Things you may not know about Lions

Things you may not know about Lions

There is so much to be said about these magnificent big cats. Here are just a few facts we would like to share with you.

Lions are the largest cats in Africa and second largest in the world (Tigers being first).

They are also the only truly social cats living in prides. Females within a pride are usually related and will often stay with their pride for life. Males are however chased out of the pride at around the age of three. At this point, they will often lead a nomadic lifestyle or live in a coalition with other males, often their brothers.

The females in a pride do most of the hunting however the males do offer help, especially to take down bigger prey such as buffalo and giraffe. Male lions will eat first at a kill, while the females and cubs wait their turn. The females put up with this behavior because the males offer protection for the pride. The beautiful big mane of a male not only shows status but also protects the male’s neck during a fight. When other males want to try and take over the pride they will fight the existing male or coalition of males.  If they win the new victorious males will often kill any cubs that are still dependent on their mothers (this is known as infanticide). It may seem cruel but by doing this the new pride males are making sure that they spend their time and energy raising and protecting their own cubs.

When hunting lions make use of their protractile claws. The claws are kept sharp by being retracted into a protective sheath when the lion doesn’t need to use them. When the lion is hunting or fighting they contract their muscles and the claws push out.

The large canine teeth are used to catch and kill prey but are useless when it comes to eating. The molar and premolar teeth, however, are very well designed for this task. Being carnivores lions have what is known as a carnassial shear, this consists of the fourth upper premolar and first lower molar. These teeth articulate against each other cutting through meat and sinew. That is why when watching lions on a kill you will see them tilting their heads to the side while trying to chew. If you have ever had a domestic cat lick you, you will know how rough their tongues can be, lions are no different. They have very rough barbs on their tongues which they use not only for grooming purposes but also to remove meat and fur from their prey.

As most of us know lions spend a large amount of their time laying around, even more so during the heat of the day. They also spend time grooming each other and resting close together, all of which is a way of bonding and socializing as a pride.

Lions are apex predators and are at the top of the food chain, however they will give way when confronted by bigger animals.

Every now and then we get breathtaking sightings of these big cats and we love sharing special moments like this with our guests. Last year while on one of our morning safaris we got to share an amazing sighting of lions on a hunt. It is not often that we get to witness a hunt from start to finish. Below is a video of the sighting.

What is the difference between the black and white rhino? Updated

In the photo below we see the Black rhino on the left and White rhino on the right.

Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis)

White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum)

*There are two types of rhino in Africa – the black rhino and the white rhino.

*Don’t let the name fool you, rhinos are grey in color not black or white as their names suggest. One of the theories is that the term white rhino is a mistranslation;
the Dutch settlers in South Africa initially called them “Weid mond rhino”, meaning “Wide-mouth rhino.”

*They should be referred to as the square-lipped (white) and hook-lipped (black) rhinoceros.

*Rhinos have poor eyesight but they make up for this with an acute sense of hearing and smell.

*Both the black and white rhinos have two horns.

*A rhinos gestation period is around 15-16 months with the female giving birth to only one calf at a time.

White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum)

*The white rhino is a grazer with a wide mouth best designed for eating grass.
*It is not unusual to see White rhinos in a herd called a “Crash” of Rhinos (Make them run and you will know why).
*White rhinos are heavier then black rhinos with bulls weighing up to 2 300kg.

Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis)

*Black rhino’s are browsers, using their pointed upper lip to grasp leaves and twigs.
*Black rhinos are more solitary, being seen most often on their own.
*Black rhinos can reach up to around 1 000kg.

Rhinos use their horns for self-defense against predators and fighting off opponents.
The horns are the reason that the species overall are classified as Critically Endangered.
This is due to the demand of rhino horn on the black market for medicinal use in the Far East.
The horns are ever-growing at a rate around 6 cm a year.

Want to see these amazing animals up close? Why not do your bit to help the Rhinos and take part in Rhino notching:

Giraffe chewing on a bone!

Have you ever seen a giraffe chewing on a bone?

This is something often seen while on Game drive in the Pilanesberg National Park.

While out and about in the Reserve one might see a Giraffe sucking on something, often with saliva streaming from their mouths. If one listens carefully you might even hear the hard object hitting against their teeth.

When the giraffe loses interest and drops its treat you will see that it was a bone that it was sucking on.

This phenomenon is known as Osteophagy. It is believed that animals do this in order to supplement their phosphorus and calcium intake.

Below is a video of a kudu making use of Osteophagy.

An animal that I know as “ugly cute”, often seen while on a gamedrive and often overlooked Warthogs are actually remarkable creatures.

Here are some interesting facts you may not know about them:

Warthogs have inherited their name due to the big wart like bumps that they have on their faces. The males get larger warts then the females especially close to their eyes, this is used to protect their eyes from another males tusks when they are fighting. You can see the difference between the male and female from the photo above, the female is on the left and the male on the right.

Warthogs are good at digging up roots and other food items but they don’t dig their own burrows. Warthogs will make use of burrows or tunnels made by other animals such as aardvark or porcupines. Sometimes sharing the burrow with one of these nocturnal animals as they are active during the day. When going into the burrow the warthog will go in bum first that way the head is facing the entrance, not only for a quick getaway but also so that its weapons (tusks) are facing the right way if needed.

Piglets are always so cute! The female will give birth within the safety of a burrow where the little piglets will stay until they are around 6-8 weeks old. When warthogs run their tails take to the sky making it easy for them to follow each other through the long grass, hence the reason this is called a “follow me sign“.

A warthogs main diet is vegetation but like other pigs they are omnivores and have been documented eating meat off carcasses.

During hot days you will often see these mammals wallowing in mud pools which they love to do. This not only works as a sunscreen and to help cool down but also works as a parasite control. Once the mud hardens the warthog will go and rub against a rock or tree stump removing the dry mud and any parasites such as ticks that get trapped in it.

Things you may not know about Zebras

This is one mammal we can almost guarantee you will see on one of our game drives.

*Each zebra has a unique stripe pattern (no two are the same) just like human fingerprints.
*When a female is about to give birth after a 12 month gestation period she will move away from the herd for two or three days. During this time the female and her foal will bond and get to know each other’s scent and stripe pattern.
*When standing next to each other but facing away from one another as depicted in the above photo, they are not only watching each others backs but also using each others tails as a fly swatter for their faces.
*A question that is asked most often is whether they are black with white stripes or white with black stripes? Zebras are mostly covered in white fur and striped with black, but underneath their coat the skin is black.

*A herd of zebras is known as a “Dazzle”
*In a dazzle there will be a dominant stallion who has rights to all the females. Other males will fight him for dominance, these fights can get rather nasty. The males will often try bite and kick each other which can cause severe injury to their opponent. The Male zebra in the above photos could possibly have lost his tail during a fight with another male.
*You will always see a bloated stomach on a zebra, this is due to bacteria in the stomach digesting all the grass they eat. This fermentation produces a lot of gas that will bloat the stomach (listen when they run, you can hear the gas escaping).
*Even when a zebra is sick and losing condition it will still look fat, so a good indicator is to look at their mane instead. They have a strip of fat below their manes and when they are in good condition the mane will stand up straight, but as they loose condition they will use this fat reserve and the mane will start to flop over.

Things you may not know about elephants

The African elephant and Asian elephant are the only two distinct species of elephant left in the world.

The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is slightly larger than their Asian cousins and can be identified by their larger ears that look somewhat like the continent of Africa.
African elephants have two finger-like tips on the end of their trunk which allows for extreme dexterity (Asian elephants only have one).
The trunk is an amazing limb containing an estimated 100,000 muscles and tendons.

The African elephant and Asian elephant are the only two distinct species of elephant left in the world.

The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is slightly larger than their Asian cousins and can be identified by their larger ears that look somewhat like the continent of Africa.
African elephants have two finger-like tips on the end of their trunk which allows for extreme dexterity (Asian elephants only have one).
The trunk is an amazing limb containing an estimated 100,000 muscles and tendons.

African elephants gestation period is 22 months making it the longest gestation period of any other land animal in the world.
When the little one is born they can weigh anything between 90 kg to 120 kg (poor mom).
Just as a human baby sucks its thumb, an elephant calf often sucks its trunk for comfort and it is so cute to watch them learn how a trunk actually works.
The elephants are extremely social animals, the herds that one sees is usually comprised of a family group of females and their young. Males will either leave the herd or get chased away at around the age of 15 years. These males will then often join up with other males to form a loose-knit bachelor herd.
Both male and female elephants possess tusks, which are actually modified incisor teeth.
The elephant’s tusks will continue to grow throughout its life making use of them for digging, foraging, and in the males case, fighting.

Just as people can be either right-handed or left-handed, elephants are either right-tusked or left-tusked as they will favor using one over the other.

In bachelor herds the males will often play fight as seen in the photo above, this is to help assert dominance within the herd.

Elephants don’t posses sweat glands like we do and therefore need to make use of other methods to cool down. They use their ears to regulate their body temperature (“earcon”).
Inside of an elephant’s ears there are a network of large veins and the skin over the back of the ear is very thin. As the elephant flaps its’ ears they create a light breeze over the veins helping to cool the blood in their ears and in turn, their body.
Elephants will also make use of natures cooling system…mud and water. Elephants love to swim often fully submerging themselves and use their trunks like a snorkel.

An elephants eyes are very small meaning that they have poor vision. This is made up for with a fantastic sense of smell and hearing.

Elephants get six sets of teeth throughout their lives. As the teeth wear down from all the chewing they do, they are replaced by new ones emerging from the back of the mouth and moving forward, similar to a conveyor belt. Each set being bigger than the last in order to accommodate a growing skull.

Checkout our elephant videos from our YOUTUBE Channel:

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