THE WILD DOG

Viewing the Wild dog at the watering hole is quite the experience. It will allow you to come very close to the most interesting canine, the African wild dog, (Lycaon pictus) sometimes also referred to as the painted dog as the colours on their bodies resemble paint splatter. The Wild Dogs are often perceived as awkward animals , but the perception soon changes while watching them closely. It is clear to see their loyalty to the pack and to their young. They always feed their young first by regurgitate their food for the pups, however they do the same to other dogs in the pack as part of their social interaction.

Sadly, the wild dog is one of the world’s most endangered mammals listed on the IUCN Red list since 1990 with the largest threat recorded to the existence of the Wild dog is contributed to various outbreaks of disease and human interference. The subpopulation comprises fewer than 250 individuals with an estimation of 6600 mature adults living in 39 subpopulations.

They are known to be active hunters of antelope which they chase to exhaustion, then attack and kill, however their diet does not consist of meat only. The wild dog has a hyper carnivorous diet, i.e. a diet that is more than 70% meat, either via active predation or by scavenging. The remaining 30% of their food is made up of fungi, fruits or other plant material.

It is known to be the largest wild canine in Africa. Their natural habitat being Southern Africa and the southern part of East Africa (especially Tanzania and northern Mozambique).

THE SABEL ANTELOPE

When you first see the Sabel up close, its majestic presence takes your breath away. They are magnificent and one of the most beautiful animals in Africa. The male and the female Sabel have long sweeping scimitar-like horns which can grow up to 1.6 meters in length.

These horns grow over their entire lifetime and every new year it develops a new ring which is then used to determine the age of the Antelope.

Agricultural development has shrunk their natural grazing areas while they are also threatened by being natural prey to carnivores as well as poaching. The colour of the Sabel is quite interesting as the age of the animal can be determined by how dark the colour is.

A young immature Sabel has a tanned chocolate colour, whereas the colour of the mature bull is jet black. Although the females tend to be similar, there are differences in the colour. Sabel females tend to be much paler and their horns smaller and straighter.

Through active conservation in South Africa, the aim is to have the best gene pool of Sabel Antelope and to protect these animals from extinction. Only 50,000 Sabel Antelope remain across eleven countries. Sabel Antelope are one of the most sought-after game trophy collections.

THE WHITE LION

As the sun sets over the African Bush, the earth becomes quiet and the night settles in. This is the time that you can hear the roar of the Lions as they call to their pride, surely telling them it is hunting time. Like Africa, they communicate with those that have the heart to hear.

The Lions will often stake out their prey during the day and wait till they are well camouflaged before they attack which is mostly late evening. Come and experience the magnificence of these beautiful big cats, The White Lion of Africa.

The White Lions have fascinated conservationists from the earliest sighting in 1938. Panthera Leo is the scientific name for the White L9/ion and it is native to the Timbavati region of Southern Africa. The average lifespan of the White Lion is between 16-18 years, and it can weigh up to 240kg -182kg, the male weighing the most.

In 2006 the first White Lion Cub was born. They are revered by African people as they believe that due to their purity, the 9White Lion is in fact messenger from God. The myth surrounding White Lions being albinos was debunked when it was scientifically proven that the colour of the Lion occurred due to a rare colour gene mutation and that they are indeed a breed on their own.

However, sadly the beauty of these animals has been the cause that they nearly became extinct. Their yellowish and blond manes, with golden or some blue eyes, sets them apart from other lions along with their black noses while some have a dark spot behind the ear.

The Global White Lion Protection Trust (GWLPT) with its program of education has involved the local Sepedi and Shangaan communities to protect their natural heritage.

NYALA

When you look at the Nyala in photographs or books it is nothing compared to the real animal. No photograph can do it justice as the actual beauty and sheer presence of the antelope demands respect. They are majestic animals with spiral horns, native to South Africa, and most active in the early mornings and late afternoons when the temperatures are between 20-30 degrees. Nyala antelope are herbivores so their diet consists of foliage, fruits, flowers, and twigs. It is only during the rainy season, that they feed upon the fresh grass. They require sufficient fresh water and will visit the waterholes to find water while staying well away from open spaces. In the hot hours of the day, you will find these antelope restful in thick brush keeping a low profile as they are very shy animals by nature.

The Nyala has an interesting coat with a combination of Maroon or rufous brown with ten or more white stripes on their sides. Males have a dark brown colour or often slate grey, tinged with some blue and only the males have horns, which can reach 60–83 cm long and is yellow-tipped.

The Nyala is not territorial at all, but lives in single-sex or mixed-family groups, while old males tend to live alone. They are very cautious shy animals that inhabit thickets within dense and dry savanna woodlands. Currently, the Nyala is not yet on the IUCN Red List, however, based on the latest statistics the total Nyala population is only about 36,500. Nyala antelopes are very prone to poaching and the males are highly prized by game trophy hunters as well as poachers that believe their horns can be used for supposed medicinal and magical powers. Adding to that, they are naturally hunted by lions, leopards, and African Wild dogs. The juveniles are unfortunately free game for baboons and raptorial birds of prey. Taking all of this into consideration, they should be on the red list hence the breeding program which will allow the Nyala to roam free, which encourages natural breeding. Winter months and excellent for the species as there is more than enough food. Nyala has an average body length between 135-195cm, with an average weight between 55-140kg.

They are polygynous animals (one male mates with more than one female) while breeding all through the year. They do reach a peak in Spring and Autumn and the female gives birth to a single calf over a gestation period of 7 months. The female will hide the calf for 18 days while nursing it frequently, usually in dense bush. The calf will stay close to the mother until the birth of the next calf. The Nyala female reaches reproductive maturity at 11 months and the males at the age of 18 months.

THE BUFFALO

The Buffalo is a magnificent animal, quite statuesque in demeanour and the most aggressive of the Big 5. The Buffalo is found all over Southern Africa, and Southeast Asia.

The African buffalo – Syncerus caffer is a large Bovine. The Cape buffalo or known scientifically as Syncerus caffer caffer refers to the African forest buffalo, which is a subspecies of the African Buffalo. They are very unpredictable, temperamental animals thus not easily tameable animals, but considered the most dangerous animals in Africa. They are often quite aggressive especially if they have young ones with them so never approach them. Yet they are remarkably interesting and quite majestic looking.

The Buffalo tends to look down on its counterparts, an expression of arrogance that may be intentional or just a perception due to their daunting size.

The reason one gets that impression is because their bodies slope low toward their backline which places the hooves wider apart. This supports the weight of the front of the body but enhances the wide chest area and the fierceness of the stance.

The most prominent feature of the buffalo is its majestic set of horns which is called a “boss”. This might be completely formed at the age of five or six, however, it takes a few more years before the “boss” is hard enough for sparring. The horns form at the base of the buffalo’s forehead and form a shield. The dominant bulls are recognised by the thickness of the horns.

Buffalo graze as far as they roam while moving the herd forward but will stay within reach of water. They graze in the dense bush area, swamp areas, or mopane grasslands, all the while clearing the way for other grazers to follow. The reason the buffalo is never far from water as they require perennial water sources and need to quench their thirst daily. They have a wide row of incisor teeth and a deft tongue which enable them to eat grass at a much quicker pace as most other than African herbivores and then regurgitate and chew on again later, this action is called “chewing the cud”, a process which enables them to digest the grass they consume.

The Buffalo always stays near the herd and forms an outer barrier with the calves and young animals in the centre. That way they can withstand most attacks from predators. They are highly sought after by trophy hunters.

The best Buffalo experience would be to see them hoard off a team of predators, as they are quite ferocious, and know how to defend themselves.