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Mammals

BLUE WILDEBEEST

Appearance:

The dark silver-grey body is marked with dark vertical bands on the front quarters. Blue wildebeest are characterized by a long black mane and a beard of hair hanging from the throat and neck. Both sexes grow short curved horns. In adult bulls the horns are heavily bossed. Bulls weigh 250 kg and measures 1.5 m at the shoulders. Cows are slightly smaller, measuring 1.4 m at the shoulder and with a mass of 180 kg.

Breeding

Blue Wildebeest are seasonal breeders. Births of single calves per cow occur during summer after a gestation period of nine months. Calves can run with the herd within minutes after birth.

Behaviour:

Seasonal migration was an optimised survival strategy which allowed the effective use of resources over larger areas and which minimised over-utilisation, both during wet and dry seasons. This is a gregarious herbivore, occurring in herds ranging from ten to a few thousand individuals. Bulls maintain territories when the herd is sedentary.

Where they are found:

Distribution is concentrated to the north-eastern regions of South Africa. Not regarded as endangered, but mostly found in conservation areas. Also widely distributed in countries north of South Africa. Population numbers are drastically reduced due to fencing, which restricts traditional and instinctive migration.

BUSHBUCK

Bushbuck stand about 90 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh from 45 to 80 kilograms (depending on sex). Bushbuck have a light brown coat, with up to seven white stripes and white splotches on the sides. The white patches are usually geometrically shaped and on the most mobile parts of their body such as the ears, chin, tail, legs and neck. The muzzle is also white and horns are found only on the males and they can reach over half a metre with only one twist. At 10 months old, young males sprout horns that are particularly twisted and at maturity form the first loop of a spiral.

Bushbuck eat mainly browse but supplement their diet with any other plant matter they can reach. Bushbuck are active around 24 hours a day but tend to be nocturnal near human habitations. Bushbuck tend to be solitary, though some live in pairs.

All bushbucks live within a "home" area they will not normally leave this area. These areas usually overlap other bushbuck home areas. Bushbucks are basically solitary animals and the mature males go out of their way to stay away from each other.

COMMON REEDBUCK

The common reedbuck was formerly distributed widely throughout Southern Africa, with the exception of the arid western parts of the country.Today its range is limited to KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga.Populations in the highlands and midlands of KwaZulu-Natal are particularly strong, where the species is flourishing under modern farmland conditions.  

Habitat preferences

The reedbuck is, under natural conditions, a denizen of wetland habitats. Here it finds its two basic living requirements - a year round nutritious food supply and good cover.

The reedbuck can not survive where one or other of these components is missing. On many farms the provision of artificial food, particularly winter pasture grasses, has enabled the reedbuck to use areas where cover is available, that could not previously be because of the lack of winter food.
This is one of the reasons for the increase in reedbuck numbers on many farms in the KwaZulu-Natal highlands and midlands.

Behaviour
The common reedbuck’s first means of defence is to conceal itself, rather than running away when in danger. It depends for escape not on speed, but on its ability to disappear into its habitat by vanishing behind bushes, into long grass into a gully or around a hillside.Reedbuck are either solitary or in small groups, usually of two or three individuals. On farmland the males are usually territorial and defend their area against other reedbuck males.

When females come to use food or cover in these areas the territorial males are provided with the opportunity of mating.Because the territorial males are solitary, they give the impression of being ‘outcasts’, but they are in fact the fittest of all animals in the prime of their lives.

Much fighting occurs in reedbuck society, and the weaker animals, particularly many young adult males die of their injuries. This is nature’s way of ensuring that only the fittest animas pass on their genes to the next generation.

Reproduction
Conditions on farmland, where nutritious winter pastures are available, can be considered ideal for reedbuck. Lambs are produced at all times of the year, and each female may give birth every nine months. Puberty is reached in the female at about twelve months, and she can be expected to lamb for the first time in her second year of life.

Shortly before giving birth, the adult female moves into an area of thick cover such as riverine scrub vegetation, rank field boundaries, vlei or bramble thickets. Here her lamb remains concealed for the first two or three months of its life. Because reedbuck breed continuously, some young lambs inevitably die when these areas of rank vegetation are burnt at the end of winter.

Habitat
Food and cover are the essential components of a reedbuck’s habitat. Reedbuck will move up to 1.5 km from their daytime cove to feed, and as long as all parts of a farm are within this distance of a good year round food source, such as a pasture, their food requirement will be satisfied.


Reedbuck need a year-round nutritious food supply.Cover is usually a critical resource that limits the number of reedbuck an area can support.There is no need to manage reedbuck populations, as excess animals will move away from their place of birth naturally.

DUNG BEETLE 

Common Name: Dung beetle
Scientific Name: Phanaeus vindex MacLachlan; Onthophagus gazella Fabricius
Description: Males and female beetles are between ½ and 1 inch long and overall metallic blue-green and copper. The front of the head is flattened and golden bronze. The male has a long, curved horn extending from the front of the head (clypeus) while the slightly larger female has a tubercle. The front legs are modified for digging.
Dung beetles are important in recycling animal feces

Life Cycle: Adult male and females, working in pairs, dig deep burrows underneath animal excrement in which they bury portions of the droppings. Eggs, deposited in the excrement, hatch and C-shaped grubs (larvae) feed on the dung. The grubs develop through several stages (instars) before pupating within cells in the remains of the excrement.

Habitat and Food Source(s): Mouthparts are for chewing. Larvae feed on animal excrement buried by the adults. These beetles are rarely encountered unless an effort is made to examine fresh potential larval habitats! Animal excrement is rich in insect fauna and can yield these strikingly beautiful beetles. Beetles can be washed to remove debris.

Pest Status: This species, along with other dung beetles, plays an important role in nature: reducing fecal material in nature and thereby reducing the habitat for filth-breeding flies; considered beneficial and medically harmless.

IMPALA

Appearance

They are normally reddish-brown in color (hence the Afrikaans name of "Rooibok"), have lighter flanks and white underbellies with a characteristic "M" marking on the rear. Males, referred to as rams, have lyre-shaped horns, which can reach up to 90 centimeters in length. Females, referred to as ewes, have no horns.

Ecology

Impalas are an ecotone species living in light woodland with little undergrowth and grassland of low to medium height. They have an irregular distribution due to dependence on free water, soils with good drainage with firm footing and moderate or less slope. While they are usually close to water in the dry season, they can go weeks without drinking when they have access to green vegetation.

Impalas are adaptable foragers. They usually switch between grazing and browsing depending on the season. During wet seasons when grasses are green and growing they graze. During dry seasons it browses foliage, shoots forbs and seeds. It can also adapt to different habitats by being a grazer in one habitat a browser in another. Leopards, cheetahs, lions and wild dogs prey on impala.

Social structure and reproduction

Male impalas fighting during the breeding season called rutting

Females and young form herds of up to two hundred individuals. When food is plentiful, adult males will establish territories. Females pass through the territories that have the best food resources. Territorial males round up any female herds that enter their grounds, and will chase away bachelor males that follow. They will even chase away recently-weaned males. A male impala tries to prevent any female from leaving his territory. During the dry seasons, territories are abandoned, as herds must travel farther to find food. Large, mixed tranquil herds of females and males form. Young male impalas who have been made to leave their previous herd form bachelor herds of around thirty individuals. Males that are able to dominate their herd are contenders for assuming control of a territory.

Group of impala

The breeding season of impalas, also called rutting, begins toward the end of the wet season in May. The entire affair typically lasts approximately three weeks. While young are usually born after 6–7 months, the mother has the ability to delay giving birth for an additional month if conditions are harsh. When giving birth, a female impala will isolate herself from the herd,] despite numerous attempts by the male to keep her in his territory. The impala mother will keep the fawn in an isolated spot for a few days or even leave it lying out in hiding for a few days, weeks, or more before returning to the herd. There, the fawn will join a nursery group and will go to its mother only to nurse and when predators are near. Fawns are suckled for four to six months. Males who mature are forced out of the group and will join bachelor herds.

When frightened or startled, the whole herd starts leaping about to confuse their predator. They can jump distances more than 10 meters (33 ft) and 3 meters (9 ft) high. Impalas can reach running speeds of about 80 to 90 km/h (50 to 56 mph), to escape their predators. When escaping from predators, they can release a scent from their glands on their heels, which can help them stay together. This is done by performing a high kick of their hind legs.

NYALA

Appearance

The handsome slate-brown shaggy coat is marked with white vertical stripes and spots on the flanks. Rams appear more charcoal-grey in colour. The rams have long inward curved horns (650 mm) and a white chevroned face. They have a ridge of long hairs along the underparts, from behind the chin to between the hind legs, they also have a mane of thick, black hair from the head along the spine to the rump.

Rams weigh 115 Kg and measures 1.05 m at shoulders. Ewes are much smaller and do not have horns, and weigh 59 Kg and stand 900mm at shoulders. Ewes are chestnut-coated with even more prominent white stripes on the flanks.

Diet

This antelope feeds by both grazing and browsing and will readily feed on leaves, fruit and flowers. This variety in their diet is one of the factors ensuring their successful survival.

Breeding

They breed throughout the year, but mating peaks in autumn and spring. Single calves are born after a gestation period of 220 days. Twins are not uncommon. Ewes first conceive between 14 to 18 months. Average interval between births is 297 days. Mating opportunities for rams are decided through dominance behaviour.

Behaviour

An interesting fact is that the juvenile males look like females. It is thought that this camouflages the young males and protects them from the jealous eyes of the dominant bulls. The young males are therefore allowed to grow up peacefully under the protection of the herd.

Habitat

This rather large antelope inhabits dense woodlands and thickets along permanent water. It is very secretive and more easily seen at night. Nyala is non-territorial, but both sexes have overlapping home ranges. The home ranges of ewes are twice the size than that of rams.

Latin name

Tragelaphus angasii.

WARTHOG

The common name comes from the four large wart-like protrusions found on the head of the warthog, which serve the purpose of defence when males fight as well as a fat reserve.

A warthog is identifiable by the two pairs of tusks protruding from the mouth and curving upwards. The lower pair, which is far shorter than the upper pair, becomes razor sharp by rubbing against the upper pair every time the mouth is opened and closed. The upper canine teeth can grow to 23 cm (9.1 in). The tusks are used for digging, for combat with other hogs, and in defence against predators—the lower set can inflict severe wounds.

The head of the warthog is large with a mane that goes down the spine to the middle of the back. There is sparse hair covering the body. Color is usually black or brown. Tails are long and end with a tuft of hair. Common warthogs do not have subcutaneous fat and the coat is sparse, making them suceptible to extreme environmental temperatures.

The male is called a boar, the female a sow, and the young piglets.

Ecology

The warthog is the only pig species that has adapted to grazing and savanna habitats Its diet is omnivorous, composed of grasses, roots, berries and other fruits, bark, fungi and eggs.[ The diet is seasonably variable, depending on availability of different food items. During the wet seasons warthogs graze on short perennial grasses. During the dry seasons they subsist on bulbs and nutritious root. Warthogs are powerful diggers, using both snout and feet. Whilst feeding, they often bend the front feet backwards and move around on the wrists.  Although they can dig their own burrows, they commonly occupy abandoned burrows of aardvarks or other animals. The warthog commonly reverses into burrows, with the head always facing the opening and ready to burst out if necessary. Warthogs will wallow in mud to cope with high temperatures and huddle together to cope with low temperatures.

Although capable of fighting, with males aggressively fighting each other during mating season, a primary defence is to flee by means of fast sprinting. The main warthog predators are humans, lions, leopards, crocodiles, and hyenas. However, if a female warthog has any piglets to defend she will defend them very aggressively.

Social behavior and reproduction

Warthogs are not territorial but instead occupy a home range. Warthogs live in groups called sounders. Females live in sounders with their young and with other females. Females tend to stay in their natal groups while males leave but stay within the home range. Sub-adult males associate in bachelor groups but leave alone when they become adults. Adult males only join sounders that have estrous females. Warthogs have two facial glands; the tusk gland and the sebaceous gland. Warthogs of both sexes begin mark around six to seven months old. Males tend to mark more than females. Places that they mark include sleeping and feeding areas and waterholes Warthogs use tusk marking for courtship and agonistic behaviors and to establish status

Warthogs are seasonal breeders. Rutting begins in the late rains or early dry season and birthing begins near the start of the following rain season. When a sow leaves her den, the boar will try to demonstrate his dominance and then follow her before copulation.

 The typical gestation period is 5 or 6 months. When they are about to give birth, sows temporarily leave their families to farrow in a separate hole. The litter is 2 to 8 piglets, although 2 to 4 is more typical.[ The sow will stay in the hole for several weeks nursing her piglets. Warthogs have been observed to engage in allosucking. Sow will nurse foster piglets if they lose their own litter, making them cooperative breeders. Piglets are grazing at about 2–3 weeks and are weaned by six months.

The following animals are most likely to be seen by visitors to Belvedere Game Ranch

 

Buffalo

Bluewildebeest

Burchell's Zebra

Common Reedbuck

Giraffe

Grey Duiker

Impala

Kudu

Nyala

Porcupine

Scrub Hare

Slender Mongoose

Banded Mongoose

Steenbok

Vervet Monkey

Warthogg

Bushbuck

The following are animals less likely to be seen but do occor here.

 

Aardwolf

African Wild Cat

Antbear

Bushpig

Caracal

Baboon

Honey Badger

Leopard

Mountain Reedbuck

Serval

Thick Tailed Bushbaby

Large Spotted Genet

Spotted Hyaena