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Wild Life History


The springbok (Afrikaans and Dutch: spring = jump; bok = antelope or goat) (Antidorcas marsupialis) is a medium-sized brown and white gazelle that stands about 70 to 90 cm (28 to 35 in) high. Springbok males weigh between 33 and 50 kg (73 and 110 lb) and the females between 25 and 40 kg (55 and 88 lb). They can reach running speeds of up to 90 km/h (56 mph),to 96 km/h (60 mph) and can leap 4 m(13 feet) into the air and can long jump of up to 15 m (50 feet).

Springbok inhabit the dry inland areas of south and southwestern Africa. Their range extends from the northwestern part of South Africa through the Kalahari desert into Namibia and Botswana. Springbok occur in numbers of up to 2,500,000 in South Africa;it is the most plentiful antelope. They used to be very common, forming some of the largest herds of mammals ever documented, but their numbers have diminished significantly since the 19th century due to hunting and fences from farms blocking their migratory routes.

In South Africa springbok inhabit the vast grasslands of the Free State and the open shrublands of the greater and smaller Karoo. They inhabit most of Namibia ; the grasslands of the south, the Kalahari desert to the east,the dry riverbeds of the northern bushveld of the Windhoek region as well as the harsh Namib Desert on the West Coast. In Botswana they mostly live in the Kalahari Desert in the southwestern and central parts of the country.

Greater kudus have a narrow body with long legs, and their coats can range from brown/bluish-grey to reddish-brown. They possess between 4–12 vertical white stripes along their torso. The head tends to be darker in colour than the rest of the body, and exhibits a small white chevron which runs between the eyes.

Male greater kudus tend to be much larger than the females, and vocalize much more, utilizing low grunts, clucks, humming, and gasping. The males also have large manes running along their throats, and large horns with two and a half twists, which, were they to be straightened, would reach an average length of 120 cm (47 in), with the record being 187.64 cm (73.87 in). They diverge slightly as they slant back from the head. The horns do not begin to grow until the male is between the age of 6–12 months, twisting once at around 2 years of age, and not reaching the full two and a half twists until they are 6 years old; occasionally they may even have 3 full turns.

Males weigh 190–270 kg (420–600 lb), with a maximum of 315 kg (690 lb), and stand about 180 cm (71 in) tall at the shoulder. The body length is 185–245 cm (6.07–8.04 ft). The tail is 30–55 cm (12–22 in) long. The ears of the greater kudu are large and round. Females weigh 120–210 kg (260–460 lb) and on average stand 120 cm (47 in) tall at the shoulder; they are hornless, without a beard or nose markings.

Giant eland are typically between 220–290 cm (7.2–9.5 ft) in length, stand approximately 150 to 175 cm (4.9 to 5.74 ft) at the shoulder, and weigh 440–900 kg (970–2,000 lb). Despite its common name, it is of very similar size to the common eland.

The smooth coat is reddish-brown to chestnut, usually darker in males than females, with several well-defined vertical white stripes on the torso. A crest of short black hair extends down the neck to the middle of the back, and is especially prominent on the shoulders.

The slender legs are slightly lighter on their inner surfaces, with black and white markings just above the hooves. There are large black spots on the upper forelegs. The bridge of the nose is charcoal black, and there is a thin, indistinct tan-coloured chevron between the eyes.

The lips are white, along with several dots along the jaw-line. A pendulous dewlap, larger in males then females, originates from between the jowls and hangs to the upper chest, with a fringe of hair on its edge. The tail is long, and ends with a dark tuft of hair. Both sexes have tightly spiralled horns, which are relatively straight. In males the horns form a wide "V" and can grow to 120 cm (3.9 ft) in length, slightly longer than on females.
Hyenas or Hyaenas are the animals of the family of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth smallest biological family in the Carnivora (consisting of four species), and one of the smallest in the mammalia. Despite their low diversity, hyenas are unique and vital components to most African and some Asian ecosystems.

Although phylogenetically close to felines and viverrids, hyenas are behaviourally and morphologically similar to canines in several aspects (see Convergent evolution); both hyenas and canines are non-arboreal, cursorial hunters that catch prey with their teeth rather than claws. Both eat food quickly and may store it, and their calloused feet with large, blunt, non-retractable nails are adapted for running and making sharp turns. However, the hyenas' grooming, scent marking, defecating habits, mating and parental behaviour are consistent with the behaviour of other feliforms.Although long reputed to be cowardly scavengers, hyenas, especially spotted hyenas, kill as much as 95% of the food they eat, and have been known to drive off leopards or lionesses from their kills. Hyenas are primarily nocturnal animals, but may venture from their lairs in the early morning hours. With the exception of the highly social spotted hyena, hyenas are generally not gregarious animals, though they may live in family groups and congregate at kills.

Hyenas first arose in Eurasia during the Miocene period from viverrid-like ancestors, and developed into two distinct branches; the lightly built dog-like hyenas and the robust bone-crushing hyenas. Although the dog-like hyenas thrived 15 million years ago (with one taxon having colonised North America), they died out after a change in climate along with the arrival of canids into Eurasia. Of the dog-like hyena lineage, only the insectivorous aardwolf survived, while the bone-crushing hyenas (whose extant members are the spotted, brown and striped hyena) became the undisputed top scavengers of Eurasia and Africa.

Hyenas feature prominently in the folklore and mythology of human cultures with which they are sympatric. Hyenas are mostly viewed with fear and contempt, as well as being associated with witchcraft, as their body parts are used as ingredients in traditional medicine. Among the beliefs held by some cultures, hyenas are thought to influence people’s spirits, rob graves, and steal livestock and children

The blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), also called the common wildebeest or the white-bearded wildebeest, is a large antelope and one of two species of wildebeest. It grows to 115–145 cm shoulder height and attains a body mass of 168–274 kg. They range the open plains, bushveld, and dry woodlands of Southern and East Africa, living for more than twenty years. The male is highly territorial, using scent markings and other devices to protect his domain. The largest population is in the Serengeti, numbering over one million animals. They are a major prey item for lions, hyenas, and crocodiles.

It has a beefy muscular front-heavy appearance with a distinctive robust muzzle, it strides with relatively slender legs and moves gracefully and quietly most of the time, belying the reputation for stampeding in herds; however the stampeding characteristic may sometimes be observed.

Blue wildebeest are found in open and bush-covered savanna in south and east Africa, thriving in areas that are neither too wet nor too arid. They can be found in places that vary from overgrazed areas with dense bush to open woodland floodplains. Wildebeests prefer the bushveld and grasslands of the southern savanna.The terrestrial biome designations for these preferred habitats are savanna, grassland, open forest and scrub forest.
The plains zebra (Equus quagga, formerly Equus burchelli), also known as the common zebra or Burchell's zebra, is the most common and geographically widespread species of zebra.It ranges from the south of Ethiopia through East Africa to as far south as Angola and eastern South Africa. The plains zebra remains common in game reserves, but is threatened by human activities such as hunting for its meat and hide, as well as competition with livestock and encroachment by farming on much of its habitat.

The Plains zebra and perhaps the mountain zebra belong to the subgenus Hippotigris, but Grévy's zebra is the sole species of subgenus Dolichohippus. The latter resembles an ass, while the former two are more horse-like. All three belong to the genus Equus along with other living equids. Recent phylogenetic evidence suggests that Grévy's zebras (and perhaps also mountain zebras) are with asses and donkeys in a separate lineage from the Plains zebra. In areas where Plains zebras are sympatric with Grévy's zebras, it is not unusual to find them in the same herds and fertile hybrids occur. In captivity, Plains zebras have been crossed with mountain zebras. The hybrid foals lacked a dewlap and resembled the plains zebra apart from their larger ears and their hindquarters pattern.
The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large-sized feline (family Felidae) inhabiting most of Africa and parts of the Middle East. It is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx. The cheetah achieves by far the fastest land speed of any living animal—between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) in short bursts covering distances up to 500 m (1,600 ft), and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to over 100 km/h (62 mph) in three seconds.

This cat is also notable for modifications in the species' paws. It is one of the only felids with semi-retractable claws, and with pads that, by their scope, disallow gripping.Thus, cheetahs cannot climb upright trees, although they are generally capable of reaching easily accessible branches.

The cheetah has unusually low genetic variability. This is accompanied by a very low sperm count, motility, and deformed flagella.Skin grafts between unrelated cheetahs illustrate the former point in that there is no rejection of the donor skin. It is thought that the species went through a prolonged period of inbreeding following a genetic bottleneck during the last ice age. This suggests that genetic monomorphism did not prevent the cheetah from flourishing across two continents for thousands of years.

The cheetah likely evolved in Africa during the Miocene epoch (26 million to 7.5 million years ago), before migrating to Asia. Recent research has placed the last common ancestor of all existing populations as living in Asia 11 million years ago, which may lead to revision and refinement of existing ideas about cheetah evolution.

Impala range between 75 and 95 cm (30 and 37 in) tall. Average mass for a male impala is 40 to 80 kg (88 to 180 lb), while females weigh about 30 to 50 kg (66 to 110 lb). They are normally reddish-brown in color (hence the Afrikaans name of "Rooibok"), have lighter flanks and white underbellies with a characteristic "M" marking on the rear. Males, referred to as rams, have lyre-shaped horns, which can reach up to 90 centimeters in length. Females, referred to as ewes, have no horns. The black impala, found in very few places in Africa, is an extremely rare type. A recessive gene causes the black colouration in these animals.

Impalas are an ecotone species "living in light woodland with little undergrowth and grassland of low to medium height". They have an irregular distribution due to dependence relatively flat lands with good soil drainage and water.While they stay to water in the dry season, they can go weeks without drinking if there is enough green fodder.

Impalas are adaptable foragers. They usually switch between grazing and browsing depending on the season. During wet seasons when grasses are freshthey graze. During dry seasons it browses foliage, shoots, forbs and seeds. It may switch between grazing and browsing depending on the habitat. Leopards, cheetahs, lions and wild dogs prey on impala.

Impala, as well as other small- to medium-sized African antelopes, have a special dental arrangement on the front lower jaw similar to the toothcomb seen in strepsirrhine primates, which is used during grooming to comb the fur and remove ectoparasites.

The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with an endangered remnant population in Gir Forest National Park in India, having disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans.

They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of thirty to fifty percent over the past two decades in its African range. Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.

Lions live for ten to fourteen years in the wild, while in captivity they can live longer than twenty years. In the wild, males seldom live longer than ten years, as injuries sustained from continual fighting with rival males greatly reduce their longevity. They typically inhabit savanna and grassland, although they may take to bush and forest. Lions are unusually social compared to other cats. A pride of lions consists of related females and offspring and a small number of adult males. Groups of female lions typically hunt together, preying mostly on large ungulates. Lions are apex and keystone predators, although they scavenge as opportunity allows. While lions do not typically hunt humans, some have been known to do so.

The African elephant is the largest living terrestrial animal. Its thickset body rests on stocky legs and it has a concave back.Its large ears enable heat loss. Its upper lip and nose forms a trunk. The trunk acts as a fifth limb, a sound amplifier and an important method of touch. The African elephant's trunk ends in two opposing lips, whereas the Asian elephant trunk ends in a single lip. African elephants are bigger than Asian elephants. Males stand 3.2–4.0 m (10–13 ft) tall at the shoulder and weigh 4,700–6,048 kg (10,000–13,330 lb), while females stand 2.2–2.6 m (7.2–8.5 ft) tall and weigh 2,160–3,232 kg (4,800–7,130 lb).

The largest individual recorded stood four metres to the shoulders and weighed ten tonnes

Elephants have four molars; each weighs about 5 kg (11 lb) and measures about 30 cm (12 in) long. As the front pair wears down and drops out in pieces, the back pair shifts forward, and two new molars emerge in the back of the mouth. Elephants replace their teeth six times. At about 40 to 60 years of age, the elephant no longer has teeth and will likely die of starvation, a common cause of death.

Their tusks are firm teeth; the second set of incisors become the tusks. They are used for digging for roots and stripping the bark off trees for food, for fighting each other during mating season, and for defending themselves against predators. The tusks weigh from 23–45 kg (51–99 lb) and can be from 1.5–2.4 m (5–8 ft) long. Unlike Asian elephants, both male and female African elephants have tusks. They are curved forward and continue to grow throughout the elephant's lifetime. The enamel plates of the molars are fewer in number than in Asian elephants.

There are two subspecies of white rhinos; as of 2005, South Africa has the most of the first subspecies, the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). The population of southern white rhinos is about 14,500, making them the most abundant subspecies of rhino in the world. However, the population of the second subspecies, the critically endangered northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), is down to as few as four individuals in the wild, with the possibility of complete extinction in the wild having been noted since June 2008.Six are known to be held in captivity, two of which reside in a zoo in San Diego. There are currently four born in a zoo in the Czech Republic which were transferred to a wildlife refuge in Kenya in December 2009, in an effort to have the animals reproduce and save the subspecies.

The rhino receives its name not from its colour, but from the Dutch settlers that gave it the name "whyde", meaning wide referring to the animals square mouth. Confusion in translation then led to the to the name "white" being adopted

The white rhino has an immense body and large head, a short neck and broad chest. This rhino can exceed 3,500 kg (7,700 lb), have a head-and-body length of 3.5–4.6 m (11–15 ft) and a shoulder height of 1.8–2 m (5.9–6.6 ft). The record-sized white rhinoceros was about 4,500 kg (10,000 lb). On its snout it has two horns. The front horn is larger than the other horn and averages 90 cm (35 in) in length and can reach 150 cm (59 in). The white rhinoceros also has a prominent muscular hump that supports its relatively large head. The colour of this animal can range from yellowish brown to slate grey. Most of its body hair is found on the ear fringes and tail bristles with the rest distributed rather sparsely over the rest of the body. White rhinos have the distinctive flat broad mouth which is used for grazing.

The name black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) was chosen to distinguish this species from the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). This can be confusing, as those two species are not really distinguishable by color. There are four subspecies of black rhino: South-central (Diceros bicornis minor), the most numerous, which once ranged from central Tanzania south through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to northern and eastern South Africa; South-western (Diceros bicornis bicornis) which are better adapted to the arid and semi-arid savannas of Namibia, southern Angola, western Botswana and western South Africa; East African (Diceros bicornis michaeli), primarily in Tanzania; and West African (Diceros bicornis longipes) which was declared extinct in November 2011. The native Tswanan name Keitloa is used to describe a South African variation of the black rhino in which the posterior horn is equal to or longer than the anterior horn.

An adult black rhinoceros stands 150–175 cm (59–69 in) high at the shoulder and is 3.5–3.9 m (11–13 ft) in length. An adult weighs from 850 to 1,600 kg (1,900 to 3,500 lb), exceptionally to 1,800 kg (4,000 lb), with the females being smaller than the males. Two horns on the skull are made of keratin with the larger front horn typically 50 cm long, exceptionally up to 140 cm. Sometimes, a third smaller horn may develop. The black rhino is much smaller than the white rhino, and has a pointed mouth, which they use to grasp leaves and twigs when feeding.

During the latter half of the 20th century their numbers were severely reduced from an estimated 70,000 in the late 1960s to only 2,410 in 1995

The black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), also known as the silver-backed or red jackal,is a species of jackal which inhabits two areas of the African continent separated by roughly 900 km. One region includes the southern-most tip of the continent, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The other area is along the eastern coastline, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. It is listed by the IUCN as least concern, due to its widespread range and adaptability, although it is still persecuted as a livestock predator and rabies vector. The fossil record indicates the species is the oldest extant member of the genus Canis. Although the most lightly built of jackals, it is the most aggressive, having been observed to singly kill animals many times its own size, and its intrapack relationships are more quarrelsome.

Black-backed jackals are small, foxlike canids which measure 38–48 cm in shoulder height and 68-74.5 cm in length. The tail measures 30–38 cm in length. Weight varies according to location; East African jackals weigh 7-13.8 kg (15-30 lb). Male jackals in Zimbabwe weigh 6.8-9.5 kg (15-21 lb), while females weigh 5.4–10 kg (12-22 lb). Their skulls are elongated, with pear-shaped braincases and narrow rostra.The black-backed jackal's skull is similar to that of the side-striped jackal, but is less flat, and has a shorter, broader rostrum. Its sagittal crest and zygomatic arches are also heavier in build. Its carnassials are also larger than those of its more omnivorous cousin. Black-backed jackals are taller and longer than golden jackals, but have smaller heads.
The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo, from the ancient Greek for "river horse" (ἱπποπόταμος), is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae (the other is the Pygmy Hippopotamus.) After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal and the heaviest extant artiodactyl.

The hippopotamus is semi-aquatic, inhabiting rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps, where territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river and groups of 5 to 30 females and young. During the day they remain cool by staying in the water or mud; reproduction and childbirth both occur in water. They emerge at dusk to graze on grass. While hippopotamuses rest near each other in the water, grazing is a solitary activity and hippos are not territorial on land.

Despite their physical resemblance to pigs and other terrestrial even-toed ungulates, their closest living relatives are cetaceans (whales, porpoises, etc.) from which they diverged about  million years ago.The common ancestor of whales and hippos split from other even-toed ungulates around million years ago]The earliest known hippopotamus fossils, belonging to the genus Kenyapotamus in Africa, date to around million years ago.

The hippopotamus is recognizable by its barrel-shaped torso, enormous mouth and teeth, nearly hairless body, stubby legs and tremendous size. It is the third largest land mammal by weight (between 1½ and 3 tonnes), behind the white rhinoceros (1½ to 3½ tonnes) and the three species of elephant (3 to 9 tonnes). The hippopotamus is one of the largest quadrupeds (four legged mammals) and despite its stocky shape and short legs, it can easily outrun a human. Hippos have been clocked at 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances. The hippopotamus is one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and is often regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. There are an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 hippos throughout Sub-Saharan Africa; Zambia (40,000) and Tanzania (20,000–30,000) possess the largest populations

A crocodile is any species belonging to the family Crocodylidae (sometimes classified instead as the subfamily Crocodylinae). The term can also be used more loosely to include all extant members of the order Crocodilia: i.e. the true crocodiles, the alligators and caimans (family Alligatoridae) and the gharials (family Gavialidae), as well as the Crocodylomorpha, which include prehistoric crocodile relatives and ancestors.

Member species of the family Crocodylidae are large aquatic reptiles that live throughout the tropics in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. Crocodiles tend to congregate in freshwater habitats such as rivers, lakes, wetlands and sometimes in brackish water. They feed mostly on vertebrates - fish, reptiles, and mammals, and sometimes on invertebrates - molluscs and crustaceans, depending on species. They first appeared during the Eocene epoch, about 55 million years ago

Size greatly varies between species, from the dwarf crocodile to the saltwater crocodile. Species of Palaeosuchus and Osteolaemus grow to an adult size of just 1 metre (3.3 ft) to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft). Larger species can reach over 4.85 metres (15.9 ft) long and weigh well over 1,200 kilograms (2,600 lb). Crocodilians show pronounced sexual dimorphism, with males growing much larger and more rapidly than females.Despite their large adult sizes, crocodiles start their lives at around 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long. The largest species of crocodile is the saltwater crocodile, found in eastern India, northern Australia, throughout South-east Asia, and in the surrounding waters.

Two larger certifiable records are both of 6.2 metres (20 ft) crocodiles. The first was shot in the Mary River in the Northern Territory of Australia in 1974 by poachers, and measured by wildlife rangers.

The second crocodile was killed in 1983 in the Fly River, Papua New Guinea. In the case of the second crocodile it was actually the skin that was measured by zoologist Jerome Montague, and as skins are known to underestimate the size of the actual animal, it is possible this crocodile was at least another 10 cm longer

The meerkat or suricate, Suricata suricatta, is a small mammal belonging to the mongoose family. Meerkats live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A meerkat clan often contains about 20 meerkats, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years, and about half this in the wild.

The meerkat is a small diurnal herpestid (mongoose) weighing on average about 731 grams (1.61 lb) for males and 720 grams (1.6 lb) for females. Its long slender body and limbs give it a body length of 25 to 35 centimetres (9.8 to 14 in) and an added tail length of 17 to 25 centimetres (6.7 to 9.8 in). Its tail is not bushy like all other mongoose species, but is rather long and thin and tapers to a black or reddish colored pointed tip. The meerkat uses its tail to balance when standing upright, as well as for signaling. Its face tapers, coming to a point at the nose, which is brown. The eyes always have black patches around them and it has small black crescent-shaped ears that can close to exclude soil when digging. Like cats, meerkats have binocular vision, a large peripheral range, depth perception, and eyes on the front of their faces.
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its range of distribution has decreased radically because of hunting and loss of habitat. It is now chiefly found in sub-Saharan Africa; there are also fragmented populations in the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China. Because of its declining range and population, it is listed as a "Near Threatened" species on the IUCN Red List.

Compared to other members of the Felidae family, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but is smaller and more slightly built. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard's rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have central spots as the jaguars do. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic (completely black or very dark) are known as black panthers.

The species' success in the wild is in part due to its opportunistic hunting behavior, its adaptability to habitats, its ability to run at speeds approaching 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph), its unequaled ability to climb trees even when carrying a heavy carcass, and its notorious ability for stealth. The leopard consumes virtually any animal that it can hunt down and catch. Its habitat ranges from rainforest to desert terrains.

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