20 Apr 2018 Animals that are rarely seen – by Jason Botes
There are many animals in Southern Africa that countless people wish to see but unfortunately, due to low numbers and their nocturnal nature, not many get the opportunity.
Rangers on the Camp Jabulani grounds travel these routes daily many of which travel them into the night. On their recent travels they were able to scout and find these magnificent creatures:
Pangolin: The pangolin can be easily identified due to its rigid, scaly body. It is the only mammal on the planet to have its body covered in scales. This makes up around 20% of its body weight. The Pangolin are insectivores and mainly devour termites and ants in the late hours of the night, which is why they are so elusive.
To this day, the pangolin is the most highly trafficked animal on the Vietnamese and Chinese black market as they are collected for their scales and meat in traditional medicine. The rate at which these animals are being poached is alarming and places them on the Red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Honey Badger: Small, black and white and bad to the bone! The honey badger is certainly on many lists of animals to be seen. They have a reputation that precedes them as being the most feared animals in Africa – even lions fear them.
Honey badgers are predominantly nocturnal animals, particularly in highly populated areas but can be sighted every now and then in daylight. Being omnivores means feeding on fruit and vegetables such as berries, bulbs and roots as well as small rodents, birds, frogs and snakes of any kind.
Aardvark: The aardvark is certainly the rarest of the bunch! Even though they are not endangered, being a highly nocturnal, solitary mammal means that sightings of one are to be treasured. Aardvarks are formivores, mainly ingesting ants or termites but they do also feed on the aardvark cucumber. The African Horned Cucumber is reliant on the aardvark to feed on it and spread and bury the seeds. Aardvarks are unique looking animals with large ears, pig-like snout and have a long sticky tongue. They can be found predominantly in areas with high termite populations and soft soils to make life easier for digging and feeding.
Serval: Shy, small and sleek with amazingly long legs! The serval resembles a miniature cheetah in more ways than one. Servals are solitary animals which prefer long grass and wetland areas. They can be relatively elusive as they rely solely on camouflage and stealth to hunt prey. Servals remain in long grass which makes spotting them a more difficult task than one would think.
Poaching of serval, though on the decline, still occurs in areas such as Senegal and Benin for their skins and in western Africa for the use in traditional medicine.
African civet: Appearing in the darker times of night, the African civet can be a rather shy animal which is well camouflaged with dark black spots and stripes. The night is certainly its friend helping it blend perfectly into to the thick vegetation around riverines. Here it mainly forages for food and sleeps during the day. Civets will consume on most food sources as they are omnivorous animals. Small rodents, insects, eggs, lizards and snakes make the perfect meal. Civets are not poached but they are however kept captive and used in milking its perineal gland for fluid known as ‘civet’. This is used as a musky scent in most perfumes, but most perfume industries use synthetic musk instead.
Caracal: A bold animal! The caracal stands out from the small cat family with its strength, size and cunning nature. The caracal can be quickly identified by its brownish red coat, black tufted ears and short tail. These may be small cats, but don’t let their size fool you! The caracal makes up for its shortcomings in size with an abundant amount of aggression. They are preferably nocturnal animals but do hunt in daylight every now and again. They consume prey from small mammals and rodents to larger prey such as young impala, grysbok, and even baby kudu. One of the major threats to caracal is habitat loss and farmer retaliation. Many prefer to hunt livestock on farms where there is less predatory threats and easier prey to hunt.
Genet: A small timid animal resembling a small cat. The genet is a nocturnal animal only showing itself in the black of night on warmer humid evenings, as they head out to pick up many insects and small mammals in the area. Genets are an aborial species, spending a lot of time in tall trees and bushes which makes spotting them all the more difficult. There is no true threat to the genet, but it is known that they are hunted for their pelts and a loss in habitat can eventually cause a problem in the future.