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Habitat Legend

 

 

 

The following legend gives a rough idea of the type of habitat the animals in this guide can be found in but it should be remembered that it is not always easy to separate one habitat from another. Many different habitats will constitute a small element of a large environment and you will with experience be , in time , able to identify suitable habitats for a great many of animals in this book. It should also be remembered that many animals inhabit place on a seasonal basis and that they are not always to be found in the same area. These movements can and are dictated by seasons, food availability, sexual condition of the animal, age of the animal, holding capacity of the area, the number of prey species in a given area (and this affects not only prey species but also other predators) availability of suitable den sites if required, availability of water and of prey species suitable for the animal concerned. This might be something like an area being full of large game such as buffalo, eland, giraffe, waterbuck, kudu etc but no smaller type antelope such as impala or Thompsons’ gazelle, duikers, grysbok etc which are suitable for cheetah all year round. Ok Cheetah may take the young of some of the larger species previously mentioned but this would only be in the relevant breeding seasons. So in some cases you can’t have one without the other and in other cases you can’t have one with the other. Holding capacity of an area and the species to be found on it is an extremely complex and varied equation.

For many years in East Africa it was a great mystery as to why there was such an abundance of game not only in numbers of any given species but also in the actual number of different prey species

occupying a particular area. Scientist decided to undertake various studies to unravel this mystery and

after many years of dedicated field work by both scientist and naturalist in the field they were able to

determine the answer. Which. in a way was actually quite simple. The animals were not only eating

different plants but more importantly many were eating the same plants. A closer look at individual species specific eating habits however revealed the key to the mystery. Animals which ate the same food plants were eating different parts of the same plant. This was why so many different species could be found in the

same area without completely eradicating their food sources. Zebras tend to arrive in an area before

Wildebeests and there is a good reason for this. They prefer the ends of the coarse grasses that make up much of the plains savannah environment. Once the tops have been cropped off by the zebra population they move off in search of the same. Wildebeest on the other hand prefer the mid to lower sections of these grasses and take the plants down to their next level. The fresh new growth that appears at the base of these grasses attracts animals such as Thompson gazelles, Grants gazelles, warthogs, hippos (where there is water near by) and many other grazing type animals such as hares and rabbits, etc. The cycle goes on and animal populations ebb and flow with the seasons and suitable food availability. Mixed scrub land

operates in a similar way two or tree different type of antelope may feed on one particular type of shrub or tree but at different levels and on different leaf size or stem thickness to suit their particular mouth size and palette.

In some areas I times of drought where many of the smaller shrubs an grasses have been eaten out or died through lack of ground water elephant will push over the larger trees which usually tap into water deep underground and hence maintain a healthy crop of leaves. These will then be systematically stripped

of both leaves and bark which is usually fatal for the tree. Multiply this many times and the elephants

soon create a desert, but even as this process begins its reversal is started by the very actions of the

elephants that killed the tree and created the desert. The shade from the fallen tree will when it rains (which in some parts of Africa could be years) shade the ground underneath the fallen tree and provide a suitable environment for the germination of many seeds which can lie dormant for years or maybe that have passed through the elephants gut to germinate in a fresh pile of dung. The fallen tree would then

afford some protection to these seedlings and as they grow protected from the fierce rays of the sun in a cooler more moist environment than that of their immediate surroundings. Their roots would provide

anchorage for the dry soils and prevent the wind blowing the sand and soil away preventing further

desertification. Smaller animals that may have previously abandoned the area in favour of fresh pastures would then be enticed back into the area and their droppings would enrich the soil and more seeds would germinate in their droppings and get a foothold in the soil and so the cycle begins again, the increase in