Aardvark

Aardvark

The Aardvark is an incredibly rarely seen animal. It is found on the savannahs of Africa, and generally lives well in and out of protected areas. It is quite a sizable aniimals, and has relatively high densities throughout its range (roughly 1 per square km in habitats that it is best suited to).

So why is it so rare to see this animal? They are one of the most exclusively nocturnal species that you can find. These are animals for which wildlife guides get excited.

The name, translated from Afrikaans means earth-pig. They are incredible diggers, and many of the burrows in the savannah are dug by them, who ever ends up using them.

The are insect eaters, and are well suited. Their claws are strong, allowing them to dig into the incredibly hard termite mounds, it has a long tongue of around 30cm, which they can direct down ant holes to get hold of their food. They have an incredible sense of smell and hearing to allow them to find the animals, and can shut their eyes and nose so as to avoid being attacked back.

Although rarely seen, there are places which have learnt how to watch them, giving you a great chance to see an animal few know about. Over recent decades, they have started appearing in zoos, with Colchester in the UK (should you visit, it is a species that needs patience, otherwise you are likely to just see a pile of aardvarks sleeping in their burrow.

It is at the top of animals I would like to see in the wild. Given, their range both in and out of reserves, I am hoping over time to build up plenty of places to see them out in the human world. Please get in touch if you are a farmer, who has these on your land.

Any of the savannah ecosystems on our wild places list will host these animals, however a great deal of luck will be needed to see them in the wild. However, we will add an special places we find where your odds are higher. For now, click here, if you want to visit a savannah ecosystem in the near future.

Agile Mangabey

Agile Mangabey

The agile mangabey is an Old World monkey of the white-eyelid mangabey group found in swampy forests of Central Africa in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, and DR Congo.

Until 1978, it was considered a subspecies of the Tana River mangabey. More recently, the golden-bellied mangabey  has been considered a separate species instead of a subspecies of the agile mangabey.

Similar to other mangabeys, they are active during the day. Although generally tree-living, they do spend a significant portion of their time (12–22%) on the ground, especially during the dry season. It is often heard first, and males have a loud, species-specific call that is believed to be used to space themselves out – in a similar way that wolves operate with howls. Other calls are also used to maintain group cohesion and warn of predators. Group size can be as high as 18 members, led by a single dominant male. Group meetings can be friendly and may involve exchange of members.

Adult males not in groups often travel singly.

Fruit makes up a major portion of the agile mangabey diet. They are known to eat at least 42 different species of fruit. Their tooth structure and powerful jaws allows them to open tough pods and fruits that many other monkeys can not access. Agile mangabeys eat from a number of dominant swamp-forest trees, including Irvingia, Sugar plums when they are fruiting. They also eat fresh leaf shoots from Raffia palm when fruits are scarce. Grass and mushrooms, Invertebrates, bird’s eggs and some vertebrate prey, such as rodents.

As we find links, to help you book to see this species, the links will be added at the bottom of the page.

African Nile Crocodile

Nile crocodile

The Nile crocodile is spread widely throughout sub-saharan africa (except for parts

 of South Africa, thought to be natural and not due to hunting). A suggested subspecies is found in western Madagascar, there are 7 such subspecies, though none have been officially recognized.

While it was originally thought to be the same species as the western African crocodile (confusing given its range), it has actually been found to be closer related to various crocodiles from the Americas, particularly the American crocodile. As such, parts of the map above may actually host west African crocodiles exclusively.

The Nile crocodile is considered the second largest on earth, only beaten by the saltwater crocodile of Asia, interestingly, interestingly the saltwater crocodile is also the only crocodilian that has a greater range than the African crocodile. It was thought that the crocodile had arrived on Madagascar in the last 2000 years – after the extinction of the endemic Voey crocodile, but recently a skull was found and dated to be 7500 years old, suggesting that they must have coexisted for millennia.

While rarely venturing into the sea, they can (like all true crocodiles) survive here, and one was found alive 11 miles off the South African coast in the past.

They have been found in the Florida Everglades, presumably after an illegal introduction – there is so far no evidence of them successfully breeding here. It is unclear of their origin or where they came from, though they are genetically most similar to crocs from South Africa.

While they usually only dive for a few minutes at a time, they are capable of holding their breath for 30 minutes of activity under water – impressively, those inactive under water can stay down for around 2 hours. While rapid and effective hunters in the waters and along its edge, they are far less capable away from the water, and it is rare that they hunt away from water, having said this they are known to hunt here, and are incredibly adaptable to any opportunity. They have a surprisingly small stomach, only the size of a basketball.

Only around 10% of eggs will hatch and around 1% will survive to adulthood. Certainly, much of this damage is down to the Nile monitor lizard, which is thought to be responsible for as much as 50% of the eggs on its own, though median sized cats, baboon troops and mongooses all attack crocodile nests with regularity. Once born, crocodiles are even more at risk, both from animals already mentioned, as well as virtually every predatory water bird, from storks and egrets to even pelicans. Unfortunately, the biggest threat are other adult crocodiles which will happily eat young. While the mother does stay around, and aggressively protects her young, there are so many animals trying to snag a meal, many of the young crocodiles are caught during this time.

The biggest threats include loss of habitat, pollution, hunting, and human activities such as accidental entanglement in fishing nets.

Current estimates are around 250,000 to 500,000. In some parts of Africa they are farmed for their hide (their meat is unpleasant).

Their population is less healthy in western and central Africa, being more sparsely spread. This also makes it hard to do an accurate assessment of their status in this part of Africa.

Along with the saltwater crocodile, the African nile crocodile is estimated to kill anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people each year, with attacks generally carried out by larger crocodiles (thought to be over 3.5m). Given the numbers, it is thought that nile crocodiles and saltwater crocodiles are the most successful hunter of humans – far more fatalities than great while sharks. One study suggested, that while the danger of lions was well known, there was a bizarre feeling that crocodiles were not dangerous. The numbers may well be down to the fact that crocodiles live in water – a place where humans are forced to go regularly.

Below this is a list of any articles released on this site, which mentions the Nile crocodile. Below this, is a video of the species, and below this, we will add links of places to see this species, though if you visit wild places, all savannahs listed on the site will have nile crocodiles.

African forest Elephant

African Forest elephants

There are three species of elephant, the African savanna elephant, African forest elephant and the Asian elephant

With the African species, Forest elephants have declined 86% between 1986 and 2015, African Bush elephants declined 60% 1965 and 2015 leaving just over 400,000. African forest elephants are thought to number between 100,000 and 150,000.

Perhaps the most scary fact is that the African forest elephant was only declared as a separate species in 2021 only 2 years ago. These species are not particularly similar – indeed the Asian elephant is more genetically similar to the mammoth, than the African savannah elephant is to the African forest elephant

The African forest elephants population has declined precipitably in the last few years. Given the recognition that the forest elephant is a separate species only came 2 years ago, it is hard to get accurate historic figures. Never-the-less, the combined african elephant species population was thought to be around 26 million in 1800, and 1.34 million in 1976. The estimate is currently around 100-200,000 forest elephants. One of the problems, is that the African forest elephant is an essential part of the ecosystem. There are many trees, which rely on forest elephants to carry their seeds through the forest, so that they germinate a good distance from the original plant (more than a few of the same plant in the same area, causes the pest that feeds on the tree to multiply to the point where it can kill the tree. While it is true that other animals like gorillas and chimpanzees can do this, they do it far less. Should the forest elephant be lost, the African rainforest is likely to be far less capable of of handling the various changes, like climate change that is coming.

The last strongholds are in Gabon (a survey last year suggested Gabon has 95,000 forest elephants, rather than the 60,000 that was originally thought) and the Republic of the Congo and Democratic republic of the Cong, with smaller populations remaining in other African countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea) and Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Ghana in west Africa. There is much space for forest elephants to greatly recover, if the poaching is able to stop.

Below this, you will see a video on this species, and below this is a list of any times that the african forest elephant has been mentioned within this blog.

Below this, at the bottom of the page, we hope to list places where you can go to see this species in the wild – if you work in conservation or tourism around this species, do get in touch. we would love to list you, and it costs nothing to be listed, we merely work on commission.

Gorilla

Gorilla

For anyone who has watched the scene from Life on Earth – where David Attenborough sits down with Mountain gorillas, the gorilla needs no introduction. Now of course if you go on a trek, you are unlikely to get quite so close (though you never know, the Gorillas have a mind of their own). 

What is important, is that if gorilla trekking took off across Africa, then every population of Gorillas would become very valuable. The problem is that through the process of habituation the gorillas loose their fear of humans – it is totally unfair to undertake this process anywhere where the Gorillas might need their fear of humans to avoid poachers – and this still covers way to much of the world.

Below the video, I take each subspecies of Gorilla in turn and discuss how it is doing. Below this, I will try to list places that you can visit the Gorilas. Currently we only have one place on the list, but I hope for this to grow into a complete list, to aid in your future gorilla trekking adventures. If anyone runs a lodge (or knows someone who does) please do get in touch using the List your wild place option at the top of the page.

The cross River gorilla is a critically endangered subspecies of the Western lowland gorilla species. The cross River gorilla are scattered in at least 11 groups across the lowland montane forests and rainforests of Cameroon and Nigeria, an area of 3,000 square miles, or a little smaller than Puerto Rico. There are only 200-300 that remain of this subspecies. While there are some physical traits that are different between these species, the cross River gorilla has become a Highland specialist. Although known to have interbred in the past, genetic analysis suggests this stopped more than 400 years ago. Changes in climate may well have been the catalyst to stop the interbreeding.

 

In this way, the cross River gorillas and the mountain gorillas have similar habits and ecosystem niches. In this way, it could be suggested that cross River gorillas are simply 50 years behind mountain gorillas in the sense that 40 years ago, there were only around 250 mountain gorillas – this population has increased to over 1000, so clearly it isn’t too late for the cross River gorillas numbers to recover. Could a similar recovery take place? Perhaps following the pattern set up by Diane Fossey for tourism of the mountain gorillas, might work?

 

Western lowland gorillas have a wild population in a fast healthier position, with an estimated 100,000 remaining. Unfortunately though, this is a very tough estimate as they live in some of the hardest to reach jungles so an accurate count is hard. It is however, thought that this gorilla population has seen a 60% reduction over the last 10-25 years. It is thought that if the pressures of placing and diseases were removed this population would recover in about 75 years (of course these pressures are unlikely to disappear, and with the loss of rainforest there may be nowhere for these gorillas to live if they did recover.

 

Eastern lowland gorillas are in a fast worse state than their Western counterparts – it is thought that only 5000 remain. It is only found deep in the democratic Republic of the Congo. This subspecies has face precipitous declines and is therefore considered critically endangered.

 

Mountain gorillas are only found in two reserves, however due to their plates being highlighted by dian fossey, the population spread between these two reserves as clients from around 300 in 1960 to 800-1000 today. There are no mountain gorillas in captivity.

 

It is unfortunate that there is little positive news on either of these species at the current time, but many people are working on it. However what is clear, is that with all four subspecies of gorilla are threatened with extinction – largely as a result of habitat loss and sweetheart down the African rainforest.

 

At the moment our only links are to these two luxurious places to stay on a private reserve bordering the Virunga national park. We hope to add many more over time

Kataza house is the perfect place for a large family to stay. There is much to do, and people to look after children while adults go gorilla trekking
Kitondwa lodge is a place for small groups or individuals to stay during their trek. As a smll lodge your experience works around your likes and dislikes

Chimpanzee

Wild Chimpanzees photo credit Tai King

Chimpanzee

Given the incredible and very obvious similarities between humans and Chimpanzees, it is perhaps not surprising that seeing them in the wild is a wish for many people. Unfortunately, many fail to turn this wish into reality, for a variety of reasons. You cannot visit the Chimpanzees in a car, as the forest is too thick, so trekking is the way to go. Chimpanzee trekking is an incredibly exciting thing to do. Currently almost all of the chimp trekking takes place in just one or two of the places that they live wild.

If it is possible to change this, we can make chimpanzee populations across the tropical African belt valuable to local people, and therefore protect their long-term viability. The wild chimpanzee is an essential part of the places that they inhabit, so hunting and poaching threatens the collapse of the entire ecosystem.

Most of the places that they inhabit have already been invaded or lie close to human habitation so hunting and poaching threatens the collapse of the entire ecosystem One of our closest relatives and an image that we are very used to, unfortunately the chimpanzee like all other great apes is facing a precipitous decline in its population. Subspecies include, 

Eastern(21000-55000), 

Western(35000), 

Central(115000) and 

Nigerian-Cameron (3500-9000). 

As you can see many of these have wide ranging estimates which shows how little idea we have at the current time.

 

Chimpanzees inhabited wide-range of forests and open woodlands. When not attacked by humans, and when their homes are left standing they can do very well.

 

It is possible that organised tourism amongst some of these populations could help save them. Unfortunately it is entirely possible that many of these populations are lost before we can help. We aim to link to as many place that you can visit. These will be linked within a page for each subspecies, though some will also be linked at the bottom of the this page.

We will also have a list of all articles on chimpanzee from this website below

African Savannah Elephant

African Savannah Elephant

There are three species of elephant, the African savanna elephant, African forest elephant and the Asian elephant

With the African species, Forest elephants have declined 86% between 1986 and 2015, African Bush elephants declined 60% 1965 and 2015 leaving just over 400,000. 

One of the other issues with poaching is that elephants are very intelligent, and can communicate over long distances. As a result if for instance an elephant is killed in the north of the Kruger, elephants hundreds of miles south will become far more aggressive towards humans and cars. This in turn reduces the number of tourists that are willing to visit the reserve.

Perhaps one encouraging fact, is that the African savannah elephant has enough space for a far larger population if only poaching can come to an end. It is also a simple fact, that any reserve with elephants (like lions) can attract visitors- provided it is well run.

Limpopo Transfrontier park including Kruger sabi sands and other conservation areas
Greater Serengeti

Lowland gorillas have been sighted in the Equatorial Guinea for the first time in a decade

Equatorial Guinea lies on the west coast of Africa above Gabon. Sightings of the gorillas were made within the Monte Alen National Park. In the past gorillas with plentiful in this area that horrific poaching was thought to have eradicated them from this part of Africa.

first gorilla sighting in Equatorial Guinea in a decade

Continue reading “Lowland gorillas have been sighted in the Equatorial Guinea for the first time in a decade”

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