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Animals of the Serengeti

Animals of the Serengeti: And Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Adam Scott Kennedy
Vicki Kennedy
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Animals of the Serengeti
    Book Description:

    Containing 146 stunning color photos,Animals of the Serengetiis a remarkable look at the mammals and reptiles most likely to be encountered in the world-famous Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. With an eye-catching layout, accessible text, and easy-to-use format, this detailed photographic guide includes 89 species of mammal and reptile. Useful "Top Tips"-shared by local Tanzanian guides that work in the region-provide visitors with insights into behavioral habits and how to locate specific animals. Filled with vivid anecdotes,Animals of the Serengetiwill enable any safari traveler to identify the area's wildlife with ease.

    Covers the 89 species likely to be encountered in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation AreaFeatures male and female variationsAccessible text aimed at safari visitors of all levels

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5138-6
    Subjects: Zoology, Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-3)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 4-5)
  3. About this book
    (pp. 7-9)
  4. About the guides
    (pp. 10-11)
  5. Geography of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA)
    (pp. 12-13)

    The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem covers an area of approximately 25,000 km² (9,600 square miles) and is defined academically by the area used by the Serengeti Wildebeest. Approximately 8,000 km² of the ecosystem lies in Kenya (Masai Mara and surrounds) but the majority is in Tanzania.

    In the ‘Greater Serengeti area’, which includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), elevations above sea level (a.s.l.) vary greatly from the peaks of the Crater Highlands and Gol Mountains in the east (1,850 m/6,070 ft a.s.l.) to the lowlands bordering the shores of Lake Victoria at Speke Bay (920 m/3,020 ft a.s.l.). The lowlands get very...

  6. The great migrations
    (pp. 14-17)

    The prospect of an encounter with the largest mammal migration on Earth is what draws the majority of guests to the Serengeti – and rightly so. With over two million animals involved, consisting primarily of Wildebeest and Zebra, and a supporting cast of gazelle and other antelope species, the Great Migration is one of nature’s greatest spectacles. Here we focus on the key species, the White-bearded Wildebeest, which starts its life and a continuous quest for fresh grass on the Ndutu Plains of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and southern Serengeti in February and March.

    The Serengeti Wildebeest is the smallest of...

  7. Map of the ‘Greater Serengeti area’
    (pp. 18-19)
  8. Where to watch wildlife in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA)
    (pp. 20-22)

    Mammals are particularly mobile creatures, especially those that migrate across national borders, but that does not mean we cannot give you a helping hand by suggesting some of the most productive areas to find them. So here are our ‘Top 10’ sites to search for the animals you want to see. The really good news is that even if there are few animals around, these are truly beautiful places to photograph and soak up the atmosphere. The site numbers are shown on the main map onpage 18.

    Needing little by way of introduction, the largest intact caldera in the...

  9. Mammals

    • Lion Panthera leo
      (pp. 24-27)

      Among the most popular of all animals likely to be encountered in the Serengeti, the Lion is easy to identify. But it is the behaviour of this creature that is most fascinating and our understanding of it continues to increase with new studies and observations. Most importantly, this is the most sociable of all African cats, living in prides of related females (often 3–6) and their offspring that are dominated by an unrelated male, or collective of males (usually brothers or father-son groups) known as a coalition. Some prides may number as many as 40 animals though this is...

    • Leopard Panthera pardus
      (pp. 28-31)

      Easily identified from the larger Lion (page 24) by its heavily spotted coat and white-tipped tail, the Leopard is more likely to be confused with the slimmer, longer-legged Cheetah (page 32).

      A Leopard’s spots are arranged in circles, or rosettes, creating an incredible camouflage that allows it to stalk its prey to within a few metres before pouncing on the unsuspecting victim and killing it with a stranglehold to the throat.

      Although adult Eland (page 84) and young Giraffe (page 80) are sometimes taken, the Leopards of the Serengeti rarely prey upon such large animals, possibly due to their relatively...

    • Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus
      (pp. 32-35)

      Although superficially similar to the Leopard (page 28), the Cheetah has a truly spotted coat and is far more slender, like a greyhound in structure. It has a well-deserved reputation for being the fastest land animal on the planet, reaching speeds in excess of 112 kph/70 mph, including an impressive 0–100 kph/0–60 mph burst in three seconds, when chasing prey. Otherwise, the Cheetah is the lightweight of the ‘big cats’. Its delicate frame makes it highly susceptible to damage from scavengers and predators, such as Lion (page 24) and Spotted Hyena (page 42). They are particularly at risk...

    • Serval Leptailurus serval
      (pp. 36-36)

      The Serval is a quiet and stealthy hunter that uses its large ears to locate prey in long grass. It frequently pauses to listen for the sound of movement, using its acute sense of hearing to locate its prey before leaping with an enormous pounce. Once caught, the prey may be played with before being swallowed whole. Like the Caracal, this cat is also capable of impressive vertical leaps of 3 m /10 ft or more, swatting birds clean from the air. These animals prefer to hide from danger, including game-vehicles, and usually press themselves close to the ground to...

    • Caracal Caracal caracal
      (pp. 37-37)

      Often called the African Lynx on account of its long-tufted ears, the Caracal is not a lynx at all but a relative of the forest-dwelling Golden CatCaracal aurataof central Africa. Similar in size to the Serval, the coat is tan-red with whitish underparts in adults, while kittens tend to be lightly spotted on their bellies. Despite its size, the Caracal is a formidable hunter that has been known to tackle adult Impala and very large birds, killing them by strangulation. Meetings between rival males can be violent, especially when a female in oestrus is present. Although females may...

    • Wild Cat Felis sylvestris
      (pp. 38-38)

      Among the most secretive of all animals to be found in the Serengeti, the Wild Cat is notoriously difficult to find and any encounter with it must be considered very fortunate indeed. Domestic cats are likely to be encountered close to villages and hybridization with the Wild Cat’s human-friendly cousins represents the biggest threat to its survival as a pure wild species. A Wild Cat is generally taller and in better condition than a domestic cat and typically shows a lightly striped coat and warm reddish tones behind the ears.

      Male cats are quite vocal when attracting mates and pairs...

    • African Civet Civettictis civetta
      (pp. 39-39)

      A close relative of the genets (page 40), the African Civet is taller and stockier but, similarly, most likely to be encountered around sunset or at night when it wanders widely in search of a varied menu. Small mammals, such as mice, are leaped upon and seized in the powerful jaws before being thrashed from side to side.

      Among the Civet’s other impressive attributes is an erectile crest that it raises when threatened, excited or alarmed. During the breeding season, males will serenade potential mates with a laughing “hahaha” call. In the daytime, this animal will rest in dense vegetation...

    • Small-spotted Genet Genetta genetta
      (pp. 40-40)
    • Large-spotted Genet Genetta tigrina
      (pp. 40-41)
    • Spotted Hyena Crocuta crocuta
      (pp. 42-43)

      The Spotted Hyena suffers from seriously bad public relations and we feel a strong obligation to put the record straight on this formidable hunter and wonderful parent. Often content to scavenge on just about any carcass it encounters, the Spotted Hyena is also a superb athlete capable of chasing and catching a wide variety of game, especially Wildebeest (page 104) and Plains Zebra (page 76), but also larger prey including Cape Buffalo (page 70). Most prey is run down by small groups of Hyena that may chase for 6 km /4 miles or more before wearing out the exhausted animal,...

    • Aardwolf Proteles cristata
      (pp. 44-44)

      Although a close relative and similar in appearance to hyenas, the Aardwolf is the sole species in its own subfamily, due to its diet and physiology. Unlike the hyenas, which have a diet of bone and flesh, this mini-hyena is a termite-eating specialist, retrieving thousands of the ant-like insects at each sitting using its long, sticky tongue, very much like a Pangolin (page 60) or Aardvark (page 61). It has five toes on its front feet, like theviverrids(the African Civet (page 39) and the genets (page 40)), rather than four as in other hyena, and its rear teeth...

    • Striped Hyena Hyena hyaena
      (pp. 45-45)

      Rarely encountered, apart from in the dry acacia zone, these nocturnal creatures leave their dens after dark and return well before sunrise. The diet consists of less fresh meat than the Spotted Hyena; it rarely hunts large mammals, preferring to scavenge mostly on bones at partially devoured carcasses, but also preys on invertebrates and rodents. Striped Hyena are less sociable than Spotted Hyena but breeding pairs are family-oriented, with both sexes involved in caring for the pups. These are born with stripes, unlike the dark-brown Spotted Hyena pups. Parity between the sexes is probably a result of lower testosterone levels...

    • Dwarf Mongoose Helogale parvula
      (pp. 46-46)

      At first glance, this mini-mongoose could be mistaken for a reddish squirrel but is in fact the smallest carnivore in East Africa. It is highly vocal and will alert its clan to danger with a high-pitched, muffled whistle “pissoo” before running at speed into cover. When it is relaxed, you may also hear a gentle piped whistle, while angry confrontations between individuals are usually punctuated with low growls.

      This is a highly sociable mongoose that lives in extended family units ruled by a dominant pair, usually the oldest, which have sole mating rights. Other members of the clan will assist...

    • Banded Mongoose Mungos mungo
      (pp. 47-47)

      By far the most abundant and frequently seen species of mongoose in the Serengeti, the Banded Mongoose is frequently encountered in extended family units, led by a dominant female. While some members of the clan search for food, most of which is dug up from the ground, others will stand erect on lookout duty and alert others to danger with alarm calls specific to threats from land or the air. The biggest threats come from the air, the most dangerous being the Martial Eagle–although it has been known for groups of this mongoose to mob the predator and force...

    • Slender Mongoose Herpestes sanguineus
      (pp. 48-48)

      Most likely to be encountered in well-wooded areas, this small but very aggressive mongoose is the only one feared by birds, which frequently raise the alarm in their presence. It is fond of birds and their eggs and frequently climbs trees to find its quarry, using specially adapted claws and foot pads. Unlike the larger but otherwise similar Ichneumon Mongoose that drags its tail behind it, this species carries its tail high off the ground when walking or running. Male Slender Mongoose are polygamous and frequently share a home range with several females....

    • Ichneumon Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon
      (pp. 49-49)

      This is the longest mongoose and is always on the move. It trots with an obvious ‘slinking’ action that is not dissimilar to an otter, always with its nose low to the ground and tail trailing behind, sometimes with the black tip raised. It is a good digger and swimmer and takes a wide variety of prey including fish. Males typically have several females within their home range, each of which gives birth to 2–4 young. The young can sometimes be seen travelling together like a train, each joined up to the one in front and always led by...

    • Marsh Mongoose Atilax paludinosus
      (pp. 50-50)

      This is the most dextrous of all mongoose and handles food items, such as crabs and clams, with the agility of a primate, and will frequently use rocks to break open tough objects. The soft and sensitive padding on the paws helps the animal when searching for prey underwater.

      In the daytime it may be encountered following well-used pathways along watercourses and, if alarmed, take to the water, where it could be confused with an otter. Although the coat is dark, it appears to ‘shine’ when wet.

      This species has been recorded performing an unusual hunting behaviour. This involves sitting...

    • White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda
      (pp. 51-51)

      This is the largest of all mongoose species in East Africa and probably the most athletic as it searches for food throughout the night covering many kilometres at a steady trot. It shows a distinctive hump-backed appearance and rarely stands erect on its rear legs as do some other mongoose species. Like the Marsh Mongoose, it possesses an impressive anal gland that produces an intoxicating fluid that is sufficiently pungent to keep predators at bay. This same fluid is also used as a territory marker and during any observation of this animal you may see it rub its rear against...

    • Zorilla Ictonyx striatus
      (pp. 52-52)

      This slender little carnivore is the smelliest of all African animals by virtue of the horrendous scent that is produced from its anal gland. This scent causes a burning sensation in the nasal passage of other mammals. While scavenging at a particular carcass, a Zorilla was observed to keep a pride of nine Lion at bay by spraying them with scent. Zorilla is well-known among the Maasai as it shares the short grassland surrounding the Serengeti where sheep and goats are usually grazed. Several Maasai shepherds have testified to their dogs running away from this small, striped mammal at night...

    • Honey Badger Mellivora capensis
      (pp. 53-53)

      Notorious for their ferocity and fearlessness in the face of danger, Honey Badgers will think little of taking on a pride of Lion (page 24), a pack of Spotted Hyena (page 42) or a Leopard (page 28) if challenged. When attacking people, they aim for the genitalia – so be warned! A Honey Badger’s coat is exceptionally loose-fitting, so if a predator bites into it it can easily turn around and bite back with powerful jaws and tear with its bear-like front claws. The canine teeth are surprisingly small for such a large carnivore but the rear teeth (molars) are perfectly...

    • Black-backed Jackal Canis mesomelas
      (pp. 54-54)

      This opportunist is best separated from the Side-striped Jackal by its black-tipped tail. Despite its smaller size and lighter frame, the Black-blacked Jackal is the more proficient hunter, tackling live prey up to the size of Impala (page 96), bringing the animal down after a chase with bites to the leg, loin and throat. At the carcass, it annoys larger predators, such as Lion (page 24) and Spotted Hyena (page 42), with one Jackal distracting while another jumps in to steal a morsel. Black-backed Jackal are much noisier than Side-striped Jackal, making high-pitched yelps in communication with its pack, especially...

    • Side-striped Jackal Canis adustus
      (pp. 55-55)

      This scarce resident of grassy plains is less frequently encountered than the Black-backed Jackal but is almost certainly overlooked. The white stripe on each flank, usually edged in black, is the best identification feature – but also look out for the normally white-tipped, bushy tail and smaller ears. This species is less willing to chase adult antelope than Black-backed Jackal but will seek out newborns hidden in the grass. It is also less vocal than Black-backed Jackal, often calling a mere “hoot” and a stuttered series of yaps.

      The social unit of jackals consists of a monogamous pair that mates for...

    • Golden Jackal Canis aureus
      (pp. 56-57)

      Unlike the smaller Black-backed (page 54) and Side-striped Jackals (page 55) that are endemic to Africa, the Golden Jackal almost certainly originated in Asia or the Middle East and today ranges from the plains and semi-deserts of northern Tanzania, across northern Africa, through the deserts of the Middle East and the marshes of India, and reaching as far east as the forests of south-east Asia. This suggests that it is a versatile species that is well able to adapt to a variety of habitats. In East Africa we see numerous behaviours that help to explain why this is the case....

    • Bat-eared Fox Otocyon megalotis
      (pp. 58-58)

      Those fantastically large ears are designed for locating prey, down to 30 cm/12¹¹ below ground, which the animal digs up with tail, using the sharp scales to cut like blades. The front claws are long and curved and used for digging into termite mounds and anthills. However, these are cumbersome to walk on, so the animal generally walks only on its hind legs, with the tail used as a counterbalance, and with scurried paws. Combined with an acute sense of smell, very little gets past this tenacious little carnivore. Its jaws contain up to 52 teeth, the most of any...

    • Wild Dog Lycaon pictus
      (pp. 59-59)

      The Wild Dog is the most successful hunter of all large carnivores, with 85% of all hunts resulting in a kill compared to just 30% for Lions. They hunt in packs, spooking herds to identify the weakest individual before chasing it to exhaustion (with a top speed of 64 kph /40 mph). Their victims are, rather unceremoniously, ripped apart by the pack while larger prey is generally tackled by one Wild Dog grabbing the tail, another the face, while the remaining pack members disembowel the animal. These are otherwise gentle and sociable canids with an admirable social make-up. The pack...

    • Pangolin Smutsia temminckii
      (pp. 60-60)

      This enigmatic creature is high on the wish-list of even the most experienced safari-goer, such is its rarity. The armour of hard scales, made of keratin (just like your fingernails), covers all but the head and underbelly, which it protects by rolling into a tight ball when threatened or sleeping. If harassed by a predator, it will thrash its tail, using the sharp scales to cut like blades. The front claws are long and curved and used for digging into termite mounds and anthills. However, these are cumbersome to walk on, so the animal generally walks only on its hind...

    • Aardvark Orycteropus afer
      (pp. 61-61)

      Despite resembling the South American anteaters the Aardvark is not closely related. It emerges from a self-dug burrow after dark and wanders widely across grasslands using its acute sense of smell to detect active termite mounds. These it tears open with its dagger-like claws, four on the front foot and five on the rear, before extracting as many as 50,000 termites in one sitting using its 30 cm/12¹¹-long tongue. Aardvark have a light covering of coarse hair over tough skin and are generally grey-brown in colour, but this is often stained by the soil it digs. The heavy tail, white-tipped...

    • African Elephant Loxodonta africana
      (pp. 62-65)

      Needing little introduction, this is the world’s largest land mammal and also one of the most intelligent. The sexes are similar in appearance although the larger males have a squared forehead compared to the females’ gently rounded head. Their society is based on a matriarchal clan system (i.e. it is led by a dominant female) and most large herds encountered consist of related females of various ages and juvenile males. The matriarch is responsible for the well-being of the herd, which relies upon her inherited knowledge to lead them to water and food resources. As the ‘boys’ become teenagers, they...

    • Black Rhinoceros Diceros bicornis
      (pp. 67-67)

      Often the most difficult of the ‘Big Five’ to see in the Serengeti, the Black Rhino is second only in weight to the African Elephant (page 62). The naming of the two African rhinoceros species has been grossly corrupted since their discovery by Dutch colonists hundreds of years ago, with the White Rhino originally being given the Dutch name wijd, meaning ‘wide’, on account of its long, square-shaped upper lip. The second species was hastily called Black Rhino, no doubt because some individuals appeared much darker – though the colour of the tough skin is usually a direct result of the...

    • Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius
      (pp. 68-69)

      Great discussion surrounds the origins of the Hippopotamus. As terrestrial eventoed ungulates of the order Artiodactyla, they are classified together with Warthog (page 74) and other swine. But many scientists believe they share a common ancestor with cetaceans (i.e. whales and dolphins).

      Often labelled ‘the most dangerous large animal in Africa’, the Hippopotamus is often encountered relaxing in rivers and pools where it appears quite the opposite. Most human fatalities are attributed to canoeists cruising on occupied stretches of river or people accidentally coming between a Hippo and its nearest escape route to water. Despite its huge size and short...

    • Cape Buffalo Syncerus caffer
      (pp. 70-72)

      The gregarious Cape Buffalo is often wrongly referred to as Water Buffalo, which is an Asiatic species, and is by far the most abundant member of the ‘Big Five’ in the Serengeti. It has a reputation for ferocity and has killed many people in Africa over the years – solitary bulls, weighing up to 1,000 kg/2,200 lbs, being the most dangerous. In large congregations they can be quite timid, even skittish, often stampeding away from a perceived threat, human or otherwise. Lion (page 24) is the major predator of Buffalo though calves may also fall prey to Leopard (page 28) and...

    • Bushpig Potamochoerus larvatus
      (pp. 73-73)

      The Bushpig is a typical hog and has a justified reputation for being aggressive and unpredictable. Generally, sightings are from a vehicle, although Bushpigs can sometimes be encountered close to lodges or camps ‘on the hunt’ for an easy meal. Most Bushpigs remain ‘wild’ – choosing to avoid people or dashing to the nearest thicket – but on rare occasions they have been known to charge at a person and attack with their razor-sharp tusks. Bushpigs are highly territorial, and become particularly aggressive to any potential threat when piglets are around. Groups (or sounders) usually consist of a dominant pair and their...

    • Warthog Phacochoerus africanus
      (pp. 74-75)

      The fabulous Warthog is a favourite among safari-goers because it has so much personality. Usually encountered in family groups, they can be tricky to photograph on the plains as they are keen to flee from danger. However, in some camps they enjoy grazing on the lawns and digging up nutrient-rich food items, and have become very tame and approachable. Even where they appear tame, Warthogs must always be treated with respect, as those formidable tusks are razor-sharp and quite capable of slicing through flesh. Both sets of canine teeth protrude from the mouth; the top tusks are the longest but...

    • Plains Zebra Equus quagga
      (pp. 76-79)

      Instantly recognizable from our first alphabet books, the Plains Zebra is a nomadic species in the Serengeti, with many roaming resident herds supplemented by vast numbers of migrants from the Masai Mara and elsewhere.

      Although not as populous within the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem as Wildebeest (page 104), Zebra can appear to outnumber their more famous travelling companions at times. This is especially so when they move ahead of the Wildebeest and feast on the long grass as pioneer grazers, paving the way for the shortgrass specialists to follow. Adopting a safety-in-numbers defence strategy, Zebra are often found in mixed-species herds, although...

    • Maasai Giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis
      (pp. 80-83)

      Giraffe gather in loose associations of females and their young. Older males tend to be solitary, while younger males gather in bachelor groups. Giraffe are collectively known as a ‘tower’ when standing, or a ‘journey’ when on the move. Sexing Giraffe is easy, even when the ‘undercarriage’ is not in view. Males show flattened, bald-topped horns, while females and young show hairy-tufted horns. These horns, or ossicones, are fused to the skull (unlike antelope) and males often show additional bumps on the head, formed by harmless calcium deposits on their skull. Giraffe exhibit an unusual walking style, known as pacing,...

    • Eland Tragelaphus oryx
      (pp. 84-85)

      The largest of all antelope, the Eland is a huge animal comparable in size to oxen, with the largest males exceeding 900 kg/2,000 lbs in weight. This huge mass hinders the animal when fleeing from danger and they tend to run with a steady trot rather than a dash. Their jumping ability is not affected, however, with well-grown animals able to clear a 3 m/10 ft fence! Herds of females and juveniles often exceed 100 in number, while bachelor groups are usually much smaller and led by a dominant male that is darker and greyer than his younger subordinates. This...

    • Roan Hippotragus equinus
      (pp. 86-86)

      Roan is the fourth largest antelope. At a distance, these large, robust animals could be mistaken for horses, and are even named after a horse’s coat colour (roan means white mixed with coloured hair). A close view will reveal a completely different animal with an attractive black-and-white face, long tasselled ears and impressive curved, ringed horns. Found in wooded areas with good grass cover, there was only ever a small population of Roan in the Serengeti. However, it appears they have now disappeared completely, most likely due to poaching. Re-introducing animals to the Serengeti from nearby Ruma National Park in...

    • Bush Duiker Sylvicapra grimmia
      (pp. 87-87)

      This attractive small antelope has adopted the clever habit of following groups of birds and monkeys feeding in fruiting trees, and waiting for fallen fruit to land below. They live in monogamous pairs; the hornbearing males smaller than the hornless females. Disturbed animals freeze, as does Kirk’s Dik-dik (page 90), before diving into deep cover. In fact the name ‘duiker’ comes from the Afrikaans /Dutch word meaning ‘diver’ on account of this habit. Not surprisingly, these shy creatures hide their young but often raise two offspring per year. Males are highly territorial and frequently scent their trails with dung piles,...

    • Steinbuck Raphicerus campestris
      (pp. 88-88)

      Although fairly common and widely distributed, a sighting of the small Steinbuck is far from guaranteed and should be considered fortunate. Separating it from the Oribi can be a tricky and experience certainly helps – although if a tiny and dainty antelope appears from the grass or scrub and you cannot help but think it has big, silly-looking ears, there is every chance you are indeed watching a Steinbuck. Oribi tend to be seen in small numbers (2–5) and Steinbuck are more frequently seen alone. Pairs stay in ‘scent-contact’ by laying scent trails using the pre-orbital gland (under the eye)...

    • Oribi Ourebia ourebi
      (pp. 89-89)

      This tan-coloured, white-bellied antelope has an obvious black spot below the ears (the sub-auricular gland), like the Bohor Reedbuck (page 93), but is easily told from that species by its smaller size and more slender build. The smaller though similarlooking Steinbuck lacks this black spot. The Oribi is also told from these species by its distinctive black tip to the short, bushy tail, which is flagged-up when running away from predators, in a similar stotting fashion (seepage 92) to reedbuck. It is when they are threatened that you are likely to hear their main vocalization, a highpitched, shrill whistle....

    • Kirk’s Dik-dik Madoqua kirkii
      (pp. 90-90)

      This attractive dwarf antelope is common in the Serengeti and parts of the NCA, and is well known among guides for its monogamous behaviour. Active day and night, if you see one, you can be sure there is another close by. Look out for the classic ‘freeze’ behaviour, often with a front foot raised. The large, mobile snout is used as a cooling device and is even larger on species of dik-dik found in drier regions. Like the Klipspringer, Kirk’s Dik-dik show prominent pre-orbital scenting glands under the eyes that are used to place a sticky secretion on stems as...

    • Klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus
      (pp. 91-91)

      Meaning ‘rock-jumper’ in Afrikaans and Dutch, Klipspringer are water independent – able to acquire all the fluids they need from their food. While one animal grazes another will look out for predators, announcing danger with a whistled alarm. Amazingly, they walk on the very tips of their hooves and can balance with all four feet on a rock smaller than the fist of an adult human!...

    • Mountain Reedbuck Redunca fulvorufula
      (pp. 92-92)

      Unlikely to be encountered away from its preferred habitat of hillside grassland, the Mountain Reedbuck is generally encountered in small groups of 3–7, mostly females overseen by a lone male, or ram.

      When they reach maturity, young males are evicted from the group and form separate bachelor groups, though the two types of group may be seen grazing together during the dry season. The bushy tail is dark above and white below, and, as rabbits do, is used as a flagging signal at sight or sound of danger. Like Bohor Reedbuck and Oribi (page 89), this species usually shows...

    • Bohor Reedbuck Redunca redunca
      (pp. 93-93)

      As with many other antelope, the male Bohor Reedbuck enjoys the company of several females within his territory and, in prime habitat, may be accompanied by as many as seven mature females. Both reedbuck species can be separated from other brown antelope by their solid build and large, oval ears. A good view will show the conspicuous dark eyes and nose contrasting with a pale face. Bohor Reedbuck is an abundant species in the Serengeti but can be difficult to observe on account of its habit of lying within long grass in the middle of floodplains. Since this reedbuck prefers...

    • Bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus
      (pp. 94-94)

      This is a medium-sized, elegant antelope that can be difficult to find where it is not habituated to people. The most obvious sign of its presence is the loud, gruff bark that is used to alert other Bushbucks to a nearby threat, soon after which it often leaps into deep cover with athletic bounds and a white flash of its raised tail. Bushbuck tend to be solitary and non-territorial in nature, staying within a home range that may include many other individuals. However, they may gather in small numbers where resources abound, especially fallen fruits and water. Adults of both...

    • Defassa Waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus
      (pp. 95-95)

      Waterbuck are not confined to wetlands but do require fresh water for drinking on a regular basis. They prefer medium-length grasslands where they gather in considerable numbers, dominated by a single male that may allow other, subordinate, males to accompany the herd. Otherwise, bachelor herds of young males are found a short distance away from the main herd, frequently engaging in mock-fighting with clashes of horns. It is sometimes claimed that Waterbuck meat is inedible, a myth that stems from the foul-smelling sweat glands under the skin that give the animal’s coat a greasy waterproofing. They are less frequently hunted...

    • Impala Aepyceros melampus
      (pp. 96-97)

      This beautiful antelope is common at the border between woodland and grassland, where it grazes in large herds. Groups of females, or ewes, known collectively as a harem, and their young, or fawns, are dominated by a prime male, or ram. A dominant male controls a harem for up to three months, typically two, during which time he fends off other males and shepherds his flock closely to him. During this period, he chases females aggressively, giving prolonged, barked snorts and all the time smelling their scent with curled-up lips. He has sole mating rights with all females coming into...

    • Grant’s Gazelle Nanger granti
      (pp. 98-98)

      This large, elegant gazelle is found in smaller numbers than its diminutive cousin, the Thomson’s Gazelle (page 100). It is well adapted to dry conditions and while many other antelope travel far for greener pastures, the Grant’s will head into the dry acacia belt and browse on shoots and herbage, surviving for long periods without water. Unlike Thomson’s Gazelle, the male Grant’s does not scent-mark with pre-orbital glands (seepage 90) but scents using shin glands and dung sites for territory marking. Males defend their patch by intimidation displays, swinging their strong necks from side to side. Females crossing into...

    • Thomson’s Gazelle Eudorcas thomsonii
      (pp. 100-101)

      Widely known as the ‘Tommie’, this charming small gazelle is common and widespread across short grass plains. Although resident in many areas, large numbers also migrate from the Serengeti into the Masai Mara from July onwards, following mixed herds of Wildebeest (page 104) and Plains Zebra (page 76).

      They benefit from the ‘lawnmower-effect’ of these larger grazers that reduces the longer grass to greening shoots. Adults keep within eye contact of each other and use tail-wagging as a means of communication. Females move extensively in loose groups, passing through the territories of numerous males as they travel. The dominant males...

    • Coke’s Hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus
      (pp. 102-102)

      The Hartebeest is a widely distributed African species with many local variations and regional subspecies. The subspecies found in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya,Alcelaphus buselaphus cokii, is known as Coke’s Hartebeest and named in honour of Colonel Wenman Coke (1828–1907), who collected the first specimen. Hartebeest are often encountered in longer grass than their darker cousin, the Topi, and their behaviour is less energetic. Males will often engage in sniffing and nibbling the neck of a competitor in advance of a territorial challenge. Hartebeest and Topi are structurally very similar, showing strong forequarters and a sloping back to...

    • Topi Damaliscus lunatus
      (pp. 103-103)

      The graceful Topi is a socially organized antelope with groups adjusting their behaviour according to the size of the herd. In the Serengeti, where resident groups gather, males establish territories that include a number of mature females and their young. These females take this ‘honour’ very seriously and will chase off intruding Topi of both sexes.

      Groups of bachelor males gather at communal display areas, known as leks, where they establish a rank of dominance involving energetic fighting, usually on bended knee, with victors chasing losers away at speeds of up to 70 kph /43 mph. This speed also enables...

    • White-bearded Wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus
      (pp. 104-107)

      The Wildebeest is a strange-looking creature by anyone’s standards, but its lifestyle is so impressive that it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem each year. Most tourists visit with high hopes of witnessing the spectacle of large numbers of animals crossing the mighty Grumeti and Mara Rivers. However, even the sight and sound of huge numbers grazing on the open plains is breathtaking. Life for Wildebeest is one of perpetual motion; within minutes of birth they are walking and they barely stop for the rest of their lives. They are driven to wander by the need...

    • Cape Hare Lepus capensis
      (pp. 108-108)
    • Scrub Hare Lepus saxatilis
      (pp. 108-108)
    • Springhare Pedetes capensis
      (pp. 109-109)

      This bizarre nocturnal creature is actually a rodent not a hare. It looks just like a kangaroo and behaves like one too-being able to jump in excess of 2 m/6 ft in a bound and to travel very fast when threatened. Springhares have long claws on their very long rear legs that are used for digging and traction, but the front legs are tiny and barely used at all. They are fantastic burrowers and can dig tunnels up to 50 m long (although they are typically much shorter) which they can rapidly block when threatened or disturbed. The eyes are...

    • Unstriped Ground Squirrel Xerus rutilus
      (pp. 110-110)

      Unlike most other squirrels you might be familiar with, ground squirrels live up to their name and rarely venture into trees. Despite their similarity to Red and Grey Squirrels of the temperate north, these rodents are more closely related to the North American ground squirrels, a group that includes chipmunks, marmots and prairie dogs, but African ground squirrels lack the obvious cheek pouches of those animals. The Unstriped Ground Squirrel is non-territorial and it would seem that the benefits from predator surveillance outweigh the disadvantages from competition with other individuals. Litters of up to four young are common and family...

    • Grass Rat Arvicanthis niloticus
      (pp. 111-111)

      Actually a mouse, rather than a rat, this is probably the most abundant and frequently seen of all small rodents in the Serengeti. As with many other mice, they are short-lived (two years is a fine old age) but produce up to twelve young several times a year in a labyrinth-like burrow system. They are a favoured prey of many small carnivores, reptiles and predatory birds.

      Look out for the males’ unfeasibly large testicles, which are the largest of all the animals in the Serengeti in relation to body size....

    • White-bellied Hedgehog Atelerix albiventris
      (pp. 112-112)

      This insectivore is vaguely similar to the Crested Porcupine in appearance but is far smaller. Unlike the Porcupine, the very sharp spines, not quills, do not detach upon impact with a predator. Instead, the animal often curls into a ball if severely threatened, making some snorts and whistles of intimidation.

      Unlike the Porcupine, the White-bellied Hedgehog holes-up during dry summer periods, a process known as aestivation. This is thought to be in response to food shortages rather than high temperaturesper seand usually lasts no longer than two months. Females are fertile throughout the year and give birth to...

    • Crested Porcupine Hystrix cristata
      (pp. 113-113)

      This is the largest rodent in East Africa and famous for the impressive array of long, detachable quills on its back. Contrary to local legend, the Porcupine cannot ‘shoot’ these weapons at predators but it is certainly capable of defending is certainly capable of defending itself by charging, in reverse, at Spotted Hyena (page 42), Leopard (page 28) and Lion (page 24). Even humans have fallen victim and been stabbed by annoyed Porcupines! More common is the threat display which starts with a loud hiss-like rattle, produced by hollow quills near the tail, followed by all quills raised into an...

    • Rock Hyrax Procavia capensis
      (pp. 114-114)
    • Southern Tree Hyrax Dendrohyrax arboreus
      (pp. 115-115)
    • Bush Hyrax Heterohyrax brucei
      (pp. 115-115)
    • Greater Galago Otolemur crassicaudatus
      (pp. 116-116)

      Separated from the Lesser Galago by its large size, the Greater Galago is frequently seen on the ground, when it stands upright and leaps with hands and bushy tail raised. When in trees, it frequently walks along branches but is a very capable jumper. Unlike the Lesser Galago, females of this species may be seen carrying young jockey-style on their backs....

    • Lesser Galago Galago senegalensis
      (pp. 117-117)

      These gremlin-like mammals are great fun to watch as they jump among the trees at night. They are a favourite prey item of owls and genets – if they can catch them! Females may be seen carrying their young in their mouths and depositing them on a safe branch before feeding....

    • Guereza Colobus Colobus guereza
      (pp. 118-119)

      The beautiful primate spends most of its time in the trees, where it rests, grooms and feeds for much of the day, It may also be seen walking along the ground, especially when fallen fruit is plentiful. However, fresh green leaves are the preferred diet, and individuals eat approximately one third of their body weight in leaves every day. Groups move between trees with huge leaps, and bound along branches like giant squirrels. Family units are based around a harem of up to ten females and young, all dominated by a single male that will mate with any female. Aggression...

    • Patas Monkey Erythrocebus patas
      (pp. 120-121)

      The Patas Monkey is bigger bodied, but shorter tailed, than the Vervet Monkey (page 124) and has been called the ‘greyhound’ of the monkey world; in more ways than one, it really does live life in the fast lane. The front and hind legs are very long for a monkey and offer a clue to its prowess as the fastest-running monkey on the planet, having been clocked sprinting at 55 kph (34 mph). The species lives a predominantly terrestrial life and spends approximately 85% of its day feeding, grooming and resting on the ground. This presents a risk of falling...

    • Blue Monkey Cercopithecus mitis
      (pp. 122-123)

      This sombre-looking primate is most likely to be encountered along the roadside in the highland forests of the Ngorongoro Crater but visitors to the far northern Serengeti may also find it in the riverine woodland there. Like many other small monkeys, they live in family groups of up to 30, all led by a single dominant male, which is much larger than the females. He will not tolerate other males in his territory, even his own offspring. Otherwise, troops are very sociable and spend many hours a day grooming each other. This species has a rich vocabulary with particular calls...

    • Vervet Monkey Chlorocebus pygerythrus
      (pp. 124-124)

      The Vervet Monkey is a sociable primate, found in troops of up to 60. These gatherings are highly territorial and both sexes defend against unwelcome intruders. Even competing males from within the troop will collaborate to deny access to outsiders. Otherwise, the troop is a harmonious place where eating and grooming takes up most of the day and young monkeys get to play and develop their communication skills. The Vervet has a distinct language of its own, primarily used to alert other members of the troop to predators. If young monkeys make the correct call for ‘air’ or ‘land’ threats...

    • Olive Baboon Papio anubis
      (pp. 126-127)

      What’s in a name? The scientific name anubis derives from the Egyptian god of the same name that was represented by a dog’s head, similar to that of the Baboon.

      Large troops of Olive Baboon are often encountered on game drives but many vehicles pass them by in search of something more ‘exciting’. However, watching Baboons can be very rewarding, so do stop and enjoy! Firstly, check out the males’ canine teeth – at 5 cm/2½” they are formidable ‘weapons’ that allow the gangs to wander the plains without harassment. Even Lion (page 24) prides will think twice about tackling Baboons....

    • Rufous Sengi Elephantulus rufescens
      (pp. 128-128)

      The sengi acquired its alternative name of elephant-shrew on account of its prehensile and trunk-like long nose and insectivorous diet, like that of the similar-looking shrews. The latest scientific thinking supports the existence of a ‘superorder’ of mammals, the Afrotheria, that places sengis next to other African oddities such as the hyraxes (pages 114–115), Aardvark (page 61) and, oddly enough, the Elephant (page 62), while the humble shrew remains quite unrelated. This just goes to show that, in nature, appearances can be very deceptive.

      Listen out for the Rufous Sengi communicating – this involves an Elvis-like foot-tapping serenade in the...

  10. Reptiles

    • Nile Crocodile Crocodylus niloticus
      (pp. 130-131)

      Crocodiles are easiest to watch when basking on the sides of rivers to regulate their body temperature. This is the best time to admire their armour-plated leathery skin, which is covered by toughened scales (or scutes) down the back and tail.

      The many teeth, variable in size and length, are perfect for grasping and tearing apart their food. The ears, eyes and nostrils are set on the top of the head, allowing an animal to be 99% submerged but still able to see, smell and breathe. The Nile Crocodile of the Mara and Grumeti Rivers are among the largest remaining...

    • Savanna Monitor Varanus albigularis
      (pp. 132-132)

      Also known as the Rock Monitor, this is the heaviest lizard in Africa. Although similar to the Nile Monitor, the head is a very different shape, with a bulbous snout and higher forehead. It can swim well but is far less likely to be encountered in the water than the Nile Monitor.

      Monitors are strong, muscular lizards with tough leathery skin. A close view reveals many beadlike scales. They are generally sluggish creatures that amble along with their long, forked tongues flicking and ‘tasting’ the air for food. When threatened or disturbed they run very fast and with a distinct...

    • Nile Monitor Varanus niloticus
      (pp. 132-133)

      This is the longest lizard in Africa. It is an excellent swimmer and frequently catches fish underwater. Its distinctive writhing, snake-like motion in the water can be a good feature to separate it from small crocodiles. The raised eyes and nostrils are good indicators of the Nile Monitor’s aquatic nature.

      Trying to catch monitors is very dangerous as they can cut deeply into the skin with their sharp claws, knock grown men over with a hard smack of the tail and bite very hard and painfully despite their blunt teeth. As monitors routinely feed on decaying matter, they often carry...

    • Leopard Tortoise Geochelone pardalis
      (pp. 134-134)

      This is the largest tortoise in Africa and the fourth largest in the world, with the most impressive specimens weighing in at 40 kg/88 lbs. They are long-lived animals that can reach 100 years old or more in the right conditions. They can retract their armoured head and legs into their shell so have few predators, though Lions will occasionally use them as playthings before tiring and letting them go. Tortoises can move remarkably fast when they choose to and can manoeuvre well over rocky ground. Each shell pattern is as unique as a fingerprint. The male Leopard Tortoise is...

    • Helmeted Terrapin Pelomedusa subrufa
      (pp. 135-135)

      Also known as the Marsh Terrapin, legend has it that this reptile literally ‘fell from the sky’ with the first rains! In actual fact. it simply buries itself in the mud when water becomes scarce, a behaviour known as aestivation. This strategy enables the Terrapin to avoid high temperatures and the risk of drying out by entering a dormant state with a reduced metabolic rate. Male terrapins can be identified by their longer, thicker, pointed tails and are sometimes seen courting females with a nodding head action. Up to 30 eggs are buried by the female and these hatch around...

    • Flap-necked Chameleon Chamaeleo dilepis
      (pp. 136-136)

      Chameleons are famous for their remarkable ability to change colour. Their colour changes are primarily linked to emotion (e.g. fear, aggression and social signalling) via the nervous system, rather than camouflage. A message from the brain enlarges or shrinks special chromatophore cells under the top layer of clear skin, causing them to flush with colour pigments. This is similar to a human blushing. A chameleon’s eyes are set within rotating turrets, formed by fused eyelids, and are unique in having the ability to move and focus independently of each other simultaneously. This affords the animals 180˚ vision on each side....

    • Striped Skink Mabuya striata
      (pp. 136-137)

      In contrast to the dramatic agama lizards (pages 140–141), the skink is a slow and sedate reptile. It seeks food cautiously and with a stuttered motion, shoving its snout in the leaf-litter then pausing and awaiting the movement of a meal. Like the gecko species (pages 138–139), the Striped Skink can shed its tail when grasped by a predator, and stump-tailed skinks are a common sight. This skink is ovoviviparous, hatching their eggs internally and giving birth to live young....

    • Tropical House Gecko Hemidactylus mabouia
      (pp. 138-138)

      These nocturnal geckos are especially noisy and produce various clicks and chirps throughout the night as they socialise with other geckos. They are highly variable in colour and pattern. Their vertically-slit pupils are perfectly adapted for night vision. Like most other gecko species, the Tropical House Gecko lays two soft eggs in a crevice. The eggs harden quickly and are protected by the female....

    • Cape Dwarf Gecko Lygodactylus capensis
      (pp. 139-139)

      The Cape Dwarf Gecko is smaller, slimmer and less noisy than Tropical House Gecko. Although they have adapted to tent poles and canvas, their natural habitat is mature forest, where small colonies are dominated by a single male, which shows a black throat. Approximately 60 species of dwarf gecko have been described, the vast majority from Africa, though more probably await discovery....

    • Mwanza Flat-headed Agama Agama mwanzae
      (pp. 140-140)
    • Red-headed Rock Agama Agama agama
      (pp. 140-140)
    • Blue-headed Tree Agama Acanthocercus atricollis
      (pp. 141-141)

      At least 37 species ofAgamahave been identified across Africa and many are similar in their behaviour and diet....

    • Black-necked Spitting Cobra Naja nigricollis
      (pp. 142-142)

      Although famed for its ‘spitting’ ability, this dangerous cobra doesn not actually ‘spit’ venom but ‘shoots’ it through tiny holes in the fangs. It is able to do so with exceptional accuracy within a 3 m/10 ft range, usually aiming at the eyes of threat or predator. It must be stressed that this is not a hunting technique but purely a defence mechanism, causing permanent blindness to untreated eyes; the venom is harmless on the skin.

      An attack is preceded by a threat display in which the snake inflates its neck into a hood by expanding its neck muscles. It...

    • Black Mamba Dendroaspis polylepis
      (pp. 143-143)

      The Black Mamba gets its name from the ink-black colouration of the inside of the mouth and not its skin colour. Reaching lengths in excess of 4 m /13 ft, this formidable predator is the longest venomous snake in Africa. It is very fast on the ground, often travelling on the rear half of the body alone, and is claimed by many to be the world’s fastest snake, able to reach speeds of 20 kph /12 mph. The Black Mamba has a reputation for attacking without provocation. Such attacks often involve female snakes protecting their eggs, and no mamba should...

    • Spotted Bush Snake Philothamnus semivariegatus
      (pp. 144-144)

      The Spotted Bush Snake is rarely seen on the ground as it prefers to hunt in trees and bushes. It is heavily scaled underneath, giving it excellent traction and it has been known to climb smooth tree trunks that appear to offer no grip at all. Of all the snakes the authors have encountered in East Africa, this one has the habit of turning up in the unlikeliest of places, including dining rooms and vehicle dashboards!...

    • Velvety-green Night Adder Causus resimus
      (pp. 144-144)

      This attractive terrestial snake may be encountered on trails and pathways through well-wooded areas. Bites from this snake are rarely recorded because is has adopted an impressive display to warn off threats. This involves inflating itself and hissing loudly, which is usually enough to draw attention and avoid people accidentally standing on it....

    • Puff Adder Bitis arietans
      (pp. 145-145)

      The statistics speak for themselves: more people die in Africa from Puff Adder bites than from any other snake. However, unlike the Black Mamba (page 143), it is not an overtly aggressive snake and most attacks occur because the victim stands on one accidentally. This happens for three reasons: they are incredibly well camouflaged; they are reluctant to move when in danger; and they are mostly active at night when people tend to look ahead rather than at the ground. Like the Spitting Cobra (page 142), the venom is cytotoxic, causing similar cell malfunction. Unlike many other snakes, the Puff...

    • African Rock Python Python natalensis
      (pp. 146-147)

      This is the largest snake in Africa, with specimens up to 9·8 m/32 ft long being claimed in the central African forests – although the record length in East Africa measured 6m/20 ft. African Rock Python has very rarely been known to kill and eat humans. It locates its warm-blooded prey with heat-seeking pits on the snout and strikes with a fearsome mouth full of very sharp teeth. Once caught, the prey is immediately smothered by the coiling body of the snake and slowly crushed with an intensifying grip. Experts have suggested that the prey actually dies from a heart attack...

  11. Further reading and useful resources
    (pp. 148-148)
  12. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 149-149)
  13. Photographic Credits
    (pp. 149-149)
  14. Index
    (pp. 150-152)