The African buffalo

The African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large African bovine. The adult buffalo’s horns are its characteristic feature; they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield across the top of the head referred to as a “boss”. They are widely regarded as very dangerous animals.

Savannah-type buffaloes have black or dark brown coats with age. Old bulls have whitish circles around their eyes. Females tend to have more-reddish coats. Forest-type buffaloes are reddish brown in colour with horns that curve back and slightly up. Calves of both types have red coats.

The African buffalo is one of the most successful grazers in Africa. It lives in swamps and floodplains, as well as mopane grasslands and forests of the major mountains of Africa and also found on Sibuya Game Reserve. This buffalo prefers a habitat with dense cover, such as reeds and thickets, but can also be found in open woodland.  While not particularly demanding with regard to habitat, they require water daily, so depend on perennial sources of water.

African buffaloes make various vocalizations. Many calls are lower-pitched versions of those emitted by domestic cattle. They emit low-pitched, two- to four-second calls intermittently at three- to six-second intervals to signal the herd to move. To signal to the herd to change direction, leaders emit “gritty”, “creaking gate” sounds.

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Giant African land snail

Lissachatina fulica is a species of large land snail that belong in the Achatinidae family. It is also known as the giant African snail or giant African land snail.

This snail species has been considered a significant cause in pest issues around the world. Internationally, it is the most frequently occurring invasive species of snail.

Habitat

The giant African snail is native to East Africa, and can be traced back to Kenya and Tanzania. It is a highly invasive species, and colonies can be formed from a single gravid individual. The giant snail can now be found in agricultural areas, coastland, natural forest, planted forests, riparian zones, scrub and shrublands, urban areas, and wetlands as well as on Sibuya Game Reserve.

Feeding

The giant African snail is a macrophytophagous herbivore; it eats a wide range of plant material, fruit, and vegetables. It will sometimes eat sand, very small stones, bones from carcasses and even concrete as calcium sources for its shell.

 

 

Giant African land snail trying to cross the road at its fastest pace (Photo taken by Chris Ovens)

 

Cape Glossy Starling

DISTRIBUTION & HABITAT

The Cape starling is found in the southern part of Africa, commonly found around Sibuya Game Reserve. Its range encompasses the extreme south of Gabon, the west and south of Angola, the extreme south of Zambia, the southern half of Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa.

The Cape starling is found where trees in which it can roost and nest are found. It is not a bird of dense forest or of pasture and is not associated with any particular plant type. It does occur in open woodland, plantations, savannah, bushveld, rough grassland, parks and gardens and is quite numerous in the central Kalahari where isolated trees occur.

Cape Glossy Starling

(This phenomenal photo was taken by Senior Field Guide Christiaan)

BEHAVIOUR

The Cape starling is a gregarious bird and forms large flocks in the non-breeding season. It usually feeds on the ground often foraging alongside other species of starlings such as the pied starling, the common starling, the greater blue-eared starling, the lesser blue-eared starling, the wattled starling and Burchell’s starling. It is habituated to humans and its diet includes fruit, insects and nectar. It sometimes feeds on ectoparasites that it picks off the backs of animals and it sometimes visits bird tables for scraps.

A glistening Cape Glossy Starling following one of the mega-herbivores hoping that this giant will flush out some juicy insect as it stomps around.

Warthog

BEHAVIOUR

Warthogs are day animals and spend most of their time looking for food. They are normally found in family groups. Warthogs have the peculiar habit of kneeling on the front knees while feeding and foraging in a localised area. They shelter in burrows at night, which they enter tail first. Socially, three main groups are encountered, namely solitary boars, bachelor groups and matriarchal groups. Matriarchal groups consist of adult sows with their young and yearlings. Boars play no part in rearing piglets and seldom associate with sows outside the mating process. Promiscuous, both sexes will mate with more than one partner. Warthogs can frequently be found at waterholes where they dig in the marsh and wallow in the mud with obvious enthusiasm.

The African Warthog received its name from the wart-like bumps it has on its head. Although they are not very beautiful, they are extremely adaptable.

The common warthog is a wild member of the pig family found in grassland, savanna, and woodland in sub-Saharan Africa.  The most commonly seen wild pig in the African bush here at Sibuya Game Reserve.

Did you know: Sparse bristles cover the warthog’s body, and longer bristles form a mane from the top of the head down the spine to the middle of the back.

Angraecum Pusillum (Dwarf Orchid)

One of the smallest tree orchids (angraecum pusillum) found on Sibuya – its size is about 5 cm and the size of the flowers is only 3 mm.  Angraecum pusillum is a dwarf orchid.

Photo taken by Chris Ovens

The species distribution is widespread from the southern Cape as far west as Swellendam to Limpopo. The habitat is branches and trunks of trees in deep shade of evergreen forest and scrub, as low as 1 m above the ground.

The small white flowers of Angraecum pusillum grow in several inflorescences from the stem below the leaves. Pusillus means very small in Latin, referring to the flowers.

Flowering happens from spring to early autumn, sometimes all year round.

White-backed vulture

We have had an incredible and rare sighting of a White-backed vulture again on Sibuya this week…and it’s brought along a mate…These vultures are not usually found in this coastal region due to the high winds and lack of thermals – so we and the birding community are very excited!

Photo taken by Ranger Christiaan

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of animals which it finds by soaring over savannah. It also takes scraps from human habitations. It often moves in flocks. It breeds in trees on the savannah of west and east Africa, laying one egg. The population is mostly resident.

Did you know: A number of protected areas in Africa hold populations of white-backed vultures, including Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, a World Heritage Site. arkive.org

Water Monitor

This rather large species of water monitor (Varanus niloticus) is also known as a leguaan in South Africa.

Monitor lizards are, as a rule, almost entirely carnivorous, consuming prey as varied as insects, crustaceans, arachnids, myriapods, molluscs, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Most species feed on invertebrates as juveniles and shift to feeding on vertebrates as adults.

Water monitors are excellent swimmers, folding their legs in and using their tails like crocodiles, and can stay underwater for well over half an hour. They can run astonishingly fast over a short distance and invariably head for water when disturbed.

A Water Monitor making his way across the road into the longer grass on Sibuya Game Reserve.
These lizards can grow up to 2.5 meters long and this fellow looks pretty close to that.