Monthly Archives: January 2016

Cape Clawless Otter

Appearance

The Cape Clawless Otter measures 1,3 m in length and weighs about 13 kg. Except for the belly, throat, cheeks and upper lip, which are all white, the rest of the body is covered with dense dark brown fur. Almost no webbing between the toes of the front feet, but hind feet are webbed for half their length. There are five clawless digits on each foot. They have thick but shortish tails.


Cape Clawless Otter cavorting in the Kariega River

Diet

Diets mainly on crabs, but will also take fish, frogs, lobsters, birds, insects, reptiles, molluscs and small mammals.

Breeding

Breeds throughout the year, and one to three young are born per litter, after a gestation period of 60-65 days.

Social Behaviour

Since otters are intelligent and playful by nature, they are charming to watch. Extremely elusive in the wilds, and are usually solitary. Females are often accompanied by their offspring, thus co-existing in groups of up to eight. Males play no part in rearing the young and seldom associate with females.

Habitat

Inhabits both fresh water sources as well as the sea, but in the latter case appears to require fresh water to wash the salt from its fur.

Where they are found

The Cape clawless otter has an easterly distribution along the coastline and drainage systems of the higher rainfall regions of South Africa including the Kariega River running through Sibuya Game Reserve, but is nowhere common. Absent from the arid western parts of the country. Coastal density is estimated at one per two km, and along rivers one per three to ten km.

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Bushbuck

Appearance

The very sharp horns render the Bushbuck very dangerous when wounded. The Bushbuck is a close relative of the Kudu and the Nyala. The rams are very elegant in appearance, sporting dark greyish-brown fur, with white spots on the flanks and prominent white socks. In height they are 700mm at the shoulders, and have a maximum mass of 54 Kg’s.


A pair of male bushbuck fighting on Sibuya, an incredibly rare sighting

Ewes are smaller and adult ewes are lighter in colour than rams, with more pronounced white spots and stripes. Both males and females have geometrically shaped white patches or spots on the most mobile parts of their body, namely the ears, chin, tail, legs and neck, as well as a band of white at the base of the neck. On males these markings become more visible during their displays when they arch their backs and slowly circle one another, walking in a tense, high-stepping gait. These highly ritualized displays usually make fighting unnecessary and alongside this, a rigid age-based hierarchy among keeps males in check.

Diet

Bushbuck are mainly browsers, but on rare occasions will consume grass. They are selective feeders, but during hardship are able to adapt their feeding habits for the sake of survival.

Breeding

With a gestation period of 6 to 7 months some females are able to reproduce twice a year. The birth peak is generally during the rainy season in dry regions, but in high-rainfall areas there are not really any peaks. After giving birth, the mother cleans the newborn calf and eats the placenta. The young calf does not accompany its mother for long periods during the day until it is about 4 months old and so it must leave the calf well hidden. When she visits and suckles it, she even eats its dung to remove any scent that remains which may attract predators. Ewes reach sexual maturity at 14 months. Even though rams reach sexual maturity at 11 months they generally do not mate until socially adept at the age of three years.

Behaviour

Usually most active during early morning and part of the night, Bushbucks become almost entirely nocturnal in areas where they are apt to be disturbed frequently during the day. When alarmed, individuals react in a variety of ways. Sometimes they will sink to the ground and lie flat, or they may bound away, making a series of hoarse barks. When surprised in the open, they sometimes stand still or slowly walk to the nearest cover. The Bushbuck is primarily nocturnal, but it is also fairly active during the day. Half of a Bushbuck’s day is spent standing and grazing. Around dusk the Bushbuck move toward their night range to feed from where they off at dawn. The Bushbuck is also the only non-territorial and solitary African antelope with neither males nor females defending any part of their home range. Though Bushbuck have small home ranges which may overlap with those of other bushbuck, they are solitary animals with even females preferring to keep social interactions with their young to not more than a few hours a day. Mature males usually go out of their way to avoid contact with each other.

Habitat

Bushbuck’s preferred habitat is dense bush at the base of mountains or along river courses. This antelope is always found close to permanent water courses.

Where they are found

The shy and elusive bushbuck is widely distributed over sub-Saharan Africa including Sibuya Game Reserve. In East Africa it is found in a variety of habitats, though rarely on open land. Bushbucks have a lot of individual and regional differences in their coat colours and patterns. In general, Bushbuck inhabiting deep forest have darker coats. They will live anywhere from sea level to mountaintops, from rainforests to subdesert terrain.

Predators

Bushbucks are most vulnerable to predators such as Leopard, Lions, Hyenas and Cheetah when on the run, but if cornered the male will fight bravely and if attacked may even become a dangerous foe. Even though Baboons sometimes eat the young, Bushbucks continue to associate closely with them at times, picking up fallen fruit and other foods that foraging Baboons drop.

Tok Tokkie Beetles

These conspicuous members of the large family of darkling beetles are stout, heavy-bodied and wingless, with a tough outer casing. Their habit of knocking loudly on the ground at intervals has given their name to a children’s game (knocking on front doors and then running away). The beetle makes the noise by raising its abdomen and then bringing it down on the surface of the ground several times in quick succession.

The tapping is a form of communication between both sexes. The male initiates the tapping and is answered by a receptive female. After a prolonged exchange of signals, the pair finally make contact and mate. The females lay single eggs, each about 6mm long, which they place in a shallow hollow in the ground. The long, yellow larvae that hatch live in the soil.

The mature tok tokkie beetle scavenges on a variety of plant and animal debris. The Tenebrionidae family to which this insect belongs is very large, with at least 3 500 species in southern Africa. Tok tokkie beetles can be found happily tapping away on Sibuya Game Reserve.

The Chacma Baboon

The word “chacma” is derived from the Hottentot (Khoikhoi) name for baboon, viz choachamma or choa kamma.

Chacma baboons (P. ursinus) are the largest members of the monkey family and are a highly social species that live in groups of four to 200 individuals. Within a troop, adult males form a dominance hierarchy that is established and maintained by fighting and aggression. Male ranking is unstable (6–12 months), because young males tend to emigrate between troops and high ranking males frequently lose their status to younger immigrants. In contrast, females remain in their natal groups and form strong hierarchies that transcend generations. Chacma baboons are largely omnivorous and are common in savannah woodland, steppes and sub-desert, montane regions (e.g. Drakensberg Mountains), Cape Fynbos and Succulent Karoo areas of southern Africa. Although the species is not threatened, increasing overlap between their natural range and human settlements has resulted in human-wildlife conflict.

A baboon uses facial expressions and body postures to communicate its level of excitement, anger and arousal. Friendly behavior is associated with non-threatening behavior such as soft grunts, avoiding eye contact and retracting lips to display clenched teeth. Presentation of the rump is used as an invitation by sexually receptive females and also as a conciliatory signal by baboons of both sexes. Adult males may sit with their erect penis in full view to communicate to other males that an adult is present in the troop. This also occurs when the male is on guard.

Aggressive behavior is associated with staring fixedly at an individual, displaying canine teeth and thrusting head and body postures that may be accompanied by shaking of grass and tree branches.

Baboons have a wide range of vocal signals that can be graded into one another and combined with each other and with visual signals in complex and subtle social communication.

The well-known ‘bokkum’ double bark is an alarm and aggressive signal given only by high-ranking males when there is inter- or intra-group aggression between males, and when a predator is nearby. The call also communicates male presence and arousal.

Habitat

Chacma baboons inhabit a wide range of habitats and are common in woodland, savanna, steppes and sub-desert, montane regions of the Drakensberg, Cape Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and can be found on Sibuya Game Reserve. They normally occur in areas with adequate food and water supply and suitable night resting places such trees or high, rocky outcrops.