January 26

Curious Creatures of Africa

4  comments

January 26, 2012

Most first time safaris are focused on the Big 5 but on any decent safari your expert ranger will delight and enthuse with tall tales and fascinating facts about all creatures great and small. There’s nothing quite like an African safari holiday to spark a life long interest in wildlife. So for the more discerning wildlife enthusiasts among you, we’ve compiled a list of some of the more intriguing African animals…

Dugong

Dugongs, we think you’ll agree, are rather splendid marine animals. They’re sometimes called “sea cows” because they graze on large amounts of sea grass. They can grow to about 3 metres in length and weigh as much as 500kg.  The Bazaruto Archipelago is one of the largest nature reserves in Mozambique and it is believed that this is the only place along the East African coast that still hosts a significant population of Dugongs. They are an endangered and protected species in Mozambique. Dugongs are a different species to Manatees, but are part of the same order (Sirenia).

One can see dugong at the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique
Image credit: Fotograferen.net

Pangolin

A pangolin is a prehistoric-looking mammal with large keratin scales covering its skin, creating an impenetrable armor that protects it from predators. It uses its well-developed sense of smell to find insects. The pangolin is a nocturnal animal, which makes spotting it on a game drive during daylight, extremely difficult, as it spends most of the day curled up into a ball, sleeping. Tswalu Kalahari is considered probably the best place on earth to view pangolin. This unusual animal is rarely seen elsewhere but the open grasslands on Tswalu make it easier to find, particularly during winter when they emerge in daylight to search for ants and termites.

The rare pangolin is a treat to see
Photo credit: David Brossard
A lion has a go at a pangolin
Image credit: Mark Sheridan-Johnson

White Lion

White lions are not albino, instead the white color is caused by a recessive gene known as chinchilla or color inhibitor. At the moment there is a small population of white lion in the Timbavati Game Reserve. The white lion gene from the Timbavati is thought to be the source of almost all white lions in the world! For the most part they can only be found in zoos, a few in the Timbavati and at Sanbona Private Game Reserve on the Garden Route there is a free roaming pride of white lions.

Read more about the white lion in our blogs:

The majestic profile of a white lion
Photo credit: Tambako

Aardvark

The aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is a rare sight because it is completely nocturnal. The name is Afrikaans, and means “earth pig”. Aardvarks are omnivores that are about 1,6 metres long with a life span of about 11 years. Aardvarks are found throughout Africa except for equatorial forest and northern desert regions. They are highly adaptable and can be found anywhere with plenty of ants or termites – its principle diet.

The rare aardvark is delightful to watch

 

Red Lechwe

The Red Lechwe is an antelope found in abundance in the Okavango Delta in Botswana and notable for its adaptations to swampy conditions. The hind legs are somewhat longer in proportion to other antelopes, to ease long-distance running in marshy soil. They use the knee-deep water of the Okavango Delta as protection from predators and their legs are covered in a water repelling substance allowing them to run quickly through the water. The splayed, elongated hooves act like fins in water and as stabiliser on soft, muddy ground.

Red Lechwe in Botswana

Indri

The Indri (Indri indri) is the largest living lemur and inhabits the montane forests of eastern Madagascar. It resembles a giant panda with its black and white fur, but its long neck and arms, and small ears make it look more human. The Indri lives on canopy fruits and leaves. It is characterised by its strange yet beautiful song, which can carry for more than 2 kms. It barks when confronted with danger and makes kissing sounds when affectionate. It doesn’t move along the ground, but instead leaps between tree trunks – often over 10 metres. The Indri population is dwindling due to habitat loss and hunting.

The strange and wonderful Indri in Madagascar
Image credit: David Cook

Aye-Aye

This thing is freaky looking! A cross between Golum and Dobby, the Aye-Aye is actually a lemur native to Madagascar and is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. It is characterised by its unusual method of finding food; it taps on trees to find grubs, then gnaws holes in the wood and inserts its narrow middle finger to pull the grubs out. The Aye-Aye is currently classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

The Aye-Aye of Madagascar

The Ostrich

The ostrich is the largest living species of bird and lays the largest egg of any living bird. Commonly found on South Africa’s Garden Route, Ostriches can run at speeds of up to about 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph), the top land speed of any bird. Their eggs are so strong that the average human can stand on it without it breaking – since it needs to be tough enough for an ostrich to sit on. One ostrich egg is the equivalent of about 24 chicken eggs. That’s one big breakfast! Or a big breakfast for one.

Group of ostriches along the Garden Route with yellow rapeseed fields in background, South Africa

Gerenuk (Waller’s Gazelle)

Gerenuk means “giraffe-necked” in the Somali language. Gerenuks are a type of gazelle, with a small head in proportion to its body, and a long thin neck that makes it look like the result of someone stretching an impala. Gerenuk prefer lightly bushed areas and are found in East Africa – (mainly in Kenya, north-east Tanzania, southern Somalia and southern Ethiopia). They are very well adapted to arid conditions and don’t drink free water. Gerenuks are exclusive browsers, feeding on leaves, shoots, and sometimes flowers and fruits, which they often acquire by standing on their hind legs to pick from a tree or a bush.

Look at the length of that neck!
Image credit: Sean Crane
Gerenuk (waller’s gazelle) is found in East Africa
Image credit: Paul Buck

Gaboon Adder

The Gaboon Adder (Bitis gabonica) is a venomous viper species found in the rainforests and savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is the world’s heaviest viper, has the longest fangs (up to 2 inches), and the highest venom yield of any venomous snake. Not a guy to be messed with! He’s a master of disguise with the colouring and patterns enabling him to blend in with rocks, leaves and other African terrains. He’s also got tiny horns between the nostrils and two stripes below the eye. Alias’s include butterfly adder, forest puff adder, and swampjack.

Close-up of the details of the Gaboon Adder
Image credit: John White

 

Bushbaby

They’re as cute as a button until you realise they pee on their hands and then jump around marking their territory on things. They are also known as galagos or nagapies (meaning “little night monkeys” in Afrikaans, since they are almost exclusively seen at night.). They are small, nocturnal primates native to Africa. Some say that the name bush baby comes from either the animal’s cries or appearance. Cute factor 10.

Bush Baby
Image credit: Andrea Tulnik-Hellinger

What are your favourite African animals? And do you have any interesting wildlife facts to share? Post a Blog Comment below or share with us on our Rhino Africa Facebook Page.

Your experience on safari will depend heavily on the quality of the game viewing experience and the knowledge and experience of the rangers. That is one of the reasons why prices for safari holidays vary so widely. Our expert travel consultants know what to look out for and they know the very best experiences to recommend so that you get the best value for money. If you’d like to see some of these extraordinary creatures and many more under the expert supervision of Africa’s top guides and rangers, then contact Rhino Africa Safaris today to start planning your African Safari Holiday of a lifetime!


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About the author 

Craig Harding

Craig Harding is the general go-to guy at Rhino Africa. He's pretty chilled out so he's the right guy to have by your side on an intrepid adventure. He says 'the journey is the destination' so we just all nod and agree - it's better that way...

  • White lions are also found in the Klaserie in the Kruger. The Giraffe Pride, which has a wild female white lion, moves between the Klaserie and the Timbavati. The pride with two white lions (at last count), can be found in the northern Klaserie and Umbabat area of the Timbavati. My two cents worth! What I would give to see a wild white lion!

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