More Kruger Park: Did you Know?

Amazing African Wild Dog

The wild dog is not only on our top five most critically endangered list, but South Africa's most endangered predator. There are probably fewer than 520 of them in this country, and they are not faring much better elsewhere. 

©Shem Compion
Wild dog pack.

The thing is that you can't keep a good predator away from its prey. Unlike cheetahs, wild dogs will attack livestock where they can, for which they have been heavily persecuted.

They have also always been susceptible to lion attacks, and in modern times they have become exposed to diseases carried by domestic dogs. When it comes to hunting, size will often determine the strategy that a predator adopts. Wild dogs are relatively small, but because they hunt in family groups, they are perhaps the most proficient predators in Africa.

The Great African Antelopes

©Roger de la Harpe
Blue wildebeest.
Brindled Gnus are more commonly known as Blue Wildebeest, a name given to them by early Dutch settlers, who tended to see these animals as 'wild cattle'. Few sights are as thrilling as a herd of impala, in full flight, bounding and leaping. Honed to physical perfection by what Charles Darwin termed 'the struggle for survival', these elegant antelopes can leap a distance of 12 metres with apparent ease.

Royal Exodus

©Nigel Dennis
Nyala tree (Xanthocercus zambesiaca) and termite mound, Kruger National Park.

Much of the African open veld is characterised by termite-constructed earth mounds. Even in game-rich savanna areas, the biomass of termites — there are hundreds of species in Africa — exceeds that of all other animals. Soon after the first rains, winged princes and princesses, called alates, fly out from colonies, filling the air in a shimmering skein.

Survivors who are able to quickly mate and burrow become the queens and kings of new colonies, the rest are sought after as food for frogs, lizards, insectivorous mammals and birds, even the stately tawny, steppe and lesser spotted eagles… as well as humans. Apparently, they are best served fried in butter.

Worm Wanderlust

One of the most important forms of protein in the hotter regions of Southern Africa is the mopane worm: a fat, brightly coloured caterpillar of the moth Gonimbrasia belina.

At a certain time in early summer they swarm in their tens of millions over the mopane trees and then across the ground to burrow in the low-lying savanna region of the major valley areas. Syndicates of gatherers 'own' certain blocks of trees. A good place to witness this migration is in the Kruger National Park, on the H1 through road. Splat!

The Tallest Tale

©Nigel Dennis
Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) feeding on Mopane flowers, Kruger National Park.
You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that Giraffes are the tallest mammal, stretching over five metres. But did you know why you don't get them in 'what sound does this make?' books for toddlers? It's because the grunts or snorts Giraffes make are so rarely heard they're generally regarded as being voiceless. Go Giraffe spotting in Kruger between Timbavati and Shingwedzi.By David Bristow