The Unsung Heroes of the African savanna: Nature in Focus
We put a lot of focus into the big cats, great apes and other poster children of many a conservation project. But, this is the tip of the iceberg and does a disservice to the breadth of wildlife you can encounter through Eco Companion. So my post this week focuses on some of the unsung heroes of the African savanna.
Yes, we all know and love the usual suspects, African savanna animals such as the charismatic Lion, beautiful Rhino and enormous Elephants, but what about the other guys? The animals further down the food chain that allow Lions to survive, or a neighbour to the Elephant?
The tropical African savanna is spread across the main body of Africa. It’s home to one of the widest range of species, which is why it is such a popular destination to visit. The heat combined and lack of rainfall makes for a very unique climate and complex eco system that’s very traditional in prey vs predators.
Whilst we all know someone who has been on a safari (remember sustainable ones only!) and seen various pictures of the Lion’s confidently roaming or hippo’s soaking up the beating sun, what about the rest? There are plenty of animals through the African Savanna, often the nice type that go about their business, get hunted and killed by the major predators.
Ever heard the saying the nice guy always comes last?
Giraffe’s, one of the most awkward yet beautiful animals in the world are the planet’s tallest mammals, averaging 14-19ft. This does create advantages. Giraffe’s are able to reach high up plants that sustain their almost continuous feeding and can spot potential predators across the savanna. However, with their long lanky legs, they can be easy targets for Africa’s big cats. Although bringing down a fully grown adult Giraffe is a challenge for even the most hardened pride. It’s fair to say Giraffes are one of the most unique animals on the planet visually and often appear in your local zoo due to their easy going, comfortable to care for nature.
Zebra’s aren’t just a black and white donkey, honestly, they’re not! The best thing about them in fact, is not only are they one of the most distinctive animals alive, every animals stripes are as unique as our fingerprints – no two are the same. Being a common grazing animals, you’ll often see them in groups and they aim to stick up for each other as much as possible, unfortunately when a big cat comes it often doesn’t bode well.
Gazelles are a part of the antelope family, often seen in large herds, who go about their business in a similar way to the Zebra and can reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour. We’re lucky that you can still see wild Gazelle as they are a prey animal but as with so many of Africa’s wildlife they are hunted extensively by man, the biggest cause of dwindling populations on the savanna. Trophy hunting is unfortunately still a thing, with no signs slowing down. However, the increasing exposure of trophy hunters and the general negative sentiment in social and main stream media will hopefully help to curb this barbaric past time.
We cover the topic more thoroughly in our article on Trophy Hunting.
The Wildebeest, a part of the antelope family, highlights just how awesome the Savanna is. A place where a Gazelle and a Wildebeest are in the same family, not hugely apparent at first glance! You’ll often see the Wildebeest, unfortunately, being hunted by the big cats as a kill can sustain many animals, making a massive difference to survival. The Wildebeest migration is one of the highlights of a trip to the savanna, considered one of the greatest wildlife spectacles.
Just remember, next time you see the Big Cats strolling around that you wouldn’t see them without the animals mentioned above. Fortunately they all produce large numbers annually and extinction isn’t as much of a worry compared to many of their neighbouring species. These are 4, very different animals in appearance that all share a very similar day to day life highlighting just how amazing planet earth is and what exactly is out there.