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THE LION (Panthera Leo)

The Lion otherwise known as the "King of the Jungle" is unique in that it is the only cat to live in groups (prides). They vary in colour from nearly white to deep ochre brown but tawny yellow is the commonest shade. The male lion wear a mane around their necks which protects them during fights with other male lions, it begins to grow at about 3 yrs of age. It is also an indicator of fitness. Lions are the only cats to have manes and are the only cat to have a tuft at the end of their tales. The lion is also famous for it's roar which carries for miles over the savannah. The lion is a carnivore and lives for up to 20 years. Females are slightly smaller than the male weighing between 200 to 250 kgs. Gestation period is between 105 to 110 days. The lioness takes care of her cubs - she may have 3 or 4 at one time, cubs are born with spots which disappear as they get older, although some spots occasionally persist on their legs and belly. Females are also more experienced and agile hunters than the male and hunt by ambush taking zebra, antelopes, buffaloes etc.

It can eat up to one fifth of it's weight at one meal, but may also fast for three or four days. Humans have also been known to be their prey. The Man Eaters of Tsavo were a pair of notorious man-eating male lions responsible for the deaths of a number of construction workers on the Mombasa - Nairobi Railway from March - December 1898. These males were unusual in that they had no manes. Lions once ranged from North Africa through South West Asia, West into Europe (where they became extinct 2000 years ago) and East into India. Their distribution is patchy and they now are only found in reserves and national parks south of the Sahara and in the Gir Forest India. African Lions are listed as vulnerable by the 2000 IUCN red list. The Asiatic Lion is classed as Critically Endangered.

THE LEOPARD (Panthera pardus)

The Leopard is the most adaptable to any kind of geographical configuration. It is at home as much in the forest as it is in the woods, in the savannah, in the semi desert, or the mountains or near the villages. If the Cheetah is the number one runner, the leopard may be classed as the perfect athlete. It excels in running, jumping and climbing trees. It has immense strength being able to bring down a prey having 3 times its weight. It is of the same family as the Lion, of the same size and weight as the Cheetah, though a bit shorter and stockier. The gestation period is 3 months and has between 2 to 6 cubs at any one time.

It can live up to 20 years. The Leopard is a loner, each one being identified by its markings. The Black Panther was at one time regarded as being a different species but in fact is a freak of nature and is a Leopard but almost black. It's spots though can still be seen on it's fur. Leopards love to eat dog and regularly kill dogs from local villages. Once a Leopard starts to kill it often cannot stop and will kill other animals just for the sake of it as against killing it's prey to eat it. A Leopard will hide it's partly eaten carrion high up in the fork of a tree to eat the following day, and to keep it away from Hyenas and Jackals. When hunted down, it becomes a destructive machine. The most dangerous killer among the felines.

THE RHINOCEROUS (Ceratotherium simum)

The Rhino is the 2nd largest in size after the Elephant. There are 2 species in Africa - The Black Rhino and the White Rhino. The White Rhino is the larger and reaches lengths of 4 3/4 metres and has a weight of 4 tons, while the Black Rhino does not reach 4 metres and just manages 2 tons. The White's gestation period is 450 - 480 days which is a 100 days longer than the Black Rhino. Both Rhino have poor eyesight and relies on it's two horns on it's snout as weapons.

The horn's main function however is to aid in feeding. It enables the animal to tear and uproot it's food. The Rhino is very territorial and rarely strays out of it's boundaries. The Rhino has a very long sexual act which may be the source of the legend widely believed in Asia that Rhino horn powder is a powerful aphrodisiac. This legend is not yet dead and may be the reason why Rhino's have been exterminated in some places and reduced to very few in others.

THE BUFFALO (Syncerus caffer caffer)

The Buffalo mammal of the Artiodactyls, family Bovids can grow to a length of 2 3/4 metres and reach a weight of one ton. The gestation period is almost one year with one calf being born at any one time. Buffalo can live for up to 20 years. There are 2 types, The Savannah Buffalo and the Forest Buffalo.

They have large impressive horns with the typical curvature being the characteristic of the Bull, but the cow also wears a formidable pair too. Buffaloes are gregarious animals, however solitary ones are often found on the savannah. These are usually bulls, which having reached full maturity and weight, no longer feel like travelling long distances: they choose a place near water and graze peacefully, their huge size discouraging possible predators.

The Buffalo is famous for it's keen sense of smell which knows the presence of intruders at a distance of 500 metres away, when the wind is favourable.

Buffalo love to wallow in the mud like pigs, not just to cool off but to get rid of parasites tormenting them. Birds also pick off unwanted insects.

A fight for supremacy can be terrifying to watch, they will fight until one surrenders unconditionally. The winner will then return to the herd as if nothing had happened to be the boss of the herd.

THE ELEPHANT (Loxodonta Africana)

The Elephant is the largest land mammal alive. .

There are 3 living species of the species, The African Bush Elephant, The African Forest Elephant and the Asian Elephant. Other species have become extinct since the last ice age, the Mammoth being the most known of these.

The African Elephant differs from the Indian one, it has a bigger head and larger ears and is larger in size overall. The Indian cow Elephant does not have tusks while the African variety have formidable tusks in both sexes.

The trunk is an extended hand, it tears off foodstuffs and takes it to the mouth. It sucks up a few gallons of water at a time to squirt it in it's mouth or squirts the water over it's body. It also uses it to scratch it's body and chastise the young ones when they are not keeping up with the adults on the march, or to encourage and assist the young ones if they are in trouble. It also blows dust and soil over its body to clear out the numerous parasites living in the folds of its skin. Birds will also sit on the Elephant and pluck out ticks and insects.

The Elephant's diet is varied from tough grass to tree barks & baobab trees. As the Elephant hide is 2 cm think it has problems keeping cool. The Elephant will use its huge ears to help control its temperature. It can reach a length of six to seven meters including it's trunk and can weigh up to seven tons, and can live up to 70 years though the oldest known is 82 years.

It's gestation period is 22 months the longest of any living animal and can have young every four years. It is very rare for an Elephant to  have twins.

Healthy adult Elephants have no natural predators but lions may take calves or weak individuals. Their main enemy is man who threatens them by intrusion or poaching for it's ivory.

Once numbering millions the African Elephant has dwindled to between 470,000 to 690,000 according to March 1997 survey. While the Elephant is a protected species worldwide, with restrictions in place on capture, domestic use and trade in products such as ivory CITES reopening of "one time" ivory stock sales, has resulted in increased poaching. Certain African nations report a decrease of their Elephant population by as much as two-thirds and populations in certain protected areas are in danger of being eliminated. Since recent poaching has increased by a much as 45%, the current population is unknown. 2008 Wikipedia Encyclopaedia.

 THE GIRAFFE (Giraffa camelopardalis)

The Giraffe is a very strange animal; it is a ruminant like a goat or a cow, but has a head and a body nearer to the horse, the neck and shoulders remind you of a camel, the eyes are of a bull, the legs of an antelope, the colour and fur design of a leopard. The Latin name also tries to remind us of these things. Class of mammals, order of artiodactyls, family: Giraffes. The height varies from 4 to 5 metres and weighs a ton and over. Gestation is 14 to 15 months giving birth to one young at a time weighing 70 kg. Giraffe live up to 25 years. There are many species. The most attractive is the reticulated giraffe. In Kenya there is also a rare species having 5 horns; (with regard to horns: there may be two to five, according to species but they are just bone protuberances covered with hairs, with a tuft at the top and are considered as having ornamental rather than defensive purposes, being used for stroking during the mating season).

Unbelievably the Giraffe only has 7 vertebrae (as a mouse has) Nature has provided it with a singular device to prevent excess blood going to the brain when the head is lowered to the ground. A little valve closes and the pressure is proportionately decreased. The favourite diet is the spiny acacia, an umbrella shaped tree with small leaves among tufts of thorns. No fear: a special muscle on the lips is puncture proof. The tongue is half a metre long and helps to grab branches as well. Usually the Giraffe is mute but sometimes it bleats or grunts.

To lie down it has to proceed with a special manoeuvre, so to speak, segment by segment. It feels undefended when lying down, so it prefers to rest standing with its legs slightly more apart than usual.

The kick of a Giraffe is extremely dangerous because of the leg's length and consequent speed; someone has calculated it can kick a football 300 metres.....as long as the ball does not burst first!

THE CROCODILE (Crocodylus niloticus)

The Nile River flows through a large chunk of Africa and from time immemorial has given hospitality to this huge reptile, called Crocodylus niloticus. There are still today specimens 5 to 6 metres long and weighing one ton, but a time ago one could find creatures even 9 metres long. It is generally thought that crocodiles are the only animals which have changed very little from their prehistoric ancestors: only their size seems to have decreased.

The crocodile is a reptile which lays from 20 to 50 eggs per brood. It hides the heap of eggs in the sand and stays not too distant from the place. About 90 days afterwards, the little crocs hatch out and instinctively take a run for the water. It is the most dangerous moment for the newly born. In fact there are many enemies just waiting for the occasion, birds from the air and other animals on the ground, especially another reptile, a large lizard, which does not have to wait for hatching but goes to dig out the eggs before they become indigestible.

It is good that the balance of nature is kept, otherwise the rivers would be full of crocodiles, given the mother  crocodile may live up to 70 yrs and can be counted on to lay eggs in abundance. The crocodile has no tongue but only a stump of muscle which plugs the gullet at the time of immersion. Teeth are used to hold and tear up the prey rather than to chew. To tear the flesh from the prey, the crocodile snaps its jaws and then swiftly turns three or four times around like a rotating torpedo: since the prey cannot follow that fast, it is torn to pieces.

Stones have been found in the bellies of crocodiles, some think they may be of use in mincing the large pieces of meat swallowed without chewing. Others think the stones are just added weight to make immersion easier. The friends of the crocodile are not numerous. Only one bird has permission to get near and even to enter its mouth when it is open.  The bird does the job of toothpick and toothbrush and also - nice sleep comes easily under the hot sun! - acts as an alarm clock to wake up the crocodile when danger is imminent. Truly even in the animal kingdom one can apply the proverb: a friend in need is a friend indeed.

THE ZEBRA (Equus quagga burchelli and Equus quaga grevyi)
Common Zebra Grevy's Zebra

There are many different species of Zebras in Africa, the most popular are the Common Zebra and the Grevy's Zebra.

The Grevy's Zebra is larger than the others and less horse like in appearance. It is more adapted to desert conditions, withstanding extremes of heat and thirst.

An African legend says that when God created the desert, after reviewing what he had done, he was  a bit disappointed with the solitude of that huge territory and so created the Zebra to inhabit the wilderness. Zebras belong to the same families are horses, as the Latin name implies. Order of the Perissodactyls and family of Equids.

While the common Zebra may weigh up to 300 kgs., the Grevy's species may reach more than 400. The stripes of the Grevy are much more numerous than those of the Common Zebra. Looking at this strange creature you may think that the colour of the mantle is a natural target for predators. In fact it provides an excellent camouflage, especially when running. Lions, Cheetahs, hunting dogs are the usual hunters of Zebras, but they must be very careful about the the powerful kick of Zebras; otherwise a very well placed kick may reverse the situation and the hunters may finish their chase with their entrails scattered all over the ground.

THE WILDEBEEST (Connochaetes taurinus)

The Wildebeest is also known as the Gnu and is an antelope. There are 2 species, both native to Africa, The Black Wildebeest or white tailed gnu and the Blue Wildebeest or brindled gnu belonging to the family Bovidae which includes antelopes, cattle, goats and other even-toed horned ungulates.

Wildebeest grow between 3ft 9" to 4ft 7" (1.15 - 1.4 metres) at the shoulder and weigh 330 - 550 pounds (150 - 250 Kilo). They inhabit the plains and open woodlands of Africa, especially the Serengeti National Park. They can live for more than 20 years. They are well known for their annual migration to new pastures, from Tanzania - Kenya and vice-versa.

They move in vast quantities and many die in their attempt to cross rivers, many being eaten by crocodiles. While it is commonly assumed that this is simply a "frenzy" and that the Wildebeest cross blindly, recent research has shown a herd to possess what is known as a "swarm intelligence" whereby the Wildebeest systematically explore and overcome the obstacle "as one".

More information on the migration of the Wildebeest can be found by clicking the link below

Wildebeest Migration

THE GERENUK (Litocranius walleri)

The Gerenuk is a very interesting creature with no close resemblance to any other antelope - except the Dibatag. It has earned itself the nickname "gazelle - giraffe". It is no longer than one metre 60cm, it's height reaches one metre, and it's weight is no more than 50-55kg.

It has a small head, very long legs and neck. Only the male has short ringed horns. It has a reddish-brown coat and white belly. With its long neck the gerenuk reaches tasty leaves and shoots by standing on its hind legs and balancing itself against the branches, its powerful muscles enabling it to hold this position for a considerable period. It doesn't eat grasses, but only leaves and shoots, flowers and fruits and lianas. In the wilderness, almost empty of animal life, the gerenuk is completely at home.

Because of its ability to go without water for long periods, the animal has no need to compete with other animals of the banks of the rivers, streams or waterholes. It will not miss the opportunity to drink should water be easily available, but it is no matter of great importance. Provided that leaves and shoots will not disappear because of persistent drought, the gerenuk will not bother. The horns are very solid and thick at the base; because of this particular solid brain-pan the scientists gave this species of gazelle the last name "litocranius" (lito=stone; cranius=skull).

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