The African buffalo is one of the Big Five. With an average weight of 700kg they are the largest bovids in Africa. Buffalos are social animals, living in large mixed herds, with a male dominance hierarchy. Old bulls often leave the herds and live alone or together with other old bulls. Calves are born after a gestation period of 11.5 months, mainly during the rainy season. A new born calf weighs approximately 45 kg and can stand within 10 to 15 minutes. Buffalos depend on water and need to drink at least once every 24 hours. In the dry season they travel up to 17km to find water. Buffalos, especially solitary old bulls, can be aggressive and dangerous and can charge unpredictably.
The African elephant is the largest land mammal and always fascinating to observe. Bulls have an average weight of 5000 kg, whilst cows weigh approximately 3000 kg. Elephants spend up to 16 hours a day feeding and consuming 4 – 6% of their body weight as fodder. Elephants are long lived (up to 60 years) and populations grow slowly. Females conceive first at the age of 10-11 and give birth after 22 months to one single calf. Due to the large amount of food they consume, elephants have a large impact on the environment, destroying trees and bushes which open areas for grassland.
The black rhino and the white rhino are the only African rhino species. White rhino occur naturally in the southern parts of Africa, whilst black rhino were widely distributed in East Africa. Due to heavy poaching the population has decreased tremendously. In the Mara we have approximately 25 - 30 Black Rhinos. Black rhinos have an average weight of 900 to 1300 kg. Adult males are often observed alone, whilst females are mostly accompanied by their calves, who stay with their mothers for 2.5 – 3.5 years. Black rhinos are typical browsers and are more likely to be found in bushy areas rather than on the open plains.
Lions are the largest African carnivores, with an average weight of a male being up to 250 kg. Females are lighter (average 120 kg). Lions are very social cats and most of them live in prides. After killing their prey lions may eat as much as ¼ of their own body weight, however their daily average consumption is 5 - 7 kg of meat. Lionesses begin breeding at the age of 4, males at approximately 6 years. After 3.5 months a female gives birth to 1 - 4 small, blind and still very helpless cubs. Their eyes only open after 3 - 11 days and they start walking after 10 - 15 days. Cubs are weaned over the first 7 months and can not fend for themselves until they are 16 months old.
One of the rarely seen large cats, leopards are elusive and mostly active at night, whilst spending their days resting in dense thicket or high up on a tree branch. Leopards occur throughout Africa and are adapted to a variety of habitats. They will feed on any form of meat from insects to carrion. They are also extremely good hunters, who catch their prey by stalking and ambush. Adult leopards are mainly solitary, only mixing with other leopards during the mating season. Females give birth to 1 - 3 cubs, after a gestation period of 90 - 100 days. The small cubs are concealed in dense bushes or hollow trees for almost 6 weeks before they venture out on short excursions with their mother. Young leopards become independent at around 22 months, when they begin their solitary life.
The cheetah does not belong to the Big Five, however as the fastest land mammal and the most specialized cat in the world, it is a fascinating animal to observe. Cheetahs have comparatively long legs and a long slender body, that enables them to reach maximum running speeds of almost 112 kph. They start the chase when they are only 50 to 100 m away from their prey and have to outrun or overtake their quarry within 300m. After that the breathing rate and temperature increases so much that they have to rest and cool down. Male cheetahs often form coalitions with other males, whereas females are mainly solitary, unless accompanied by their cubs. Cheetahs prefer open grassland and hunt mostly during the day.
Other animals that can be observed
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