Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Endangered Species: wildlife to be viewed before it's too late

Author: Bronwen Roberts

There are several factors leading to endangerment of wildlife species: habitat destruction, introduction of exotic species, and overexploitation. It is hard to identify or predict human effects on individual species and habitats. However, it seems the earth is groaning under the weight of human abuse over the decades. It may take centuries to re-grow forests where many of the world's severely threatened animals live. Our planet is changing at such a fast rate and due to long-term abuse of the earth; nature seems no longer in harmony with itself. If the strongest forces in rapid habitat loss are human beings, then it is up to us to put structures in place to protect endangered species.

Private Game Lodge in South Africa protects species The Wild Dog is one of Africa's most endangered mammal species and located at the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The main contributory factor to the decline in population numbers is persecution by humankind, until recently even within conservation areas. Other factors are diseases like rabies and distemper, where Wild Dogs are in contact with domestic animals. Genetic inbreeding may be the possible cause of the Kruger Park Wild Dog's life expectancy of only six years.

Males are slightly larger than females and weigh 20-30 kg as adults. Each individual has a blotchy yellow, black and white unique coat pattern, which makes it possible to identify every individual in a population with certainty. Wild Dogs prey mainly on small to medium sized animals, of which the Impala is the favourite prey. In East Africa, they stand recorded as having hunted prey as large as Wildebeest and Zebra. Wild Dogs hunt in packs, and all individuals collaborate in a team effort to chase and wear out pursued prey to exhaustion. Once brought to a standstill: the prey is killed by all the dogs tearing it apart at once. Wild Dogs do take livestock in some areas, but this is a rare occurrence.

Breeding in the Wild Wild Dogs are seasonal breeders. In South Africa, pups are born during mid winter after a gestation period of 70 days. Known as the alpha pair, the dominant male and female are the only dogs to breed in a Wild Dog pack. Other members forego the right to breed and act only as helpers in the pack. A litter is safe guarded in burrows.

Their nomadic movements make simple estimates of their distribution difficult. Until very recently, the range of the Wild Dog included much of sub-Saharan Africa, apart from rainforest areas and deserts. Now, however, they have been extirpated from most of their range, they are extinct in most countries in West and Central Africa, and in the East and the South they are confined to a few areas where human population density remains low, but you can view them on one of the Kruger Park Safaris in South Africa.

Sabi Sabi/Kruger Park Safaris The Cheetah is the fastest land animal over short distances, and can reach speeds of up to 90 km/h (55.9 m/h) in pursuit of prey. This Cat is characterised by a slender body, long legs, and a distinctly rounded head with small rounded ears. It has a strongly spotted coat and a long tail, which has a unique pattern of striped markings.

The Cheetah's main prey is medium to small antelope such as Steenbok and Duiker, Thomson's Gazelle and Springbok, but there have been accounts of males grouping together to hunt larger prey such as Wildebeest. They also prey on Baboons, ground-living Birds, Bustards, Hares, and Porcupines.

Cheetahs do not have a fixed seasonal breeding cycle and in this too, they are similar to leopards. Cheetah cubs are born after a gestation period of about three months. Usually two cubs are born in the litter, but occasionally there are up to six. Cubs stay with their mother for about two years, but sadly, most of them never live to adulthood because they are preyed upon by Lions, Leopards, Hyenas, Foxes and Eagles, to name but a few. Being a comparatively frail Cat, the mother often has to give up her young or risk being killed herself. However, in areas where there is good cover or few predators, the possibility of a Cheetah's survival is quite good.

The Rare Wild Cat of the Bushveld Cheetahs have disappeared from very large areas of the African continent due to modern man's colonisation. They are predominantly diurnal, with peaks of activity at sunrise and sunset. Those who have never heard a Cheetah's call will be very surprised to hear it make an almost bird-like chirp. While they also growl, snarl and hiss like domestic Cats, they do not roar as some people might expect them to. They prefer to frequent open plains as is often depicted in films, but they are also at home in savannah woodland areas.

This rare and totally protected species is located only in the Kalahari and remote areas of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga, as well as sporadically in the Northern Cape Province. The King Cheetah is not a species on its own, but a natural phenomenon amongst the Cheetah family, where at times, their young are naturally born with this colouring. The King Cheetah is located predominantly in the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

About the author: Over many years; strict conservation policies and successful wildlife management have resulted in a large and varied assortment of African game species within the area of the Sabi Sabi Luxury game lodges in South Africa, which lie within the 65,000 hectare Sabi Sands Game Reserve in the southern section of the Kruger National Park. Each of these game lodges is surrounded by hundreds of species of

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