The Big Cats of East Africa

Written by Andrew Muigai

The most charismatic of allrepparttar animals that roamrepparttar 146511 savannas of East Africa arerepparttar 146512 big cats. Safari enthusiasts exercise great patience and go to great lengths to ensure a sighting. To beholdrepparttar 146513 beauty and splendour ofrepparttar 146514 big cats inrepparttar 146515 wild is a prospect that warmsrepparttar 146516 heart of every nature lover. Among a number ofrepparttar 146517 ancient civilizations -repparttar 146518 Romans, Sumerians, and Egyptians-repparttar 146519 big cats were held in fascination and in higher esteem than any other wild animals. Some were indeed taken as gods, and many arerepparttar 146520 kings who have set images ofrepparttar 146521 big cats on their royal emblems.

The big cats have inrepparttar 146522 past been more widely dispersed inrepparttar 146523 world than they are today. In our time,repparttar 146524 redoubts ofrepparttar 146525 big cats are in Africa and small pockets of Asia. The cat family is known by scientists as felidae and refers to an assortment of animals grouped as small and big cats. The small cats are less well known and appreciated. In East Africa small cats include wild cats, sand and serval cats. The small cats are very widespread in almost all habitats in East Africa. But they keep their heads down and elicit little conflict with man-repparttar 146526 ultimate enemy of all wild animals.

The big cats you find outside Africa include tiger, jaguar, leopard, cougar and Iberian lynx. The big cats arerepparttar 146527 most committed carnivores inrepparttar 146528 entire animal kingdom. They are mostly nocturnal and rather secretive in nature. In common with primates, they read a lot from facial expression and love to play. The big cats capture and kill their prey. To witness a lion on a hunt is truly fascinating- if for a moment you take your mind fromrepparttar 146529 fate ofrepparttar 146530 prey. For allrepparttar 146531 fame ofrepparttar 146532 big cats of East Africa, there are just three of them: lion, leopard and cheetah.

The lion, so calledrepparttar 146533 king ofrepparttar 146534 jungle, isrepparttar 146535 largest carnivore in East Africa. The adult lion stretches between 1.4m to 2.2 m - excludingrepparttar 146536 tail. The male can attain a weight of up to 225kg, whilerepparttar 146537 hefty female reaches 168kg. The lion is noted for its exceptional strength and has been known to bring downrepparttar 146538 much larger buffalo, which has about 4 times its weight. For this reason, kings have understandably sought to be associated lions. But they hesitate to be associated with its reputation for sloth- forrepparttar 146539 lion shamelessly spends up to 20 hours daily resting.

Lions are social animals and ofrepparttar 146540 big cats, they arerepparttar 146541 only ones to live and hunt in family groups. The group or pride usually consists of a number of related females and few unrelated males. Young females usually join their mother pride, but young males venture intorepparttar 146542 outside world to seek female company. Females in a pride practice communal cub rearing and hunting.

Lions are highly territorial. Males enforce territorial integrity, by means of their characteristic fierce roars, scent marking and periodic border patrols.

Lions ofrepparttar 146543 same pride develop strong social bonds and practice head rubbing and social grooming. Females give birth after a gestation period of 3.5 months. After only 6 weeks,repparttar 146544 cubs are induced into a lifelong habit of meat eating. Cubs play in imitation of adults and this helps inrepparttar 146545 development of such useful skills as stalking prey. Though born to kings, cubs need protection from hyenas and leopard. And also from non-pride male lions- forrepparttar 146546 reason that females will not mate until cubs are about 18 months old. The cubs therefore stand in repparttar 146547 way of a mating encounter.

Fighting off males bent on infanticide appears to be one ofrepparttar 146548 reasons why females live in prides. The moniker "king ofrepparttar 146549 jungle" is misleading, for buffalo and hyenas sometimes kill lions. Elephants too have no fear ofrepparttar 146550 king - they will charge at lions to encourage them to move on. But man remains repparttar 146551 biggest threat to lions and he has huntedrepparttar 146552 lion to extinction in most ofrepparttar 146553 world. The lion population in Africa is today estimated at only 23,000 andrepparttar 146554 survival status is listed as vulnerable in international conventions. In most parks and game reserves of East Africa, however,repparttar 146555 lion is impressively visible. Particularly inrepparttar 146556 grassy plains and dry forests whererepparttar 146557 large plains herbivores they prey on thrive. You will easily seerepparttar 146558 king in Ngorongoro and Serengeti in Tanzania and Amboseli, Nairobi, Lake Nakuru, and Maasai Mara in Kenya. In some other locations- such as Lake Manyara in Tanzania, Tsavo, in Kenya and Queen Elizabeth in Uganda, patience and skill is called for.

Earlyrepparttar 146559 last century, lions received extremely bad press when they disruptedrepparttar 146560 building ofrepparttar 146561 East African railway inrepparttar 146562 Tsavo area of Kenya by feeding onrepparttar 146563 workforce. The movie "The Man-eaters of Tsavo" has captured this macabre drama. It is in this atmosphere that Theodore Roosevelt,repparttar 146564 American president who was a pioneer safari enthusiasts said of lions: "except when resting and inrepparttar 146565 breeding season,repparttar 146566 whole career of a lion may be best summed up inrepparttar 146567 single word: rapine".

Lions when deprived of their usual prey occasionally attack domestic animals and even human beings. Lions that are infirm- such asrepparttar 146568 old andrepparttar 146569 sick can easily attack humans and you are advised to exercise caution and take your photos fromrepparttar 146570 safety of a car. So if you are out camping, watch out! All said incidences of lions attacking humans are extremely rare. The image ofrepparttar 146571 lion has recently been rehabilitated inrepparttar 146572 minds of many byrepparttar 146573 popular children cartoon drama "Lion King", whose hero is Simba- Swahili for lion.

The future ofrepparttar 146574 lion inrepparttar 146575 savannas of East Africa is not assured. The main challenge is conflict with man, his ancient enemy. People living in areas bordering parks, sometimes inflictrepparttar 146576 ultimate punishment to lions when they are caught preying on livestock. Inrepparttar 146577 Serengeti plains of Tanzania,repparttar 146578 king has recently experienced attacks by a viral disease know as FIV -Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. FIV, just like HIV in humans, results in lowered immunity makingrepparttar 146579 animals vulnerable to other diseases. Unlike HIV, however,repparttar 146580 primary means of transmission of FIV is bite wounds and not sexual intimacy.

Ofrepparttar 146581 big cats of East Africa,repparttar 146582 most elegant isrepparttar 146583 leopard. The leopard isrepparttar 146584 most naturally adapted ofrepparttar 146585 cats. It can survive in almost in any habitat offering sufficient food and cover. That is why, ofrepparttar 146586 big cats, leopards thrive inrepparttar 146587 most diverse range of habitats; and of land mammals they enjoyrepparttar 146588 widest distribution inrepparttar 146589 tropics. In East Africa, they have been found inrepparttar 146590 most unlikely of places- from deserts, to mountaintops and even in cities. That not withstanding, scientists were surprised, when in 1990 three leopards were found living in a Kampala city train station. The full grown adult stretches between 1 to 1.5 m and can reach a weight of 60 kg. Man (and especially woman) has always been jealous ofrepparttar 146591 leopards beautiful coat. Those of East Africa have round spots unlikerepparttar 146592 square spots ofrepparttar 146593 southern African species. Leopards are solitary animals and you hardly ever find them in groups. The sexes associate only long enough to mate! Females are ready to breed at about 2 years of age, when they produce up to 3 cubs after a gestation periood of about 90 days. The leopard therefore faces less danger than eitherrepparttar 146594 lion orrepparttar 146595 cheetah. Notwithstanding that they are very widely distributed in East Africa, you are unlikely to see them in large numbers. In addition, this most secretive of cats is nocturnal. The traveler who is determined to see them must be very calm and patient, for onlyrepparttar 146596 most persevering are rewarded. Even scientists have such trouble spotting them, withrepparttar 146597 consequence that they are not as well studied asrepparttar 146598 other cats.

Southern Tanzania Safari

Written by Andrew Muigai

Tanzania is one of Africa's top wildlife safari destinations. Wildlife lovers have a choice of two very different safari routes- referred to asrepparttar northern and southern circuits. The contrast is most obvious inrepparttar 146510 topography, habitat and climate. Onrepparttar 146511 northern Tanzania safari circuit, which I have talked about in another article, you visit such renowned wildlife havens as Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. The southern safari route is anchored on Dar es Salaam, and covers Ruaha, Mikumi, Udzungwa Mountains National Parks andrepparttar 146512 Selous Game Reserve.

The southern circuit is more discreet, less accessible and has fewer visitors. Adventure lovers and those who seek closer contact with some of Africa's most complex ecosystems will be rewarded. Here you can view game in a variety of new ways- walking, riding and boating. If you have not hadrepparttar 146513 privilege of getting up close to wild animals in their natural habitat, it is an exciting and refreshing experience. For this encounter,repparttar 146514 park authorities require that an armed ranger escort you. It is therefore not as dangerous as it may first appear.

Mikumi National Park isrepparttar 146515 most accessible ofrepparttar 146516 southern game sanctuaries.It is 283 km torepparttar 146517 west of Dar es Salaam - Tanzania's coastal commercial capital. Occupying 3,230 sq km, it carries a variety of wildlife including elephants, lion, giraffe, impala, warthog, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, hartebeest and eland. Wild dogs- considered an endangered carnivore species -are found here in good numbers. Other resident animals are crocodiles, hippos, and monitor lizards. Birds are most plentiful inrepparttar 146518 wet season when up to 300 species gathers here. Many of these are Eurasian migrants, exercising torepparttar 146519 full,repparttar 146520 freedom that comes with wings.

The Mikumi flood plain isrepparttar 146521 dominant feature ofrepparttar 146522 park, which is bordered on one side byrepparttar 146523 Uluguru Mountains and on another byrepparttar 146524 Lumango range. Mikumi formsrepparttar 146525 northern border ofrepparttar 146526 Selous Game Reserve and is part of a vast wilderness ecosystem covering 75,000 sq km. Open grasslands stretch onrepparttar 146527 plains, whilerepparttar 146528 miombo woodlands cover higher ground.

The park is accessible year round- unlike some ofrepparttar 146529 sanctuaries inrepparttar 146530 southern circuit. To get to Mikuni from Dar, you spend 4 hours on road or 1 hour by air. Budget travelers take a bus ride to park gate, from where game drives are organised. There is limited accommodation at a few luxury lodges and tented camps and at 3 campsites. If you find yourself in Dar on a weekend, this is where you head to see wildlife.

The 1,990 sq km Udzungwa Mountains National Park is 348 km west of Dar and 65 km southwest of Mikumi. The mountains are part ofrepparttar 146531 Eastern Arc Mountains that fall southeast of Kilimanjaro. The park is unique in Tanzania, having been created primarily to conserve plant life. The pristine mountain forest habitat hosts numerous rare plants. There are six primate species, out of which two species are endemic -repparttar 146532 Iringa red colobus monkey andrepparttar 146533 Sanje Crested Mangabey.

Atrepparttar 146534 plateau area, you find elephants, lions, hunting dogs and buffalos, though not in as large numbers as in some ofrepparttar 146535 other Tanzania parks. Birds also do well here, and indeedrepparttar 146536 park ranks as one of Africa's most important bird conservation areas. Scientists have in recent times come across at least four previously unknown bird species. The best time to visit is overrepparttar 146537 dry season between June and October. The hiking trails overrepparttar 146538 wet season are slippery, which can be quite a nuisance.

The Ruaha National Park is rightly named after its lifeblood-repparttar 146539 Great Ruaha River. Occupying 12,950 sq km, it is Tanzania's second largest national park and its biggest elephant sanctuary. Home to numerous crocodiles and hippo,repparttar 146540 Great Ruaha draws many thirsty waterbuck, leopard, buffalo, reedbuck, wild dogs, lion and hyena to its banks. Plain animals such as zebra, greater and lesser kudu, sable and roan antelope, impala and giraffe are found onrepparttar 146541 plains stretching fromrepparttar 146542 rivers edge.

The topography is agreeable to hiking and walking safaris are allowed. In wet season months of March to April and October to Novemberrepparttar 146543 bird population peaks andrepparttar 146544 park has over 370 bird species, including some Eurasian migrants. The flora is very diverse and over 1650 plant species flourish here. The Ruaha hasrepparttar 146545 unique distinction of having plant and animal life found in both eastern and southern Africa. The climate here is hot and dry and temperatures can reach 40C in October.

Cont'd on page 2 ==> © 2005
Terms of Use