Saturday, October 31, 2020

Animals Endemic to Africa

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Bountiful Safaris we believe tourism can effectively provide the incentive for promoting wildlife conservation. Through visiting some of these isolated habitats, economic incentive is provided for their protection and revenue can be used to continue supporting conservation efforts.Here we highlighted the plight of three endemic and endangered mammal species in Kenya:

Hirola

One of the world’s rarest and most Endangered antelope, the hirola is endemic to north-east Kenya and south-west Somalia. The Somalian population is believed to be extinct.

The hirola is slender with a sandy-coloured coat. Male hirolas however turn a shade of grey as they age. The have an elongated face, long legs and a short neck. A white line, or chevron, passes from one eye to the other across the forehead, giving the hirola a bespectacled appearance.

©Kevin Smith

Hirolas are well adapted to a hot, arid plains habitat that is characterised by short grass and dry acacia bush. They use their large molars to chew the coarse grass. The hirola can go for long periods without drinking water, and survives drought by storing extra fat in its body. Hirolas feed mostly at dawn and dusk.

Their range, a restricted area of approximately 7,600 km² along the border of Kenya and Somalia, is well outside any official or gazetted national parks, thus increasing their vulnerability – especially to hunting and habitat encroachment. Once common throughout East Africa, the species has suffered a devastating decline in the last 30 years, with numbers plummeting from around 14,000 in the 1970s to an estimated less than 500 today.

The mountain bongo

Bongos are definitely one of the most unique, colourful and spectacular antelopes in the planet, immediately recognised by their striking reddish chestnut coat with black markings, conspicuous white stripes and long spiralling horns.

©myopixia

Their main habitat is the tropical rain forests of Central and West Africa. However, a small isolated population and critically endangered subspecies – the mountain bongo inhabits the forests of central Kenya. The mountain bongos are larger than their western counterparts and have a more vibrant colour.

The mountain bongo was once numerous in the forested zones of Mount Kenya, the Aberdares, Mau, Cherengani Hills and Mount Elgon. Their numbers have declined dramatically over the past 40 years and now confined to isolated populations in patches of forest on Mt. Kenya, and the Aberdares. Mountain bongos are classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

The decline has been caused by a combination of several factors mainly loss of habitat, hunting and livestock-mediated diseases. Because of its beauty and relative scarcity, the mountain bongo was long viewed as a prized trophy by hunters. Their population in zoos far exceeds that in the wild.

The Kenyan Wildlife Service, in conjunction with conservation organisations, have formulated a number of strategies for the species, among which include conducting regular surveillance and security patrols for the remaining wild mountain bongos. A robust captive population of 526 individuals (as of December 2003) flourishes in several locations around the world, and a collaborative project known as the Bongo Repatriation Programme is being used to re-establish a viable wild population in Mount Kenya and the Aberdares.

Currently the status of mountain bongos in the wild is still uncertain with their population still small, fragmented and vulnerable to extinction.

The Tana River mangabey

The Tana River mangabey is a medium-sized monkey characterised by a long tail and a yellowish-brown coat. It has a conspicuous crest on its crown and white eyelids that stand out conspicuously against its jet black face.

©Kenny Ross

The species is highly endangered and is endemic to a fragmented riverine forest mosaic along the lower Tana River in the coast region of Kenya. These forests are naturally fragmented due to the meandering course of the river and its fluctuating water levels.

Mangabeys are highly dependent on the forest for their survival. Much of their diet is composed of plant material from the canopy or sub-canopy of the forest. The forest has over the years been degraded through unsustainable forest clearing (an estimated 50% of the original forest has been lost in the last 20 years) and resource extraction (felling of trees for canoe construction, wild honey collection, and palm fronds used for thatching and mats) resulting in a rapid decline of the species.

Tana River mangabeys are ranked as one of the world’s 25 most threatened primates. Currently there are an estimated 1,000 –1,200 individuals remaining in the wild.

Habitat destruction continues to be the main cause of the Tana River mangabey decline and an effective conservation approach is desperately needed. Past conservation efforts have not been successful.

Solutions must be found for the problem of forest clearing, and the harvesting of forest products must be better managed, if there is any chance of protecting the habitat of this critically endangered primate and forestalling its otherwise imminent extinction.

African civet
The African civet is found across sub-Saharan Africa in different species and is the only remaining member of its genetic group.
While the African civet might appear like cats, they are not felines and are actually more closely related to Mongoose and Weasels.
Each African civet comes in different pattern of brown and black spots which provide great camouflage in forest. Their habitat includes highlands, lowlands, forests, open savannah and swamps. To mark its territory, the animal secrets a fluid, civet, used in the manufacturing of perfumes.

Greater Kudu
The animal, whose habitat includes the savannah and woodland, has a long neck, only beaten by giraffes. Although big in appearance, greater Kudu are known to be swift and excellent jumpers (can cover up to 6.6 feet high).
A descendant of the antelope family, greater kudus are found in Eastern and Southern Africa. They are one of the longest-horned antelopes in the world. The notable twisted horns are only found in male kudus.

Anambra Waxbill
The Anambra waxbill is approximately 12 cm long. This species is a dun-coloured finch with reddish brown bill and rump. If looked at closely, it has very fine barring on its upperparts, sides of breast and flanks, with unusual pale eyes. It has a typical waxbill-like tzzzt call.
Habitat
The Anambra waxbill lives in small flocks of up to 20 birds or more. It appears to be found at southern Nigeria , and is known with certainty from only five reported sightings. It is usually found in long grass along rivers, lagoon sandbanks, marshes, swamps and forest. It feeds principally on grass seeds taken from seedheads.

Sungazer
The sungazer (also called the giant girdled lizard) is endemic to the Highveld grasslands of South Africa, and is largest species in the Cordylidae family of lizards. It is usually about 15cm to 18cm long, and is heavily armoured.
The sungazer gets its name from its tendency to lie in the sun, holding its upper half off the ground.

Beisa oryx
Also a species of antelope, Beisa oryx is found in East Africa and comes in two subspecies: the common Beisa Oryx mainly found in the Horn of Africa’s steppes and semi-deserts, and fringe-eared Oryx commonly found in southern Kenya and part of Tanzania. Unlike kudus, both sexes grow horns, but the females’ tend to be longer.
With soft-tan grey as the main color, a black stripe separating it from the white underbelly, Beisa Oryx stands 110 to 120 centimeters at the shoulder. It has striking black stripes on the neck, along the nose from the eyes to the corner of the mouth, and on the forehead.

Rock Firefinch
The Rock firefinch has a blue-grey bill, red back in the male and reddish brown back in the female and juvenile and broad primaries in both the adult and juvenile.
Location
It is commonly found in bushy and rocky outcrops on the Jos Plateau and inselbergs to the north and east. It probably feeds on grass seeds.

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