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South Africa Safari Egghead

Apr 28, 2008
If you're planning a safari holiday in South Africa's Kruger National Park, you'll find yourself and your fellow travelers getting into numerous debates about all the magnificent animals you encounter.

Not all of us can be as knowledgeable as David Attenborough, but if you want to wise up on a few facts to impress your fellow holidaymakers on a South Africa Safari, here are a few tips to keep you ahead of the pack!

ZEBRA

Why do Zebras have stripes?

A herd of zebra is a stunning sight for anyone taking a holiday in South Africa's Kruger National Park, but many are left wondering why on earth these creatures have such a bizarre look. There are three main theories:

1) Identity:

Zebras' stripes are like fingerprints with each zebra having a different set of stripes. As a newborn, the young zebra stays close to its mother and learns her stripes. The foal is then able to find its' mother just by sight.

2) Camouflage:

Stripes help the zebra hide in grass from predators as well as making it more difficult for a lion to pick out any single zebra from a herd for attack. The stripes may also be confusing the visual system of the blood-sucking tsetse fly.

3) Thermoregulation:

The stripes help the zebra to have a more controlled body temperature, as they correspond with fat patterns beneath the skin, serving as a thermoregulatory mechanism.

ELEPHANT

How do elephants get so big?

On a South Africa safari, the elephants you are likely to encounter wondering along and munching on bushes are African elephants, which are distinguishable from their Asian cousins by their much larger ears. The average large Elephant bull reaches a weight of 5.5 tons and some males can be as heavy as 6.5 tons, while females average about 3.5 to 4 tons.

A large elephant bull will eat as much as 200 kg of grasses, leaves, bamboo, twigs, bark, roots, fruits, seeds and flowers a day, although only 40% of that is digested as they have a very weak digestive system. To get through all that food, Elephants eat for an average of 18 hours a day.

GIRAFFE

What is the collective noun for giraffes, and why?

You're quite likely to spot a giraffe on a safari holiday in South Africa. The tallest of all land-living animal species, there are over 9,000 giraffes in Kruger National Park, and, if you're lucky, one of these quiet and inquisitive creatures might stop to take a look, very politely, into your car window!

The collective noun for Giraffes is a 'journey'. The reason for this name is that they tend to move around - if a Giraffe feeds on the same Acacia tree for too long, the tree starts to defend itself by increasing the levels of tannin in the leaves. The increase of tannin makes the leaves taste very bitter and dry, forcing the Giraffe to move on.

LION

Do lions eat people?

Lions wouldn't usually choose to hunt for people. In Africa their preferred menu generally consists of large mammals including wildebeest, impalas, zebras, buffalo and warthogs.

However, if you're heading for a safari holiday in South Africa, beware! As a result of immigration from Mozambique, the lions close to the Mozambique / Kruger National Park border have regular encounters with people and certain prides have therefore taken up the unfortunate habit of man-eating.

RHINOCEROUS

What is the difference between the black rhino and the white rhino?

You can spot both of these rhino species on a holiday in South Africa, and surprisingly there is no colour difference between the two. The Dutch named the White Rhino the 'Weid mond Rhino', and the English thought they were saying 'white', so it was just a misunderstanding that stuck (and has baffled tourists ever since). However, there are other ways to tell the difference between the two.

The Black Rhino is smaller than the White Rhino, with a small hooked shaped mouth for feeding on trees and shrubs. The Black Rhinos' natural head posture faces upward, so there is no need for it to lift its' head when feeding on trees. There are around 350 Black Rhinos in Kruger National Park.

The White Rhino is far larger than Black Rhino, behind the elephant it is probably the most massive remaining land animal in the world, along with the Indian Rhinoceros and some male hippopotamuses. The White Rhino has a broad flat mouth to feed off large quantities of grass. It has a hump above the shoulders and a fold of skin at the lower shoulders. There are over 2000 White Rhinos in Kruger National Park.
About the Author
Kieron Sellens is the marketing manager of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AiTO). With an Aito safari you can choose from a tailor-made South Africa holiday, Botswana safari, Kenya adventure and much more.
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