The rhinoceros (often abbreviated rhino) is one of the of five surviving species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae,two of the five species are native to Africa while the other three are native to south Asia. Rhinoceros is also one of the genera in this family.
The characteristics of the family are: large size (one of the few remaining megafauna animals surviving today) all of the species are capable of reaching one tonne or more in weight; one or two horns on the centre of the forehead, and when two, aligned one in front of the other (not side by side); herbivorous diet; and a thick protective skin, 1.5-5 cm thick, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure.
Rhinos have acute hearing and sense of smell, but poor eyesight over any distance. Most rhinos life expectancy is about 40 years. A male rhino is called a bull, a female a cow, and the young a calf;while a group of rhinos is called a “crash”.
Despite being herbivorous, it is a dangerous animal. The greatest number of human deaths by wildlife in India and Nepal is caused by rhinos each year, surpassing those caused by Leopards and Tigers. Sometimes, they have been known to charge even working elephants carrying tourists through the jungles.
Several species of rhinos have become extinct within geologically recent times, notably the Giant Unicorn and the Woolly Rhinoceros in Eurasia;The real cause of the extinction is not clear, it is believed that climate change and human predation is responsible,however it is debated. Some evidence has indicated that they probably had survived many climate changes when modern man arrived.
Like, humans rhino animals first appeared in the Eocene as rather slender animals, and by the late Miocene there were many different species. Most were large ones, Indricotherium weighed about 30 tons and (so far as is known) was the largest terrestrial mammal that ever lived.
It is thought that rhinos became extinct during the Pliocene in North America, and during the Pleistocene in northern Asia and Europe.
We have five living species that fall into three tribes:
Sumatran Rhinoceros which is critically endangered is the only surviving representative of the most primitive group, the Dicerorhinini, which emerged in the Miocene. The extinct Woolly Rhinoceros of northern Europe and Asia was also a member of this tribe.
The two living Rhinocerotini species are, the endangered Indian Rhinoceros and the critically endangered Javan Rhinoceros.
There are two African species, the Black Rhinoceros and the White Rhinoceros, diverged during the early Pliocene but the Dicerotini group to which they belong originated in the middle Miocene.
The major difference between black and white rhinos is the shape of their lips. White rhinos have broad flat lips for grazing and black rhinos have long pointed lips for eating foliage. The name White Rhinoceros was actually a mistake for wyd (wide) because of their lips.
African Bush Elephant shows a special aversion towards Rhino, to the point that elephants will attack them on sight. This behaviour is especially observed with male elephants, younger ones in particular, and there have also been cases of adolescent elephants who seem to enjoy this kind of fight.
in 1977A subspecific hybrid white rhino was bred at the Dvurkralv Zoo in the Czech Republic. Interspecific hybridisation of a Black and White rhinoceros has also been confirmed.
The distinguishing characteric of the rhinos which is most obvious, is a large horn above the nose. The word rhinoceros comes from the Greek words rhino (nose) and keros (horn). Rhinoceros horns, unlike those of other horned mammals, consist of keratin, densely compacted hair.
Rhinos’ horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, and for dagger handles in Yemen and Oman. None of the five living species of rhinoceros have secure futures; the White Rhinoceros is perhaps the least endangered, the Javan Rhinoceros survives in only tiny numbers (estimated at 60 animals in 2002) and is one of the two or three most endangered large mammals anywhere in the world.
A aggressive campaigns to protect the rhinos began in the 1970s, but rhino populations have continued to decline dramatically. Trade in rhinoceros parts is forbidden under the CITES agreements, but poaching is a severe threat to all rhinoceros species.
The Lion which is commonly referred to as the king of the jungle is a mammal of the family Felidae and it is the second largest natural living feline with the exception of the tiger.
It is fairly easy to differentiate between a male and a female male lion,the male lion is easily recognized by his mane, weighs between 150 and 250 kg (330 and 550 lb). The average weight of a male African Lion is 415 lb. Unlike tigers, very few lions exceed 225 kg (500 lb) in the wild.
Some lions in Africa have been known to attain weights of over 500 lb,however this is an exception. The biggest wild lion on record was a very large male which weighed in at 312.7 kg (688 lb). Female lions are much smaller with no mane, weighing between 117 and 167kg kg (240 lb and 370 lb).
In the wild,life expectancy of lions is between10–14 years, however in captivity they can live over 20 years.In ancient times the lion’s habitat spanned much of Eurasia, ranging from Eastern Europe to India, and all of Africa. Since the second century AD, the lion has become extinct in Europe.currently, most of the population lives in Central Africa, and their numbers are rapidly decreasing, estimated as between 18,000 and 40,000 living in the wild, down from an estimated 100,000 in the early 1990s.
Lion population is even more in jeopardy, because the remaining populations are often geographically isolated from each other.
Subspecies of lion( Panthera leo persica)the last remnant of the Asiatic Lion, which in historical times ranged from Turkey to India through Iran (Persia), lives in the Gir Forest of north western India. About 300 lions live in a 1412 km² (558 square miles) sanctuary in the state of Gujarat.
Lions became extinct in Greece, their last European outpost, by 100 AD. Other extinct subspecies are the Cape Lion, the European Cave Lion (subspecies Panthera leo spelaea) which coexisted with humans throughout the last Ice Age, and the American lion (subspecies Panthera leo atrox), a close relative of the European cave lion (not to be confused with the mountain lion or puma).
Behaviour of a lion:
They are predatory carnivores living in family groups, known as prides. The family consists of related females, their cubs of both sexes, and one or more males (often brothers) who mate with the adult females.
Although it was once thought that females did most of the hunting in the pride, it is now known that males contribute to hunting. Hunting skills of a male lion can be seen in nomadic lions, who have yet to capture a pride of their own. Regardless of who kills the prey, the male usually eats his fill first with the rest of the pride staying at respectful distance. Both males and females will defend the pride against intruders.
Lions are known to be jealous,typically, males will not tolerate outside males, and females will not tolerate outside females.Males are expelled from the pride or leave on their own when they reach maturity and become less strong. The male lion has evolved to be a superb master and defender of his pride and territory.
Researchers have discovered that, the mane of an adult male lion provide protection during conflicts with other lions.
When a new male (or a coalition) takes over a pride and ousts the previous master(s), the conquerors often kill any remaining cubs. This is explained by the evolutionary pressures — the females would not become fertile and receptive until the cubs grow up or die.
Male lions reach maturity at about 3 years of age and are capable of taking over another pride at 4-5 years old. They begin to age at around 8 (thus weaken). This leaves a short window for their children to be born and mature — the fathers have to procreate as soon as they take over the pride.In some instances a female lion may try defend herself and the ousted male’s children from the new master, but such actions are rarely successful.
Due to their rarity,white lions are not often heard of, however white lions do exist in Timbavati, Kruger National Park, South Africa. There is a recessive gene in white lions that gives them their unusual colour (also causing white tigers, many white tigers with this gene are bred for zoos and animal shows).
The white colour in white lions is a big disadvantage when it comes to hunting; their white colour can give away their hiding place unlike with the regular lion that blends in with its surroundings.
The ever evasive Leopards are one of the four ‘big cats’ of the genus Panthera. They range in size from one to almost two metres long, and generally weigh between 30 and 70 kg.however some males may grow to over 90 kg’s. Females are typically around two-thirds the size of males. Due to its size, the leopard is the most powerful feline in the world next to the jaguar.
In colour most leopards are light tan or fawn with black spots, but their coat colour is highly variable.On the head the spots tend to be smaller, and larger with pale centres on the body. It used ti be thought that a leopard was a hybrid between a lion and a panther, and the leopard’s common name derives from this belief; leo is the Latin word for lion, and part is an old term meaning panther. In fact, a “panther” can be any of several species of large felid.
The name panther has a different meaning in both North and South America.in South America a panther means a jaguar while in North America panther is a puma.Elsewhere in the world a panther is a leopard.It is believed that early naturalists distinguished between leopards and panthers not by colour (a common misconception), but by the length of the tail – panthers having longer tails than parts (leopards).
The characteristics of an African leopard are an elongated body with relatively short, stocky legs. it also has short rounded ears and long sensitive whiskers. The long tails help leopards to balance in trees.
Depending on the location and habitat,the African leopard varies in base colour throughout Africa.They can vary from reddish brown, cream and dark yellow. Some leopards are black and are often known as black panthers. This condition is called as melanism.In some instances,their spots can be seen in bright light.
Leopards found in Africa are covered in black rosettes.Normally, there are no spots within the rosettes. Each leopard’s spots are unique in that their patterns are never the same. As already mentioned above,male leopards are larger and heavier than females,the claws which are retractable and hooked help a leopard to climb trees and tear the prey.
Gestation period of a leopard is usually between 90-112 days bearing litters typically between 2-4 cubs. The cubs stay with their mother for about 2 years. It is during this age that they reach their sexual maturity. Male leopards are known to roam a large territory so there is usually one leopard male with several females in his territory. The male marks his territory using feces, urine and facial marking and scrapings.
Hunting and Diet of a Leopard:
Leopards do have a very varied diet which includes insects, rodents, reptiles, even large mammals. When other food is scarce, they sometimes attack domestic livestock.They are very strong cats and they have been known to carry prey 2 to 3 times their own weight up into trees. They are known to be nocturnal and usually don’t hunt until dusk. However,leopards are opportunistic and they do hunt in the daylight when necessary.
Leopards are very cautious of the other animals within the big five range,that includes the Lion, Rhinoceros, Buffalo, and Elephant,however a Leopard will still attack the lone Buffalo.
As it is the case with the most cats, they stalk close and run a relative short distance after their prey. Their killing is through suffocation.They grab their prey by the throat and bit down with their powerful jaws. Leopards avoid fighting other predators for their food because the risk of injury could be fatal. They can get water from their prey but need to drink to survive.
African leopards inhabit all of Africa including Tanzania and Kenya.Their habitat ranges from mountainous regions to grasslands and savannas. They also can live in desert and forest areas. Leopards are known be very adaptable to their surroundings and are incredibly resilient animals.
Humans present the biggest threat to the African leopard population.Leopards are hunted for their fur and sport and are often killed for eating livestock,human population growth creates more problems for existence and survival of Leopards.
The are two species of African Elephants, the African Bush Elephant is the better-known and the larger of the two species of African elephants,the other one is African Forest Elephant.Both species of African Elephants were previously classified as a single species, known simply as the African Elephant. It is also known as the Savanna Elephant or African Bush Elephant.
The Big African Bush Elephant is a large mammal that can reach 6 to 7.3 m (20 to 24 ft) in length and 3 to 3.5 meters in height, however 4-meter elephant was discovered in Angola in 1955, the body of which is mounted in the rotunda of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.,
With a weight of between 7,000 and 10,000 kg (22,000 lb), An elephant is the largest land animal in the world. It moves at a rate of 6 km/h, but it can reach a top speed of 40 km/h especially when scared or upset.
The characteristics of the elephant are large head; two large ears that cover its shoulders and radiate excess heat; a large and muscular trunk; two prominent “tusks” (incisors), which are well-developed in both sexes, although more commonly in males; a short, almost nonexistent neck; a large, barrel-like body; four long and heavy legs that resemble columns; and a relatively short tail.
It is protected by a heavy but flexible layer of gray-brown skin, dotted with mostly undeveloped patches of hair and long, black hair at the tip of its tail. Its back feet have three toes that form a hoof, while the number of toes on the front feet have varied between four and five, in different instances. The front is smoother and less convex than that of the Asian Elephant.
The most characteristic of the African Bush Elephant is the trunk.The trunk is formed by the fusion and elongation of the nose and upper lip, forming a flexible and strong organ made purely of muscle.Wildlife scientists have carried out little research into elephants’ cognitive or perceptual abilities. An exception is a recent report that African elephants are able to use seismic vibrations at infrasound frequencies for communication.
The African elephants are herbivorous and their diet varies according to its habitat; elephants living in forests, partial deserts, and grasslands all eat different proportions of herbs and tree or shrubbery leaves. In order to break down the plants they consume, the African Bush Elephant has four large molars, two in each mandible of the jaw.
The size of each of these molars is 10 cm wide and 30 cm long. Over time, these molars are worn away and new ones are grown to replace them as the elephant ages. Around the age of 15 their milk teeth are replaced by new ones that last until the age of 30, and then by another set which wear off past the age of 40, being replaced by the last set of teeth that last approximately until the age of 65–70. Not much later, the animal dies of starvation from not being able to feed correctly. There are known cases of over 80 year old specimens in captivity.
The elephants are considered quite ‘wasteful’, as it is normal that they ingest an average of 225 kg of vegetate matter that is normally defecated without being totally digested. That, combined with the long distances that they can cover daily in search of more food, contributes notably to the dispersion of many plant seeds that germinate in the middle of a nutrient-filled feces mound.
Their feeding-oriented whereabouts, elephants rip apart all kind of plants, and knock down trees with the tusks if they are not able to reach the tree leaves not even standing up straight, as actual living bulldozers. They simply carry devastation with them. That causes deep trouble for other species and to the elephants themselves especially in national parks where there is overpopulation,this makes park wardens of overpopulated parks to often contact other parks with fewer Elephants to transfer excess individuals.Elephants also drink great quantities of water, over 190 liters per day.
An African Bush Elephant is a notably an intelligent animal.Experiments about reasoning and learning applied on them show that they are the smartest ungulates together with their Asian cousins. This is could be attributed mostly due to their large brain.
Elephant herds are made up of related females and their younglings of assorted ages, directed by the eldest female, called the matriarch. In rare cases, an adult male goes with them, but those usually leave the pack when reaching adolescence to form herds with other elephants of the same age. Later, they spread out, carrying out a lonely life, approaching the female herds only during the mating season. Nevertheless, elephants don’t get too far from their families and recognize them when re-encountered. Sometimes, several female herds can blend for a period of time, reaching even hundreds of individuals.
The oldest female which is the matriarch, is the one who decides the route and shows to each other member of the herd all the water sources she knows which the rest will memorize in the future.
With elephants,the relations among the members of the herd is very tight; when a female gives birth to a baby the rest go to acknowledge it touching her with the trunk; and when an old elephant dies the rest of the herd will stay by the corpse for a while. The famous elephant graveyards are a myth, but it is true that these animals can recognize a carcass of its species when they find one during their trips, and even if it is a stranger, they form around it and sometimes they even touch its forehead with their trunk.
When the female feels ready that’s when mating happens, this can occur anytime during the year. The Male will notice when the female is ready for mating as she starts emitting infra-sound that attract the males, sometimes many kilometers away. The adult males start arriving to the herd during the following days and begin fighting head-to-head between them, causing some injuries that may lead to broken tusks.
After the fight between the males,the female shows her acceptance of the victor by rubbing her body against his. They mate, and then both go their own way. After 22 months of gestation (the longest among mammals), the female gives birth to a single 90cm-high calf which weighs more than 100 kg. The baby feeds on the mothers milk until the age of 5, but also eats solid food from as early as 6 months old. Just a few days after birth the calf can follow the herd by foot, and so the herd resumes its course.
The adult African Bush Elephant:
Due to ti its great size,the African Bush Elephant lacks natural predators, but the calves (especially the newborn) are vulnerable to Lion, Leopard, crocodile, and, more rarely, hyena attacks. Adult females of a group will attack viciously approaching predators.
Infant mortality is significantly contributed by predation, as well as by drought.The African Bush Elephant shows a special aversion towards Rhino, to the point that elephants will attack them on sight. This behaviour is mostly observed with male elephants, especially the younger ones, and there have been cases of adolescent elephants that seem to enjoy this kind of fight
The major predator of elephants is humans. Elephants have been hunted for meat as well as the rest of the body, including skin, bones,but is is mostly hunted for its tusks.
The hunting is believed to have increased in the 19th and 20th centuries, when tourism and plantations increasingly attracted sport hunters. In 1989, hunting of the African elephant and ivory trading were forbidden, after the elephant population fell from several million at the beginning of the 20th century to fewer than 700,000. Thanks to hunting the population of African elephants was halved during in the 1980s.
Wildlife researchers estimate that, if no protective measures are taken, the wild elephant would be extinct in the near future. The protection that the elephant now receives has been partially successful, but despite increasingly severe penalties imposed by governments against illegal hunting, poaching is still common. CITES still considers this species as threatened with extinction.
Cape Buffalo also known as African Buffallo is a bovid from the family of the Bovidae. Its height is can reach up to 1.7 meters high, 3.4 meters long, it can attain a weight of 900 kilograms.
African Buffallo also known as Cape Buffalo is not closely related to the Asian Water Buffalo,its ancestry remains unclear.The buffallo is a very powerful creature, demanding respect from even a pride of lions when paths cross. A part from man, they have few natural predators and are capable of defending themselves against (and sometimes kill) lions, how ever lions sometimes kill and eat buffalo.
The Buffalo’s newborn calves are under threat from predators such as leopard.Man has tried Crossbreeding with domestic cattle but only with limited success, and the African Buffalo remains a wild animal,the African Buffalo can be a volatile and formidable beast.
African Buffalo prefer areas of open pasture, close to jungle and swampy ground where they can wallow. They are found in Ethiopia, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa,Kenya and Tanzania.
Buffallo’s main herd consists of all sexes and ages, though bachelor groups are not rare. A male can be recognized by the thickness of his horns, and is called the “Boss.” Bulls reach maturity at eight years of age. Cows first calve at five years of age, after a gestation period of 11.5 months.
Formerly,Cape Buffallo inhabited throughout the Northern and Southern Savanna, in arid regions wherever there is permanent water and herbage, and from sea level to the limits of forest on the highest mountains. In the Lowland Rain forest buffaloes inhabit clearings, swamps, flood plains, and secondary growth.It is mostly found in abundant well-watered savannas, swamps, flood plains, and montane grasslands and forests.
The herds can like tall, mature grasses which are too coarse for most other ruminants to process.
It has massive cheek teeth, broad incisor row, and a prehensile tongue that gathers and bundles grass before each bite, enabling the buffalo to feed efficiently in longer grass.
With a buffallo’s diet,herbs and foliage amount to 5% of its diet, considerably more when grass is scarce or too unpalatable. It has to drink at least daily when pastured on standing hay.
Although Buffalo is usually considered nocturnal, herds spend between 5 to 10.5 hours feeding at all seasons, night and day almost equally.Breeding herds range c. 2 mi (5.5 km) in the wet season, compared to 3/4 mi (2 km) covered by stodgy bachelor herds.
They can daily commute up to 17 mi (27 km) in search of pasture and water in dry season.The Buffalo is non-territorial and extremely sociable animal, and live in large, mixed herds that inhabit exclusive, traditional home ranges. Members of the same clan often lie with backs touching, or with chin supported on a companion’s back. Separate male and female rank orders are maintained, with adult males dominant over females.When bulls are past their prime they leave the breeding herds and associate with bachelor herds.
The pasture productivity may determine the herd’s size and habitat; the more open and productive the range, the larger herds tend to be. On a broad floodplain in Kafue National Park the herds average 450 buffaloes (range 19-2075), compared to 50 in the forests and glades of Mt. Meru, Tanzania.
Home ranges can vary in size from as small as 4 sq. miles (10.5 km sq) for a herd of 138 buffaloes, to 114 sq. miles (296 km sq) for a herd of 1500. Bachelor herds of 5 to 10 up to 50 buffaloes and solitary bulls have much smaller home ranges.
For the Buffaloes that share the same home range,they may never assemble in the same herd. Although the majority aggregate during the rains, especially during the mating peak near the end, old bulls keep to themselves.
In dry seasons, when good pastures are scarce, buffaloes disperse in smaller units and prime bulls, along with sub-adult males, often form temporary bachelor herds. Units consist of clans of a dozen or more related cows and their offspring that stay together as distinct sub-herds.
They can sometimes be spotted as separate columns of tightly clustered cows in a moving herd; 4 to 5 breeding (i.e., dominant) bulls consistently accompany each clan. Subdivision of large herds in the dry season is by clans,each havings its own trusted “pathfinder” that leads the way to pasture and water. Males leave the clans as adolescents for at the age of 3 years and thereafter associate in peer subgroups that remain with the herd, but keep clear of breeding bulls.
Some of the African parks and areas where buffaloes are both abundant and approachable are the : Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya; Ngorongoro Crater, Manyara National Park, Tanzania, Kafue National Park, Zambia; Hwange NP, Zimbabwe; Kruger National Park and a variety of game parks in South Africa.