African elephant populations in southern Africa have stabilized!

Southern African hosts roughly 227,000 elephants out of 415,000 on the continent (in addition there is around 100,000 forest elephants).

In 2020, the estimate was that 30,000 elephants were being killed each year. While the majority of these were in the west african rainforest, and in east africa (it was estimated that the Selous lost 10s of thousands alone).

It is not even just in recent years, but over the last century, that the elephant population in southern Africa has fallen.

Another bonus, is that scientists are now finding clear proof in study after study, that elephants do better in reserves connected to other reserves, than they do in fortress reserves.

It is of course true, that a single reserve is better than nothing. However, increasingly, countries are recognizing that by building their reserves on the borders of their countries, their neighbours can also have reserves, and between them they can put aside enough land to truly allow elephants to live a more natural life.

From the Limpopo transfrontier park – a transfrontier reserve that includes the Kruger, to the Kalahari Zambezi transfrontier park, the Serengeti mara ecosystem and so many more, this is being shown over and over again.

Careful planning of reserves in west african rainforests, can expand this success at great speed if done carefully.

Rock (or cape) Hyrax

Rock or cape hyrax has 5 recognized subspecies, again, unsurprising given its vast range. Generally having a hide within a natural rock cavity, Rock hyraxes are social animals that live in colonies of up to 50 individuals. They sleep in one group, and start the day, warming up in the sun

They are also listed as least concern

As or when we get contacts to see these creatures, they will appear beneath the news section

Yellow-spotted Hyrax

Yellow-spotted Hyrax

Photo credit: D. Gordon, E. Robertson

Yellow-spotted Hyrax

Yellow-spotted hyrax, has a recognized 25 subspecies, though given the vast range of this species, this is perhaps not a surprise. They generally live in rocky areas and rock Kojes, that can be seen littered across savannah

It is listed as least concern, though in some areas it is hunted by humans, which has caused local problems. They are browsers, eating leaves twigs and other edible things it comes across (I have seen one eat a banana skin.

Kruger National Park and Mapungubwe National Park, are two reserves where they can be seen.

Countries containing at least some of their range, include  Angola, Botswana, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, northern South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

Though rock hyraxes resemble rodents, their closest living relatives are actually elephants and manatees.

Common Hippopotamus

Common Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus are a fascinating animal. Large, highly aggressive, and spending most of their days in water. For many people, their memory of a Hippopotamus on safari (or in a zoo) is a pond with a grey bump in the middle. But there is far more to a hippopotamus than meets the eyes. Duromg the night, Hippo leave the safety of the water and go into the bush to graze.

They are incredibly dangerous, and there is a far higher risk for people wandering in the bush to be killed by hippo than anything else. In the past, they were one of the few species that still lived in significant numbers outside reserves. Unfortunately, as the human population of Africa has grown, the majority of these free roaming Hippo have been killed – for an African living on a tiny income, a hippo is a huge pile of meat, which can be sold, and some of its teeth are made of ivory.

A rough estimate suggests that the meat is worth around 8000. When you add in the Ivory teeth, it is possible for a Hippo carcass to be worth a years average salary (and that is the mean salary). 85% of Africans survive on $5.50 per day, which works out at almost exactly $2000 – so for 85% of Africans, a hippo carcass is worth 4 years of salary – assuming that you do not make much money from the ivory, and it would not be surprising if this added significantly.

When you look at these numbers, it is not surprising that people poach Hippos -and it makes it very hard to work out how to save them.

Of course, Hippo can be worth far more in tourism dollars over their lifespan.

Common hippopotamus are possible to see in all the Savannahs that we have listed so far. Visit wild places to see the total list.

Below is links to some of the biggest (though as I say, hippo can often be seen in small reserves and in places outside reserves as well. All our savannah wild places have sizable populations of common hippopotamus.

Black Rhino

Black Rhino

So the black rhino is one of the two rhino species that survive in Africa. Their last common ancestor was around 6 million years ago  (in comparison the Javan and Indian rhino split just 2 million years ago). Being browsers, not grazers, they are far harder to see, as they spend their time deep in the bush, far from the open plains where white rhino are discovered.

Being solitary, they are also generally found at far lower densities than white rhinos. having said this, in many reserves this is as much as a result of poaching as of a low natural density. Having spent some time based around the Kruger, we have encountered White rhino a huge number of times, but black rhino have eluded us, though their dropping have been encountered on a few occasions.

The black rhino is a younger species than the white rhino having evolved from it, 4-5 million years ago.

They both have 2 horns, made of keratin, the same as our fingernails, with the front one being longer than the back one. The front horn has an average length of 50cm, though this is not a set thing. Plenty of black rhino have been measured with a horn 135cm long, and the world record was a horn 150cm long.

Regions of their range have been lost at various times, though in recent times, there has been an effort to turn back time In May 2017, 18 eastern black rhinos were translocated from South Africa to the Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The park had around 50 rhinos in the 1970s but had lost them all by 2007. In September 2017 18 were reintroduced, and 1 has been born since. The park employs a team to protect the rhinos and so far this has worked. In October 2017, This transfer took place in 2018. The governments of Chad and South Africa reached an agreement in October 2017,  to transfer six black rhinos from South Africa to Zakouma National Park in Chad; this was complete by May 2018. Once established, this will be the northernmost population of the species. The species was wiped out from Chad in the 1970s and is under severe pressure from poaching in South Africa. The agreement calls for South African experts to assess the habitat, local management capabilities, security and the infrastructure before the transfer can take place.

Historically there have been a wide range of subspecies suggested for this species: The most accepted position considers seven or eight subspecies, of which three became extinct in historical times and one is on the brink of extinction. I have listed all these below

  • Southern black rhinoceros also known as Cape black rhinoceros (D. b. bicornis) – Extinct. Once abundant from the Cape of Good Hope to Transvaal, South Africa and probably into the south of Namibia, this was the largest subspecies. It became extinct due to excessive hunting and habitat destruction around 1850.
  • North-eastern black rhinoceros (D. b. brucii) – Extinct. Formerly central Sudan, Eritrea, northern and south-eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti and northern and south-eastern Somalia. Relict populations in northern Somalia vanished during the early 20th century.
  • Western black rhinoceros (D. b. longipes) – Extinct. Once lived in South Sudan, northern Central African Republic, southern Chad, northern Cameroon, north-eastern Nigeria and south-eastern Niger. The range possibly stretched west to the Niger River in western Niger, though this is unconfirmed. The evidence from Liberia and Burkina Faso mainly rests upon the existence of indigenous names for the rhinoceros. A far greater former range in West Africa as proposed earlier is doubted by a 2004 study. The last known wild specimens lived in northern Cameroon. In 2006 an intensive survey across its putative range in Cameroon failed to locate any, leading to fears that it was extinct in the wild. On 10 November 2011 the IUCN declared the western black rhinoceros extinct.
  • Chobe black rhinoceros (D. b. chobiensis) – A local subspecies restricted to the Chobe Valley in southeastern Angola, Namibia (Zambezi Region) and northern Botswana. Nearly extinct, possibly only one surviving specimen in Botswana.
  • Uganda black rhinoceros (D. b. ladoensis) – Former distribution from South Sudan, across Uganda into western Kenya and south-westernmost Ethiopia. Black rhinos are considered extinct across most of this area and its conservational status is unclear. Probably surviving in Kenyan reserves.
  • Eastern black rhinoceros (D. b. michaeli) – Had a historical distribution from South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, down through Kenya into north-central Tanzania. Today, its range is limited primarily to Kenya and Tanzania.
  • South-central black rhinoceros (D. b. minor) – Most widely distributed subspecies, characterised by a compact body, proportionally large head and prominent skin-folds. Ranged from north-eastern South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal) to north-eastern Tanzania and south-eastern Kenya. Preserved in reserves throughout most of its former range but probably extinct in eastern Angola, southern Democratic Republic of Congo and possibly Mozambique. Extinct but reintroduced in Malawi, Botswana, and Zambia. It also ranges in parts of Namibia and inhabit national parks in South Africa.
  • South-western black rhinoceros (D. b. occidentalis) – A small subspecies, adapted to survival in desert and semi-desert conditions. Originally distributed in north-western Namibia and southwestern Angola, today restricted to wildlife reserves in Namibia with sporadic sightings in Angola. These populations are often referred to D. b. bicornis or D. b. minor, but some experts consider them a subspecies in their own right.

The most widely adopted alternative scheme only recognizes five subspecies or “eco-types”: D. b. bicornisD. b. bruciiD. b. longipesD. b. michaeli, and D. b. minor. This concept is also used by the  IUCN, listing three surviving subspecies and recognizing D. b. brucii and D. b. longipes as extinct. The most important difference to the above scheme is the inclusion of the extant southwestern subspecies from Namibia in D. b. bicornis instead of in its own subspecies, whereupon the nominal subspecies is considered extant.

Seeing Black rhino is hard, but they are in most African reserves that we list

KAZA Transfrontier park

Kalahari-Zambezi Ecosystem (KAZA)

Including Hwange,Chobe, Kafue national parks and protecting jewels of africa such as the Okovango Delta and the Victoria falls, this is likely to become one of the worlds premier wildlife destinations. It covers more than half a million square kilometers

The Kalahari-Zabmbezi Trans-frontier park is perhaps the most daring conservation effort in the world, Including several large national parks, as well as hunting areas and private reserves, this is one of the last great Savannah wildernesses of Africa and plays host to some of the most impressive natural specticles such as the Okovango breaking its banks, spreading life-giving water across the Kalahari desert.

Combining such a huge area into a conservation network is quite a challenge. As well as the huge range of wildlife there is also a significant human population of around 2.5 million.

The KAZA covers an area of 170,000 square miles (quarter of a million square km)  and within its borders lives important populations of many animas.

For instance, around 250,000 elephants or about 60% of those on the continent live in this huge area. However these huge animals are not sensbly distributed across the area, and gradually barriers are being taken down to allow the huge herds to return to ancient homelands such as in Angola (where they have learnt to smell the landmines, and so can avoid them). 

This is obviously a project that will take many years to complete. However it is clear that its success will greatly benefit conservation in africa.

For my part, over time I hope to list many activities and places to stay within this huge area to support its conservation, and allow people around the world to enjoy this special place.

Hwange National park Zimbabwe

The largest National park of Zimbabwe covering an area of  ‎14,651 km2  or 5,657 sq miles.

Initially formed as a reserve in 1922 it was made a national park in 1961. It is one of Zimbabwe premier reserves, with significant populations of the ecotourism big 7 (Big 5 plus cheetah and wild dog)

The hope is that as the Kalahari Zambezi transfrontier park becomes more than just a paper park, it will benefit the whole area. While seemingly large, a park of just over 5000 square miles it will only consist of around 2% of the Kalahari Zambezi transfrontier area, allowing animals to migrate in and out of areas during floods and droughts.

Places to stay in Hwange National Park

Camp Hwange

Spread around a watering hole, Camp Hwange is a traditional safari permanent camp, with all the rooms getting a perfect view of the watering pool and its visitors, allowing you to laze in the camp as the wildlife comes to you.

Being a seasonal camp it is open from the beginning of May to the end of November.

Click the picture or here to find out more

Hwange Bush camp

Hwange Bush camp is nestled under a group of trees, providing very welcome shade, it provides you with a comfortable place to rest deep in the bush.

With the small size of camp (it consists of 6 “rooms”), animals are less afraid allowing you to truly experience the wilds.

This is a seasonal camp as well so is open from the beginning of May to the end November

Click the picture or here to find out more

See Animals Wild