More mammals of Southern Africa #2

Mammals make the top ten list, or at least the African Big 5 list. The lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and African buffalo are the usual animals listed as the Big 5. No one ever puts ostrich or crocodile on those lists. Nope they are dominated by mammals. The list was contrived by the great white hunters who felt the need to hunt the biggest and most dangerous animals of Africa. There are other big animals but most are relatively docile. For instance the rhinoceros mentioned in the Big 5 is the Black Rhinoceros or Hook-lipped Rhinoceros. The more docile White Rhinoceros was left off; perhaps it was number 6. This may also have been partly because the list was developed for Europeans visiting East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) not Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, & Zambia).

The next couple blogs will look at some of the larger mammals whether they are in the official Big 5 or not.

The male Greater Kudu is an elegant antelope. Only the Eland is taller and heavier. Only the Impala has similar lines and grace. Where the Eland is more bovine-like, the kudu is sleek and bedecked with natures most elegant horns. Perhaps it is that the Impala is like a ballerina, the kudu like a world-class track and field athlete, and the Eland more like a heavyweight boxer; all has style and all vibrate with muscular potential, but they are all different. It needs cover and thus lives in areas where there are trees and shrubs. Because it can survive in very dry areas it is quite widespread. It can be found in riverine locations as well as wooded savanna.
The female Greater Kudu is smaller and lighter than the male. But she has a sense of style as well. In addition to the ear and face markings these antelope have thin white stripes (6-10) running from the spinal (dorsal) crest (mane) down to the belly.
This was my first sighting of Roan Antelope. It was a kind of tough-luck creature for me but we ran into a group of eleven one evening and the next day found them again. Southern Africa has two of the more stylized antelope; the Sable and the Roan. I was a bit surprised to see how solid the Roan were but the face patterns, annulated (ringed) horns, long fringe-tipped ears, and the sheer size of the animals was compensation. The upstanding mane on the neck is a distinctly Roan characteristic.
Of course no look at big animals would be complete without a mention of the huge sausage called Hippopotamus. This mostly aquatic creature can exceed three tons in weight; to 7000 pounds in a large male and 5000 pounds in a mature female. The dominant male oversees a pod of females. When a female gives birth she moves away from the group and keeps her young away from the milling mob for a few weeks. Males that have reached adulthood try to establish their own group of females in their own section of river/pond/lake. In many cases males fight to establish dominance and to take or retain territory.
These young males are jousting for no good reason, at least yet. As they age the fights will become serious and the results more meaningful. This jousting is both practice for future contests and a way to create a pecking order. The lower canines will be as much as twenty inches long in an adult and they are kept sharp by wearing against the upper teeth. As grazers of grasses they sweep across grasslands during their nocturnal feeding forays. Adults will eat about 90 pounds of grass each night. They will tear a swath of grass almost twenty inches wide with their broad lips.
The White Rhinoceros is another grazer of grasses. It has a mostly diurnal pattern of feeding. The White Rhino is the largest land mammal excluding the elephant (see next blog page). A large male will be just short of 5000 pounds and a female can tip the scales at 3500 pounds. They will feed about twelve hours a day and spend eight hours resting. The balance of the day is spent moving about. The rhinoceroses are but a tiny remnant of a great group of herbivores that dominated the earth a few million years ago. The odd-toed group of animals had been widely replaced by even-toed grazers like the antelope. The only other groups that remain of the odd-toed animals are the horses and the tapirs.
Zebra in Southern Africa have a smudgy stripe in between the black stripes. This gives these animals a rather dusky look. The zebra of East Africa are much more crisp and sharply patterned. In the dry lands north of the equator the Grevy’s Zebra is a narrowly striped zebra quite a bit larger than the typical Plains Zebra as both East African and Southern African populations are called. The hoof is the extended middle digit.

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