The Species We Work With
African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus)
The African Wild Dog (also known as the African Hunting Dog or Painted Dog) is the second most endangered carnivore in Africa. In South Africa, there are fewer than 550 remaining in the wild. They face a true risk of becoming extinct in the wild as they face a major threats from humans and destruction of their habitat. Population sizes continue to decline as a result of ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with livestock farmers, snare poaching and infectious disease.
The African Wild Dog is a canid that lives throughout Africa from heavily forested areas to open plains. They hunt a variety of prey depending on the size of their pack, but will generally hunt medium sized antelope such as nyala and impala but larger packs have been known to hunt wildebeest and zebra.
African wild dogs have a dynamic pack structure led by an Alpha pair. There is also a Beta male and Beta female that will step up should anything happen to either of the Alpha wild dogs. The other wild dogs take turns in doing different duties in the pack, be it hunting or protecting the den when there are young pups. The pack allows them to hunt efficiently and to protect themselves from larger predators such as lion, leopard and hyena.
White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum) & Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis)
We have two species of Rhinoceros in Southern Africa – the White Rhino and the Black Rhino. Black Rhino are slightly smaller in size with a smaller head, and are browsers that feed on leaves, twigs and fruit. The larger White Rhino is a grazer feeding on grass. Both species of rhino adapt well to a variety of habitats including dense bush and grasslands, as long as there is a source of water close by in order to drink from and wallow in. Rhino are the second largest land mammal after the elephant and can live up to 50 years. Rhino calves however are still in danger of falling prey to predators such as hyena and lion, yet the largest threat to rhino currently is humans and their poaching for monetary gain.
White Rhino: Near Threatened. The species is at risk, but is not as yet considered vulnerable to extinction in the wild.
Black Rhino: Critically Endangered. The species is considered to be at an extremely high risk of becoming extinct in the wild.
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)
Cheetah are the fastest mammals on land being able to reach speeds of 120km/h over short distances. They will often use these short bursts of speed when stalking their prey and use their tails to steer like the rudder of a boat when in pursuit. Cheetah can be found throughout Africa in open plains and grasslands or other terrains that allow them to run unhindered. Cheetah are characteristically identified by the black tear marks along their faces and their slender frame.
Conflict with farmers and ranchers is the major threat to cheetahs in southern Africa. They are also vulnerable to being caught in snares set for other species. Another threat to the cheetah is inter-specific competition with other large predators, especially lions, which often prey on cheetah cubs. Around 30% of the world’s Cheetah population has disappeared over the last 3 cheetah generations. Fewer than 7500 remain in the wild, with about 1000 of these found in South Africa.
IUCN STATUS: Vulnerable, with some sub-species critically endangered.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Leopards are the strongest of the big African cats. They have beautiful rustic gold coats covered with black rosettes. Leopards can be found in a variety of habitats. Their territories often include dense bush areas and rocky outcrops to aid them in hunting and hiding. Leopards have mastered the art of stalking their prey and can get within 5 meters of their target before they pounce! The Leopard is an adaptable, widespread species that nonetheless has many threatened sub-populations. While still numerous and even thriving in some marginal habitats from which other big cats have disappeared in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, in North Africa leopards are on the verge of extinction. Leopards are carnivorous and will hunt anything from small reptiles to medium sized antelope, but have also been known to scavenge and will not let the opportunity of a free meal pass them by. These secretive individuals can live anywhere from 11 to 16 years, however, they have formidable enemies in both lion and hyena.
Throughout Africa, the major threats to Leopard are habitat conversion and intense persecution as leopards come into conflict with people across their range. A rapidly increasing threat to leopards is the poisoning of carcasses targeting carnivores, either as a means of predator control or incidentally. Skins and canines are also still widely traded domestically in some central and West African countries where parts are used in traditional rituals and sold openly in villages and cities.
IUCN STATUS: Near Threatened. The species is at risk, but is not as yet considered vulnerable to extinction in the wild.
African Lion (Panthera leo)
Lions are the second largest feline predator in the world after the tiger. These massive cats can live up to 14 years and can weigh up to 200 kilograms! Lions are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa and prefer a drier climate. They are often found in grasslands and riverbeds where there is more camouflage. Lions will feed on a variety of prey from small to large mammals but are also keen scavengers and have been known to get more than 50% of their meals by scavenging. Only around 30% of lion hunts result in a kill (compared to the 80% success rate of African Wild Dogs).
The main threats to lions are indiscriminate killing (primarily as a result of retaliatory or pre-emptive killing to protect life and livestock) and prey base depletion. Habitat loss and conversion has led to a number of populations becoming small and isolated. Trophy hunting is also carried out in a number of sub-Saharan African countries. There is much debate as to whether or not this is an important management tool for providing financial resources for lion conservation for both governments and local communities. These magnificent creatures face few threats in the wild besides hyenas and humans. Their cubs however are vulnerable to most predators.
African Elephant (Loxodonta)
The African Elephant is the largest land mammal in the world. These enormous grey and wrinkled creatures can weigh up to 6 tons and grow to 4 meters tall. Elephants adapt easily and can be found in a variety of habitats throughout Africa from dense forests to open plains. The females and young live in herds while bulls are often by themselves or in smaller all-male herds. Elephants are herbivores and will eat any vegetation available to them, be it grass, leaves, fruit or bark. They eat constantly throughout the day and night and can consume up to 5% of their body mass. These large animals can live up to 65 years and have only a few predators that are able to kill them, but hyenas and lions are a threat to the calves and in certain areas lions have adapted to kill adult elephants.
Poaching for ivory and meat has traditionally been the major cause of the decline in elephant populations. Illegal hunting remains a significant factor in some areas, particularly in Central Africa. Currently the most important perceived threat is the loss and fragmentation of habitat caused by ongoing human population expansion and rapid land conversion.
IUCN STATUS: Vulnerable with populations in rapid decline.
Vultures have fantastic vision and fly in from huge distances to come and feast. As scavengers, vultures are important members of ecosystems as they control disease outbreaks by keeping the environment clean of rotting carcasses. Vultures essentially allow us to measure the functioning of an ecosystem. These magnificent birds are now only abundant within protected nature reserves and these characteristic sightings are becoming more and more of a luxury.
Vultures throughout southern Africa are specifically targeted for medicinal purposes in the muthi trade as well as for meat. Poachers catch vultures by poisoning animal carcasses, which can wipe out huge numbers at once. Almost 70% of breeding pairs having vanished since 2001.
VULTURE CONSERVATION EFFORTS
In 2009, Wildlife ACT teamed up with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the Endangered Wildlife Trust Birds of Prey Programme to assist the annual Vulture Tagging Project in Zululand to help save the three tree-nesting vulture species found in KwaZulu-Natal: the African White Backed Vulture, Lappet Faced Vulture and White Headed Vulture. The project includes taking DNA samples, wing-tagging and fitting lightweight GPS units to both young and adult vultures to help understand flight paths, foraging areas, roosting spots and survival rates. Important too is helping to educate and create awareness among local farmers and communities.
Green & Hawksbill Turtles
After the alarm bell was sounded by prominent ecologists, Wilderness Safaris undertook the challenge of not only reversing North Island’s decline, but of taking the long road towards restoring the Island to its former glory. A cornerstone of this bold initiative has been the “Noah’s Ark” concept by which tortoises and certain species of flora and fauna are gradually being re-introduced to the Island. The ongoing process of Seychelles conservation is at the very heart of North Island’s philosophy, which is where we operate.
SEYCHELLES CONSERVATION EFFORTS
The work we do on North Island covers a range of conservation orientated projects spanning both terrestrial and marine aspects, but a large focus is the monitoring the endangered Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Tasks include beach patrols, tagging of individuals when needed, relocating and marking newly laid eggs, excavating hatched turtle nests to do shell counts, terrapin trapping and snorkelling along coral transects in order to compile a photographic ID database of corals and fish as well as sea turtles.
Hawksbills face multiple, severe threats including the Tortoiseshell Trade, egg collection, slaughter for meat, destructing of nesting and foraging habitat, oil pollution, entanglement and ingestion of marine debris and fishing gear and hybridisation of Hawksbills with other species. In 2001 a IUCN Red List Subcommittee upheld the Critically Endangered listing of the Hawksbill based on ongoing and long-term declines in excess of 80% within three generations. Hawksbill Turtles can take 20 to 40 years to mature. Data on reproductive longevity in Hawksbills are limited, but becoming available with increasing numbers of intensively monitored, long-term projects on protected beaches.