In Kruger National Park you’ll be among nearly 150 species of mammals including rare African wild dogs, rhinos, and cheetahs. This series of posts will focus on the common mammals seen on safari in Kruger National Park: zebras, giraffes, hyenas, wildebeests, and hippos. Here we provide a brief description of each Kruger Park mammal.
Burchell's Zebra: Safety in Numbers
Zebras form strong social bonds and are active during the day. You’ll see Burchell's Zebra resting and feeding in open areas of grassland, scrub, and lightly-wooded bushveld. These mammals are herbivores that eat grasses, but are also capable of digesting leaves, twigs, and bark.Forming a large herd increases individual survival rate, and herds are often defended by several aggressive males that ward off predators. Temporary groups of young males often form before each one forms his own tightly-knit herd of breeding females. Often seen near watering holes, zebras are abundant in the park.
Giraffes Graze in the Canopy Where They Find Little Competition for Food
Another herbivore, the giraffe is the tallest living animal on the planet. A giraffe’s favorite food consists of the leaves of the acacia tree, located so high in the canopy that other herbivores cannot reach them. These long-necked mammals consume a variety of other plants and occasionally graze on newly sprouted grasses as well.While giraffes don’t form strong social bonds, they exhibit herding behavior and often graze in groups, orienting their bodies in various directions to detect predators. Diurnal creatures, giraffes are very active at dawn and dusk. However, no matter what time you visit the park you are likely to see giraffes grazing in the canopy.
Hyenas: An Important Part of the Kruger National Park Ecosystem
Hyenas are nocturnal carnivores that live in small clans and rest in deserted aardvark burrows or thick bush during the day. Clan size varies from breeding pairs and their young to larger groups of adult males and females. Brown hyenas are well-known for their grisly “laughing” calls, a common nighttime sound in the African bush. While a spotted hyena is a bit more aggressive, a mere glimpse of the shy brown hyena is considered lucky.Hyenas are scavengers and forage for animals killed by other carnivores or those that die of natural causes. Commonly seen feeding in open savannah and woodland areas by night, the hyenas of South Africa are an important part of the food web and essential to the functioning of the park’s ecosystem -- Hyenas are misunderstood and wonderful!
The Wildebeest Migrates Seasonally to Maximize Food Sources
Another herbivore commonly seen in the park is the wildebeest. Foraging in the open plains and lightly-wooded bushveld, the wildebeest maximizes resources by migrating seasonally over large distances. When resting and feeding, the males aggressively defend the herd.On safari in Kruger National Park, you're likely to see two species of wildebeest: the blue wildebeest and black wildebeest. The blue wildebeest travel in herds ranging from small groups of ten individuals to a few thousand. Black wildebeest are found in three types of herds: bachelors, territorial males that compete for females, and females.
On Safari in Kruger National Park: The Hippopotamus and Size as a Survival Strategy
The Hippo is a semi-aquatic mammal that can remain underwater for up to five minutes. Weighing up to two-and-a-half tons, hippos walk along the bottom of river beds or along the banks foraging for grasses. Lions can often be seen resting on the banks near the hippos; the sheer size of a hippo provides its defense.On safari in Kruger National Park, hippos are a common sight!