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Mammals of Africa

 

Lions
FACT FILE:
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.
Did you know?
    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.


Baboon
FACT FILE:
Swahili Name:
Nyani
Scientific Name:
Olive baboon (Papiocynocephalus anubis); yellow baboon (Papio ynocephalus cynocephalus)
Size:
14 to 30 inches at the shoulder
Weight:
50 to 100 pounds
Lifespan:
20 to 30 years
Habitat:
Savannas and woodlands
Diet:
Omnivorous
Gestation:
6 months
Predators:
Humans, leopards, cheetahs
The baboon, of all the primates in East Africa, most frequently interacts with people. Apart from humans, baboons are the most adaptable of the ground-dwelling primates and live in a wide variety of habitats. Intelligent and crafty, they can be agricultural pests, so they are treated as vermin rather than wildlife.
Physical Characteristics
The two most common baboons occur in East Africa, the olive baboon and the yellow baboon. The larger and darker olive baboon is found in Uganda, west and central Kenya and northern Tanzania. Smaller, more slender and lighter in color, the yellow baboon inhabits southern and coastal Kenya and Tanzania. Both types are "dogfaced," but the yellow's nose turns up more than the olive's.
Habitat
Baboons are found in surprisingly varied habitats and are extremely adaptable. The major requirements for any habitat seems to be water sources and safe sleeping places in either tall trees or on cliff faces. When water is readily available, baboons drink every day or two, but they can survive for long periods by licking the night dew from their fur.
Behavior
Baboons usually leave their sleeping places around 7 or 8 a.m. After coming down from the cliffs or trees, adults sit in small groups grooming each other while the juveniles play. They then form a cohesive unit that moves off in a column of two or three, walking until they begin feeding. Fanning out, they feed as they move along, often traveling five or six miles a day. They forage for about three hours in the morning, rest during the heat of the day and then forage again in the afternoon before returning to their sleeping places by about 6 p.m. Before retiring, they spend more time in mutual grooming, a key way of forming bonds among individuals as well as keeping the baboons clean and free of external parasites.
Baboons sleep, travel, feed and socialize together in groups of about 50 individuals, consisting of seven to eight males and approximately twice as many females plus their young. These family units of females, juveniles and infants form the stable core of a troop, with a ranking system that elevates certain females as leaders. A troop's home range is well-defined but does not appear to have territorial borders. It often overlaps with the range of other baboons, but the troops seem to avoid meeting one another.
When they begin to mature, males leave their natal troops and move in and out of other troops. Frequent fights break out to determine dominance over access to females or meat. The ranking of these males constantly changes during this period.
Males are accepted into new troops slowly, usually by developing "friendships" with different females around the edge of a troop. They often help to defend a female and her offspring.
Diet
Baboons are opportunistic omnivores and selective feeders that carefully choose their food. Grass makes up a large part of their diet, along with berries, seeds, pods, blossoms, leaves, roots, bark and sap from a variety of plants. Baboons also eat insects and small quantities of meat, such as fish, shellfish, hares, birds, vervet monkeys and young, small antelopes.
Caring for the Young
For the first month, an infant baboon stays in very close contact with its mother. The mother carries the infant next to her stomach as she travels, holding it with one hand. By the time the young baboon is 5 to 6 weeks old it can ride on her back, hanging on by all four limbs; in a few months it rides jockey style, sitting upright. Between 4 and 6 months the young baboon begins to spend most of its time with other juveniles.
Predators
The baboon's major predators are humans. Knowing that humans can easily kill or injure them when they are in trees, baboons usually escape through undergrowth. Males may confront other predators like leopards or cheetahs by forming a line and strutting in a threatening manner while baring their large canines and screaming. Baboons are fierce fighters, but a demonstration such as this can put the predator on the run.
Did you know?
    Nearly one-half the size of adult males, females lack the male's ruff (long hairs around the neck), but otherwise they are similar in appearance.
    Baboons use over 30 vocalizations ranging from grunts to barks to screams. Nonvocal gestures include yawns, lip smacking and shoulder shrugging.


Cheetah
FACT FILE:
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:
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, 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.
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.
Did you know?
    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.

Elephant
FACT FILE:
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.
Did you know?
    The elephant is distinguished by its high level of intelligence, interesting behavior, methods of communication and complex social structure.
    Elephants seem to be fascinated with the tusks and bones of dead elephants, fondling and examining them. The myth that they carry them to secret "elephant burial grounds," however, has no factual base.
    Elephants are very social, frequently touching and caressing one another and entwining their trunks.
    Elephants demonstrate concern for members of their families they take care of weak or injured members and appear to grieve over a dead companion.


Mountain Gorilla
FACT FILE:
Swahili Name:
Gorila or N'gagi
Scientific Name:
Gorilla gorilla beringei
Size:
Up to 6 feet tall
Weight:
300 to 425 pounds
Lifespan:
53 years in captivity
Habitat:
Dense forest, rain forest
Diet:
Vegetarian
Gestation:
Vegetarian
Predators:
Leopards, crocodiles, humans
Few animals have sparked the imagination of man as much as the gorilla, the largest of the living primates and the last member of the ape family known to science. Most gorillas live in inaccessible regions in various dense forests in tropical Africa, and only in the last 30 years have scientists learned details of their life in the wild.
A chain of eight volcanoes known as the Virunga Volcanoes runs through a western section of the Rift Valley, forming part of the border between Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and Rwanda. These spectacular mountains and the nearby Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda are the last refuges of the most endangered of the gorilla subspecies, the mountain gorilla. Only about 630 of these individuals remain.
Physical Characteristics
The gorilla is massive, with a short, thick trunk and broad chest and shoulders. Its eyes and ears are dwarfed by its large head and hairless, shiny black muzzle. Older males develop a crown of muscle and hair that makes the head look even longer. The arms are longer than the stubby legs. The fully adult male mountain gorilla is twice as large as the female.
Habitat
The most serious threat to gorillas is habitat loss. The rich volcanic soil of the Virungas is as highly valued as farming land. In Rwanda, Uganda and Congo, a regional conservation program stressing the importance of maintaining the virgin forest watershed and the need to habituate some groups of gorillas for tourist visits has helped ease encroachment.
Behavior
The gorilla is shy and retiring rather than ferocious and treacherous. It usually seeks no trouble unless harassed but will valiantly defend its family group if threatened. Family groups are close-knit and may have up to 30 members, but even if smaller, the group usually consists of at least one older male, one or more females and a few juveniles.
Gorillas have strong attachments to members of their own group and even when groups meet and mingle and then subsequently part, each animal tends to remain with its respective unit. An adult male called a silverback named for the silvery gray hairs on its back normally leads each group, serving as its chief protector and defender. Gorillas continually wander through their home ranges of 10 to 15 square miles, feeding and resting throughout the day. Because gorillas are nomadic, they build new nests each day at dusk, constructing them of bent branches in a tree or of grasses on the ground.
A group's hierarchy, ritualized behavior and bluff charges between males prevents conflict among and between groups. Gorillas scream, grab foliage and stuff it in their mouths, stand erect on their hind legs, tear up and throw plants, drum on the chest with hands or fists, stamp their feet, strike the ground with the palms of their hands and gallop in a mock attack on all fours.
Diet
Animals of this size need a lot of food, and the vegetarian gorilla is no exception. Although they eat a variety of plants, favorites include wild celery, bamboo, thistles, stinging nettles, bedstraw and certain fruit. These plants seem to provide sufficient moisture so that gorillas do not need water.
Caring for the Young
Mountain gorillas have a slow rate of reproduction. Females give birth for the first time at about age 10 and will have more offspring every three or four years. A male begins to breed between 12 and 15 years, when he is in charge of his own group. Able to conceive for only about three days each month, the female produces a single young.
Newborn gorillas are weak and tiny, weighing in at about 4 pounds. Their movements are as awkward as those of human infants, but their development is roughly twice as fast. At 3 or 4 months, the gorilla infant can sit upright and can stand with support soon after. It suckles regularly for about a year and is gradually weaned at about 31/2 years, when it becomes more independent.
Predators
The gorilla's only known enemies are leopards and humans. Crocodiles are potentially dangerous to lowland gorillas. In western Africa, gorillas are commonly hunted for meat or in retaliation for crop raiding, but in eastern Africa they have been the victims of snares and traps set for antelope and other animals. Poachers have also destroyed entire family groups in their attempts to capture infant gorillas for zoos, while others are killed to sell their heads and hands as trophies.
Did you know?
    Gorillas rarely attack humans. But in an encounter a person should stay still and refrain from staring or pointing at the gorilla.
    Gorillas are susceptible to various parasites and diseases, especially to pneumonia during the long, cold wet seasons.


Grant's gazelle
FACT FILE:
Swahili Name:
Swala Granti
Scientific Name:
Gazella granti
Size:
30 to 36 inches at the shoulder
Weight:
100 to 145 pounds
Lifespan:
12 years
Habitat:
Open grass plains
Diet:
Herbivorous/browsers/grazer
Gestation:
7 months
Predators:
Humans, all major predators
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.
Physical Characteristics
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.
Habitat
Grant's gazelles are especially fond of open grass plains, and although they frequent bushy savannas, they avoid areas of high grass.
Behavior
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.
Diet
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.
Caring for the Young
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.
Predators
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.
Did you know?
    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.

Hartebeest
FACT FILE:
Swahili Name:
Kongoni
Scientific Name
Alcelaphus buselaphus
Size:
48 inches at the shoulder
Weight:
165 to 350 pounds
Lifespan:
12 to 15 years
Habitat:
Open plains
Diet:
Herbivorous/grazer
Gestation:
8 months
Predators:
Cheetahs, jackals, lions, hyenas, leopards,hunting dogs, humans
Coke's hartebeest, also called kongoni, is the most widespread hartebeest. It is found on the open grassy plains and tree grasslands in southern Kenya and Tanzania.
Physical Characteristics
The hartebeest is a large, fawn-colored antelope that at first glance seems strangely misshapen and less elegant than other antelopes. Clumsy in appearance, it is hump-shouldered, with a steeply sloping back, slim legs and a long, narrow face. It is far from clumsy, however, and is in fact one of the fastest antelopes and most enduring runners. These qualities gave rise to the name "hartebeest," which means "tough ox."
Scientists differ about the classification of the hartebeest. Some consider the group to have several geographic representatives of the same species, while others think it represents different species. The shape of the horns and the color of the coat seem to be the most important diagnostic indicators. Hunter's, Jackson's, Lichtenstein's and Coke's hartebeest are found in East Africa.
Habitat
Hartebeest are mainly found in medium and tall grasslands, including savannas. They are more tolerant of high grass and woods than other alcelaphines (archetypical plains antelopes).
Behavior
The hartebeest is one of the most sedentary antelopes (making it easy to hunt), but it does move around more when larger groupings form during the dry seasons or in periods of drought, to seek water and better grazing. At other times the females form small groups of five to 12 animals that wander around their home range. Most mature males become solitary and spread out in adjoining territories. Hartebeests go to water regularly, but in some circumstances territorial males appear to go without drinking for rather long periods. The home ranges are usually densely populated. When a territorial male returns from watering, he may find another in his place.
Females are free to seek the best grazing in their home range, but males cannot leave their territories for long if they intend to keep them. Successful breeding only takes place within the territories-open, short-grass areas of ridges or rises on plateaus are the most favored spots. Males strenuously defend their territories; they often stand on open, elevated areas to keep a lookout for intruders. Should a territorial male be challenged, a fight may develop. Males are aggressive, especially so during breeding peaks. Like many antelopes, however, hartebeests have developed ways of fighting that determine dominance without many fatalities or serious injuries. A ritualized series of head movements and body stances, followed by depositing droppings on long-established dung piles that mark the territory's borders, normally precede any actual clashing of horns and fighting. After the dominance ritual, one male may leave. If not, the hartebeest with its stout horns, short, strong neck and heavily muscled shoulders, is well-prepared for fighting. If the dispute over a territory is serious and both males are prepared to fight over it, severe injury may result.
Diet
The hartebeest feeds almost entirely on grass, but is not very selective and quite tolerant of poor-quality food. It has suffered from the expansion of cattle raising, as hartebeests and cattle compete for the same food.
Caring for the Young
The social organization of the hartebeest is somewhat different than that of other antelopes. Adult females do not form permanent associations with other adults; instead, they are often accompanied by up to four generations of their young. Female offspring remain close to their mothers up to the time they give birth to calves of their own. Even male offspring may remain with their mothers for as long as 3 years, considered an unusually long bonding period. As groups of females move in and out of male territories, the males sometimes try to chase away the older offspring. Their mothers become defensive and protect them from the males. Although bachelor herds of young males are also formed, they are less structured than those of some antelopes, and age classes are not as conspicuous.
Young are born throughout the year, but conception and breeding peaks may be influenced by the availability of food. The behavior of the female hartebeest when she gives birth is very different from that of the wildebeest. Instead of calving in groups on open plains, the hartebeest female isolates herself in scrub areas to give birth and leaves the young calf hidden for a fortnight, only visiting it briefly to suckle.
Predators
Juvenile mortality is thought to be relatively low, despite the number of potential predators. Cheetahs and jackals prey on small calves, while young and adult hartebeests are killed by lions, hyenas, leopards, hunting dogs and people.
Did you know?
    The ancient Egyptians are said to have semidomesticated the hartebeest for use as a sacrificial animal. Because the species competes with cattle for food, further attempts at domestication are unlikely.
    Although a prolific breeder and even a dominant species in some areas, the hartebeest has probably suffered the greatest reduction in range of all African ruminants


Hippo
FACT FILE:
Swahili Name:
Kiboko
Scientific Name:
Hippopotamus amphibius
Size:
13 feet long and 5 feet tall
Weight:
Up to 31/2 tons
Lifespan:
50 years
Habitat:
Rivers, swamps and protected areas
Diet:
Herbivorous
Gestation:
About 240 days
Predators:
Humans, lions, crocodiles
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.
Physical Characteristics
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.
Habitat
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 (Choeropsis liberiensis). Limited to very restricted ranges in West Africa, it is a shy, solitary forest dweller, and now rare.
Behavior
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.
Diet
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.
Caring for the Young
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.
Predators
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.
Did you know?
    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.


Hyena
FACT FILE:
Swahili Name:
Fisi
Scientific Name:
Crocuta crocuta (spotted hyena)
Size:
28 to 35 inches tall
Weight:
90 to 190 pounds
Lifespan:
25 years in captivity
Habitat:
Savannas, grasslands, woodlands,
forest edges, subdeserts and
mountains to 13,000 feet
Diet:
Carnivorous
Gestation:
90 to 110 days
Predators:
Humans
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.
Physical Characteristics
Of the three species of hyena in Africa, only the spotted hyena and the shy and much rarer, striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) are found in East Africa. The smaller, and even shyer brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) 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.
Habitat
Spotted hyenas are found in grasslands, woodlands, savannas, subdeserts, forest edges and mountains.
Behavior
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.
Diet
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.
Caring for the Young
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.
Predators
Lions (who will attack them at every opportunity), hunting dogs and strange hyenas are among the species that prey on hyenas.
Did you know?
    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.

Leopard
FACT FILE:
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.
Did you know?
    The elegant, powerfully built leopard has a long body, relatively short legs and a broad head. Its tawny coat is covered with dark, irregular circles called "rosettes."
    Both lions and hyenas will take away a leopard's kill if they can. To prevent this leopards store their larger kills in trees where they can feed on them in relative safety.


Rhinoceros
FACT FILE:
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
Did you know?
    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.

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