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Site update: 28/7/2008

 

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Summary of our safari programs.

 

Wildlife in Tanzania and Kenya.

 

Click on one of the names for a description of common animals from the hart of Africa: 

    Cheetah, elephant, wildebeest, lion, buffalo, leopard, rhino.


Cheetah

Dutch Name:

Cheeta

English Name:

Chetaah

Swahili Name:

Duma

Scientific Name:

Acinonyx jubatus

Size:

30 inches at the shoulder

Weight:

110 to 140 pounds

Lifespan:

10 to 20 years

Habitat:

Open plains

Diet:

Smaller antelopes

Gestation:

90 to 95 days

Predators:

Changing habitat, eagles, humans, hyenas, lions

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.

 

Physical Characteristics.
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, non retractable 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.

Habitat.
Cheetahs are found in open and partially open savannas.

 

Behavior.
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.

 

Diet.
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.

 

Caring for the young.
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.

 

Predators.
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.

Publication approved by AWF

Olifanten

Dutch Name:

Olifant

English Name:

Elephant

Swahili Name:

Tembo or ndovu

Scientific Name:

Loxodonta africana

Size:

Up to 11 feet

Weight:

31/2 - 61/2 tons (7,000 13,200 lb)

Lifespan:

60 to 70 years

Habitat:

Dense forest to open plains

Diet:

Herbivorous

Gestation:

About 22 months

Predators:

Humans

The African elephant and the Asian elephant are the only two surviving species of what was in prehistoric times a diverse and populous group of large mammals. Fossil records suggest that the elephant has some unlikely distant relatives, namely the small, rodentlike hyrax and the ungainly aquatic dugong. They all are thought to have evolved from a common stock related to ungulates. In East Africa many well-preserved fossil remains of earlier elephants have aided scientists in dating the archaeological sites of prehistoric man.

 

Physical Characteristics.
The African elephant is the largest living land mammal, one of the most impressive animals on earth.

Of all its specialized features, the muscular trunk is the most remarkable it serves as a nose, a hand, an extra foot, a signaling device and a tool for gathering food, siphoning water, dusting, digging and a variety of other functions. Not only does the long trunk permit the elephant to reach as high as 23 feet, but it can also perform movements as delicate as picking berries or caressing a companion. It is capable, too, of powerful twisting and coiling movements used for tearing down trees or fighting. The trunk of the African elephant has two finger-like structures at its tip, as opposed to just one on the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).

The tusks, another remarkable feature, are greatly elongated incisors (elephants have no canine teeth); about one-third of their total length lies hidden inside the skull. The largest tusk ever recorded weighed 214 pounds and was 138 inches long. Tusks of this size are not found on elephants in Africa today, as over the years hunters and poachers have taken animals with the largest tusks. Because tusk size is an inherited characteristic, it is rare to find one now that would weigh more than 100 pounds.

Both male and female African elephants have tusks, although only males in the Asiatic species have them. Tusks grow for most of an elephant's lifetime and are an indicator of age. Elephants are "right- or left-tusked," using the favored tusk more often as a tool, thus, shortening it from constant wear. Tusks will differ in size, shape and direction; researchers use them (and the elephant's ears) to identify individuals.

Although the elephant's remaining teeth do not attract the ivory poacher, they are nonetheless interesting and ultimately determine the natural life span of the elephant. The cheek teeth erupt in sequence from front to rear (12 on each side, six upper and six lower), but with only a single tooth or one and a part of another, being functional in each half of each jaw at one time. As a tooth becomes badly worn, it is pushed out and replaced by the next tooth growing behind. These large, oblong teeth have a series of cross ridges across the surface. The last molar, which erupts at about 25 years, has the greatest number of ridges but must also serve the elephant for the rest of its life. When it has worn down, the elephant can no longer chew food properly; malnutrition sets in, hastening the elephant's death, usually between 60 and 70 years of age.

The African elephant's ears are over twice as large as the Asian elephant's and have a different shape, often described as similar to a map of Africa. The nicks, tears and scars as well as different vein patterns on the ears help distinguish between individuals. Elephants use their ears to display, signal or warn when alarmed or angry, they spread the ears, bringing them forward and fully extending them. The ears also control body temperature. By flapping the ears on hot days, the blood circulates in the ear's numerous veins; the blood returns to the head and body about 9 F cooler.

The sole of the elephant's foot is covered with a thick, cushionlike padding that helps sustain weight, prevents slipping and deadens sound. When they need to, elephants can walk almost silently. An elephant usually has five hoofed toes on each forefoot and four on each hind foot. When it walks, the legs on one side of the body move forward in unison.

Sometimes it is difficult for the layman to distinguish between male and female elephants as the male has no scrotum (the testes are internal), and both the male and the female have loose folds of skin between the hind legs. Unlike other herbivores, the female has her two teats on her chest between her front legs. As a rule, males are larger than females and have larger tusks, but females can usually be identified by their pronounced foreheads.

 

Habitat.
Elephants can live in nearly any habitat that has adequate quantities of food and water. Their ideal habitat consists of plentiful grass and browse.

 

Behavior.
Elephants are generally gregarious and form small family groups consisting of an older matriarch and three or four offspring, along with their young. It was once thought that family groups were led by old bull elephants, but these males are most often solitary. The female family groups are often visited by mature males checking for females in estrus. Several interrelated family groups may inhabit an area and know each other well. When they meet at watering holes and feeding places, they greet each other affectionately.

Females mature at about 11 years and stay in the group, while the males, which mature between 12 and 15, are usually expelled from the maternal herd. Even though these young males are sexually mature, they do not breed until they are in their mid- or late 20s (or even older) and have moved up in the social hierarchy. Mature male elephants in peak condition experience an annual period of heightened sexual and aggressive activity called musth. During this period, which may last a week or even up to three to four months, the male produces secretions from swollen temporal glands, continuously dribbles a trail of strong-smelling urine and makes frequent mating calls. Females are attracted to these males and prefer to mate with them rather than with males not in musth.

Smell is the most highly developed sense, but sound deep growling or rumbling noises is the principle means of communication. Some researchers think that each individual has its signature growl by which it can be distinguished. Sometimes elephants communicate with an ear-splitting blast when in danger or alarmed, causing others to form a protective circle around the younger members of the family group. Elephants make low-frequency calls, many of which, though loud, are too low for humans to hear. These sounds allow elephants to communicate with one another at distances of five or six miles.

 

Diet.
An elephant's day is spent eating (about 16 hours), drinking, bathing, dusting, wallowing, playing and resting (about three to five hours). As an elephant only digests some 40 percent of what it eats, it needs tremendous amounts of vegetation (approximately 5 percent of its body weight per day) and about 30 to 50 gallons of water. A young elephant must learn how to draw water up into its trunk and then pour it into its mouth. Elephants eat an extremely varied vegetarian diet, including grass, leaves, twigs, bark, fruit and seed pods. The fibrous content of their food and the great quantities consumed makes for large volumes of dung.

 

Caring for the Young.
Usually only one calf is born to a pregnant female. An orphaned calf will usually be adopted by one of the family's lactating females or suckled by various females. Elephants are very attentive mothers, and because most elephant behavior has to be learned, they keep their offspring with them for many years. Tusks erupt at 16 months but do not show externally until 30 months. The calf suckles with its mouth (the trunk is held over its head); when its tusks are 5 or 6 inches long, they begin to disturb the mother and she weans it. Once weaned usually at age 4 or 5, the calf still remains in the maternal group.

 

 Predators.
Elephants once were common throughout Africa, even in northern Africa as late as Roman times. They have since disappeared from that area due to overhunting and the spread of the desert. Even though they are remarkably adaptable creatures, living in habitats ranging from lush rain forest to semidesert, there has been much speculation about their future. Surviving populations are pressured by poachers who slaughter elephants for their tusks and by rapidly increasing human settlements, which restrict elephants' movements and reduce the size of their habitat. Today it would be difficult for elephants to survive for long periods of time outside protected parks and reserves. But confining them also causes problems without access any longer to other areas, they may harm their own habitat by overfeeding and overuse. Sometimes they go out of protected areas and raid nearby farms.

Publication approved by AWF

Gnoe's of wildebeests

Dutch Name:

Gnoe

English Name:

Wildebeest

Swahili Name:

Nyumbu Ya Montu

Scientific Name:

Connochaetes taurinus

Size:

50 to 58 inches at the shoulder

Weight:

265 to 600 pounds

Lifespan:

20 years

Habitat:

Open woodland and open grassy plains

Diet:

Grazers

Gestation:

8 to 81/2 months

Predators:

Lions, cheetahs, hunting dogs, hyenas

The largest mammal migration in the world is that of the Serengeti wildebeest. Huge scores of these antelopes congregate on the East African savannas, a sight which few who have seen will forget.

Several races of wildebeest (also called gnu) exist. The species that forms the large herds of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem of Tanzania and Kenya is known as the western white-bearded wildebeest (C. t. mearnsi). The brindled or blue race occurs south of the Zambezi River; the eastern white-bearded race inhabits Kenya and Tanzania east of Gregory Rift.

 

Physical Characteristics.
The head of the wildebeest is large and box-like. Both males and females have curving horns that are close together at the base, but curve outward, then inward and slightly backward. The body looks disproportionate, as the front end is heavily built while the hindquarters are slender and the legs spindly.

The wildebeest’s hide is gray with several darker vertical stripes. It has a dark mane and a long tail. Newborns are yellowish-brown, but reach mature coloration in about two months.

 

Habitat.
Wildebeest occupy the plains and acacia savannas of eastern Africa. 

Behavior.

In the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem the animals make an annual migratory circle of 300 miles. The migration starts after the calving season in May on the short grass plains in the southeastern Serengeti. Wildebeests move west toward Lake Victoria, across the grass savanna to the open woodlands, then turn north into the Mara. In November they begin the return trip to the south. They are relentless in their advance and will cross rivers and lakes in such huge masses that many are injured, lost (especially in the case of calves) or killed.

Wildebeest are continually on the move as they seek favorable supplies of grass and water. Active both day and night, they often string out in long single columns when on the move.

During mating season wildebeest form smaller breeding groups of up to 150 animals within the massive herds. The most active bulls establish and defend territories that females wander through. Males display various mating behaviors like bucking and galloping; rubbing their heads on the ground, spreading secretions produced by the preorbital and interdigital glands. They also urinate and defecate in certain spots and roll in it to demarcate property.

When neighboring bulls meet they go through a highly ritualized “challenge” in which they scrape the ground with their hooves, buck, snort and fight. The typical combat position is on their knees, facing one another, with their foreheads flat on the ground – they knock heads and hit at the base of the horns but seldom injure one another.

 

Diet.
Strictly grazers, wildebeest prefer short grass. They are unable to go without water for more than a few days.

 

Caring for the Young.

Wildebeest females give birth to a single calf in the middle of the herd, not seeking a secluded place, as do many antelopes. Amazingly, about 80 percent of the females calve within the same 2- to 3-week period, creating a glut for predators and thus enabling more calves to survive the crucial first few weeks. A calf can stand and run within minutes of birth. It immediately begins to follow its mother and stays close to her to avoid getting lost or preyed upon. Within days, it can run fast enough to keep up with the adult herd.

A calf eats its first grass at about 10 days, although it is still suckled for at least 6 months. Even after weaning, many remain with the mother until the next year’s calf is born. At that time the young males are driven away, but the females often remain in the same groups as their mothers.

 

Predators.

Wildebeest are the preferred prey of lions and spotted hyena. They find strength in numbers: large herds mean smaller chances of being preyed upon. If a calf loses its mother it will follow whatever is closest – a car, a person or occasionally even a predator, but in the latter case, probably not for long.

Publication approved by AWF

Welp

Dutch Name:

Leeuw

English Name:

Lion

Swahili Name:

Simba

Scientific Name:

Panthera leo

Size:

48 inches high

Weight:

330 to 500 pounds

Lifespan:

13 years in captivity

Habitat:

Grassy plans and open woodlands

Diet:

Carnivorous

Gestation:

About 105 days

Predators:

Humans

The lion is a magnificent animal that appears as a symbol of power, courage and nobility on family crests, coats of arms and national flags in many civilizations. 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.

 

Physical Characteristics

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.

 
Habitat.

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

 
Behavior.

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.

 
Diet.

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.

 
Caring for the Young.

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.

 

Predators.

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.

Publication approved by AWF

 

Buffel

Dutch Name:

Buffel

English Name:

Buffalo

Swahili Name:

Nyati

Scientific Name:

Syncerus caffer

Size:

About 65 inches at the shoulder

Weight:

1,500 pounds

Lifespan:

20 years

Habitat:

Dense forest to open plains

Diet:

Herbivorous/grazer

Gestation:

Between 11 and 12 months

Predators:

Humans and lions

 

The African, or Cape, buffalo is a member of the so-called "Big Five" group of animals, with the elephant, rhino, lion and leopard. Once popular trophies for hunters, these large and often dangerous animals have continued to capture the imagination. Buffaloes have earned a bad reputation from hunters and other people who come in close contact with them. They are unpredictable and can be dangerous if cornered or wounded. Though they have been known to ambush men and are often accused of deliberate savagery, they are usually placid if left alone.

There is only one genus and one species of buffalo in Africa, but this single species has two different types: the large savanna buffalo and the much smaller dwarf forest buffalo. There are also several intermediate types. The buffaloes found in the forests of Kenya and Tanzania are the savanna type, however, and not the true forest buffalo, which occurs only in West Africa.

 

Physical Characteristics.
Savanna buffaloes are large, heavy cowlike animals. They vary greatly not only in size, but in the shapes of their horns and color. Adults are usually dark gray or black (or even look red or white if they have been wallowing in mud of that color) and the young are often reddish-brown. The smaller forest buffalo maintains the red color even as an adult, although in western Uganda, many savanna buffaloes are also red or pale orange instead of black. Adults lose hair as they age.

Both male and female buffaloes have heavy, ridged horns that grow straight out from the head or curve downward and then up. The horns are formidable weapons against predators and for jostling for space within the herd; males use the horns in fights for dominance.

 

Habitat.
Both savanna buffaloes and forest buffaloes live close to water. In general buffaloes are found throughout the northern and southern savanna as well as the lowland rain forest.

 

Behavior.
Buffaloes can live in herds of a few hundred, but have been known to congregate in thousands in the Serengeti during the rainy season. The females and their offspring make up the bulk of the herd. Males may spend much of their time in bachelor groups. These groups are of two types, those that contain males from 4 to 7 years of age and those that have males 12 years and older. The older bulls often prefer to be on their own. Males do not reach their full weight until about age 10. After this, however, their body weight and condition decline, probably because the teeth become worn.

Sight and hearing are both rather poor, but scent is well developed in buffaloes. Although quiet for the most part, the animals do communicate. In mating seasons they grunt and emit hoarse bellows. A calf in danger will bellow mournfully, bringing herd members running at a gallop to defend it.

 

Diet.
Food sources play more of an important role than predation in regulating buffalo numbers. Without fresh green feed, buffaloes lose condition faster than other savanna ungulates, and so death is often due to malnutrition.

Grass forms the greatest part of the savanna buffalo's diet, although at certain times of the year browse plants other than grass is also consumed. Buffaloes spend more time feeding at night than during the day. They seem to have a relatively poor ability to regulate body temperature and remain in the shade for long periods of time in the heat of the day, or wallow in mud.

 
Caring for Young.

Females have their first calves at age 4 or 5. They usually calve only once every two years. Although young may be born throughout the year, most births occur in the rainy season when abundant grass improves the nutritional level for the females when they are pregnant or nursing. The female and her offspring have an unusually intense and prolonged relationship. Calves are suckled for as long as a year and during this time are completely dependent on their mothers. Female offspring usually stay in the natal herd, but males leave when they are about 4 years old.


Predators.

If attacked, the adults in the herd form a circle around the young and face outward. By lowering their heads and presenting a solid barrier of sharp horns, it is difficult for predators to seize a calf. This effective group defense even allows blind and crippled members of the herd to survive. Thus predators do not have a major impact on buffalo herds; it is the old, solitary-living males that are most likely to be taken by lions.

Outside the national parks in East Africa, buffaloes frequently come into conflict with human interests. They break fences and raid cultivated crops and may spread bovine diseases to domestic stock. They are still numerous in many parts of East Africa, even though they have been periodically devastated by the rinderpest virus. In other areas of Africa, buffaloes have been eliminated or their numbers greatly reduced.

 

Publication approved by AWF

 

Luipaard

Dutch Name:

Luipaard

English Name:

Leopard

Swahili Name:

Chui

Scientific Name:

Panthera pardus

Size:

About 28 inches at the shoulder

Weight:

Up to 140 pounds

Lifespan:

21 years in captivity

Habitat:

Bush and riverine forest

Diet:

Carnivorous

Gestation:

Approximately 21/2 months

Predators:

Humans

The most secretive and elusive of the large carnivores, the leopard is also the shrewdest. Pound for pound, it is the strongest climber of the large cats and capable of killing prey larger than itself.

 

Physical Characteristics.

Leopards come in a wide variety of coat colors, from a light buff or tawny in warmer, dryer areas to a dark shade in deep forests. The spots, or rosettes, are circular in East African leopards but square in southern African leopards.

 
Habitat.

Dense bush in rocky surroundings and riverine forest are their favorite habitats, but leopards adapt to many places in both warm and cold climates. Their adaptability, in fact, has helped them survive the loss of habitat to increasing human settlement. Leopards are primarily nocturnal, usually resting during the daytime in trees or thick bush. The spotted coat provides almost perfect camouflage.

 
Behavior.

When a leopard stalks prey, it keeps a low profile and slinks through the grass or bush until it is close enough to launch an attack. When not hunting, it can move through herds of antelopes without unduly disturbing them by flipping its tail over its back to reveal the white underside, a sign that it is not seeking prey.

Leopards are basically solitary and go out of their way to avoid one another. Each animal has a home range that overlaps with its neighbors; the male's range is much larger and generally overlaps with those of several females. A leopard usually does not tolerate intrusion into its own range except to mate. Unexpected encounters between leopards can lead to fights.

Leopards growl and spit with a screaming roar of fury when angry and they purr when content. They announce their presence to other leopards with a rasping or sawing cough. They have a good sense of smell and mark their ranges with urine; they also leave claw marks on trees to warn other leopards to stay away.

Leopards continually move about their home ranges, seldom staying in an area for more than two or three days at a time. With marking and calling, they usually know one another's whereabouts. A male will accompany a female in estrus for a week or so before they part and return to solitude.

 
Diet.

As they grow, cubs learn to hunt small animals. The leopard is a cunning, stealthy hunter, and its prey ranges from strong-scented carrion, fish, reptiles and birds to mammals such as rodents, hares, hyraxes, warthogs, antelopes, monkeys and baboons.

 
Caring for the Young.

A litter includes two or three cubs, whose coats appear to be smoky gray as the rosettes are not yet clearly delineated. The female abandons her nomadic wandering until the cubs are large enough to accompany her. She keeps them hidden for about the first 8 weeks, giving them meat when they are 6 or 7 weeks old and suckling them for 3 months or longer.

 
Predators.

Leopards have long been preyed upon by man. Their soft, dense, beautiful fur has been used for ceremonial robes and coats. Different parts of the leopard the tail, claws and whiskers are popular as fetishes. These cats have a reputation as wanton killers, but research does not support the claim. In some areas farmers try to exterminate them, while in others leopards are considered symbols of wisdom. Leopards do well in captivity, and some have lived as long as 21 years.

 

Publication approved by AWF

 

Neushoorn

Dutch name:

Neushoorn

English Name:

Rhinoceros

Swahili Name:

Faru

Scientific Name:

Black (Diceros bicornis), white (Ceratotherium simum)

Size:

About 60 inches at the shoulder

Weight:

1 to 11/2 tons (black rhino), over 2 tons (white rhino)

Lifespan:

35 to 40 years

Habitat:

Grassland and open savannas

Diet:

Vegetarian

Gestation:

16 months

Predators:

Humans

The rhinoceros is a large, primitive-looking mammal that in fact 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.

 
Physical Characteristics.

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.

 
Habitat.

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.

 
Behavior.

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.

 
Diet.

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.

 
Caring for the Young.

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.

 
Predators.

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.

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