Kruger Park Grazers and Browsers
This is both an English and an Afrikaans word used to depict all naturally wild areas of Africa. The last article dealt with the Lowveld/Slowveld syndrome and this is also of the wild but depicts a wider area. As you know, we are dealing with the Kruger Park wildveld region.
This is the follow up article from “Amazing Animals of the Kruger Park” that appeared last week. The intent of this article is to present a short description of the incredable animals of the Kruger Park, including their number and type, for interest and a ready reference
These are animals that rely on both grass matter, as well as plant leaf growth from trees and shrubs for food and known as mixed feeders.
Elephant – Loxodonta africana – number 14,000
Elephants are the largest and heaviest of the land animals of the Kruger Park and also in the world. There are two species of elephant recognized, namely the African and Indian, although some people argue that a third species exists, the forest elephants – Knysna forest elephant being one type – and some even claim there are 18 subspecies. Ours is the plains elephant, which is the African elephant, making up one of the incredible animals of the Kruger Park. Eat? I think everything except meat! Well, maybe not that bad but leaves, bark, roots, grass and grass roots fruits, flowers berries, herbs, aquatic plants, reeds, bulbs tubers and did I mention bark? The African elephant is known mainly as a browser and the Asian elephant is known as a grazer.
A most important fact about elephants is their various languages, such as infrasonic communications made in subsonic sound waves, as well as seismic alarm signals used to alert family groups to be on the defensive, ready for an attack. Elephant subsonic sounds travel as far as 10 km and their seismic around 30 km. So when an elephant makes a charge or attack, all the other elephants within the 30 km radius know of the attack. Elephant often assume humans can detect this warning sound and when not obeyed by the humans retreating, they attack, flapping their ears as a further warning, often ending in what is loosely referred to as a mock charge but not always.
Trumpeting is another common sound made by elephant and well known by humans, as well as many other sociable interactive sounds beyond the scope of this entry. Another useful fact about elephant is that they keep themselves cool by flapping their ears, which are full of veins for this purpose, because this is where the hot blood flows to.
Impala – Aepyceros melampus – number 155,000
There are two main species of impala, one being the black faced impala – melampus petersi – is found in Angola and Namibia, its natural habitat and is much larger than our common impala. There are also completely black impala developed from a recessive gene – like the white lion – and not a subspecies of the southern impala.
Impala are commonly known as the McDonalds of the Bushveld, not a very complementary name for one of the prettiest of the antelope. The reason for their nickname is based on the fact that they are easy antelope to hunt by predators and form the largest group of antelope in the Bushveld. Even though impala are among the medium sized antelope, they are still one of the large animals of the Kruger Park.
Impala love to play by jumping a running through the bush in the cooler early mornings, chasing one another around and around, kicking their back legs up high as they land on their front hooves. This action it is said, activates and releases a scent from a gland, a black patch at the back of the impala’s hind hocks – above the ankle. Why this is done, has not been accurately determined, although it is a joy to watch on a crispy early morning, especially with the youngsters setting off their mothers to join in. Impala are seriously high jumpers reaching over 3 meters (10 feet) in height and long distances as a result and this ability often saves their lives from predators. Impala are very sociable and allo-grooming is a common practice in the whole herd.
Mountain Reedbuck – Redunca fulvorufula – number 150
Together with the tsesebe, a high altitude antelope, this is also a mountain dweller as its name suggests. Although the former is a pure grazer, the mountain reedbuck is not. The noticeable difference between the common and mountain reedbuck is its greyer, woolly coat, designed for mountain camouflage and cooler weather.
Food and diurnal habits of this antelope are not greatly dissimilar to that of the grey duiker, although of a somewhat larger species. It is gratifying to see how the antelope has adapted to lowland dwelling in amongst the other incredible animals of the Kruger Park, affording them a better management and protection than most.
Feeding off grass and bushes with a natural habit of living in high forested glades, containing both its foods and plenty of moisture, to which it is accustomed, makes it pleasing to find this antelope fitting so well into the Kruger environment.
Eland – Tragelaphus oryx – numbering 460
Eland, like the elephant is a mixed feeder and therefore a true African survivor even in drought times which are common to Africa. Many have taken to farming with these fine meat producing animals weighing in at 700 – 800 kg for males and females at 450 kg. Because of their diet, they are able to go successfully without too much water when need be, even forever.
These incredible animals of the Kruger Park live in a variety of ecosystems very adaptively, thereby making themselves suit the districts they happen to find themselves in. For all their size and docility, eland can clear a 2 meter fence fairly convincingly and that from a standing position. Another curious feature of the eland is they cannot gallop but only trot and so fast that some people think they are galloping. Mostly eland are immune to large predators on account of their size and power, as well as their numbers in a herd. These two remind me of some people I know, but I dare not say!
Nyala – Tragelaphus angasii – number 300
Nyala, first painted and described by G. F. Angas – 1849 – to the western world and later named after him, granted the name Inyla came from the Zulu nation. Some people wonder why the nyala is erroneously referred to as the lesser kudu, to this day. The reason behind this mystery, is because the nyala was originally known as the lesser kudu, – blame this on the scientists – but now is a species all on its own. Not to confuse people, there is another kudu – for this see the kudu entry – so that explains the kudu side, but the nyala side of the story is best forgotten. It is actually odd to place this animal among the pure grazer or browser, only because during the rainy season it prefers only new grass and out of the rainy season consumes mainly leaves and herbs.
This incredible animal of the Kruger Park is considered by many as the most attractive male antelope and you can see why from its picture and so saying it is almost unanimous that the female of the species is the most striking of all female antelope. This is a truly dimorphic species with the much smaller ewe – the male is a bull, go figure – being red in color, closely resembling a bushbuck ewe. You may find it interesting that nyala bark when alarmed, much like a dog and it’s hard to distinguish the sound apart from that of a dog. Although, it doesn’t obey whistles for its supper.
Sable Antelope – Hippotragus niger – number 290
The most majestic of all antelope in its elegant dinner suit – some say penguin suit and some even, undertakers outfit – but whatever you want to call it, it can’t change this most handsome and very brave animal, as witnessed many times in the past by early hunters. Lions, in the hunt have also been victim to its bravery, coupled with the dexterity applied through those powerfully wielded scimitar horns. Sadly, even in the company of the incredible animals of the Kruger Park, it is in decline and a mystery to many a scientist.
A true grazer by in large, preferring grasses at the mid-range height. So why is it under the browser/grazer label you may ask? Well here we go, first one thing, then another, because some researchers say, it eats leaves as well as grass and it appears more leaves than grass. Then some say it is adaptable to its environment and can be either, solely a grazer or bio-grazer/browser. I prefer the latter opinion but whether grass or leaves, I would add from my early observations of them, that if they don’t get enough mineral rich salts and sufficient calcium to eat, they will deteriorate in any habitat come-what-may. This lack may be the factor contributing to their current decline.
Hope you enjoyed the Kruger big animal series here. It has been very enlightening for us and quite a mission and this brings us to the final entry. Please drop us a line if you have any comments.