I remember that day like it was yesterday. A hot and humid early summer day in November 2020, the day my Field Guide Level 1 course started. Little did I know that from this day on, I would embark on a journey that would teach me so many things and make me leave my comfort zone. A journey that yet continues to last.
At the start of this amazing sighting, you can sure bet that Norman was not happy at the loss, but after seeing this lioness play and be so inquisitive it had definitely made him feel a bit better…
Certainly not one of the Big 5 and not on many viewing bucket lists, baboons are often seen as a pest. Yet their social structures hold a mirror up to modern human society. Our quirks, traits and behaviours’ are often seen to be similar within their social structures.
They are social creatures that live in large troops, which have a definite hierarchy. Family orientated, they participate in mutual grooming sessions and food sharing. Much like humans, they have a set daily routine, which involves waking up at a set time, going about their daily business and then settling down again at night.
Baboons are omnivores, eating a wide array of meats and plants. Typical foods in a baboon’s diet include grasses, fruits, seeds, roots, bark, rodents, birds and small or young mammals when the opportunity arises.
If you are a regular visitor to the bush, you will be familiar with the loud barking sound that they make. What people don’t know is that they are capable of making around 30 different vocalizations. These include some most un-baboon like grunts and screams. They also have a series of non-vocal communication gestures.
The Chacma baboon is the largest of the species. In 2010, the fossil skull of a two million years old individual was discovered near Johannesburg in South Africa.
Similar to hamsters, baboons have cheek pouches in which they can store food. This helps while they are foraging as it can be brought back to a safe area to be eaten.
Mothers and babies have a special bond and the baby will remain close to its mother for at least the first four months before it is allowed to interact with other youngsters. After birth they are carried under the belly of the mother, graduating to riding on her back when they are older.
The dominant males will often interact with the youngsters and will be seen to be grooming as well as disciplining them should the need arise.
Despite what local farmers think of this primate, it was revered in Ancient Egypt for its intelligence. It is still seen as the guardian of the dead in the Underworld.
Perhaps we do not give them enough credit for their contribution to the wildlife tapestry of Africa. Or perhaps it is just the fact that they are seen as too representative of us, but baboons are here to stay and should be embraced rather than reviled and rejected.
Want to know more about baboons, watch our video on EcoTraining TV on YouTube to find out more.
Believe it or not, impala are one of a kind! They are the only member of the genus Aepyceros that falls under the Bovidae family (which includes buffalo, sheep, goats, and cows). However, there are two sub-species, the common impala and the very rare black-faced impala, found only in Namibia and Angola.
Being an apex prey species, this graceful animal can jump up to 3m in height and 10m in length. Combine that with speeds of up to 60km/h and you will realize that they have an amazing skill set to evade predators. This being said, they sometimes, literally, just jump for joy. ‘Impala’ is the Zulu word for ‘gazelle’.
Only the males have horns, which are used for defence as well as an attack during the mating season. The horns take several years to reach full length and that is the reason that younger males do not challenge for dominance. A gland on the forehead of the rams produces a scent that informs their rivals of their status.
There is a common theory that female impala, have been known to delay giving birth if the weather conditions are harsh. Impala young are born in the middle of the day when their main predators are resting. The females synchronize their birthing so that there are large numbers of young as up to half of the newborns are killed within their first few weeks. Twice as many females as males are born annually.
Impalas have to drink every day, but as predators’ frequent waterholes at dawn or dusk, the impala is often seen drinking in the hottest part of the day when the chance of being attacked is reduced.
Most of the cat species will prey on both the adult impala as well as the youngsters and new-born. Baboons have been known to kill and eat smaller individuals as well.
Impalas are social animals and are usually never seen alone. Females and youngsters will live together in mixed herds with a dominant male, while the males will live in bachelor herds. There is an increase of males in a herd during the rutting season. Herd living has the advantage of confusing predators when they scatter.
There is another theory that surrounds impala (that has yet to be proven. It is thought that they produce a scent from glands on their hind legs, this scent is released when they kick high when they are airborne. The purpose of the scent is to enable the herd to regroup after they have scattered. Covering a wide range, they will migrate seasonally depending on food availability.
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