah is not seen as easily as some other cats. Never numerous, cheetahs have become extinct in many areas, principally due to shrinking habitat, loss of species to prey upon, disease and a high rate of cub mortality. In some areas 50 to 75 percent of all cheetah cubs die before 3 months.

The name cheetah comes from an Indian word meaning "spotted one." The young cub has a long gray-blue coat and a black underbelly that rapidly lightens and becomes spotted. Early peoples trained cheetahs for hunting, and many civilizations depicted them in their art and in written records. Cheetahs were so popular that Akbar the Great of India was said to have kept a stable of about 1,000.


Duikers are small antelopes that inhabit forest or dense bushland. They are a good example of how an animal can be very successful in finding and filling a certain ecological niche. They are the most widespread of all the forest antelopes and are represented in East Africa by 13 of their 17 species.

The smallest of the duikers is the blue duiker, which in East Africa is found in Uganda, western Kenya and parts of Tanzania. The largest is the yellow-backed duiker, which ranges across the whole of the African tropical forest block. Populations of the yellow-backed duiker are also found on Mt. Elgon and on the Mau in Kenya. This duiker reaches up to 35 inches in height and 175 pounds in weight. It has distinctive, long whitish-yellow to orange hair that stands erect on the back.

A striking peculiarity of the duikers is that they all have the same distinctive body type, although the different species vary in size. Duikers have low-slung bodies on slender legs, wedge-shaped heads topped by a crest of long hair, and relatively large eyes. With their heads held close to the ground, duikers can move easily through the dense vegetation of forests and bushlands. They regularly run through these areas and when disturbed, plunge into thick cover to hide. This trait is the source of the name "duiker," which in Dutch means "diver."

Duikers are divided into two groups: forest duikers and bush duikers. The bush duiker is more slender, with larger ears, than the forest duiker. Environment and habitat can influence the overall body shape and coloration of animals: Thus, the duiker living in open habitat is longer-legged, less hunched-backed and lighter in color, tawny or gray, than the species that inhabits the dense, dark forests.

The bush duiker is represented by only one species known as the common or Grimm's duiker. This is the most widely distributed duiker in East Africa and is found in a large range of habitats at different elevations, but never in deep forest.

Unlike the forest species, the bush duiker with its long legs is able to run fast for some distance. All duikers freeze and crouch to escape detection. The duikers have dark, slick glossy coats but their tails have white hair that contrasts with the dark body. The tail is constantly in motion with each movement looking like a tiny torch being switched on and off in the forest gloom.

Even though the bush females are larger than the males, they usually do not have horns. Male and female forest duikers are about the same size and both have horns. Duiker horns are small and spikelike, lying so flat against the head that they are not too useful in fighting.

The little blue duiker and yellow-backed duiker species live in montane, riverine and rain forests. The bush duiker lives mostly in moist savannas; it avoids rain forests.

Males do fight, especially when territory is invaded. Duikers inhabit fairly small territories marked with the secretions from the preorbital gland below each eye. Even though a pair will live together in the territory, they will spend most of the time apart.

Duikers have interesting and varied feeding habits. The large mouth permits them to feed on sizable fruits, mushrooms and other bulky items. They eat berries and fruit that have fallen naturally, as well as those dropped by monkeys, but most of their diet consists of foliage from bushes and trees. On occasion duikers may eat insects, lizards, birds and rodents.

Courtship involves prolonged and noisy chases about the territory before mating, after which a single young is born. A calf can run within hours of birth, but usually lies hidden for long periods of time between sucklings. It grows rapidly and is adult-sized at 6 to 7 months. The young utter a loud bleat when in danger, quickly signaling adults in the area.

Duikers have lived as long as 12 years in captivity, when bred as food sources of cheap meat in West Africa. They are popular as pets, even though males tend to become dangerous as they mature. Among their natural enemies are the lion, leopard, cheetah, serval, hunting dog, hyena, jackal, baboon, python, crocodile and eagles. Large owls, monitor lizards and genets prey on the young. Despite so many predators, the duikers have successfully managed to maintain their numbers.

Duiker pairs devote a great deal of time to grooming one another's heads, which apparently aids in bonding pairs; it may also help individuals recognize their own species and discourage interbreeding with others. Hunters imitate the bleat of duikers and set snares on their runs. The animals are hunted for their meat, skins and horns, which are popular in some areas as charms against evil spirits. Bush duikers may be hunted in reprisal for raiding crops.


The cowlike eland is the world's largest antelope and is the animal most often depicted in the early rock art of East Africa. Even today, it still holds an important place in the mythology of some southern African tribes.

Elands belong to the same group as kudus, nyalas, bongos and bushbucks. Most of these antelopes have stripes and spots on the body, a white chevron on the forehead and a short mane on the neck and shoulder that continues along the spine. The males have twisted horns. The eland's horns are thick and tightly spiraled, growing up to 25 inches in females and to 50 inches in males.

The two types of eland in Africa include the giant eland of western and Central Africa and the smaller Cape eland in East Africa. The giant eland, now in grave danger of extinction, can weigh up to a ton. The Cape eland is not as heavy but is massive and bovine in appearance. In spite of their size, elands are extraordinary jumpers, leaping up to 8 feet from a near standing start.

A tuft of black hair grows out of the eland's prominent dewlap, the loose fold of skin that hangs down from the neck. Usually fawn or tawny-colored, elands turn to gray or bluish-gray as they get older; the oldest animals become almost black. Most animals have several light-colored lateral stripes starting behind the shoulders, and various black markings occur on the legs and other parts of the body. Adult males have a mat or brush of brown hair on the forehead that grows longer and denser as an animal ages. It also becomes smellier, as the males like to rub it in mud and urine.

Elands are found in grassland, mountain, subdesert, acacia savanna and miombo woodland areas. They distance themselves from deserts, forests and swamps.

The social organization of elands is somewhat different from that of other antelopes. Usually older, dominant males are solitary, while other adult males form small groups of three or four. Adult females associate in much larger groups, whose size and membership vary from day to day. Several hundred eland sometimes gather, and males may spend a few hours or even weeks with a female group before becoming solitary again.

Female elands move around a great deal in all seasons, especially in dry season, traveling over a 500-square-mile area. Males usually are more sedentary and prefer to stay year round in a small home range where food and water is available. They do not establish territories.

Stronger, more dominant males have first access to estrus females. As they walk, they make a loud "clicking" sound that can be heard more than a mile away. Once thought to come from their joints or hooves, researchers now say it is made by the tendons in the front legs. A male that clicks doesn't have to be seen, for he asserts his dominance by sound. Younger males will even leave an area to avoid confrontations with him.

Although the eland is often considered a plains dwelling animal, the major part of its diet is not grass. The animals are browsers, feeding in areas where shrubs and bushes provide the leaves they prefer and using their horns to bring twigs and branches into reach. They also consume certain fruits, large bulbs and tuberous roots.

Eland young are born year round. Females with young calves come together in nursery groups, where the young spend a lot of time grooming and licking each other and developing bonds even stronger than those of a calf with its mother. After the young are weaned at about 3 months, the mothers rejoin the female herds and the calves remain together in the nursery group. With year-round births, some adult females are always present in a nursery group and they defend all juveniles present, not just their own. Juveniles usually remain in the nursery groups until they are almost 2 years old, when they begin to wander off and join other loose groupings of their own sex.

Elands mostly fear humans as predators; however, they are also preyed upon by spotted hyenas and lions.

The eland's size and docility as well as its rich milk, tasty meat and useful skin have encouraged research on its use in game ranching. Elands have been semidomesticated in some areas. Although eland groups are not very stable and animals move from one to another, a dominance hierarchy that is usually based on size, strength and age does exist.


Early written records described the giraffe as "magnificent in appearance, bizarre in form, unique in gait, colossal in height and inoffensive in character." Ancient cultures in Africa revered the giraffe, as some modern cultures do today, and commonly depicted it in prehistoric rock and cave paintings. Unknown outside of Africa, this animal so excited man's curiosity that it was sometimes sent as a diplomatic gift to other countries; one of the earliest records tells of a giraffe going from "Melinda", presumably Malindi, in Kenya to China in 1415. The animal was thought to be a cross between a camel and a leopard, a mistake immortalized in the giraffe's scientific name of Giraffa camelopardalis.

The neck is so long the giraffe must spread its front legs apart so its head can reach the ground to drink. It has unusually elastic blood vessels with a series of valves that help offset the sudden buildup of blood, and to prevent fainting, when the head is raised, lowered or swung quickly.

The giraffe's high shoulders and sloping back give the impression that its front legs are much longer than the hind legs, but they are in fact only slightly longer. The giraffe, as well as its short-necked relative the okapi from Central African forests, has a distinctive walking gait, moving both legs on one side forward at the same time. At a gallop, however, the gait changes, and the giraffe simultaneously swings the hind legs ahead of and outside the front legs, reaching speeds of 35 miles an hour. Its heavy head moves forward with each powerful stride, then swings back to stay balanced. Giraffes have "horns" not true horns but knobs covered with skin and hair above the eyes to protect the head from blows.

The reticulated giraffe of northeastern Kenya has large, chestnut-colored square patches defined by a network of fine white lines. The larger Baringo or Rothschild's giraffe of western Kenya and eastern Uganda has chestnut patches separated by broader white lines but no spotting below the knees. This species can have up to five horns instead of the usual two or three. The Masai giraffe of Tanzania and southern Kenya has irregular star-shaped brown or tan spots.

Giraffes are found in arid and dry-savanna zones south of the Sahara, wherever trees occur.

Although a relatively quiet animal, the giraffe is not mute. Giraffes bellow, grunt, bray in distress, moan and emit short flutelike notes. They have acute senses of hearing and sight, often alerting other animals to nearby predators.

Giraffes use a home range but are not territorial. The males are hierarchical and sometimes spar by standing side by side and lowering and swing their heads at one another. The blows can be so strong that their necks entwine. The practice, called necking, has sometimes mistaken as courtship between a male and female, but since it is performed only by males, of approximately the same size, it is probably a test of strength. Although females have been observed striking with their front feet to keep predators away from their young, male giraffes do not often do so when fighting.

When protected, giraffes can flourish in areas where food is abundant year round. Although they drink water when it's available, they can survive where it is scarce. They occasionally eat grass and fruits of various trees and shrubs, but their principal food source is the acacia tree. The tree's sharp horns do not seem to stop the giraffe, which has a long, muscular tongue specially adapted to select, gather and pluck foliage. The giraffe is a selective feeder and although it feeds 16 to 20 hours a day, it may consume only about 65 pounds of foliage during that time. It can maintain itself on as little as 15 pounds of foliage per day.

Nursery groups of young animals are left alone together during the day while their mothers feed. The 6 foot tall calf grows rapidly as much as an inch a day. By 2 months the young giraffe is eating leaves and at 6 months is fairly independent of its mother. A young giraffe can even survive early weaning at 2 or 3 months. Although few predators attack adult giraffes, lions, hyenas and leopards take their toll on the young. Scientists report that only a quarter of infants survive their first year of life.

Giraffe tails were highly prized by the ancient Egyptians, and still are in many African cultures. The desire for good-luck bracelets, fly whisks and thread for sewing or stringing beads have led people to kill the giraffe for its tail alone. Giraffes are easily killed and poaching, now more often for their meat and hide, continues today.

Despite its long neck, the giraffe has only seven vertebrae, exactly the same number as man and most other mammals. Even though giraffes are often seen together in groups, they do not form the complex social groups of many plains species. Theirs are loose associations, constantly changing in make-up.

Grants Gazelle

Grant's gazelles resemble Thomson's gazelles, and the two species are often seen together. They are similarly colored and marked, but Grant's are noticeably larger than Thomson's and easily distinguished by the broad white patch on the rump that extends upward, beyond the tail and onto the back. The white patch on the Thomson's gazelle stops at the tail. Some varieties of Grant's have a black stripe on each side of the body like the Thomson's gazelle; in others the stripe is very light or absent. A black stripe runs down the thigh.

The various types of Grant's gazelle differ mainly in color and in the size and shape of the horns. Grant's are large, pale, fawn-colored gazelles with long legs. The males are larger and heavier and their horns longer than the females.

The lyre-shaped horns are stout at the base, clearly ringed and measuring from 18 to 32 inches long. The width of the spaces between the horns and the angles of growth differ among the various types of Grant's gazelles. One type, in northwest Tanzania, has widely diverging horns, with the tips directed downwards.

On the females black skin surrounds the teats, with white hair on the udder. This probably helps the young recognize the source of milk. When a fawn is older and moving about with its mother, the dark stripe on the white background may serve as a beacon for it to follow.

Grant's gazelles are especially fond of open grass plains, and although they frequent bushy savannas, they avoid areas of high grass.

Grant's gazelles may remain in areas where food is plentiful. Mature males establish territories they may hold as long as eight months. A male tries to detain the female herds of 10 to 25 individuals as they pass through these territories while they move about to feed. At the same time males chase off rival males and try to mate with females in estrus.

Grant's gazelles have developed several ritualized postures. For example, the territorial male stretches and squats in an exaggerated manner while urinating and dropping dung. This apparently warns other males to stay away and reduces the number of confrontations. Younger males will fight, but as they grow older the ritualized displays often take the place of fights. When fighting does occur, it also is ritualized. It starts with "pretend" grooming, repeated scratching of the neck and forehead with a hind foot and presenting side views of the body. If neither combatant is intimidated, they may confront one another and clash horns, trying to throw the other off-balance.

The gazelles vary their diet according to the season. They eat herbs, foliage from shrubs, short grasses and shoots. Grant's gazelles are not restricted to certain habitats by a dependency on water, but obtain the moisture they need from their food. Grant's have unusually large salivary glands, possibly an adaptation for secreting fluid to cope with a relatively dry diet. They typically remain in the open during the heat of the day, suggesting an efficient system to retain the necessary fluid in their bodies.

Breeding is seasonal, but not firmly fixed. Gestation is approximately 7 months, and the young are born in areas that provide some cover. The newborn fawn is carefully cleaned by the mother who eats the afterbirth. Once the fawn can stand up and has been suckled, it seeks a suitable hiding place. The mother watches carefully and evidently memorizes the position before moving away to graze. She returns to the fawn three to four times during the day to suckle it and clean the area. The lying-out period is quite long-two weeks or more.

The fawn eats its first solid food at about 1 month, but is nursed for 6 months. Grant's become sexually mature at about 18 months. By that time the young males will have joined an all male bachelor herd, but it will be some time before they become territory holders, if at all. Males from the bachelor herds challenge the territorial males, but only the strongest win territories, which they mark with combined deposits of dung and urine.

All the major predators kill Grant's gazelle, but cheetahs and African hunting dogs are the most prevalent. In some areas jackals prey on the young. Because of its adaptation to semi-arid and subdesert ranges as well as its good meat and valuable skin, Grant's gazelle has been one of the species that scientists consider as a potential source of protein for humans.

The only relatively long-lasting relationship in gazelle society is that of a mother and her most recent offspring. Grant's are gregarious and form the usual social groupings of small herds of females with their offspring, territorial males and all-male bachelor groups. Membership in these groups is temporary.

Grevy’s Zebra

The Grevy’s zebra is the largest, wildest and most untamable of the three zebra species remaining in Africa. This beautiful member of the horse family was named after Jules Grevy, a nineteenth century French president who received one from Abyssinia as a gift. In ancient Rome they were trained to pull ceremonial carts during parades. In recent times, Grevy's zebras have suffered one of the most substantial reductions of range of any African mammal, leading them to be classified as Endangered. In the 1970s, the total wild population was approximately 15,000 animals. Presently only 3,000 - 5,000 remain in the wild and they are restricted to Ethiopia and northern Kenya.

This long-legged equid is different from the other two zebra species: the plains or Burchell's zebra and the mountain zebra. It is taller, measuring up to 60 inches, and heavier, weighing up to 990 pounds. Its beautiful stripes are narrower and more numerous; they are perpendicular to the backbone, and they curve around the tail in a triangular form. The head is large in proportion to the body and the ears are broad with striking black markings. Its mane is stiff and stands up, and its tail ends in a tuft of hair. Its coat is shiny and helps to dispel about 70% of incoming heat from the sun. No two zebras have the exact same stripe pattern. The stripes are said to confuse predators, distorting depth perception and making it difficult to pin-point individuals.

Historically, Grevy’s zebra inhabited the semi-arid scrublands and plains of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Kenya in East Africa. However, due to a rapid decline in their population, they are now restricted to the northern parts of Kenya and a few pockets in southern Ethiopia.

Grevy’s are social animals. The basic social unit is comprised of a female mare with one or two young. Units often combine though herds are unstable and do not establish rank hierarchies. However, mixed groups of 100 to 200, sometimes up to 450 zebras, are not uncommon during migration and around water points in the dry season.

Social grooming plays a large role in social bonding. They communicate using facial expressions and sounds, and groom each other by biting and nibbling each other to scratch and remove loose hairs.

The male Grevy’s holds one of the largest territories known of any herbivore, ranging from 1 to 4 sq. miles. Males guard access to prime feeding and watering sites, breeding with females who enter their territories. However, unlike territorial males in other species, Grevy’s males can be tolerant of other males within their territories, but only under the condition that these males do not attempt to breed with females.

Grevy’s are consummate survivors, spending as much as 60 - 80% of their time feeding, day or night. With teeth built for chewing and cropping, they mainly feed on grass, but sometimes feed on leaves and stems from bushes. Though they require less water than other zebra species, proximity to permanent water is a very important to them and during the dry season they may walk up to 20 miles from their water hole to find grass. Adults can tolerate between two to five days without water. Competition with livestock for water and food has led to human-wildlife conflict.

Grevy’s mate throughout the year, but the peak birth and mating periods for the Grevy’s zebra are usually July through August and October through November. Grevy’s zebras breed in 2 year intervals starting at the age of 3 for females and age 6 for males. Newborn foals are russet-colored with a long hair crest down the back and belly. The mother keeps other zebras at a distance while the offspring imprints on her and they spend time playing, nuzzling, and nursing. Newborns can walk just 20 minutes after they are born, which is an important survival adaptation for this migrating species. Young Grevy's are especially vulnerable to predators, and foal survival has been directly related to the extent to which their mothers move.

Stripes to a zebra are like fingerprints to a human. No two patterns are identical. Researchers use the unique stripes to identify individuals. Grevy's zebras can run up to 40 mph. Foals can run with the rest of the herd within an hour of their birth. They can also recognize their mothers using their eyesight and their sense of smell


The hippopotamus, whose hide alone can weigh half a ton, is the third-largest living land mammal, after elephants and white rhinos. It was considered a female deity of pregnancy in ancient Egypt, but in modern times has been wiped out of that country because of the damage it inflicts on crops. The hippo continues to thrive in other parts of Africa.

The hippo's proportions reflect its sedentary, amphibious existence. Its plump and bulky body is set on short, stumpy legs, with each foot having four toes. Although webbed, the toes splay enough to distribute the weight evenly over each toe and therefore adequately support the hippo on land.

With very thick skin, especially over the back and rump, the grayish-brown body is almost completely hairless, with only a few bristles around the mouth and the tip of the tail. The hippo has neither sweat nor sebaceous glands but does have unique glands that produce a viscous red fluid, leading to the myth that hippos "sweat blood." The hippo relies on water or mud to keep it cool, and the red fluid may have a similar function, but it is often produced in copious amounts when the animal is excited.

Two hippo species are found in Africa. The large hippo, found in East Africa, occurs south of the Sahara. This social, group-living mammal is so numerous in some areas that "cropping" schemes are used to control populations that have become larger than the habitat can sustain. The other, much smaller, 440 to 605 pounds, species of hippo is the pygmy hippopotamus. Limited to very restricted ranges in West Africa, it is a shy, solitary forest dweller, and now rare.

The large hippo is an aggressive animal; old scars and fresh, deep wounds are signs of daily fights that are accompanied by much bellowing, neighing and snorting. Hippos have developed some ritualized postures the huge open-mouthed "yawn" that reveals formidable teeth is one of the most aggressive. With the long, razor-sharp incisors and tusklike canines, the hippo is well-armed and dangerous.

Hippos move easily in water, either swimming by kicking their hind legs or walking on the bottom. They are well-adapted to their aquatic life, with small ears, eyes and nostrils set at the top of the head. These senses are so keen that even submerged in water, the hippo is alert to its surroundings. By closing its ears and nostrils, the adult can stay under water for as long as six minutes.

Hippos have a flexible social system defined by hierarchy and by feed and water conditions. Usually they are found in mixed groups of about 15 individuals, but in periods of drought large numbers are forced to congregate near limited pools of water. This overcrowding disrupts the hierarchical system, resulting in even higher levels of aggression, with the oldest and strongest males most dominant. Hippos are unpredictable. If they are encountered away from the safety of water, anything that gets between them and their refuge may be bitten or trampled.

Amazingly agile for their bulk, hippos are good climbers and often traverse rather steep banks each night to graze on grass. They exit and enter the water at the same spots and graze for four to five hours each night in loop patterns, covering one or two miles, with extended forays up to five miles. Their modest appetites are due to their sedentary life, which does not require high outputs of energy.

A single young is born either on land or in shallow water. In water, the mother helps the newborn to the surface, later teaching it to swim. Newly born hippos are relatively small, weighing from 55 to 120 pounds, and are protected by their mothers, not only from crocodiles and lions but from male hippos that, oddly enough, do not bother them on land but attack them in water.

Young hippos can only stay under water for about half a minute, but adults can stay submerged up to six minutes. Young hippos can suckle under water by taking a deep breath, closing their nostrils and ears and wrapping their tongue tightly around the teat to suck. This procedure must be instinctive, because newborns suckle the same way on land. A young hippo begins to eat grass at 3 weeks, but its mother continues to suckle it for about a year. Newborns often climb on their mothers' backs to rest.

Compared to other animals, hippos are not very susceptible to disease, so in suitable habitats, their numbers can increase quickly. Their chief predators are people, who may hunt hippos for their meat, hides and ivory teeth.

The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek "hippos," meaning horse, these animals were once called "river horses." But the hippo is more closely related to the pig than the horse. Hippos spend most of their day in water close to shore lying on their bellies. In areas undisturbed by people, hippos lie on the shore in the morning sun.


The hyena is Africa's most common large carnivore. Over the years hyenas and humans have come into close contact in Africa and, in earlier times, in Asia and in Europe, often leading to mutual predation. In ancient Egypt hyenas were domesticated, fattened and eaten, and in turn humans have on occasion become food for hyenas. Reputed to be cowardly and timid, the hyena can be bold and dangerous, attacking animals and humans.

Of the three species of hyena in Africa, only the spotted hyena and the shy and much rarer, striped hyena are found in East Africa. The smaller, and even shyer brown hyena occurs only in southern Africa. Different from most other animals, female spotted hyenas are dominant over the males and outweigh them by about 3 pounds.

It is difficult to distinguish male and female hyenas by observation in the field. They are not hermaphrodites, having both male and female sexual organs, nor can they change their sex at will, as many people believe. Although the external female genitalia have a superficial similarity to those of the male, they are nonetheless female organs and only the females bear and nurse young. Why the female hyena developed in this manner is not known, but it may have been necessary for them to appear large and strong to protect their young from males, as hyenas have cannibalistic tendencies.

Spotted hyenas are found in grasslands, woodlands, savannas, subdeserts, forest edges and mountains.

Spotted hyenas are organized into territorial clans of related individuals that defend their home ranges against intruding clans. The center of clan activity is the den, where the cubs are raised and individuals meet. The den is usually situated on high ground in the central part of the territory. Its above-ground entrances are connected to a series of underground tunnels.

Hyenas mark and patrol their territories by depositing a strong-smelling substance produced by the anal glands on stalks of grass along the boundaries. "Latrines," places where members of a clan deposit their droppings, also mark territories. The high mineral content of the bones hyenas consume make their droppings a highly visible, chalky white. Hyenas are social animals that communicate with one other through specific calls, postures and signals. They quickly make their various intentions known to other members of the clan, or to outsiders. When a hyena's tail is carried straight, for example, it signals attack. When it is held up and forward over the back, the hyena is extremely excited. In contrast, it hangs down when the hyena is standing or walking leisurely. If frightened, the hyena tucks its tail between the legs and flat against the belly and usually skulks away.

The spotted hyena is a skillful hunter but also a scavenger. Truly an opportunistic feeder, it selects the easiest and most attractive food it may ignore fresh carrion and bones if there is, for example, an abundance of vulnerable wildebeest calves. It consumes animals of various types and sizes, including domestic stock and even other hyenas, carrion, bones, vegetable matter and other animals' droppings. The powerful jaws and digestive tract of the hyena allow it to process and obtain nutrients from skin and bones. The only parts of prey not fully digested are hair, horns and hooves; these are regurgitated in the form of pellets. As hyenas hunt mostly at night and devour all parts, little evidence remains of their actual meals. Although they eat a lot of dry bones, they need little water.

Hyenas usually bear litters of two to four cubs, which, unlike the other two species, are born with their eyes open. Cubs begin to eat meat from kills near the den at about 5 months, but they are suckled for as long as 12 to 18 months, an unusually long time for carnivores. This is probably a necessity, as most kills are made far from the den, and hyenas, unlike jackals and hunting dogs, do not bring back food and regurgitate it for their young. At about 1 year, cubs begin to follow their mothers on their hunting and scavenging forays. Until then, they are left behind at the den with a babysitting adult.

Lions, who will attack them at every opportunity, hunting dogs and strange hyenas are among the species that prey on hyenas.

Hyenas make a variety of vocalizations, including wailing calls, howling screams and the well-known "laughter" used to alert other clan members up to three miles away of a food source. Hyenas eat a great variety of animal products, vegetation and, according to campers, even aluminum pots and pans.


The graceful impala is a slender, medium-sized antelope so adaptable that it is found from southern Africa to the northern limits of East Africa. The body is reddish-brown with white hair inside the ears, over each eye and on the chin, upper throat, underparts and buttocks. A narrow black line runs along the middle of the lower back to the long tail, and a vertical black stripe appears on the back of each thigh. Unlike other antelopes, impalas have large, brushlike tufts of long, coarse black hair that cover a scent gland located just above the heel on each hind leg.

Impalas are found at grassland and woodland edges, usually very close by water.

Their social organization allows impalas to adapt to prevailing environmental conditions. When food is plentiful, the males become territorial. In home ranges averaging 3 square miles, six to eight dominant males set up territories. They stand with erect posture, rub scent from face glands and make dung heaps to mark their territory.

The females form herds of 10 to 50 or more and wander in and out of male territories. If they start to leave the territory, the male tries to herd them back to the center, or he feigns danger just beyond his boundary by taking a stance normally used as a warning sign. He tries to mate with females in estrus and defends his territory from challenging males. Bachelor males are allowed to remain in male territories if they ignore the females.

The territorial male's challenger will have worked his way up through the hierarchy of the bachelor group until he becomes the dominant male. He then leaves the group and challenges a territorial male through horn duels, in which the males approach one another with slow, deliberate steps. At a signal, such as swiveling the eyeballs to show the whites or slightly nodding the head, they rush forward and clash horns, attempting to throw one another off balance. Although fighting can be fatal, males are protected by exceptionally thick skin over vulnerable areas. It is not the length of horn that gives a male the advantage but his condition and weight. When a territorial male begins to lose weight from his frantic activity, he is defeated and must return to the bachelor group to recuperate. There are times, however, when this territorial system is not maintained. In drier years the animals have to travel further to obtain food, and many smaller herds of females form. They move in and out of the territories so often that the males are very quickly exhausted. When this happens, territories are abandoned, and large, mixed tranquil herds of females and males form. When feed conditions improve, impalas revert to the territorial system.

Impalas eat tender young grass shoots in the wet season and herbs and shrubs at other times. During the dry season they must drink daily.

In East Africa young are born year round, but birth peaks usually coincide with the rains. The female leaves the herd and seeks a secluded spot to bear her fawn. After giving birth she cleans the fawn and eats the afterbirth. If the fawn is born at a time when there are few other young around, the mother will stay with it in asecluded spot for a few days or even leave it lying out for a week or more before returning to the herd. If there are many other fawns, she may take hers back to the herd in a day or two, where a nursery group may form. Because predators have more difficulty selecting an individual from a nursery group, the fawns are safer there.

The young are suckled for 4 to 6 months and grow rapidly, reaching maturity at a little over a year. The young males, however, are evicted from their mothers' groups when they are 6 months old, staying around the edges of the herd until they join a bachelor group. During this transition period they are most vulnerable to predators. Males will not be mature enough to hold a territory until they are 5 or 6 years old.

The young are killed by jackals and the smaller cats, baboons, eagles and pythons. When in danger, impalas will "explode" in a magnificent spectacle of leaping. In their zig-zag leaps, they often jump over and across their companions, probably to confuse predators. They perform a high kick of the hind legs, a movement thought to release scent from the glands on the heels, making it easier for them to stay together.

The female is similar to the male but does not have horns. The male's graceful lyre-shaped horns are 18 to 37 inches long. During periods of intense mating the male vocalizes loudly, making a sound between a lion's roar and a dog's bark. Exhausted by such activity, males seldom can hold their territories for more than a few months at a time.


The jackal, a medium-sized carnivore with doglike features and a bushy tail, is widely distributed in Africa, the Middle East and India. This animal has long been the subject of superstition about death and evil spirits. The ancient Egyptians believed a jackal-headed god, Anubis, guided the dead to those who judged their souls. Such beliefs were probably encouraged by the jackal's cleverness, nocturnal habits, eerie howling and scavenging.

The three species of jackal in East Africa are the golden or common jackal, the side-striped jackal and the black-backed or silver-backed jackal. The golden jackal is somewhat shorter and stockier, and the black-backed is the most slender and upstanding, with noticeably larger ears. Mainly, they differ in color and choice of habitat.

The sandy-colored golden jackal prefers open, grassy plains, while the side-striped jackal lives along water courses with dense undergrowth. This jackal is drabber in color, has a white tip on the tail and indistinct black and white stripes along the sides of the body. The black-backed jackal is easily recognized by the mantle of black hair on the back that contrasts with the rust-colored body. The black mantle is streaked with white and from a distance has a silvery appearance. The tail is black-tipped, as is that of the golden jackal.

The black-backed jackal is usually the most frequently seen as it is more diurnal than the other two species. When they live close to well-settled areas, however, black-backed jackals often confine most of their activities to nighttime.

The common jackal lives in open savannas, deserts and arid grasslands. Side-striped jackals are found in moist savannas, marshes, bushlands and mountains. The sliver-backed jackal lives primarily in savannas and woodlands.

Jackals live singly or in pairs, and are sometimes found in small packs. They are among the few mammalian species in which the male and female mate for life. Mated pairs are territorial, and both the female and male mark and defend the boundaries of their territory.

Yipping calls are made when the family gathers. Members only respond to their own family's calls and ignore those of other individuals. Although they have long had a reputation as sneaky, skulking scavengers, research has shown jackals to be agile, lithe hunters with close-knit, cooperative family groups. They have been successful in adapting to changing environments.

Jackals can best be described as opportunistic omnivores. They cooperatively hunt small or young antelopes such as dikdiks or Thomson's gazelles or even domestic sheep. They also eat snakes and other reptiles, insects, ground-dwelling birds, fruits, berries and grass. A pair of jackals will move through their territory at a fast trot, stopping frequently to examine something, sniff the air or listen-ready for any opportunity that might provide a meal.

Litters number up to six but usually average two to four. It takes about 10 days for the infants' eyes to open, and for the first few weeks of life they remain in the thickets or holes where they were born. At about 3 weeks they begin to spend time outside playing with their litter-mates. At first the games are clumsy attempts at wrestling, pawing and biting. As they become more coordinated, they ambush and pounce, play tug of war and chase each other. The mother changes den sites about every two weeks, so the young are less likely to be found by predators.

The pups are suckled and fed regurgitated food until they are about 2 months. By 3 months they no longer use the den, but start to follow their parents, slowly learning the territory and observing hunting behavior. By 6 months, they are hunting on their own. Their parents, however, continue to feed, groom and play with them.

Sometimes pups stay with their parents and help raise their younger brothers and sisters. At times they bring back food to their younger siblings or babysit them while the parents hunt for food. Most pup deaths occur during the first 14 weeks of life, so the presence of helpers increases the survival rate.

Leopards, hyenas and eagles are jackals' most feared predators. Eagles are small pups biggest threat.

Jackals are noisy. Family or pack members communicate with each other by a screaming yell and yapping, or a sirenlike howl when a kill is located. Jackals are very cunning and resourceful. Although usually considered scavengers, they do pick over kills made by large carnivores and frequent rubbish dumps-they also hunt and kill a variety of prey.


The greater kudu is considered by many to be the most handsome of the tragelaphine antelopes, which includes the bongo, eland, nyala, bushbuck and sitatunga.

Kudus, both the greater kudu and its close cousin the lesser kudu, have stripes and spots on the body, and most have a chevron of white hair on the forehead between the eyes.

Greater and lesser kudu males have long, spiral horns; occasionally a female will have small ones. The greater kudu's horns are spectacular and can grow as long as 72 inches, making 2 1/2 graceful twists. These beautifully shaped horns have long been prized in Africa for use as musical instruments, honey containers and symbolic ritual objects. In some cultures the horns are thought to be the dwelling places of powerful spirits, and in others they are a symbol for male potency. The horns are seldom used in defense against predators; nor are they an impediment in wooded habitats-the kudu tilts the chin up and lays the horns against the back, moving easily through dense bush.

Female greater kudus are noticeably smaller than the males. By contrast, lesser kudus are even smaller, about 42 inches at the shoulder; males weigh around 220 pounds while females generally weigh about 50 pounds less. Lesser kudus have smaller horns than the greater kudus and conspicuous white patches on the upper and lower parts of the neck. Although both species are bluish gray, grayish brown or rust color, the lesser has five to six more lateral white stripes, for a total of 11 to 15. Both species have a crest of long hair along the spine, and greater kudus also have a fringe under the chin.

Lesser kudus are found in acacia and commiphora thornbush in arid savannas; they rely on thickets for security and are rarely found in open or scattered bush. Greater kudus are found in woodlands and bushlands.

The hierarchy among kudu males is usually determined by age and size. Males of about the same size and age engage in sparring contests in which they approach one another slowly, lock horns and push back and forth until one gives up. Usually no serious injuries result, but remains of animals have been found where the two combatants had locked horns in such a way that they could not disengage. Dominance is usually quickly and peacefully determined by a lateral display in which one male stands sideways in front of the other and makes himself look as large as possible. If the other is suitably impressed, dominance is established.

Sometimes males form small bachelor groups, but more commonly they are solitary and widely dispersed.

Kudus live in the drier areas of eastern and southern Africa, wherever there is adequate low- and medium-level woody growth to provide food and shelter. They are browsers and eat leaves and shoots from a variety of plants. In dry seasons, they eat wild watermelons and other fruit for the liquid they provide. The lesser kudu is less dependent on water sources than the greater kudu. Where farming has developed near their habitat, kudus will sometimes make nocturnal visits to plantations and vegetable plots. As they can make spectacular leaps of up to 6 feet, it takes a high fence to keep them out.

Females and their offspring form small groups of six to 10. The males usually only join them during mating season.

The pregnant female departs from her group to give birth, leaving the newborn lying out for 4 or 5 weeks, one of the longest periods of all the antelopes. The calf then begins to accompany its mother for short periods of time and by 3 or 4 months is with her constantly. Soon after, the mother and calf rejoin the female's group. Calves grow rapidly and at 6 months are fairly independent of their mothers.

Lions, leopards, hunting dogs and spotted hyenas hunt kudu, and cheetahs, smaller cats, eagles and pythons prey on the young. Their numbers are also affected by humans hunting them for their meat, hides and horns, or using their habitats for charcoal burning and farming. Kudus are highly susceptible to the rinderpest virus, and many scientists think recurring epidemics of the disease have reduced kudu populations in East Africa.

Their cryptic coloring and markings protect kudus by camouflaging them. If alarmed they usually stand still and are very difficult to spot. Kudus normally restrict their movements to a small home range, but the scarcity of food in dry season may prompt them to roam more widely.


Lions at one time were found from Greece through the Middle East to northern India, but today only a very small population remains in India. In the past lions lived in most parts of Africa, but are now confined to the sub-Saharan region.

Most cat species live a fundamentally solitary existence, but the lion is an exception. It has developed a social system based on teamwork and a division of labor within the pride, and an extended but closed family unit centered around a group of related females. The average pride consists of about 15 individuals, including five to 10 females with their young and two or three territorial males that are usually brothers or pride mates.

Generally a tawny yellow, lions, like other species, tend to be lighter in color in hot, arid areas and darker in areas of dense vegetation. Mature male lions are unique among the cat species for the thick mane of brown or black hair that encircles the head and neck. The tails of lions end in a horny spine covered with a tuft of hair.

Lions are found in savannas, grasslands, dense bush and woodlands.

Females do 85 to 90 percent of the pride's hunting, while the males patrol the territory and protect the pride, for which they take the "lion's share" of the females' prey. When resting, lions seem to enjoy good fellowship with lots of touching, head rubbing, licking and purring. But when it comes to food, each lion looks out for itself. Squabbling and fighting are common, with adult males usually eating first, followed by the females and then the cubs.

Lions are the laziest of the big cats. They usually spend 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and resting, devoting the remaining hours to hunting, courting or protecting their territory. They keep in contact with one another by roaring loud enough to be heard up to five miles away. The pride usually remains intact until the males are challenged and successfully driven away or killed by other males, who then take over. Not all lions live in prides. At maturity, young males leave the units of their birth and spend several years as nomads before they become strong enough to take over a pride of their own. Some never stop wandering and continue to follow migrating herds; but the nomadic life is much more difficult, with little time for resting or reproducing.

Within the pride, the territorial males are the fathers of all the cubs. When a lioness is in heat, a male will join her, staying with her constantly. The pair usually mates for less than a minute, but it does so about every 15 to 30 minutes over a period of four to five days.

Lions may hunt at any hour, but they typically go after large prey at night. They hunt together to increase their success rate, since prey can be difficult to catch and can outrun a single lion. The lions fan out along a broad front or semicircle to creep up on prey. Once with within striking distance, they bound in among the startled animals, knock one down and kill it with a bite to the neck or throat. Hunts are successful about half the time.

Cooperative hunting enables lions to take prey as large as wildebeests, zebras, buffaloes, young elephants, rhinos, hippos and giraffes, any of which can provide several meals for the pride. Mice, lizards, tortoises, warthogs, antelopes and even crocodiles also form part of a lion's diet. Because they often take over kills made by hyenas, cheetahs and leopards, scavenged food provides more than 50 percent of their diets in areas like the Serengeti plains.

Litters consist of two or three cubs that weigh about 3 pounds each. Some mothers carefully nurture the young; others may neglect or abandon them, especially when food is scarce. Usually two or more females in a pride give birth about the same time, and the cubs are raised together. A lioness will permit cubs other than her own to suckle, sometimes enabling a neglected infant to survive. Capable hunters by 2 years of age, lions become fully grown between 5 and 6 years and normally live about 13 years.

Lions have long been killed in rituals of bravery, as hunting trophies and for their medicinal and magical powers. Although lions are now protected in many parts of Africa, they were once considered to be stock-raiding vermin and were killed on sight. In some areas, livestock predation remains a severe problem.

Most lions drink water daily if available, but can go four or five days without it. Lions in arid areas seem to obtain needed moisture from the stomach contents of their prey. When males take over a pride, they usually kill the cubs. The females come into estrus and the new males sire other cubs.


The nyala is found in the eastern part of South Africa, in riverside thickets and dense brush and fringe forests. It is never far from water. The mountain nyala is only found in Ethiopia above 7,000 feet, the highest in elevation of any antelope except, perhaps, two species of duiker: Abbot's has been found on Mt. Kilimanjaro at 10,000 feet.

Male nyala are distinctly larger than the females, with distinctly dimorphic color also. Spiral horns (male only) twist backwards in the plane of the face, with unpigmented tips. There is a crest of longish hair down the back of the neck, clear along the back, greatly exaggerated in males, which also have shaggy hair down the throat and under the belly.

Adult males are basically grey and the females and calves are reddish brown (a sandy-rust). The crested mane and shag are black and the male's legs shade to rust toward the feet. Both male, female and calves are marked with vertical white stripes along the ribs and flank. There is a white stripe along the back, on either side of the crest, and a white chevron mark between the eyes (less pronounced in the female). There is white under the tail. Nyala are, apparently, not territorial. Although they frequent thick vegetation, they will venture into open areas to graze fine grasses and forbes. They prefer succulent, higher-protein vegetation. Horns and hooves are used to dig tubers.

Because of their more specialized diet, nyala groups are not large and they move very erratically as they forage. Their specialized diet may be the reason they are not numerous or widely spread.

They do not have the explosive running ability of the open-ground antelope and so must depend on melting into the vegetation to escape predators. The white under-tail serves as a warning flag to other herd members as they bark and bound for cover on sighting a predator.

Nyala have quite large ears, despite the fact that they do not live in a hot, desert climate. Hearing must play a large role in their survival. They seldom vocalize. With the exception of the alarm bark, intra-species calls are quiet.

Nyala have fairly narrow muzzles and light-weight jaws with low crowned teeth. They do not have the greatly specialized digestive system of cows and cannot digest coarse vegetation. They are selective and opportunistic.

The striped coat breaks up their outline and allows them to stand invisibly in plain sight.

There are no facial or foot glands, adaptations common in territorial antelope.

Females are mature at about two years. They tend to stay with the mother's group and so the small herds are usually related females. Males disperse into bachelor groups, becoming more solitary toward maturity. Female groups will be followed by a variety of males until the breeding season arrives. Then, only the dominant bull of the area will stay with the group.

Males continue to grow longer than the females and take longer to reach maturity. They begin to change color about the time they surpass the females in size. Although they may be able to breed, social factors prevent breeding before about 3 years of age.

One calf is born after a gestation of about 7 months. The calving season is greatly tied to local seasonality and vegetative development. The calf will lie in concealment, usually in dense undergrowth, for about a month. The dam will go to it several times a day to allow it to nurse. The calves will form nursery groups after joining the herd.


The oryx is a large antelope of striking appearance with long, spearlike horns. It has a thick, horselike neck with a short mane and a compact, muscular body. A defined pattern of black markings that contrast with the white face and fawn-colored body are prominently displayed in dominance rituals to emphasize the length of horns and strength of the shoulder.

The head is marked with black triangular patches and broad black stripes that extend from the base of the horns over the eyes to the cheeks. A ring of black encircles the throat and runs down the neck to the chest. The ears end in a black tip (a black tassel hangs from the ear tip of the fringe-eared oryx). A narrow black stripe runs along the spine, and another one separates the lower flank from the white underparts of the body. The white forelegs have a black ring above the knee and a black patch below. The black tail tassel reaches to the hocks.

The oryx's ringed horns are up to 30 inches long, making them formidable weapons. The female's horns are often longer and thinner than the male's.

The social system of the oryx is unusual in that nonterritorial males live in mixed groups with females, or with females and their young. Males that dominate are territorial to a degree, marking their areas with dung deposits. Groups are composed of 10 to 40 males and females of all ages and both sexes; herds of up to 200 are common in some East African habitats.

The dominance hierarchy among oryx is based on age and size. As they grow, calves test one another in what look like games, though in reality are tests of strength. As the hierarchy becomes established, the need to fight is reduced. Ritual displays replace actual contact, except when evenly matched individuals may have to fight to establish their rank. Along with lateral displays, oryx perform a slow, prancing walk and sometimes break into a gallop. When several males are making these displays, they may clash horns.

Herd composition in the wild constantly changes according to need. Oryx wanting to drink, for example, form a group to go to water, or females with young form a group that moves more slowly. The result is a social system that allows for individual needs but retains the advantage of group living. Oryx range widely over a large area, but their keen sense of smell alerts them to rain in the area, so that groups quickly assemble, often in herds of 200 or more, to feed on new growth.

Oryx typically feed in early morning and late afternoon and sometimes on moonlit nights. Their diets consists mainly of coarse grasses and browse from thorny shrubs. In desert areas they consume thick leaved plants, wild melons, as well as roots and tubers they dig out of the ground. They may drink if water is available but can survive days or even weeks without it.

Plants growing in arid areas inhabited by oryx have also adapted to the hot, dry conditions and either store water or have mechanisms to prevent excess loss. Plants collect dew, gradually releasing it during the hotter parts of the day. Some plants increase their water content by 25 to 40 percent, so when oryx feed late at night or early in the morning, it provides them with both food and water.

A female leaves the herd to give birth and hides the calf for 2 or 3 weeks, visiting a few times a day to nurse it. The newborn is an inconspicuous brown color. The black markings begin to appear when the calf is ready to return to herd with its mother. Calves are suckled for 6 to 9 months and reach maturity at 18 to 24 months. Most young males migrate out of their natal group to join other groups.

Like other antelope species, oryx primarily depend on flight to escape from predators such as lions, wild dogs and hyenas.

Red Hartebeest

The Red hartebeest is found in Namibia, Botswana, the Cape and Gauteng provinces of South Africa. In north Africa several subspecies occur. Pronounced differences in coloration, horn shape and size can cause considerable confusion in identification.

The red hartebeest stands at an average height of between 120 and 140cm and has an average weight of approximately 140kg. It is a tall, elegant antelope. Coloration of the smooth glossy coat varies from reddish brown to fawn or tawny depending on location. An extension of dark coloration extending from the shoulders to mid-back and down to the base of the tail is more noticeable in males. Both sexes have a well defined area of lighter yellow hair along the rump. Dark patches from the front of the shoulders extend down the front of the forelegs sometimes stopping short of the knees but in some cases might extend all the way to the hooves.

The forehead is black with a wide patch of red or brown across the face and between the eyes. There is a black band across the muzzle. The sides of the face and neck are lighter in shade with two narrow streaks of black joining to form a single stripe down the ridge of the neck. White hair covers the inside of the long pointed ears.

Both sexes carry horns although those of the male are heavier. Set close together at their base, they rise straight up level with the skull, curving forward and then backwards at right angles with ridges covering about two thirds of their length. The tips are smooth.

From the Angolan border they occur along a thin corridor south east through Namibia to the Botswana border. In Botswana they are widespread south of the Okavango and the Makgadikgadi Pan and the Cape are found along the northern border with Botswana. In Gauteng, harte-beest occur where they have been introduced by man. Transient populations near the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe have been recorded from time to time.

Preferring open country, hartebeest are found predominantly on grassland, floodplains, semi desert savanna and occasionally in open woodland. Hartebeest are water-dependent and as such their movements are controlled by its availability.

Hartebeest normally occur in small herds numbering on average 20 individuals as well as bigger herds with sometimes as many as 300 animals. In Botswana aggregations of 100,000 animals occur at certain times of the year. These congregations are usually made up of separate herds and occur between August and May but are more common during November and December. Herds comprise a dominant bull controlling females, their off-spring and younger bulls. Vicious fighting, especially during the rut, takes place between bulls.

Hartebeest are more active during the cool temperatures of early morning and evening and during cold winter days will remain active for most of the day.

Their sense of hearing and smell are very good which makes up for their poor eyesight. When under threat hartebeest can generate considerable speed swerving off from side to side to confuse their pursuer.

Predominantly grazers, their diet consists of several grass species. During the dry, sparse period before the rainy season, they supplement their diet by browsing.

Rutting takes place during the winter months (March/April), but this can vary from place to place. A peak in calving occurs towards the end of September before the rainy season commences. Towards the end of the gestation period, about 8 months, females leave the herd to find a secluded place to give birth. This is usually in tall grass or thick scrub. After a few days when the calf is strong enough to follow its mother, she will lead it back into the herd. Calves start eating grass after about two weeks and will stop suckling at about seven or eight months.


The rhinoceros is a large, primitive-looking mammal that dates from the Miocene era millions of years ago. In recent decades rhinos have been relentlessly hunted to the point of near extinction. Since 1970 the world rhino population has declined by 90 percent, with five species remaining in the world today, all of which are endangered.

The white or square-lipped rhino is one of two rhino species in Africa. It in turn occurs as two subspecies, the southern and the northern. The southern dwindled almost to extinction in the early 20th century, but was protected on farms and reserves, enabling it to increase enough to be reintroduced. The northern white rhino has recovered in Democratic Republic of Congo from about 15 in 1984 to about 30 in the late 1990s. This population, however, has recently been severely threatened by political conflict and instability.

The white rhino's name derives from the Dutch "weit," meaning wide, a reference to its wide, square muzzle adapted for grazing. The white rhino, which is actually gray, has a pronounced hump on the neck and a long face.

The black, or hooked-lipped, rhino, along with all other rhino species, is an odd-toed ungulate, three toes on each foot. It has a thick, hairless, gray hide. Both the black and white rhino have two horns, the longer of which sits at the front of the nose.

Black rhinos have various habitats, but mainly areas with dense, woody vegetation. White rhinos live in savannas with water holes, mud wallows and shade trees.

Rhinos live in home ranges that sometimes overlap with each other. Feeding grounds, water holes and wallows may be shared. The black rhino is usually solitary. The white rhino tends to be much more gregarious. Rhinos are also rather ill-tempered and have become more so in areas where they have been constantly disturbed. While their eyesight is poor, which is probably why they will sometimes charge without apparent reason, their sense of smell and hearing are very good. They have an extended "vocabulary" of growls, grunts, squeaks, snorts and bellows. When attacking, the rhino lowers its head, snorts, breaks into a gallop reaching speeds of 30 miles an hour, and gores or strikes powerful blows with its horns. Still, for all its bulk, the rhino is very agile and can quickly turn in a small space. The rhino has a symbiotic relationship with oxpeckers, also called tick birds. In Swahili the tick bird is named "askari wa kifaru," meaning "the rhino's guard." The bird eats ticks it finds on the rhino and noisily warns of danger. Although the birds also eat blood from sores on the rhino's skin and thus obstruct healing, they are still tolerated.

The black rhino is a browser, with a triangular-shaped upper lip ending in a mobile grasping point. It eats a large variety of vegetation, including leaves, buds and shoots of plants, bushes and trees. The white rhino, on the other hand, is a grazer feeding on grasses.

The closest rhino relationship is between a female and her calf, lasting from 2 to 4 years. As the older calves mature, they leave their mothers and may join other females and their young, where they are tolerated for some time before living completely on their own.

Man is the cause of the demise of the rhino. In the wild, the adult black or white rhino has no true natural predators and, despite its size and antagonistic reputation, it is extremely easy for man to kill. A creature of habitat that lives in a well-defined home range, it usually goes to water holes daily, where it is easily ambushed. The dramatic decline in rhino numbers is unfortunate in an era of increasing conservation and wildlife awareness, but efforts are underway to save the rhino from extinction.

The black rhino declined drastically in the 1970s and 1980s due to poaching. To prevent extinction, many rhinos were translocated to fenced sanctuaries in the early 1990s. This effort appears to be succeeding, as 1994 was the first time in 20 years that rhino numbers did not decline. The rhino is prized for its horn. Not a true horn, it is made of thickly matted hair that grows from the skull without skeletal support. The major demand for horn is in Asia, where it is used in traditional medicine and ornamental carvings.


One of the most impressive antelopes found in East Africa is the sable. Because of habitat destruction and poaching, it is also one of the most endangered.

The sable is a rotund, barrel-chested antelope with a short neck and a long face. It resembles the larger roan antelope, to which it is closely related. Among its distinctive features are its long horns, some 40 to 65 inches long. The ringed horns rise vertically, then sweep backwards in a pronounced curve. They are found in both sexes, but the male's horns are slightly larger and heavier than the female's. Both males and females have manes on the neck, and when they arch their necks and stand with their head held high and tails outstretched, they resemble horses. This flexed-neck position makes sables appear larger than they really are. The males maintain this position even when they gallop, as the arched neck is an important manifestation of dominance.

As they become older, sables change color. The calf is grayish brown and almost without marks, making it very inconspicuous. As it matures and begins to take its place in a herd, its coat becomes a rich reddish brown, with the belly, haunches and facial markings in greater contrast. At this time the face is largely white, with a wide black stripe running from the forehead to the muzzle, and black stripes from the eye to the muzzle.

Once adult, the female's color changes gradually with age and status. The facial markings form a mask that contrasts with the neck, shoulders and mane as they become darker. Eventually only the rump is red. The darker color heightens the line of the face and the front quarters, emphasizing the sweep of the long horns.

The color change in the adult male is more dramatic, all parts that were previously red become black, and so contrast even more with the facial mask and light underparts.

Sables live in areas of light woodland, especially "miombo," a mixture of bush and grassland-but usually avoid open, grassy plains.

Only a few of the most dominant of the mature males are able to obtain and hold territories. They try to set them up on the best grazing grounds because the more nutritious the feed, the more females are attracted to the area. The changing color of sables as they grow older signals their age to others, thus granting them status and dominance in their social system.

Mating occurs inside the territories, so males with the best territories have the best success rate. Small female herds, varying from five to 20 individuals, but sometimes as many as 60 in the dry season, use home ranges that encompass the several male territories. Once a female group wanders into a male's territory, he tries to keep it there, especially if any females are in estrus. He permits other males to graze in his territory, but only if they remain subordinate, show him the proper respect and take no interest in the females.

Fights may occur if the territorial male is challenged by another male. Combat begins as both bulls slowly circle each other, pawing the ground and lashing their tails. Soon they face each other, shake their heads, drop to their knees and clash horns. As this is usually a pushing contest of strength, fighting to the death is rare.

Sables mostly eat grass but at times will eat herbs and leaves from shrubs and trees. hey are never found very far from water and are especially dependent upon it during the dry season.

In some areas breeding females give birth during a two-month period, the timing of which changes slightly from year to year. When ready to give birth the female, often in the company of several other pregnant females, leaves the herd and seeks a secluded place in the bush. After birth she leaves the calf hidden in the tall grass or bush, returning once or twice a day to suckle the infant. After a couple of weeks, when the calf is strong enough, she takes it back to her herd.

As the calves obtain adult coloration, the territorial males and the females push the young males from the natal herd. The young females remain, taking their place at the bottom of the hierarchy.

The young males are most vulnerable to predators during their transition to a bachelor male herd. Lions, leopards, hyenas, hunting dogs and crocodiles are their most frequent predators. Once the sable is fully grown it is seldom bothered by the animals; humans are then its most likely predator.

A male regularly patrols his territory and engages in ritual displays. He paws the ground, deposits dung and horns the ground, spreading his scent around to make his presence known. Sables live in groups consisting of herds of females with their young, male bachelor groups and solitary dominant males. Age determines rank in the hierarchy


The Springbok A medium-sized, graceful animal, the springbok is an antelope that lives on the Etosha pan. When danger looms, springbok have the habit of repeatedly springing up to seven feet in the air, hence their name. This series of springing leaps, called pronking, is a technique used to distract predators, such as cheetahs or lions. In August, during the middle of Etosha's eight month dry season, the springbok begin courtship. When life springs anew and the rainy season begins, the springbok give birth. During this season there is plenty of grass and water for the young springbok to feed upon and grow strong enough to sustain the harsh dry season ahead of them.

Thomsons Gazelle

While perhaps not as widely distributed as Grant's gazelles, Thomsons gazelles are still the most common gazelles in East Africa. Though their numbers have diminished in some areas, in others they have persisted on ranches and farmlands long after other species have disappeared.

The graceful Thomson gazelle is noticeably smaller than the Grant's gazelle, which it resembles in shape and color. It is also distinguished from a Grant's by the dark side stripe that runs from the shoulder to the flank and the white patch on the rump. The Thomson gazelle is a dark fawn or cinnamon color on the topside and white on the underside. The black tail seems to be constantly in motion.

The males are larger than the females and have strongly ridged, almost parallel horns that curve backwards, with the tips curving forward. Female Thomson gazelles have short, smooth, pencil-slim horns, or none at all. The face is accented by a black stripe running down from the eye, a dark marking on the nose and a light patch on the forehead.

Although more reliant on water than Grant's gazelle, the Thomson gazelle has adapted to the open plains and grasslands of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.

During migration, as the Thomson gazelles spread out over the plains in the wake of zebra and wildebeest herds, the strongest males set up territories. They use an exaggerated display posture when urinating or defecating on dung piles. To mark the boundaries the males deposit a small amount of secretion from their scent glands, located beneath the eyes, onto a blade of grass, leaving these markers daily about every 20 feet. As the herd migrates, new territories are established.

The females along with their immature offspring form groups of five to 50 that wander through male territories. The groups change members and numbers from hour to hour, so no obvious patterns of hierarchy or leadership emerge. Nonterritorial males gather together in small groups along the outskirts of the larger herd, generally avoiding other male territories unless one of the group attempts to take one over.

In the early morning and again in the evening, the herd, which may have spread out during the day, comes together. This is playtime for the younger gazelles, when they engage in stotting and pronking, bouncing along on stiff legs, and sprint around the perimeter of the herd.

The relatively silent Thomson gazelles rely on visual awareness of one another to stay in contact. Their distinctive coloring may help-they can contract the skin so the black side stripe becomes more obvious. They also stamp their front feet to signal when they are disturbed.

The Thomson gazelle congregate not only with Grant's gazelle but with larger ungulates such as wildebeest and zebra-and even cattle, which trample and graze on tall grass, making it easier for the Thomson gazelle to feed on short grass. Although grasses make up about 90 percent of the Thomson gazelle's diet in dry season, it also eats seeds and browses on shrubs. When the tiny new green shoots of grass begin to grow in areas that have been burned, the Thomson gazelle often gather in large numbers to feed.

The Thomson gazelle breed twice a year. Although births occur throughout the year, they peak right after rainy seasons. After giving birth the mother hides the newborn in the grass, returning several times a day to nurse it. With their tawny coloring and ability to remain motionless for long periods, the young are surprisingly invisible when hidden in open country.

Nevertheless, predation on the young is heavy, and many predators feed on nothing else during the calving peaks.

Cheetahs, lions, leopards, hunting dogs and hyenas prey on young and adults alike, with adult Thomson gazelle males three times more susceptible than females. The young are also taken by serval cats, jackals, baboons, eagles and pythons.

The Thomson gazelle is exceptionally alert to sounds and movements, and its fine senses of hearing, sight and smell balance its vulnerability on the open plains. Males vigorously defend their territories. If challenged, the defending male and his rival clash horns, with the winner claiming the territory.


Plains antelope resembling hartebeest, only much darker in color, with smaller head and more common-looking horns. Tsessebe are built for speed. Their horns are strongly ridged, "new moon" shaped in both males and females. The coat is smooth and glossy, and is tan to reddish brown with purple blotches on thighs.

They are foundin various locations in northern and southern savanna. Due to human hunting, Tsessebe populations and habitats available have been greatly reduced. Tsessebes are still abundant in Serengeti and southern Sudan. Tsessebes can be found in the following National Parks and Reserves: Akagera NP, Rwanda;Queen Elizabeth NP, Uganda; Masai Mara NR, Kenya; Serengeti NP, Tanzania; Moremmi GR, Botswanna; Kazuma Pan NP, Zimbabwe; Kruger NP, South Africa.

The Tsessebe can be found ranging in anything from vast treeless plains to fields surrounded by woodlands. It can also be found occasionally in rolling hills below 5000 ft. Tsessebes search until they find the greenest, tenderest grass and avoid anything too mature. Tsessebes that feed only on green grass can go without water when necessary, but must drink every day or every other day during the dry season. Tsessebes can be found in large numbers in areas where food is abundant year-round.

Tsessebes are both diurnal and nocturnal. They generally feed early in the morning and in the late afternoon, but rest between these peaks. This rest period is often broken up by uncoordinated grazing periods.

Almost every form of sociable and territorial mating systems associated with antelopes can be found within the Tsessebe population. There are typically herds of 2 to 10 females and young which travel together year-round. When these herds decide on a home range, this range is generally between 124 to 988 acres. Each of these herds has one or more territorial males that accompany them throughout the year.

During the migratory season, thousands of Tsessebes can be seen on large open plains. This gathering allows for Tsessebes to form sub-populations which are able to migrate together.

In some areas where the population of Tsessebes is very dense, some researchers have seen 122 Tsessebes/sq mile. During the breeding season, there are large areas that are called "hot spots" which are breeding arenas. In some of these arenas, 100 males have been spotted within 100 to 250 yds of each other, which is quite odd seeing how Tsessebe males are very territorial.

The gestation period for Tsessebes is around 8 months. Females can conceive at 16 months of age and males mature by the age of 3. Breeding is annual in most areas and calving generally occurs at the end of the dry season. In equatorial areas, however, there are two peak breeding seasons.


Neither graceful nor beautiful, warthogs are nonetheless remarkable animals. They are found in most of Africa south of the Sahara and are widely distributed in East Africa. They are the only pigs able to live in areas without water for several months of the year. By tolerating a higher-than-normal body temperature, the warthog is perhaps able to conserve moisture inside its body that might otherwise be used for cooling. Camels and desert gazelles have developed a similar mechanism for survival in hot, arid environments.

Males weigh 20 to 50 pounds more than females, but both are distinguished by disproportionately large heads and the warts-thick protective-pads that appear on both sides of the head. Two large pairs of warts occur below the eyes, and between the eyes and the tusks, and a very small pair is found near the jaw, usually just in males.

The face is fairly flat and the snout elongated. Eyes set high on the head enables the warthog to keep a lookout for predators even when it lowers its head to feed on short grass. The warthog's large tusks are unusual: The two upper ones emerge from the sides of the snout to form a semicircle; the lower tusks at the base of the uppers are worn to a sharp cutting edge.

Sparse bristles cover the warthog's body, although longer bristles form a mane from the top of the head down the spine to the middle of the back. The skin is gray or black, or yellowish or reddish, if the warthog has been wallowing in mud. The long tail ends with a tuft of bristles. The warthog characteristically carries its tail upright when it runs, the tuft waving like a tiny flag. As the young run in single file, the tail position may serve as a signal to keep them all together. Warthogs trot with a springy gait but they are known to run surprisingly fast.

Warthogs are found in moist and arid savannas. They avoid rainforest, deserts and high mountains.

When water is available, warthogs drink regularly and enjoy wallowing in muddy places. As part of their grooming they also take sand baths, rub against trees and termite mounds and let tick birds pick insects off their bodies.

Warthogs live in family groups of a female and her young. Sometimes another female will join the group. Males normally live by themselves, only joining the groups to mate. Warthogs engage in ritual fights in which they charge straight on, clashing heads when they meet. Fights between males can be violent and bloody.

Warthogs sleep and rest in holes, which at times they line with grass, perhaps to make them warmer. Although they can excavate, warthogs normally do not dig holes but use those dug by other animals, preferably aardvarks.

The warthog is mainly a grazer and has adapted an interesting practice of kneeling on its calloused, hairy, padded knees to eat short grass. Using its snout and tusks, it also digs for bulbs, tubers and roots during the dry season.

Before giving birth to a new litter, the female chases away the litter she has been raising and secludes herself. These juveniles may join up with another solitary female for a short time before they go on their own.

Female warthogs only have four teats, so litter sizes usually are confined to four young. Each piglet has its "own" teat and suckles exclusively from it. Even if one piglet dies, the others do not suckle from the available teat. Although the young are suckled for about 4 months, after 2 months they get most of their nourishment from grazing.

Lions and leopards are the warthog's chief enemies. Warthogs protect themselves from predators by fleeing or sliding backwards into a hole, thus being in a position to use their formidable tusks in an attack.

The warthog has poor vision, though better than most other African wild pigs, but its senses of smell and hearing are good. When alarmed, the warthog grunts or snorts, lowers its mane, flattens its ears and bolts for underground cover.


The waterbuck is not truly aquatic nor as much at home in water and swamps as is the sitatunga or lechwe. It does, however, take refuge there to escape predators.

The waterbuck has a long-haired, often shaggy brown-gray coat that emits a smelly, greasy secretion thought to be for waterproofing. In East Africa two types occur, the common waterbuck and the defassa waterbuck, distinguished only by the white pattern on the rump. The common waterbuck has a conspicuous white ring encircling a dark rump, while the defassa has wide white patches on either side of the rump.

The waterbuck is a large, robust animal; males are generally about 25 percent larger than the females. Waterbucks have large, rounded ears and white patches above the eyes, around the nose and mouth and on the throat. Only the males have horns, which are prominently ringed and as long as 40 inches. The horns are widely spaced and curve gracefully back and up. They are sometimes used with lethal results when males fight one another over territories.

As its name would indicate, the waterbuck inhabits areas that are close to water in savanna grasslands, gallery forests and riverine woodlands south of the Sahara. Such habitats not only provide sustenance but long grasses and watery places in which to hide from predators.

Although males do compete for and hold territories, the waterbuck is generally a quiet, sedentary animal. Like some other antelopes, the male does not mark his territory with dung or urine, as his presence and smell are apparently sufficient. He tries to retain females that wander into his area, but is seldom successful for long, since the females have large home ranges and, in herds of five to 25, are constantly crossing in and out of males territories. Waterbucks do not migrate or move great distances, so territories are usually held year round.

The waterbuck's habitat furnishes them with a year-round source of food. Mainly grazers, they consume types of coarse grass seldom eaten by other grazing animals and occasionally browse leaves from certain trees and bushes. They feed in the mornings and at night, and rest and ruminate the remainder of the time.

Calves are generally born throughout the year, although breeding becomes more seasonal in some areas, after which a single young is born. The mother hides her young for about 3 weeks, returning three to four times a day to suckle it. Each suckling session lasts only about five minutes, during which time the mother cleans the calf so that no odor is left to attract predators. Even so, there is a high rate of calf mortality.

Although the calves begin to eat grass when they are young, they are nursed for as long as 6 to 8 months. After weaning, they begin to wander-off young males often form all-male groups near the occupied territories, while the young females stay in their mother's group. The waterbuck does not reach adult weight until about 31/2 years. Females mate again soon after bearing young, within 2 to 5 weeks, so the population can increase rapidly.

Hyenas, lions, and leopards are the major predators, but crocodiles, hunting dogs and cheetahs also take waterbuck.

The meat of older waterbuck takes on an unpleasant odor from the waterproofing secretions of its sweat glands, prompting predators to choose other prey. If the defessa and common waterbucks have bordering ranges they often interbreed; as a result, some scientists consider the two groups as a single species.


Zebras, horses and wild asses are all equids, long-lived animals that move quickly for their large size and have teeth built for grinding and cropping grass. Zebras have horselike bodies, but their manes are made of short, erect hair, their tails are tufted at the tip and their coats are striped.

Three species of zebra still occur in Africa, two of which are found in East Africa. The most numerous and widespread species in the east is Burchell's, also known as the common or plains zebra. The other is Grevy's zebra, named for Jules Grevy, a president of France in the 1880s who received one from Abyssinia as a gift, and now found mostly in northern Kenya. The third species, Equus zebra, is the mountain zebra, found in southern and southwestern Africa.

The long-legged Grevy's zebra, the biggest of the wild equids, is taller and heavier than the Burchell's, with a massive head and large ears.

Zebras have shiny coats that dissipate over 70 percent of incoming heat, and some scientists believe the stripes help the animals withstand intense solar radiation. The black and white stripes are a form of camouflage called disruptive coloration that breaks up the outline of the body. Although the pattern is visible during daytime, at dawn or in the evening when their predators are most active, zebras look indistinct and may confuse predators by distorting true distance.

The stripes on Grevy's zebras are more numerous and narrow than those of the plains zebra and do not extend to the belly. In all zebra species, the stripes on the forequarters form a triangular pattern; Grevy's have a similar pattern on the hindquarters, while others have a slanted or horizontal pattern.

Burchell's zebras inhabit savannas, from treeless grasslands to open woodlands; they sometimes occur in tens of thousands in migratory herds on the Serengeti plains. Grevy's zebras are now mainly restricted to parts of northern Kenya. Although they are adapted to semi-arid conditions and require less water than other zebra species, these zebras compete with domestic livestock for water and have suffered heavy poaching for their meat and skins.

Family groups are stable members maintaining strong bonds over many years. Mutual grooming, where zebras stand together and nibble the hair on each other's neck and back, helps develop and preserve these bonds. Family members look out for one another if one becomes separated from the rest, the others search for it. The group adjusts its traveling pace to accommodate the old and the weak.

The females within a family observe a strict hierarchical system. A dominant mare always leads the group, while others follow her in single file, each with their foals directly behind them. The lowest ranking mare is the last in line. Although the stallion is the dominant member of the family, he operates outside the system and has no special place in the line.

Zebras are avid grazers. Both Burchell's and Grevy's zebras are in constant search of green pastures. In the dry season, they can live on coarse, dry grass only if they are within a short distance, usually no farther than 20 miles away, of water holes.

When a foal is born the mother keeps all other zebras, even the members of her family, away from it for 2 or 3 days, until it learns to recognize her by sight, voice and smell.

While all foals have a close association with their mothers, the male foals are also close to their fathers. They leave their group on their own accord between the ages of 1 and 4 years to join an all-male bachelor group until they are strong enough to head a family.

Zebras are important prey for lions and hyenas, and to a lesser extent for hunting dogs, leopards and cheetahs. When a family group is attacked, the members form a semicircle, face the predator and watch it, ready to bite or strike should the attack continue. If one of the family is injured the rest will often encircle it to protect it from further attack.

Romans called Grevy's zebras 'hippotigris' and trained them to pull two-wheeled carts for exhibition in circuses. At first glance zebras in a herd might all look alike, but their stripe patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints are in man. Scientists can identify individual zebras by comparing patterns, stripe widths, color and scars.