Wildlife of Rhodesia
The antbear, or aardvark, is one of Africa's quaintest-looking creatures. The living species, in a single genus is unique to the continent although it was known to have existed in a similar form in Europe many centuries ago-
Perhaps the best description of the animal is that it is a pig-like creature with long pointed ears, an elongated snout, a kangaroo-type tail, hunched back, short thick legs and formidable claws which it uses to dig out the holes in which it spends most of the daylight hours.
Antbears are strictly nocturnal and do not emerge from these holes until long after darkness has settled over the bush.
Nowhere are antbears numerous and they are not often seen even at night. Occasionally, however, bush travellers will see them silhouetted in their car lights during the rainy season, when the termites on which they live are more active. Their clumsy bouncing gait when disturbed is an amusing sight.
Prominent among the animal's features are the three-toed feet and the strong claws which it uses for burrowing. The antbear can penetrate deep into most of Africa's different types of soil and many parts of Rhodesia are dotted with hundreds of their holes to the square mile.
When the antbear is hungry it burrows into the side of an anthill, protrudes its tongue into the numerous passages and collects the ants inside. The tongue is covered with a sticky fluid and, as has been reported in the past, some of the ants become entangled in this. Recent research indicates, however, that the ants themselves take an active part in their capture by biting the tongue and holding on to it. The process is repeated, with the ants being wiped off into the mouth as the tongue is withdrawn into it, until the antbear has finished his meal.
The antbear is a very active burrower and can disappear from sight within minutes; the mobile ears are folded down to keep out the earth.
Unfortunately for the antbear, its fatty flesh is a much favoured delicacy among tribesmen who spend many hours digging it out; but it is Royal Game in Rhodesia and severe penalties exist for those who contravene the law.
Height at shoulder: 2 ft.
Overall length: 5 ft. 6 in.
Average weight: 120 lb.
Date of birth: probably May to August.
Number of young: usually one.
Gestation period: unknown.
Diet: almost exclusively termites, sometimes other ants and once recorded eating mice.
Life span: about 12 years, 0ne still alive in Washington in 1965 was 13
Shona name: wiribidi
Sindebele name: sambani.
Scientific name Orycteropus afer.
In Rhodesia baboons are regarded as vermin and a bounty of 25c is available to anyone who produces an entire tan. it is not surprising that baboons are marked down for destruction as they are themselves very destructive of crops, particularly maize, and present a very real menace to agriculture. Baboons will even "reap" tobacco by removing rows of plants and then discarding their trophies as they move through the lands. Few are the farmers in this country who do not employ crop guards regularly every summer to thwart the raids of these primates.
Baboons are often the subject of organised hunts by the farming community but as they are a favourite food of the leopard this often leads to farmers losing young stock taken by leopards who have no baboons to hunt.
The baboon is diurnal in habit. It sleeps in caves, rock crevices and trees, and moves about in large troops of up to 100 during the day. These troops are usually led by an old male but it is not strictly correct to say that other older baboons remain at the back of the troop as rearguard sentries. Usually an intruder moves up on a troop of baboons which is moving, from the rear, and the more senile stragglers are thus the first to give a warning bark to the rest. Approach a troop from the flanks and a youngster will shout a warning.
Baboons are common all over Rhodesia and frequently seen on country roads. They prefer the broken country of kopjes and hills and thick bush. When disturbed they will run off and not take to the trees.
Baboons are similar to monkeys but are larger and more or less uniformly light brown with a grey or greenish tinge. The males are darker than the females and young, although a very young baboon baby is often darker than the male. The face is black, devoid of hair except on the cheeks and has an elongated nose giving the animal a dog-like head.
The bare patch of skin on the buttocks is used to sit on.
The male leaders are dangerous customers when cornered and all males have a formidable weapon in the cutting edge to the rear of their large canine teeth which grow to 2 in. long.
The calls are a coughing bark, "corkkkgh", and screams of alarm.
Height at shoulder: 4 ft. 6 in.
Average weight: males, up to 90 lb., females 45 lb.
Season of birth no fixed time as the females have menstrual periods.
Number of young one—becoming adult in about 8 years.
Diet: predominantly vegetarian wild fruits, nuts, and grain crops but also small birds, insects, scorpions, spiders, beetles, etc.
Life span About 20 years in the bush but 45 have been recorded in captivity.
Shona name: bveni
Sindebele name: imfene
Scientific name: Papio ursinus
In spite of the fact that the buffalo is well-known to most people it has been confused with the wildebeest on occasions — which it only slightly resembles in body and horn shape — with, no doubt, some interesting and unexpected results.
Hunters know the buffalo as an extremely formidable adversary particularly when wounded and given the chance a buffalo will savage and kneel on an unlucky victim who has been hunting him, until the man is nothing but a bloody pulp. This is often quite regardless of the number of bullets that have struck home.
The buffalo will lie in wait for a tormentor and charge without warning and it is particularly dangerous when protecting calves.
Buffaloes are dependent on water and they live in the savanna grasslands and forests, rarely more than a dozen miles from a good water supply. They are gregarious and congregate in herds of from ten to as much as a thousand in the Zambezi valley and in national parks.
A large buffalo is as large as, or larger than, a domestic ox. The general colour is dark brown although older specimens become black with age and the senile members of the herd become grey. The species is fond of wallowing in mud to cool the bloodstream and as a relief from aggravating flies and it is this habit which gives rise to people seeing herds of "grey" buffalo.
It has heavy horns curving outwards and upwards with the points facing each other across the top of the head in adult males. The horns of the cows are more slight and narrower but both sexes have the boss on top of the head from which the horns protrude initially. The calves have straight horns pointing up and slightly back and they grow outwards for about eight inches before pointing upwards.
Just below the horns and looking like a part of them, in dim light or from a distance, are the animal's broad, shaggy ears. The buffalo's hide is tough and was much in demand in earlier days for riems. In nearly every other respect the majestic buffalo is similar to the domestic ox with the same shaped body, hooves, tail and grazing habits.
Height at shoulder: 5 ft. (adult bull).
Average weight: 1,500 lb. (bull). 1,200 lb. (cow).
Season of birth: March to August.
Gestation period: ten months.
Number of young: one.
Diet: predominantly a grazer.
Life span: unknown in the wild — up to 26 years in captivity
Shona name: nyati.
Scientific name: Syncerus cafer
Chameleons are well known for their remarkable ability to "change" colour and obtain food with their projectile tongues.
The colour-changing process is still the subject of research in London and elsewhere but it has been verified that younger chameleons have a greater range, from pale primrose yellow, through the greens to brown and near black, than their elders. It is doubtful if the chameleon deliberately changes its colour at will. It is far more likely to be a matter of external conditions causing the change in colour and it would seem that strong light, heat and even changing emotions actually cause the reptile to change colour automatically.
Before launching the tongue (which can equal its own body length) at its prey, the chameleon squares up to the target and estimates the range by binocular range-finding, and it is incorrect to believe that the chameleon can collect a victim with its sticky tongue with one eye on the prey and the other revolving around its head looking for the next course!
The staple food of the chameleon is grasshoppers but it also favours butterflies, dragonflies, and spiders. The tongue retrieves the prey headfirst to facilitate swallowing, as in the manner of the python.
The female chameleon lays clutches of up to 40 eggs after spending the day digging a suitable hole in the soft earth. The same night she closes the hole and this defensive operation is the only time the chameleon is active at night. The incubation period of nearly a year is extremely long by reptilian standards.
Many authorities state that chameleons have rather a brief life of only a few years but it is now fairly well established that they mature slowly and live for at least 10 years and perhaps attain an age of 20.
It is interesting to note that chameleons are as solitary and anti-social as any animal could be and that even youngsters resent the appearance of another within their sight range.
Actual combat between chameleons is probably rare — most encounters end in mutual separation after displays of the well-known threatening attitude. Young chameleons are known to feign death by turning black, curling up on the ground and closing their eyes.
Height at shoulder: about 2 in.
Overall length: up to 9 in.
Weight: up to 50 grams.
Number of young: 10 to 40. More information is required on this subject.
Incubation period: nearly 12 months
Life span 10 years plus
Diet: grasshoppers mainly, and other insects
Shona name: rwavi
Sindebele name: unwabu.
Scientific name Chamaeleo dilepis.
Crocodiles are all too often associated with unpleasant incidents involving the loss of human life. Although it is true that they are ferocious and deadly in attack and probably responsible for more human deaths than any other wild life species, it is not generally realised that they rarely include mammals in their diet until they are about 10 ft. long. Up to that time, their diet consists mainly of fish, crabs, frogs, and molluscs. The very young eat insects.
Another little-know fact about crocs is that they are a great asset to commercial fishing; they keep in check the predatory fish, including tiger, barbel and squeaker fish. All the same, the croc is really very dangerous to mankind and given the right conditions will not hesitate to attack. A sharp lookout for its presence should always be maintained about rivers and pools.
The Rhodesian species of crocodile is that found extensively down the eastern half of the African continent. It keeps to the permanent rivers and large pools but will travel many miles overland, nearly always at night, in its search for satisfactory permanent abodes.
Strange as it may seem and in spite of the fact that these huge reptiles have appeared in innumerable chronicles of African life, both ancient and modern, information about them is not extensive. Little is known about their breeding season, the method of mating, the details of egg laying or submergence of crocodiles.
The clutch of a crocodile nest will have as many as 70 eggs in it and tribal Africans say the figure is sometimes 100. As yet we do not know for certain what part the mother plays in liberating the young from their sandy home or what enemies pray on the hatched young. We do know, however, that leguaans take heavy toll of the eggs and freshly hatched crocodiles.
The pattern of attack by crocodiles follows a set procedure in which the beast swims quietly and slowly to the shore and then lunges at its prey with open jaws, which, like other reptiles, are not hinged and can open at the rear to form an enormous gape. Often the tail is brought into action and with this powerful weapon the croc can knock a medium-sized antilope off its feet into the water.
Overall length: up to 16 ft.
Average weight: further information required.
Birth season: unknown for certain.
Number of young: usually 40 to 70 eggs to a clutch
Gestation period: unknown.
Life span: unknown.
Shona name: garwe.
Sindebele name: ingwenya.
Scientific name Crocoylus niloticus.
There are two duiker species in Rhodesia, the small blue duiker measuring only about 13 in. at the shoulder which is confined to the forests of the Eastern Districts of Rhodesia, and the common duiker widely distributed and well known throughout the country.
Most people know that duiker is Afrikaans for "diver" — which aptly describes the violent jumps and plunges adopted by the duiker when retreating from danger.
The duiker species is not gregarious and the animal usually occurs only in pairs or solitary. Furthermore, duikers prefer the thick scrub and bushveld and are mostly nocturnal in habit so they are not often seen by the casual observer except at night. On the other hand duiker are not averse to wandering about during the daylight hours when it is wet or overcast and, like most antelope, can be seen by the enthusiast very early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
The common duiker's uniform greyish-buff tinge distinguishes it from other antelope and a frontal view displays a dark line running from the rufous (reddish) coloured forehead to the nostrils. The duiker also has a pronounced tuft of long hairs between the horns which are normally only found in males although sometimes appearing in a stunted form in old ewes.
Another distinguishing feature of the duiker which is familiar to those who know the veld is its habit of constantly whisking its brown and white tail as it moves through the bush. The duiker also has quite a distinctive blowing snort something like a strong sniff which it utters when alarmed. At first though, the duiker will squat down on the ground before running off and plunging through the thickets of bush. Unfortunately for its kind it has the habit of stopping after a short while and looking back in the direction of the danger, and of course, this often proves fatal.
The duiker does not hesitate to use its horns when cornered by an enemy — wild dogs, leopards and pythons or when fighting over a ewe. They are seven inches long and sharply pointed.
The blue duiker is a minute little animal barely larger than the scrub hare, but where the "blue" comes from is obscure as it is greyish brown. Both species graze and browse and they are protected animals.
Height at shoulder: up to 2 ft. 3 in.
Average length: 3 ft. 6 in.
Season of birth: throughout the year.
Number of young: one.
Gestation period: 4 months.
Diet: predominantly a browser.
Life span: unknown.
Shona name: mhembwe.
Sindebele name: impunzi.
Scientific name: Sylvicapra grimmia.
The eland is the largest of our antelopes, standing about five feet six inches at the top of its humped shoulder and is also one of the least aggressive.
The eland is a massive, inoffensive, ox-like animal and in the old days it used to be hunted by the simple method of chasing it on horseback and herding it back to camp.
It is so fat, so mild-natured and has been the subject of so many decades of organised hunts since the time of the bushmen that it is surprising it has not been eliminated from the continent. Recent surveys show that it still enjoys a widespread if patchy distribution in Rhodesia over a wide range of bush types and altitudes away from the closely settled areas.
Both sexes of the eland have horns - those of the female being sometimes longer but narrower than the males.
Despite its size the eland is active and capable of extraordinary leaps in the air which clear eight feet. This ability probably accounts for the lack of interest in ranching eland in the early days but it does in fact possess many characteristics which lend themselves to this enterprise and the Government is now actively pursuing investigations into the commercial ranching of eland with its own domesticated herd.
The eland puts on more fat than any other antelope, the bulls are more tolerant of each other (an unusual feature), the flesh is more tender and the hide is tougher than that of domestic cattle. The eland browses and grazes in practically any type of bush and has the same resistance to pests and diseases of all wild animals. Its pronounced dewlap and hump are reminiscent of the Afrikander cattle.
This gregarious antelope is generally a dun colour with indistinct stripes on its flanks. The tail is tufted and reaches the hocks. The eland has a short mane but a pronounced tuft of long hairs on the dewlap. The horns extend straight back and slightly outward from the head and they are heavily spiralled at the base, smooth and pointed at the tips, and average about 28 inches long.
The eland is a protected animal. It can be shot under license but the latter is hard to obtain and usually issued for use in controlled hunting areas only.
Height at shoulder: up to 5 ft. 6 in.
Average weight: up to 1,500 lb. for bulls, cows 1,100 lb.
Season of birth: peak about August/September.
Number of young: one at a birth (twins recorded).
Gestation period: 8½ months.
Diet: predominantly a browser.
Life span: unknown in the wild, up to 25 years in captivity.
Shona name: mhofu.
Sindebele name: impofu.
Scientific name Taurotragus oryx.
The African elephant is so well known that a description of the animal is unwarranted but there are some interesting facts about the majestic beast that are by no means common knowledge and worth discussing.
In Rhodesia elephants are still very plentiful in the remote areas and they move about constantly in herds of from ten to as many as 400. It is an interesting fact that there are now more elephants in Rhodesia than in the days of the famous hunter Selous. It is usual for a fully grown mature bull to lead these herds while the older bulls keep apart.
These of course are the ' 'rogue elephants of literature but generally speaking it is the cows who are the more dangerous. All the same, this is a matter of degree only and it must be remembered that ail elephants including captive elephants are temperamental and unpredictable and should be treated with the greatest respect at all times.
Before European civilisation entered Africa, large elephant herds wandered for hundreds of miles in search of food and water unhindered by the poorly armed tribesmen. These old-time elephant "treks" have often been the basis for modern roads as the creatures have an almost uncanny knack of negotiating natural obstacles in the most efficient manner.
Elephants are intelligent animals and have good memories for localities. They have poor eyesight but well developed senses of hearing and smell. They can attain speeds of 25 m.p.h. over short distances. The tusks are used primarily as an aid for foraging for roots and stripping the bark from trees. One elephant can eat a ton of grass, bark, roots and tree foliage in a single day and requires large quantities of water to drink and cool down its hide.
Due to their bulk and intolerance of tormentors, elephants are well able to defend themselves. Man is their worst enemy although lions sometimes manage to kill a young elephant calf.
The elephant has one serious disadvantage from other quadrupeds almost an Achilles heel in fact It cannot move at all if one leg is broken or seriously injured. In the north of the continent, the Arabs used to hunt them by deliberating hamstringing them.
It is the bulls who come into season. At that time there is an oily discharge between ear and eye and the males become thoroughly dangerous customers.
Immature elephants with tusks weighing less than 10 lb. are protected.
Height at shoulder about 11 ft. (12 ft. 6 in. recorded).
Overall length: up to 32 ft. — along the trunk to tail.
Average weight: bulls up to six tons, cows four tons.
Season of birth: throughout the year.
Number of young: one (twins unknown).
Gestation period: 22 months.
Puberty: 9 to 13 years.
Life span: between 50 and 70 years.
Shona name: nzou.
Sindebele name: indlovu/inkubu.
Scientific name Loxodonta africana.
Giraffe are still reasonably plentiful in two areas of Rhodesia, in Wankie National Park and northwards towards the Zambesi and in the southern lowveld south of West Nicholson and east of the Sabi River. They are so familiar that a full description of these engaging animals with their long necks and outstanding angular markings is not considered necessary.
The extended necks of giraffe allow them to browse the tops of most of the trees of the bushveld and it is uncommon for them to lower their necks to graze or eat roots although both of these items are included in their diet. The animal has to spread its legs wide apart to drink (a familiar enough sight to tourists) but it can snap its legs together instantly if need be and is able to wander about the country for long periods without taking a drink at all.
Giraffe are inoffensive and sociable animals moving about in groups of about six to thirty at a time. Their only defence is a chopping action with the forefeet or kicking with the back feet. As the size of one hoof can measure 12 in. diameter this is not by any means ineffective. Indeed a giraffe has been observed to kill a lion by this method.
The two prominent growths on the top of the head — incorrectly called "horns — are merely bony protuberances which some zoologists think might be the remains of supports for antlers in a long-extinct species. In fighting, the bulls use both these "horns" and a bony projection on the forehead.
Giraffe walk with the gait of a camel, moving both the limbs on one side before those of the other, but when alarmed they adopt a short slow-motion gallop.
The huge limpid eyes of the giraffe are widely regarded as among the most beautiful in the animal kingdom. There is certainly controversy about both their sleeping habits and their silent natures. It seems that there is evidence of their lying down and occasionally emitting husky grunts; but it is reasonable to assume that giraffe are more likely to sleep with their heads resting in the fork of a tree than on the ground and that they are more usually silent than otherwise.
Height at shoulder: 12 ft. for bulls and up to 9 ft. for cows.
Height to top of horns: 17 ft. for adult bull, 15 ft. 6 In. for adult cows.
Season of birth: throughout the year.
Number of young: one
Gestation period: 14 months.
Life span: unknown in the wild: up to 27 years in captivety.
Shona name: twiza.
Sindebele name: intundhla/indlulamithi.
The hippopotamus, which weighs as much as two or three tons, is primarily an aquatic animal living in schools of up to 30 or 40, confined in its distribution to the main waterways of the country. Although they spend most of the day dozing placidly in these waters emerging to feed only at night, there is documentary evidence of individuals wandering for many scores of miles across the African veld. One famous female, "Huberta", completed the journey from Zululand, through Natal into the Eastern Cape Province, and others have been known to wander into suchunlikely places as the Kalahari.
The hippo's appearance is known to most people and characterised by its rounded and bulky body, short stubby legs, enormous head, prominent raised eyes, short projecting ears and heavy muzzle.
Its distribution in Africa is limited to large areas of water and when danger looms it submerges for a few minutes and then floats to the surface with only the top of the head showing. A surreptitious approach will sometimes reveal the sight of youngsters sunning themselves on their parents' back in the water or possibly two bulls engaged in murderous combat.
The four tusks in the jaw are fearsome weapons indeed and responsible for fatal wounds in a rival. They and the animal's bulk should be recalled by those foolish enough to get too close to hippo either in the water or on land.
It is also extremely perilous to move between grazing hippo and the nearest water — which can happen all too easily at night — and it should be remembered that some old bulls and particularly cows with calves are apt to adopt a truculent attitude at anything and everything that comes their way.
The hippo is particularly useful in opening up the thick aquatic vegetation or 'sud' that impedes the flow of water in some African rivers. When the creatures have been shot out, the effect on the flow of these rives has been serious.
Hippos swim under water or walk on the bottom. They emit loud bellows when challenging. The thick hide has been a favourite material for producing sjamboks. Hippo ivory is often substituted for that of the elephant because it is softer to work.
Hippos mate in the water. They are protected in Rhodesia.
Height at shoulder: 4 ft. 10 in. in bulls, 4 ft. 6 in. in cows.
Overall length: about 14 ft.
Number of young: one at a birth.
Season of birth: throughout the year.
Life span: unknown in the wild; up to 50 years in captivity.
Diet: a grazer.
Gestation period: 8 months.
Shono name: mvuu.
Sindebele name: imvubu
Scientific name: Hippopotamus amphibius.
Mention the word "hyena" and you'll bring a shiver down the back of most people — and not without reason. Hyenas have been the subject of many legends suggesting they are witches. They are primarily scavengers; they have a slinking unattractive movement; emit the most frightening series of shrieks, yells and demoniac wails and have been known to tear off part of a limb, or even the face, of an unsuspecting human asleep In the open at night.
It is therefore hardly surprising that they are universally hated. To be fair though it should be noted that they perform the most useful function of ridding the bush of Its burden of rotting carcasses. Their exceedingly powerful jaws can snap the largest of bones and they consume the smaller ones whole.
Nevertheless they are classed as vermin In this country and a bounty of $4 is paid for a whole skin,
The spotted hyena is a dull tawny colour with dark brown or black spots covering the body and legs. It has large brown eyes and fairly prominent oval ears- The tail is short, the hair short and bristly and the hindquarters weak in relation to head and forequarters.
The brown hyena on the other hand is rare and confined to the western parts of Rhodesia, It has a shaggy coat, pointed ears and is smaller and darker than the spotted hyena.
Spotted Hyenas are eventy distributed, but nowhere abundant, in Rhodesia. They are chiefly nocturnal and wonder for great distances In their search for food.
Spotted Hyenas are extremely tough animals but cowardly, being very cautious when danger threatens, but become exceedingly dangerous when the odds are in their favour or when they are very hungry.
They keep a wary eye open for circling vultures when moving during daylight hours, and at night their wandering cry of ,whooo-oof can be heard for many miles over the silent bush. The noise made by a group of hyenas at a kill is indescribably nightmarish.
Height at shoulder: up to 2 ft, 6 in.
Overall length: 5 ft.
Weight: up to 150 lb. One of 173 lb. recorded In Malawi.
Season of birth: The dry winter months, of about April to July.
Number of young: up to four.
Diet: arnivorous; predominantly carrion sometimes including young antelope. Large amount of bones and skin are often preferred to meat.
Life span: unknown in the wild: up to 14 years in captivity
Shona name: bere.
Sindebele name: Impisi
Sceintific name Spotted Hyna - Crocuta crocutim - Brown Hyena—hyena brunnea
The graceful impala is one of the most attractive of our wild life species and appears to be holding its own against the inroads of civilisation. It is still plentiful In many parts of the country though it is more common outside the intensively-farmed areas of Mashonaland immediately north and west of Salisbury and between Salisbury and eastern border, and in the extreme south-west of Rhodesia.
The impala Is well-known for several characteristics. It is a prodigious jumper -far out stripping-the famed springbok in this respect with recorded leaps of up to 10 feet high and 30 feet long. It has very prominent and beautiful lyre-shared horns and is recognisable by its dark fawn or red body colouring which extends along the upper part of the head to the neck and upper half of the trunk and partly down the thighs.
The red is offset by white appearing on the underside and tip of the tail (a prominent black line extends from the rump along the top of the tail) and inside of the thighs, the upper forelegs, the underside of the body, the upper chin and over the eye and Inside the ear which arc all white.
Another prominent feature of impala is the black tuft of hair which appears low down on the rear of each hind leg.
Impala graze and browse and there is evidence to suggest that they prefer thinly wooded country or open woodland n which to congregate in herds which number up to about 50.
The rams put up a tremendous fighting display when competing for docs, often curling their tails up over the rump in the process. Impala are really at their most impressive when on the move. After one or two of them have given the warn:ng of danger a high-pitched snort they will turn and flee, taking huge flying leaps over bushes and other obstacles, in a wonderful, fluid blur of movement that is surely one of the most breathtaking sights in all Africa.
The impala's principal natural enemies are wild dog. leopard and cheetah.
Overall length about: 5ft,
Average weight: males up to 130, females 100lb.
Season of birth: varies according to the are. In general about September to January.
Number of young: one at a time.
Gestation period: 6-7 months
Life span: unknown in the veld; over 10 years in captivity.
Shona name: mhara.
Sindebele name: mpaa.
Scientific name: Acpyceros melampus.
The kudu is widely distributed throughout Rhodesia and is certainly one of the most impressive of our wild life creatures, A frontal view of a mature bull with its magnificent spiralled horns and brown and white shaggy beard is surely one of Africa's most rewarding sights.
The bulls are seen less often than the cows and the calves as they usually keep away from the main herds to roam individually during daylight hours. The herds are relatively small in number, rarely exceeding more than a dozen or so at a time. As kudu are essentially browsers, seldom feeding on grass except when it is fresh, and as they keep to thickly bushed areas such as the acacia veld, they are difficult to locate outside national parks, although they are Still found even in the most intensely farmed areas. So complete is their camouflage in thick country that often the first that one is aware of the presence of kudu is a warning "bogkkhh" from a bull, followed immediately by a clatter of snapping sticks as the herd departs rapidly through the bush — the horns of the bull tilted back along the neck and the tail curled up over the rump to display the brilliant flash of white on the underside,
Grey is the predominant colour of the kudu, although the cows arc more fawn coloured, but there are always seven to ten vertical white strips along the flanks and white marks around the face. The animal has a narrow mane running along the back to the tail.
The ears of the kudu are very large and this is especially noticeable in the females who do not grow horns, which tend to distract the eye. The ears, the immense corkscrew horns in the males, the white stripes and the body size are all distinguishing features.
Kudu are regarded as inoffensive and mild animals but they will become extremely savage with a rival during the rutting period. Occasionally two bulls suffer a lingering death together when the spiralled horns become interlocked.
These animal are excellent jumpers, clearing 8 ft, obstacles with ease.
The cow is lighter in build than the bull.
Height at shoulder: up to 5 ft.
Average weight: males up to 600 lb,, female 350 lb.
Length of horns: about 38 to 65 inches (71 inches recorded).
Season of birth: throughout the year.
Number of young: one
Gestation period: seven months.
Shona name: nhoro
Sindebele name: ibhalabhala
Scientific ftome Tragelaphus strepsicenos.
As the "King of Beasts" lions are universally respected for their Intelligence and power and the many hunter's tales that have been recorded have endowed them with a ferocity and aggressiveness that they do not deserve Like most wild animals, if left to their own devices they are not aggressive, but if provoked or wounded, or if the females have young, they can be classed as among the dangerous species.
In Rhodesia "man eaters" are of rare occurrence although in other parts of Africa they are more common. Normally lions turn to human flesh only when they get old and find it difficult to take their normal prey. Where man has. by his activities, destroyed their prey, they will feed on domestic stock and can become a problem animal in ranching areas.
Prides of lions organise themselves in hunting into groups, some to drive the prey on to others lying in strategic positions. The female does most of the hunting, the old males sometimes taking little part, lying lazily in some nearby shade but often monopolising the prey once it Is killed until they are satiated. After feeding, lions become lazy and will often lie in a shady place for hours on end. They do not necessarily feed every day. sometimes several days elapsing between kills. They will, however, drink avidly, more especially after feeding.
Hunting Is usually carried out In the evening, after dark or In the early morning. During the heat of the day, they lie up sleeping.
Lions are still quite common In Rhodesia both north and south of the central plateau, but as they are great wanderers, turn up in the most unexpected places from time to time, The prides are not so large here as In other parts of Africa, although a pride of up to 30 has been recorded.
They will take the largest of prey, giraffe being commonly sought after together with zebra, buffalo, eland and other large antelopes. Stomach contents containing nothing but rodents are. however, known, and they will take other small mammals and birds.
Breeding may take place at any time during the year, three or four cubs comprising a normal litter. While the adults may show some dark brown spotting on the under parts, the cubs are usually distinctly marked In this way, losing this after about two years.
When hunting, lions are silent, but their loud roar, which may be heard from several miles, may be a challenge to others, a rallying call or simply a notice of their presence. It Is one of the most thrilling sounds of the African night.
Height at shoulder: up to 3ft. 9 in. in males and about 2 ft. 10 in, In females.
Average weight: up to 400 lb. for a male with empty stomach.
Length: recorded up to 9 ft. 6 in. from nose to tail tip, but usually about 9 ft.
Season of birth: throughout the year.
Number of young: usfually three or four cubs.
Gestation period: about 105 days.
Life span: about 25 years
Shona name: shumba/mhondoro
Sindebele name: Isllwane/Ingonyama
Scientific name: Panthera leo
The leopard rates as one of the most dangerous of our wild life species although attacks on human beings are usually the result of provocative human behaviour and natural man-eating specimens are very rare.
It is an efficient and ruthless hunter of its prey, baboon, dog and small antelope In order of preference, although it sometimes kills larger animals. The attack pattern is usually based on ambush from a tree or stealth involving a frontal assault in which the victim's jugular is the target of the jaws and the sclap that of the hooked claws. The animal moves very fast towards its victim uttering wicked-sounding growls when attacking and only a fatal shot will stop the charge of a leopard,
The well-known leopard's spots from rosettes on the flanks and back but appear without pattern all over the body on a tawny-yellow ground which tones down to white or buff on the underside of the animal.
Leopards are not confined to any climatic zone and are still plentiful where their food supplies are near at hand. They are thus most often located around hills which harbour baboon but are also found In open, flat country away from agricultural areas.
Varieties of colour and size occur but these are only minor, with the female being slightly smaller in all cases
Though normally silent, leopards somtimes utter grating coughs — "rag-huh" the "huh" representing aquick intake of breath before the call is repeated two or three times. An angry leopard growls!
The leopard is a true cat with retractile daws and capable of climing most trees. Experienced hunter will tell you that it nearly always leaves its tall hanging down from the branch of a tree It has climbed when lying up in ambush, although this not confirmed by reference works.
An old kill hung up in a tree or the chatter of primates are signs that a leopard Is around and when moving through an area where there is wounded leopard extreme caution must be exercised.
Height at shoulder: about 2 ft. 4 in
Average weight: 100 to 140 lbs. (females 20 to 30 lb. less
Number young: two to three at a birth.
Gestation period: 3 to 4 months.
Life span: unknown in the veld: up to 14 years in capitivity.
Shone name: mbaca.
Sindebele name: Ingwe.
Scientifc name. Panthera pardus
Two species of leguaan occur In Rhodesia. The "rock leguaan" (Varanus exanthenaticus) which occurs In dry country at low altitudes, and the "water leguaan" (Varanui nifoiieus) which is common all over the country near waterways and vlels. This latter has an African history which dates from the ancient Egyptians who embalmed It and reproduced It in the form of rockinscriptions.
Leguaans are the largest of the African lizrds attaining lengths of up to 8 ft. In adulthood. They resemble baby crocodiles in body shape but have serpent like heads, fairly long legs and strong, hooked claws protruding from the toes. The claws and the powerful tail are extremely effective weapons and the latter can inflict a painful blow,
The rock leguaan is primarily a scavenger feeding on carrion, although it will eat millipedes as well as other , small reptiles.
The water leguaan climbs trees and often grabs the young of birds in nests. It cats whole a wide variety of fish, crabs, frogs, birds, eggs and meat and will travel several miles overland to gobble poultry or eggs. It prefers the base of anthills in which to lay Its eggs — the termites repair the damage to their home afterwards thus concealing the eggs from enemies. It will often sham death for periods of up to half an hour when enemies are about. This ability to remain motionless helps it capture birds. Some chroniclers say the leguaan sweeps birds into its mouth with its tail when they are looking for the nectar of flowers.
Leguaans are at their most vulnerable during winter when they are sluggish and can be caught by predators while lying up in hollow trees or buried in sand near a river.
OTHER INFORMATION (for water leguaan)
Average length: up to 8 ft.
Number of eggs: about 12.
Size on hatching: about one foot.
Incubation period: believed to be three months.
Life span: unknown.
Shona name: mupurwa.
Sindebele name: uxamu.
Scientific name Varanus nlloticus.
Surprising as it may seem, the stories of ostriches swallowing tin cans are not so far from the truth as might be supposed. I know a game ranger who claims that one of these large flightlessbirds swallowed the watch he dropped. All the same it is nonsense to say that ostriches "eat tins" and leave it at that.
Ostriches eat grass, succulents, leaves, berries and seeds. They swallow hard, indigestible objects. Including metallic objects but more usually stones and pebbles, to assist the crushing of the hard and more resistant portions of their food.
Ostriches are the largest birds in the world and arc distantly related to the rheas of South America and the emus of Australia. Being unable to fly, they make up for this disability by having remarkably powerful legs and an astonishing turn of speed.
The legs are strong weapons - a slashing kick from an ostrich can be fatal and they give the bird reported speeds of 30 m.p.h. and more. Being chased by an ostrich, even when on horseback, is an unnerving experience.
The cock utters a dull roar, usually at night, that is not unlike that of a distant lion.
Ostriches are not as common as they used to be in Rhodesia, outside national parks, but a group of a dozen or so can sometimes be seen within 30 miles of Salisbury alongside the Great
They normally associate in small groups but sometimes live a completely solitary existence.
The cock and hen have distinguishing colour features. The cock has almost completely black body feathers and white tall and wing feathers, whereas the hen has pale brown body feathers and dirty-white wing and tail feathers.
The conspicuous cock often incubates the eggs at night while the less conspicuous hen takes over during the day.
Young ostriches are fawn about the neck and head with black streaks and black and white bristles on the back-
Sometimes more than one hen mates with a cock and these hens may all lay eggs In the same hollow scraped out of the ground that is the ostrich's nest. The "nest" Is built by both sexes.
Height: about 7 ft.
Weight: average about 350 lb.
Breeding habits: 15 - 20 eggs: one laid every other oay.
Incubation period: 40 days.
Life span: 50 years has been recorded.
Shona name: mhou.
Sindebele name Intshe
Scientific name Struthio camelus.
Porcupines have quills — everyone knows thai but the belief of some people that porcupines "shoot" them at enemies is an old wives' story. When danger looms the porcupine raises its quills and when angered runs backwards towards an attacker. This action is often accompanied by a warning rattle of the quills and such a warning should not be taken lightly as even lions have died from the wounds inflicted by porcupine quills. They can become firmly lodged in the body, can cause suppurating wounds and bring on starvation by getting embedded in the throat.
The porcupine is easily recognised and is one of the largest of Rhodesia's rodents. It causes great damage to root and grain crops — including maize which it obtains by gnawing off the stalk so that the cob falls to the ground — and is generally considered a pest in agricultural areas.
Porcupines are exclusively vegetarian. They nearly always feed at night after spending the daylight hours in a hole in the ground made by themselves or other animals, particularly antbears.
Although rarely seen by day. porcupines are widely distributed throughout Rhodesia and are quite often encountered at night, running along our bush roads in front of a vehicle, quills erect, on their way to their feeding grounds. Porcupines travel great distances at night in search of food and some authorities say they will cover ten miles or more on a regular beat every night.
Porcupines are intelligent, cautious and difficult to trap, often leaving a foot behind to escape from a trap.
They are hunted with dogs or can be caught in baited pits.
Porcupines have short thick legs, strong claws, small eyes set far back on the blunt head and short tails.
The young are born with soft bristles which harden after birth.
Average weight: up to 45 lb.
Total length: about 3 ft.
Life span: London Zoological Gardens recorded 20 years and four months.
Shona name: nungu/ngwewewe
Sindebele name inungu/ingungumbane
Scientific nomc Hystrlx africae-australis.
Black rhinos are still found in the Kariba basin and along the Zambesi Valley to the north and in isolated pockets in the south-east, but are becoming
White rhinos were recorded by both Baines and Selous as late as the 1880 but, probably due to the extensive trade in their horns, this species became extinct here shortly afterwards, The Department of National Parks has re-introduced them to Kyle, Matopos and Like McIlwaine National Parks from Game Reserve in Natal.
Of the two, the smaller black rhino is the more dangerous, frequently charging any moving object on sight to the accompaniment of a fearsome series of snorts and squeals reminiscent of an express train, Small trees and bushes disintegrate in its path and It will lift the whole of the front portion of its body off the ground when tossing its target,
The white rhino by contrast Is more placid and far less prone to such outbursts.
The sight of both Is not as poor as believed; it Is simply not as acute as the highly developed senses of smell and hearing,
Rhinos feed at night and lie up for most of the day, The black rhino, being a browser, eats sticks, branches and leaves and the noise can be heard from some distance, The white lives almost exclusively on grass. The composition of a rhino's dung will shew which species is present. The white rhino usually deposits in huge middens while the black, scatters his by both tail and back legs like a dog. Many an African fable exists about the rhino,
At night, black rhino sometimes utter a plaintive cry - "eeceoouummhh -and it is possible to converse with them by emulating this call.
Height at shoulder: about 5 ft.
Average weight: males 2,500 lb. Females 2,000 lb
Average Length of body: 11 ft.
Length of horns: front horns up to 4 ft 6 in recorded.
Life span: Largely unknown but Pretoia Zoo gives 27 years.
Number of young: One at birth at age 5 years of age.
Gestation period: 15 to 16 months
Shona name: chipembere
Sindebele name: fura
Scientific name: Diceros bicornis
Height at shoulder: about 6 ft
Average weight: males 4,000 lbs., females 3, 000 lb
Average Length of body: 12 ft 6in.
Length of horns: front horn up to 5 ft 3in recorded.
Life span: the first specimen received in a zoo was at Pretoria in 19546 - it is still living.
Number of young: One at birth at age 5 years of age.
Gestation period: 15 to 16 months
Shona name: ebhejane
Sindebele name: emkhombo
Scientific name: Ceratotherium simum
The dominant features of this proud animal are the beautiful scimitar-like horns (present in both sexes) and the set of the head and neck on to the shoulder.
The general body colour is jet black in old bulls, blackish-brown in females and chestnut brown in youngsters which sometimes causes them to be mistaken for roan. White is prominentin the sable, appearing on the under pays. the hindquarters and the face and throat. The facial markings are as conspicuous as the roan.
A coarse black mane runs down the top of the neck and extends beyond the shoulders a short distance along the back. The end of the prominent tail is tufted to form a switch.
The sable is more gregarious than the roan and herds range from a dozento 60 or more. Reports indicate a widespread but patchy distribution in Rhodesia.
Bulls often live by themselves or with one or two other males and a sable herd is seldom seen with more than one large bull in it. He is the dominant individual and recognisable by his huge horns and sleek black coat. He is leader and protector of the herd and a formidable opponent.
Observation of these striking animals reveals that they take extreme precautions to protect their herds, especially when approaching water.
When they have reason to be suspicious they move with great silence and stealth, the herd's leader and other senior bulls emerging first from cover in an obvious defensive tactic against
Height at shoulder: 4 ft. 9 in.
Average weight : up to 500 lb.
Length of horns: up to 52 in. in bulls but usually between 40 in. and 50 in. (a giant sable In Angola had horns measuring 64 in.)
Life span: unknown but zoo records show one of 16 years.
Date of birth: early summer months.
Number of young: one at birth.
Gestation period: apparently just under nine months.
Shona name: mharapara
Sindebele name: umtshwayell
Scientific name: Hippotragus niger.
The vervet monkey is common all over Rhodesia and is usually found in troops alongside rivers where It lives In the large Acacia and other riverine trees.
It is one of the most destructive of Rhodesia's wild animals. The damage it does to grain crops, particularly maize, the cobs of which it picks and discards after a mouthful — has made it one of the farmer's greatest enemies* and maize grown near rivers can suffer severe depredations from these creatures.
The vervet monkey is no dim-witted adversary either. In the writer's experience it seems to know whether you are carrying a gun or a stick, can soon tell if a crop guard is sleeping or just quietly observant,
Together with bush pig and baboon, they rank among the greatest nuisances to farmers.
The vervet is readily distinguishable from the samango monkey by the almost complete ring of white hairs encircling the black face, the whiteness of the under parts and the speckled greyish-yellow of the body, The tail becomes progressively darker along the cop until the last six inches which are black, and Is buff coloured on the underside.
Vervets are widely distributed throughout Africa south of the Sahara, They move about in large troops of about 30, with a large male usually dominating them until he is deposed. The mothers carry their young against their breasts until they are almost half grown, When really alarmed, vervets, although normally afraid to enter water, have been seen to escape by swimming across rivers.
These monkeys are well-known for their impudent behaviour when circumstances allow them to be familiar with mankind, They tame easily and quickly but as they grow older they are apt to turn treacherous and can inflict severe wounds with their large canine teeth.
They feed on berries, fruit, leaves, seeds, grain crops, and insects, and their chatter varies between a running commentary something like "yogo-yogo-yogo-yogo-yok" and a sharp defiant "unkcow".
Height to top of head when sitting 18 in.
Average length 4 ft. 6 in. - including the tail which is about 2 ft. 6 in. long.
Weight males up to 18 lb., females 12 lb.
Number of young: one at a birth.
Life ipan up to 16 years in captivity.
Shona name shoko/tsoko.
Sindebele name Inkawu (from its call).
Scientific name Cercoplthecui aethiops.
The warthog is that entertaining member of the pig family seen so often in the game areas of Africa during daylight — usually trotting from an intruder with itj tail ratted erect for all the world like a flag pole.
Despite its repellent features the warthog is rather stupidly good-natured and overaggressive although it will put up a stout fight if cornered,
As they arc diurnal and very approachable when grazing, warthogs have been extensively hunted for years but there is no indication that they are on the decline. They are common away from the main watershed of Rhodesia, where they appear to stay in small family parties or pairs with an old boar often living by himself.
Usually grey Coloured, though this depends on the Colour of the soil in which they have been wallowing, warthogs are easy to recognise with their mass of bristly hairs stretching down from behind the head to the shoulders, their conspicuous wares on either side of the face and their large upward-curved tushes (or tusks).
The upper tushes are used mainly for digging out tubers and roots from the soil when the animal may be seen kneeling down the better to reach its food — and for demonstration purposes against an attacker. The lower tushes are sharp and form the animal's chief defensive
Besides tubers and roots warthogs live mostly off grass .".'though some authorities report that they have been seen to eat carrion like the bush pig.
Usually silent, they utter contented grunts when feeding and a continuous rumbling grunt when alarmed and about to flee.
The warthog lies up in ant bear holes (which, according to African fable, is his reward for services rendered to the antbear many years ago). They enter these tail first and may be flushed by stamping on the ground above. This was the favourite method the Zulus used to catch warthogs.
Although warthogs are the regular diet of lion, leopard and cheetah, these predators have considerable respect for the defensive abilities of adult warthog boars. In spite of what has been said about the Inoffensive nature of warthogs, when cornered, they can be dangerous.
Height at shoulder: about 30 In.
Average weight about 140 lb.
Length of upper tushes: up to 2 ft but usually 10 in.
Date of birth: November to December in Rhodesia.
Gestation period: about five months.
Life span: unknown.
Shona name: njeri/hwami.
Sindebele name: ngulugunda.
Scientific name: Phacochoerus aethiopicus
At one time widely distributed throughout Rhodesia. Burchell's zebra has almost entirely disappeared from the Central Plateau although It is still quite common In the llmpopo/Zambesi drainage on either side. Belonging to the same family as the horse, the Equidae. zebra-horse crosses are known. Zebra-donkey crosses, "Zebdonks".are, however, commoner and are frequently are found on ranches in western Rhodesia where there is contact between the two.
Zebras — like horses — are gregarious and restless. Inquisitive and sociable, display similar attitudes when alarmed, are similarly dependent on water and are fast because they possess the same single and enlarged toe.
Two zebra stallions fighting is as awesome a spectacle as two arab stallions and the damage to either party from kicks, the powerful jabs of the forefeet and the biting wounds to face, head and neck is often considerable. This fighting is usually accompanied with much loud squealing. Zebra, with wildebeest, form the greater part of the diet of lion who bring them down with stealth and cunning.
Zebra are on the decline and this may be fairly attributed co the introduction of cattle and the consequent com petition for grass. Zebra herds can number up to 100 and the destruction to fencing and grazing by such a group can be serious. Zebra can completely ruin many yards of the strongest wire fence by stampeding through it when alarmed, and apparently regard such an obstacle with about as much disdain as the thorn trees through which they gallop under stress, protected by their tough, thick hides.
Although predominantly living on grass, Zebra will die up succulent roots and rhizomes and will,
when necessary, dig for water. Herds are frequently associated with herds of wildebeest, the two
species mixing freely.
Height at shoulder: up to 4 ft. 6 in.
Weight: up to 900 lb.
Gestation period: 11 to 12 months.
Number of young: one at birth, twins known.
Breeding: throughout the year with peak in July/August
Length: 10 ft. from head to base of tail.
Life span: 12 to 15 years average (up to 30 recorded).
Shona name: mbizi
Sindebele name: idube
Scientific name: Equus burchelli
End of publication.
Please note that this collection is incomplete. Hylton Garriock thankfully located the hard copies and photographed them for ORAFs. Thanks Hylton.
Extracted and recompilation by Eddy Norris for use on ORAFs.
Comments are always welcome, please either enter them below as a comment or mail them to Eddy Norris at email@example.com