Mammals

CAPE BUFFALO 

CAPE BUFFALO 

The South African Cape Buffalo is a subspecies of the African buffalo; it is the largest, darkest in color and temperament of the African buffalo subspecies. Enormous beasts, Cape Buffalo males can weigh more than two tons. Due to its immense size and foul temperament, it has never been domesticated by humans and is one of the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt in all of Africa.

Of the big five game animals, which include the African lion, African leopard, African elephant, and black rhinoceros, the Cape Buffalo is the only one that is not endangered at all. As the Cape Buffalo is capable of fighting off and even killing many of its potential predators, it has relatively few predators aside from humans, lions, and large crocodiles. In fact, only the most skilled lions and crocodiles are capable of successfully bringing down. However, despite its natural ferocity, the Cape Buffalo is most susceptible to disease of all the African buffalo subspecies,. This susceptibility has led the South African government to restrict the movement of the herds as a preventative measure against spreading disease amongst domesticated animals. 

 

GEMSBOK 

GEMSBOK 

The Gemsbok is a species of antelope found in South Africa. The Gemsbok is found mainly in central and the northwestern region of South Africa. The Gemsbok is famous for its spectacularly long horns that reach nearly three feet in length. Females by and large have longer horns, making them one of the few species where the female is more highly valued than the male. Since they live mainly in the Kalahari Desert and northwestern South Africa, a notably arid region of the country, they do not require large amounts of drinking water. 

Controversially, a small amount of Gemsbok were introduced to New Mexico. Over 93 Gemsbok were released over eight years between 1969 and 1977. Due to the lack of natural predators in New Mexico, the population has spiked.

TRANSVAAL LION 

TRANSVAAL LION 

Also known as the Kalahari lion, the Transvaal lions live throughout southern Africa, from Namibia in the west to Mozambique in the east and ranging into South Africa. These lions mainly live in semi-arid grasslands and the savannah. As with all felines, Transvaal lions are carnivores that feed on herbivorous mammals such as zebra, wildebeests, and warthogs. They also might attempt to hunt larger prey, such as the Cape Buffalo, white rhino, and the South African giraffe. Transvaal lions are about the average size for lions, with males averaging 330 to 450 pounds. Females are smaller than males at 243 to 401 pounds, and on average the Transvall lion is smaller than other lion species females. 

FUN FACT: The rare white lion comes from the Transvaal subspecies. These lions originate from a recessive genetic color mutation that leads to leucism. Though the mutation is to the same gene that causes albinism, leucistic lions are not albino because they still have colored eyes. Due to their rarity white lions are found mostly in captivity and zoos where they are bred for their distinctive colorings. For decades it was thought that these lions, considered divine by some in the province of Limpopo, could not survive in the wild. However, in 2009 a pride of white lions was released into their natural habitat and have thrived ever since. 

 

NAMIBIAN CHEETAH 

NAMIBIAN CHEETAH 

Sometimes called the South African cheetah, the Namibian cheetah is found throughout southern Africa. The Namibian cheetah is a mid-sized cat, with the biggest males only growing to be as large as 150 pounds. Females are a little smaller: the biggest max out at around 130 pounds. Cheetahs that live in the desert are typically much smaller than those that live in the grasslands or savannah. The coloring of the South African cheetah is the typical gold of most cheetahs, though their fur is slightly thicker than other subspecies. They also have fewer spots on their bellies than other cheetahs. The distinctive tear lines found on the faces of all cheetahs are also thicker in the South African species.

This species of cheetah is in the process of bouncing back from being severely threatened. In almost a decade since 2007, when barely four thousand were left, there has been a resurgence to over six thousand Namibian cheetas. In Namibia and South Africa the resurgence has been particularly strong. Namibia currently has the largest population in the world, a population which has grown from around 2,500 to over 3,500. In South Africa the population has more than tripled in the last decade, going from around 550 to an estimated 1,700. Unfortunately, conservation efforts have failed in other countries such as Zambia and Mozambique, where less than 100 remain. In Zimbabwe, for instance, as of 2015 the population had dropped from 1,500 to around 150. 

 

SOUTHERN WHITE RHINOCEROS 

SOUTHERN WHITE RHINOCEROS 

The southern square-lipped rhinoceros is the most abundant species of rhinoceros in the world and South Africa is home to 93% of its population. The white rhino is the largest species of rhino; females can weigh 3,700 pounds, while males can typically weigh over 5,000 pounds. They have two horns on their snouts, one much longer than the other. Males typically have larger horns. A large hump on the top of their necks supports their large heads. Most body hair is found in the ears and bristly tail. 

At the beginning of the twentieth century the southern white rhino was one of the most endangered species in the world. Less than twenty individuals lived in South African reserve. Over the course of the last century, however, the population has slow come back. Now it is estimated that around 20,000 of the animals live and graze in Southern Africa, with about 19,000 of these residing in South Africa. This rhinoceros species is no longer considered threatened, though there are still dangers to their status, most notably the loss of their natural habitats. 

 

RIVERINE RABBIT 

RIVERINE RABBIT 

The riverine rabbit is currently one of the most critically endangered animals in the world with an adult population of less than 250. These rabbits are slightly larger than other rabbits and have longer ears. They have black lines that run from the corner of their mouths across their cheeks that make their mouths look larger than they really are. They are only found in certain areas of the Great Karoo, none of which are protected areas. They tend to prefer river valleys and shrubland due to the soft soil and ability to create vast tunnels for the rearing of their young.