While the Leopard (Panthera pardus) is the focus species for the Panthera Leopard Survey, we often come across other interesting nocturnal African animals of the night on our camera traps – many of which one would rarely get the opportunity to encounter otherwise.
Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)
One such animal is the Aardvark (Orycteropus afer). With its snout nose, long ears, powerful claws, and hunched demeanour, this peculiar mammal resembles no other in the African bush. A solitary animal, the Aardvark wanders the woodlands, scrubs, and grasslands at night – nose to the ground – seeking out colonies of termites and ants – whose mounds are then dug into with sharp, strong claws and probed by a long sticky tongue.
Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis)
The Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) is another favourite critter on the night-shift. Bold and fearlessly aggressive, they have been known to attack even the most fearsome of predators. Honey badgers are mainly nocturnal and roam the nights solo or in pairs. The name may stem from their penchant for tearing through beehives to get to the honey and larvae within, but they have a wide variety of food sources ranging from insects to small reptiles, rodents, birds and even fruit.
Striped Polecat Ictonyx striatus)
Often confused with the Striped Weasel (Poecilogale albinucha), the Striped Polecat’s (Ictonyx striatus) striking white markings set against its velvety black fur caution against the noxious spray emitted from its anal glands when threatened. Polecats are strictly nocturnal and often seek shelter in the burrows created by other animals.
Porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis)
One of the commonly sighted nocturnal African animals on our camera traps are Porcupines (Hystrix africaeaustralis). These prickly rodents are mainly herbivorous, prodding about at night tucking into roots, bulbs and tubers. As if their quill-laden bodies didn’t make them peculiar enough, they also collect the bones of other animals which they take back to their resting places (usually caves, burrows, and rocky outcrops). The bones are chewed and gnawed – a phenomenon known as osteophagia. This is believed to supplement minerals lacking in their diet.
Brown Hyaena (Hyaena brunnea)
Of all the eerie nightly beasts, the Brown Hyaena (Hyaena brunnea) has to be our favourite, especially here at Ithala Game Reserve, where our current survey is underway. With the absence of Lions and Wild Dogs, these impressive predators have the lion’s share and are often captured on our cameras with a mouth-full of ungulate. Contrary to popular opinion, Hyaenas are exceptional hunters which their reputation for scavenging often masks.
As the African sun sets, the bush transforms into a mystical darkness and makes way for those nocturnal African animals well-adapted to after-dark living. The Panthera Leopard Survey, run in partnership with Wildlife ACT and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, not only enables us to play a role in the conservation of an iconic and magnificent species but also affords us the opportunity to see some of nature’s rarely sighted nocturnal wonders in action.
Text by Leopard Survey Monitor Raeesah Chandlay