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Africa Lion - Wildlife of AfricaElephants - Apart from its size-it is the largest land mammal in the world- it is characterized by the long truck, large ears and the (normal) presence of tusks.

The trunk is extremely mobile and is almost as efficient as the human hand. The large ears serve a display function but also assist in cooling the body.

The backs of the ears are well supplied with blood vessels, and as the ears are flapped the blood is cooled. Elephants may also squirt water behind the ears to cool the blood. Tusks are characteristic of most elephants, although some individual and even populations may be tuskless. Elephant tusks continue to grow throughout life but because of continuous wear and breakages they never reach their potential length.

Habitat

African Bull ElephantElephants have an extremely wide habitat tolerance as long as sufficient food, water and shade are available. They are widespread and common throughout the Caprivi and northern parts of Botswana especially Chobe (the largest elephant population in the world) extending south to the Aha Hills, in the western Okavango and the northern parts of Makgadikgadi, Tuli Block and Mmadinare. Small herds and individuals are seen in the mopane woodland on the eastern fringe of the Makgadikgadi and the Botetu river.

Behaviour

They live in small family groups, each led by an elder cow, the matriarch. Each group consists of the matriarch and her offspring and may include other related cows with their young. A number of family groups may come together to form herds, not infrequently numbering several hundreds. The family group retains its identity during these gatherings and normally the smaller groups move off on their own.

These large congregations gather when food is abundant or at water, but there are no reproductive or social benefits. If left uncontrolled herds may destroy their habitat, not only for themselves but for other species as well, and population control may become essential. Adult bulls usually only join the family herds when cows are in breeding condition and have leave to join bachelor groups afterwards.

A cow may mate with several bulls during estrus. Although the elephant is active both by night and by day, it usually rests in shade during the heat of the day. It is normally a peaceful animal but when wounded, sick, or in defense of a small calf it can be dangerous.

Food

Elephant FamilyA very wide variety of plants. Although not specialized feeders they do show a marked preference for certain species, for which they will travel long distances. During the rains, green grass forms a high percentage of their diet. An adult Elephant may eat as much as 300kg per day.

Reproduction

A single calf, weighing approximately 120kg, is dropped after a 22- month gestation period. Calves may be born at any time of the year but in some areas there is a peak in births that coincides with the rainy season. The calf is pinkish-grey and hairier than the adults. Cows are very protective of calves and should anything happen to a nursing mother another lactating female will usually take over the nursing of the orphan.

Enemies

Elephants face a number of threats including poaching for the ivory markets and encroachment by humans on their traditional areas. When confined to limited areas by outside pressure they can inflict considerable damage on vegetation and it is for this reason that control programmes are sometimes essential.

Buffalo

Buffaloes are massive, heavily built, cattle-like animals. Adult bulls are dark brown to black in colour but the cows are usually not so dark and calves are reddish-brown. They have stocky, relatively short legs, with large hoofs, those on the forefoot being larger than those on the hindfoot.

The horns are heavy and massive, and the central horn base or 'boss' is particularly well developed in the bulls. The horns first curve down and outwards and then inwards, narrowing towards the tips. When viewed from the front the horns form a shadow 'W'. The horn boss of the cow is much less pronounced and is absent in younger animals. Ears are large and hang below the horns. The tail is cow-like with a tip of long brown or black hair.

Habitat

The buffalo has a fairy wide habitat tolerance but requires areas with abundant grass water and cover. It shows a preference for open woodland savanna and will utilize open grassland as long as it has access to cover. The buffalo is widely distributed in the northern parts of Botswana, occurring throughout Okavango and Chobe to the northern Makgadikgadi.

Food

Predominantly grazers but buffalo also occasionally browse.

Reproduction

Buffalo are seasonal breeders with majority of calves being dropped in the wet and warm summer months. A single calf, weighing about 40kg is born after a gestation period of about 340 days. Calves are born within the herd.

Zebra

Zebras on Water a pondBurchell's zebra shows considerable variation in colouration and patterning but is normally striped in black and white with fainter 'shadow' stripes superimposed on the white stripe, particularly on the hindquarters. No "grid-iron" pattern on rump and striping extend on to underparts. Long, erect mane extends from top of head to shoulders. Striping may not extend to the hoofs.

Habitat

Zebra is widely distributed throughout the northern parts of Botswana, in the west, south to the Aha Hills; throughout the southern part of the Okavango delta and south to the Kwebe Hills; northern parts of Makgadikgadi and east to Zimbabwean border.

Behaviour

Burchell's zebra associate in family herds consisting of an adult stallion, mares and their foals; other stallions forms bachelor herds or run alone. Family units normally number 4 - 6. Much larger herds usually consist of numerous smaller herds coming together temporarily. They have a characteristics call that has been likened to a bark-"Kwa-ha-ha"-which was also the call of the extinct Quagga, hence the name.

Food

Zebras are predominantly grazers.

Reproduction

Single foal with a mass of 30-35kg born usually in summer; gestation period 375 days.

Giraffe

GiraffesThe Giraffe apparently gets its name from the Arabic "Xirapha", which means 'one who walks swiftly, and anyone who has observed Giraffe on the move would agree that this is entirely appropriate. The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world and with its long neck and legs is unmistakable.

A beautiful lattice pattern consisting of large, irregular shades parches separated by networks of light-coloured bands covers the body. The colouring of the patches is very variable, ranging from light fawn to almost black. Old bulls are often very dark. Knob-like horns are present on the top of the end of the head and these are well developed in adult bulls.

Habitat

Dry savanna woodland. Giraffe is widely distributed throughout the northern and central parts of Botswana as far south as Khutse Game Reserve and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Behaviour

Giraffes are active during the day and at night but usually rest during the hot midday hours. Although they occupy large home ranges that are usually between 20km2 and 85km2, they do not establish defended territories.

They are usually seen in herds of from 4-30 individuals, but these groups are unstable and much wandering takes place. Bulls only associate with cows temporarily. Although giraffe are generally believed to be silent they do have a range of grunting and snorting calls.

Food

Giraffe are browsers. Their long neck and legs give them access to a food supply beyond the reach of all other browsers. Although they feed from a fairly wide range of trees and brushes they are selective in what they eat. Twigs are pulled into the mouth by the tips and the long prehensile tongue, which may reach 45cm in length, and the leaves are shredded off into the mouth. Between 15 and 20 hours of each day may be spent feeding.

Reproduction

Calves weighing about 100kg may be born at any time of the year after a gestation period of about 450 days. The newly born calf can stand and walk within an hour of birth but remains isolated from the herd for up to 3 weeks. There is a very high mortality of calves in their first year.

Lion

African Male LionLargest of the African cats. Males and females are easy to tell apart. Body ranges from reddish-grey to pale tawny with lighter underparts. Although faint spots are present on the sides of cubs, these are usually lost by adulthood.

Tail is shorthaired and same colour as the rest of the body, but has a dark tip. Only the adult male carries a mane of long hair, extending from the sides of the face on to the neck, shoulders and chest. Mane colour ranges from pale tawny to black.

Habitat

The lion has a very wide habitat tolerance, from desert fringe to woodland or open savanna, but is absent from equatorial forest. It is widely distributed throughout, except in the settled parts of the eastern Botswana.

Behaviour

It is most sociable member of the cat's family, living in prides of 3-30 individuals. Pride size varies according to the area and prey availability. In Botswana prides usually 6 or fewer individuals, whereas average pride size in Kruger National Park is about 12. Prides normally consist of 1 to 4 adult males, several adult females (one of which is dominant) and a number of suba dults and cubs.

Both the males and females defend a pride area or territory against strange lions but some prides and solitary males are nomadic. Territories are marked by urine, dropping and by earth scratching. The might roars of the lion is audible over kilometres and also serves to indicate that an area is occupied.

Most of their activities takes place at night and during the cooler daylight hours. The females undertake most of the hunting, and despite the fact that the males play little part in most kills they feed before the females. Cubs compete for what remains once the adults have finished their meal.

Food

Although the lion is mainly a hunter of medium to large-sized mammals, particularly ungulates, it will take anything from mice to young elephants as well as a wide range of non- mammalian prey. It is also scavenges and often chases other predators from their kills.

Reproduction

No fixed breeding season; 1-4, (occasionally 6) cubs each weighing about 1,5kg are born after gestation period of 110 days. Lioness gives birth under cover, only returning to the pride when cubs are 4-8 weeks old. However, she will only rejoin with the pride if there are no cubs older than 3months already present. As a lioness allows any pride cub to suckle, the presence of older cubs would prevent younger cubs from obtaining milk. Cubs may remain with the mother for two years or longer.

Characteristic

Unless provoked, lions rarely attack humans but it is useful to know the warning signs: an angry lion will drop into a crouch, flatten its ears and give vent to growls, meanwhile flicking the tail-tip rapidly from side to side. Just prior to a charge the tail is usually jerked up and down.

Leopard

Leopard An elegant, powerfully built cat, with a beautifully spotted coat. The basic body colour varies from almost white to orange-russet, with black sports on the legs, flanks, hindquarters and head. The spots on the rest of the body consists of rosettes or broken circles of irregular black spots.

The tail is about half of the total length, with rosette spots above and a white tip. The ears are rounded and white-tipped. The underparts are usually white to off-white. Cubs have dark, wooly hair and less-distinct spots.

Habitat

The leopard has a wide habitat tolerance being recorded in open grassland and scrub, riverine woodland and in rocky hilly country. They can be found anywhere in Botswana. Leopards occur in the driest part of the country with a mean annual rainfall of 200mm and less, as well as well-watered higher rainfall areas such as the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.

Behaviour

Normally solitary except when a pair come together to mate or when a female is accompanied by cubs. Although it is mainly active at night, in areas where it is not disturbed it can be seen moving during the cooler daylight hours. Although it is mainly terrestrial, it is a good climber and swimmer. Males mark and defend a territory against other males, and a male's territory may overlap that of several females.

Territories are marked with urine, droppings and tree-scratching points. Home ranges may be as small as 10km2 or several hundred square kilometres. The size is largely dependent on the availability of the food. Although normally silent the leopard does have a characteristic call that has been likened to the sound of a coarse saw cutting wood. Leopards stalk and then pounce on their prey and do not rely on running at high speed like Cheetah.

Food

African LeopardA broad diet, ranging from insects, rodents and birds to medium-sized and occasionally large antelope. In some rocky and mountainous areas daisies make up an important part of the diet. It will on occasion kill more than its immediate needs, the surplus being stored for later use. Kills may be dragged under dense bush, amongst rocks, or in some areas into trees out of reach of other predators. Leopard readily feed from rotten carcasses.

Reproduction

Litters of 2-3 cubs, weighing around 500g, are born in dense cover, rock crevices after a gestation period of about 100 days. There is no fixed breeding season.

Characteristic

Leopards may take to man eating. Trapped, wounded or threatened, the Leopard can be extremely dangerous, but under normal circumstances it is shy and withdraws from disturbance.

Wild Dog

The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) is a carnivorous mammal of the Canidae family, found only in Africa, especially in scrub savanna and other lightly wooded areas. It is also called the African Hunting Dog, the Cape Hunting Dog, the Spotted Dog, or the Painted Wolf in English.

The African Wild Dog has a pelage with an irregular pattern of black, yellow, and white, distinctive for each individual. It is the only candid species to lack dewclaws on the forelimbs. Adults typically weigh 17-36 kilograms (37-79 pounds).[ A tall, lean animal, it stands about 30 inches (75 cm) at the shoulder, with a head and body length averaging about 40 inches (100cm) and a tail of 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm). Animals in southern Africa are generally larger than those in the eastern or western Africa.

Habitat

Open, dry country but woodland, grassveld and dune country. Availability of water is not as essential habitat requirement. Gemsbok is widely distributed throughout Botswana except in the northern and southern parts of the eastern sector.

Behaviour

The home range of packs varies enormously, depending on the size of the pack, and the nature of the terrain. In the Serengeti, the average range has been estimated at 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles), although individual ranges overlap extensively.

Food

The African Wild Dog's main prey varies among populations, but always centers around medium-sized ungulates such as the Impala. While the vast majority of its diet is made up of mammal prey, it sometimes hunts large birds, especially OstrichesA few packs will also include large animals in their prey, such as the Wildebeest and zebras.

Hunting larger prey requires a closely coordinated attack, beginning with a rapid charge to stampede the herd. One wild dog then grabs the victim's tail, while other attacks the upper lip, and the remainder disembowels the animal while it is immobilised. This behaviour is also used on other large dangerous prey such as the Warthog, the African Buffalo and Giraffe calves and large antelope even the 1 ton Giant Eland.

Reproduction

The African Wild Dog reproduces at any time of year, although mating peaks between March and June during the second half of the rainy season. Litters can contain 2-19 pups, though 10 is the most usual number. The time between births is usually 12-14 months, though it can also be as short as 6 months if all of the previous young die. Pups are usually born in an abandoned den dug by other animals such as those of the Aardvark.

Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. After 3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with the pack. At the age of 8-11 months they can kill small prey, but they are not proficient until about 12-14 months, at which time they can fend for themselves. Pups reach sexual maturity at the age of 12-18 months.

Cheetah

The cheetah, sometimes referred to as "greyhound of cats", is probably the most elegant member of the cat family. It is tall and slender, with long legs and a short muzzle with a rounded head. The body colour is off-white to pale fawn and is liberally dotted with black, rounded, sports more or less uniform in size. A clear black line (the "tear mark") runs from the inner corner of each eye to the corner of the mouth.

Numerous small black spots are present on the forehead and top of the head. The tips of the ears are white. The long tail is blacked-ringed with a white tip. A short erectile crest is situated on the back and sides. The Cheetah is the only cat that does not have fully retractile claws and the impressions of the claws can be seen in their tracks. The well-publicized "King Cheetah" is merely an aberrant colour form, albeit an attractive one.

Habitat

Open savanna and light woodland, but also hilly country on occasion. The availability of drinking water is not essential. Cheetahs are widely but sparsely distributed throughout Botswana.

Behaviour

The Cheetah is normally seen singly, in pairs or small family parties consisting of female and cubs. It is principally diurnal and tends to hunt in the cooler hours. Adult males move singly or in bachelor groups and females establish territories from which they will drive other females. Males are apparently not territorial and may move over areas held by several females.

Favoured lying-up spots are usually raised above the surrounding areas and are urine- marked by both males and females. When hunting, cheetah stalks to within a short distance of their intended prey and then sprint in for the kill. Although they have top speed of more than 100km per hour, this can only be sustained for a few hundred metres.

Food

Normally, cheetah hunts medium-sized mammals up to a mass of about 60kg, although if two or more cheetahs hunt together, large prey may be overpowered. Antelope are the principal prey items. It also catches birds up to the size of Ostrich.

Reproduction

A cheetah has a long-drawn courtship. The litters of 1 -5(usually 3) young may be born at any time of the year. The cubs are blind and helpless and weigh between 250g and 300g at birth. For the first weeks they are hidden in dense plant cover, thereafter following the mother.

Characteristic

Cheetahs used to be tamed and used for hunting, particularly in Asia. Akbar the Great was said to have kept a "stable" of 1,000 Cheetahs.

White Rhino

The White Rhinoceros, also known as the Square-lipped Rhinoceros, is much larger than the Black or Hook-lipped Rhinoceros. The skin colour is grey but this is often influenced by the colour of the mud and dust in which it rolls. A large, distinctive hump is present on the neck.

The head is long and carried low, frequently only a few centimetres above the ground, and terminates in a broad square muzzle - hence the common name. There are two horns on the face, the front one usually being the longer. The ears are large and pointed.

Habitat

This species shows a preference for short-grassed areas, with thick bush cover and water. Where adequate food and water is available it will occupy a wide range of open woodland associations. In Botswana, rhino can be found in Khama Rhino Sanctuary and Mokolodi Game Reserve.

Behaviour

The White Rhinoceros is much more sociable than the Black Rhinoceros. Territorial bulls occupy clearly defined territories which they will defend against neighbouring bulls; subordinate bulls may be allowed to remain within a territory if they remain submissive.

The home range of cows may overlap with the territories of several territorial bulls but when a cow is receptive for mating the bull will attempt to keep her within his area. Family groups usually number between 2 and 5 individuals, although larger numbers may come together for short periods. The home ranges and territories are only left when water is not readily available. When they move to watering points they follow the same paths each time.

Feeding takes place during the cooler morning and afternoon hours but they are also active at night. Bulls have a number of fixed latrine sites within their territories.

Food

White Rhinoceros are grazers, with a preference for short grass. A reliable source of drinking water is an essential requirement. Reproduction: Calves, weighing about 40 kg, are dropped at any time of the year after a gestation period of approximately 480 days. The cow moves away from the rhinoceros group to give birth and remains separated with her new-born calf for several days. In contrast to the Black Rhinoceros, the calf of the White Rhinoceros walks in front of the mother.

Reproduction

Their breeding period is throughout the whole year and usually the female raise one young.

Bat Eared Fox

This small jackal-like carnivore has slender legs, a sharp-pointed, fairly long muzzle and disproportionately large ears. The ears may reach a length of 14cm and are dark at the back, particularly at the tip; the insides of the ears are white or light in colour. The body is covered in fairly long, silvery-grey hair with a distinctly grizzled appearance and the legs are black. The tail is bushy and black above and at the tip. Although the front of the face is generally black, a light or black band runs across the forehead to the base of the ears.

Habitat

Open country, such as short scrub and grassveld and sparsely wooded areas. Absent from mountains dense woodland and forest. Bat-eared fox is widely distributed throughout Botswana.

Behaviour

Both diurnal and nocturnal activity is recorded but it rests during the hotter hours of the day. It is an active digger but although it will excavate its owns burrows, it frequently modifies those dug by other species. It is normally seen in-groups of 2-6 individuals. As pairs mate for life, the composition of groups usually consist of a pair and their offspring. When foraging it appears to wander aimlessly, stopping periodically with ears turned to the ground; when food is located it digs shallow holes with the forepaws.

Food

Occasionally more may be seen but such groupings are temporary, perhaps associated with an abundant, localized food source.

Reproduction

Four to 6 pups born in burrow September - November; gestation 60 days. At birth pale grey and eyes closed. The young are born in holes in the ground excavated by the parents. Usually the female raise two to four young.

Hippo

Large rotond animal with smooth naked skin, short, stocky legs and a massive, broad-muzzle head. Mouth equipped with an impressive set of tusk-like canines and incisors. Short, flattened tail is tipped with a tuft of black hair. Body colour greyish-black with pink tinge at the skin folds, around eyes and ears, while underparts are pinkish-grey. Four-toed feet leave a characteristic track.

Habitat

Hippo occurs in the Okavango delta and its swamp delta, the Chobe, Boteti and Limpopo rivers. In the Okavango Delta they are distributed throughout the northern parts, but may reach far south in seasons of high flood.

Behaviour

This semi-aquatic mammal spends much of the day lying in water; it emerges at night to move to feeding-ground. It also lies up on sand-or mud-banks in the sun, particularly during the winter months. Although it normally occurs in herds or schools of 10-15 animals, larger groups and solitary bulls are not uncommon. Schools are usually composed of cows and young of various ages with a dominant bull in overall control.

The territories are narrow in the water but broaden out towards the feeding-grounds. Dominant bulls mark their territories by scattering dung with vigorous sideways flicking of the tail on top rocks, bushes and other objects. Territories are apparently strongest closer to the water but virtually absent in the feeding- grounds. Fixed pathways are used and these characterized by a "double" trail-each one made by the feet of one side. Exceptionally, up to 30km may be traveled to feeding areas, depending on the availability of food.

An adult hippopotamus can remain under water for up to six minutes. Skin glands secrete a reddish fluid, which is frequently mistaken for blood but, probably, acts as a skin lubricant and moisturizer. The hippopotamus is extremely vocal and its roaring grunts and snorts constitute one of the typical sounds of Africa. Provoked, it can be extremely dangerous, particularly solitary cows with calves.

Food

The hippopotamus is a selective grazer and eats grass only. In areas with high populations considerable damage can be done to grazing areas near water.

Reproduction

Mating takes place in the water, and after a gestation period of between 225-257 days, a single calf weighing between 25-55kg (usually about 30kg) is born. The cow gives birth on land in dense cover and she and the calf remain separated from the school for several months. The calves may be produced at any time of the year but there is some evidence of seasonal peaks.
 

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