Kruger Park Grazers and Browsers
Also know by the colloquialism, the slowveld. Yes, life is slow in this part of the world and as in most other slow parts of the world, things do speed up in these, our-modern-times. Even see the animals strutting along faster than they used to. I think they pick it up from us people’s impatience.
This is the follow up article to “Animals of the Kruger Park” that appeared last week. The intent of this piece is to present a short description of the amazing animals of the Kruger Park, including their number and type, for interest and a ready reference.
These are animals that rely mainly on grass matter for food and therefore known as grazers.
Zebra (Burchell’s) – Equus burchelli – number 28,000
Poncho donkey… pyjama donkey… and many other names plus, has endeared itself to most people, who know this active and very independent animal; probably the most striking and distinguishable grazer of all the amazing animals of the Kruger Park. Noted for its speed and agility, the zebra has the habit of keeping company with the wildebeests. This symbiotic relationship is mutual in their eating habits and that wildebeest benefit from the zebra’s alertness to predators, especially when it comes to the survival of both their young.
Lichtenstein’s hartebeest – Alcelaphus lichtensteinii – number 50
There are many types of hartebeest and if I remember well, seven different types, but we are talking about the Lichtensteins, which are a part of the amazing animals of the Kruger Park. These animals are open-plains grazers and are not strictly endemic to the Kruger, although they are coping in the open grasslands and have been here for some time. Hartebeest, you may not know, are the second fastest antelope in Africa at bursts of 70 km per hour and the fastest is the attractive tsessebe at 80 km per hour, giving the cheetah a good go on speed.
Tsessebe – Damaliscus lunatus lunatus – number 220
Fast moving active animals living above the 1,300 meter altitude and in fact the fastest antelope in Africa, preferring the higher cooler regions of the continent. One can call these amazing animals of the Kruger Park upland grazers, preferring to occupy large open savannah and wooded grasslands. To say they are suited to the Kruger is a contradiction along with the former species in this regard although, as with the hartebeest, they have adapted to their uncommon home in the Lowveld, Bushveld region, as their numbers suggest. Obviously the Kruger is richer for these two non-endemic species, so let them prosper and multiply, because they appear to have fitted in well with their larger neighbours. Sadly enough, the tsessebe are facing an alarming decline in numbers in their natural habitat in the last ten years, causing much consternation. An extinction protection program has been started in the international arena for these animals already.
Common reedbuck – Redunca arundinum – number 300
Any hunter of old will tell you how amazingly simple this animal is to hunt, which has led to its extinction in many Central African territories and indicates its need for protection. Also known as the southern reedbuck and largest of the species, it is very suited to the amazing animals of the Kruger Park habitat. Although not as showy as its mountain dwelling cousin, the common reedbuck is a handsome creature, none the less and in useful numbers. Like its mountain cousin, it is also a diurnal feeder but unalike in feeding habits, preferring grass and reeds, but not adverse to the occasional herb, if on offer.
Roan Antelope – Hippotragus equinus – number 90
The great debate goes on as to which is larger, the roan or the sable. I think it is how you measure large; the sable is mostly longer whereas the roan is commonly heavier but the same shoulder height in general. That’s it, the one is longer and the other stockier. There are, of course, four sable types and here we are comparing the black sable – niger – and not the almost-extinct, Angolan giant sable – variani. Roan are named after their mostly rich, roan – brown (auburn) – color, uncommon in the wild. Helpfully there are no arguments to the fact that roan are grazers, eating mid-length grasses like their cousins – the sable – and roam the savannah and lightly wooded grasslands of Africa as they do in Kruger.
Waterbuck – Kobus ellipsiprymnus – number 4,900
There are two types of waterbuck, i.e. the common and the defassa. As for the common, which is being discussed here, there is no fear of their extinction, anytime soon, but as for the defassa, it is nearing extinction at this time. Waterbuck are serious grazers, eating all and everything grassy they can get, living mostly along water courses, hence their numbers prove their success. These are large antelope, with bulls equalling the size of the sable antelope. Waterbuck excrete a waxy substance onto their fur that gives them the ability to wade in water for long stretches of time without ill effect. A notable feature of this antelope is its shaggy long hair, especially in the neck area and the white ring around the rump.
These are animals that rely mainly on plant leaf growth from trees and shrubs for food.
Black Rhino – Diceros bicornis – number 600-650
Black rhino are one of the big five animals of the Kruger Park. Many people substitute the white rhino for the black as one of the big five and that is totally incorrect. For a better understanding of this fact, read under the cheetah entry, why the big five are called the big five. Food; the black rhino’s eating mechanisms are adapted to eating trees and shrubs, unlike its grass eating cousin.
Greater kudu – Tragelaphus strepsiceros – number 14,000
There are two kudu types, specifically, the greater and lesser and the latter only occur in East Africa and are brown in color. Greater kudu are referred to as the ‘grey ghosts of the Bushveld’ because of their color and stealthy, silent movement through the tree undergrowth and bushes. Living around kudu, one becomes used to looking up and finding a kudu or six, curiously staring at you, at times no further than 15 meters away, having arrived there totally unnoticed or heard. These antelope number with the browsers of the amazing animals of the Kruger Park and as the numbers indicate, multiply very well and are not short of ready food in leaves and shoots. Kudu are docile animals, however like the eland they can clear a 2 meter fence from a standing position and if you have been privileged to see such a display of power, agility and poise you will never forget it. They simply look up, put their horns against their back, tuck down and launch. The Kruger fence is no obstruction to the kudu bull.
Giraffe – Giraffa camelopardalus – number 8,500
Giraffe, or as its name says camel-like-leopard or if you prefer, it’s a long necked spotted camel and their spots are a distinct way to tell the six different races apart. Giraffe eat deciduous tree leaves in the summer and evergreen in the winter. Unlike many other leaf-eating animals, giraffe can’t eat the leaves that fall to the ground, because of the strain on their legs, although standing in a fixed position they reach easily down to drink water. The leaves of the tamboti tree are a favourite food and as a semi-deciduous tree, it is very useful to both the giraffe and the black rhino – both amazing animals of the Kruger Park. Like elephant, giraffe make a humming type of infrasound, although the frequency is above that of true infrasound and can be heard by humans, if close enough. Other than that, they do snort and grunt, clearly audible to humans. Both male and female have horns, the only difference being, male’s horns are hairless while female’s are tufted with hair and the males also have a third horn in the centre of their foreheads – the median horn. Giraffe give off a strong odour from their skin that is antimicrobial and some scientist believe the pungent smell of the giraffe skin is also useful in repelling insects like spiders, fleas and ticks found in the foliage they feed on. It is interesting to know giraffe when walking move their legs unlike other quadrupeds, by moving both legs on one side forward together and then on the other side in the same manner, using their necks to balance and so moving forward. Whereas, a galloping giraffe can reach speeds of 60 km per hour and use a gait like that of a spring hare, with both back legs overtaking the outsides of both front legs together and so on, in a leaping manner.
Could not fit all in, so it’s on to next week as well, with many more animals to come. This has been a lot of work and a lot of fun, hope you enjoy.