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.

Hyrax

Rock hyrax

Hyrax

The Hyrax is a family of species. All falling in the Order Hyracoidea, and the family Pracaviidae. While their look would not suggest it, this family is very closely related to the elephant

Within this family, there are 3 Genus, 2 with just one species, and one with 4. You will see labeled pictures below. Click on any to find out more.

                          Heterohyrax                                                                                                                                                 Dendrohyrax

                         Procavia

It should be noted, that the Benin tree hyrax was only decided in recent years, as such it is still debated as to whether it is a separate species, or just subspecies.

As many as 50 subspecies have been described. As destinations for these different species start to get added, I will add these to the grid above. As with all species on this website, we are eager to work with people on the ground, to allow tourism to see this species. given how well hyraxes do outside reserves, it may well be a species easier seen in areas of local population. Get in touch if you have a destination to list (link at the top of the main page. While fascinating to watch (we watched one eat a whole banana skin) they are often overlooked. They have less status than lions and elephants, but can also be found in more places

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 (in some areas) 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.

It is listed as least concern

 

Southern tree hyrax It is  found in temperate forests, subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, moist savanna, and rocky areas.

It may be found at elevations up to 4,500m across a wide range of countries. It is largely nocturnal. The males call is an alarming series of shrieks.

It is listed as least concern.

Western tree hyrax, also known as the western tree dassie or Beecroft tree hyrax,

Western tree hyraxes tend to be solitary, and only occasionally are found in groups of two or three. They are nocturnal and generally feed at night. It has been noted that this species is an especially adept climber. The gestation period is about eight months with a litter size one or two young.

It is listed as least concern

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

Eastern tree hyrax is the most localized of the tree hyrax species, only found in places within a narrow band of lowland and montane forests in Kenya and Tanzania and close-by islands. A solitary species, it lives in tree cavities, and communicates with others, through scent marking and high pitched calls. 

They are classed as near threatened by the IUCN, with poaching being a big threat, particularly on Mount Kilimanjaro and throughout the Eastern arc mountains.

Benin tree hyrax is found in the region between the Niger and Volta Rivers in West Africa, hence the name.

It can be distinguished from neighbouring Dendrohyrax dorsalis by its night-time barking vocalizations, its shorter and broader skull, and its lighter pelage.

This is a species that is not currently agreed. However, if/when it is, it has been assessed by the IUCN as being least concern

Lion

Photo credit Ross Couper

Lion

Altaileopard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Altaileopard – Own work using: File:Lion_distribution.png Scientific source: Bertola, L. D., Jongbloed, H., Van Der Gaag, K. J., De Knijff, P., Yamaguchi, N., Hooghiemstra, H., … & Tende, T. (2016). Phylogeographic patterns in Africa and high resolution delineation of genetic clades in the lion (Panthera leo). Scientific Reports, 6, 30807.

Lions- often referred to as ‘The king of the jungle’ (odd as they are rarely found in the jungle) are usually one of the animals visitors want to see if not the main one.

They are very impressive and it is understandable why they are popular. No other predator dares lie out dozing in the open plains all day.

However over the last few decades, lion declines have been horrific, with declines of more than 2/3 since the 1960s.

Lion conservation is important, because to have a thriving lion population, you need a very large protected area, and an intact ecosystem- so all the other animals benefit. I have used a large variety of sources to compile this, but one study of great interest is “Lion conservation in West and Central Africa” by Hans Bauer, published in 2003. In 1996 the estimate for the lion population in Africa was thought to be between 30,000 and 100,000, however the IUCN African Lion Working Group suggested a more realistic number was 18,000-27,000. They also suggested, that of 38 reserves and parks across these regions that used to have lions, they are definitely lost from 23.

The Asiatic lion is different; Its only current home in Asia, is the Gir forests of western India. However, something that many people do not know is that the Asiatic lion population of Gir is a tiny relict of possibly the largest spread lion subspecies. The Asiatic lion still exists in Africa – the western and northern lion population are very closely related to the Asiatic lion and are thought to have last naturally interbred a few centuries ago. Importantly, they are still so genetically similar that they are not different sub species. This is important, as it means that only just over half of the Asiatic lions live in and around Gir, the rest live in Africa. I hope to add many more destinations over time. If you run safari lodge or camp or tours please do get in touch through the above link “list your wild place”. We are keen to list as many of the places to see wild lions as possible. 

It should be noted, that in historic times the Asiatic lion population spread as far as Spain, though the last ones were likely lost around the time of Jesus. Asiatic lions survived in the Caucuses for far longer, surviving until around the end of the first millennium (1000AD). Ecologically, the conditions of Southern and Eastern Europe have not changed much in the last millennium. However, until a significant change in human habitation, there is no space for lions to return to this area.

Current estimates suggest that at most there are 20,000 lions in Africa (Some suggest 20,000-25,000, though LionAid did a thorough assessment of the lions on the continent in 2020 and came up with just 9200). If this lower number is correct, then there is no longer more than 10,000 wild lions in the world. Having said that, below is the 5 largest populations, which are relatively well known, and these add up to above that number. Time will tell.

As keystone species, and apex predators, lions are incredibly important, as such it is a species that is followed closely on this website.  On each tab, you will find a list of articles about that species. Find below a list of articles on lions, below that is links to places we list where you can see lion. Please note, tab 2 and 3 refer to two separate populations of the Asiatic subspecies if only recently confirmed through genetic testing.

 

As you can see from the map above, the name African lion is not particularly accurate, given that half of Africa was inhabited by the Asian Lion. Still, even taking into account this number of African lions which belong to the Asiatic lion subspecies, still the population of African lion subspecies account for the majority of lions left in the world. It should be noted, that while Tanzania is still claiming a lion population of 14,000-15,000 Lionaid survey in 2020 claimed around 9600 in the world, so someone is definitely wrong. The image at the top of the page is an African Lion.

Over time, I hope that the destinations that we list on this site will grow fast, but for now we list the large lion ecosystems- hopefully with a few more coming soon

1. Kruger national park, and the greater Limpopo 2500                          

2. Serengeti and surrounding reserves 3000 

3. Kalahari Zambezi 1500 (though with the size of this

 reserve, there is space for much growth)

4. Selous (Nyerere national pakr 4000-5000 though as most of this vast reserve is set aside for hunting, much if it is unavailable to photographic safari (latest survey suggests 4300)

5. Ruaha national park (Tanzania) 4000

This accounts for around anything from 40% up to 64% (it is likely to be at the top end of this estimate as this includes the biggest lion populations of Africa) on the lions of african depending on which estimate you trust. Indeed, given Lionaids estinate, it accounts for as much as 167%.  We hope to add other populations in the coming years.

While it is undeniable that the lion populations in the East and South of the continent have reduced, there would have to have been a significant population in west and north of the continent as well. While, clearly, much of this space has been lost to human expansion, there is still much space for a great increase in this population, whether it ever gets a chance to grow is something we will have to wait and see.

Known as Panthera Leo Leo, the Asiatic Lion is more complicated than once thought. Historically found throughout North, West and Central Africa, Large parts of Asia as well as throughout Southern Europe. Different parts of this huge area have been lost at different times. Oddly despite this, it appeared to be officially forgotten for some time, so that only recently it was demonstrated genetically that the West African lion and the Central African lion are the subspecies as the Asiatic lion, and as such there ar

e actually more Asiatic lions in Africa. As such, the Asiatic lion is split into 3 clades. Which will be handled separately.

So here, the west African Lion clade:

1. W-Arly-Pendjari Transfrontier park was estimated to hold 250-500 members (it should be noted that it is likely close the botto at the current time)

2. Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba national park formerly a stronghold, the number of lions as low as 30 at the moment (down from as high as as 120 in 1996)

3. Waza national park, Cameroon is was thought to host 14-21 lions in 2010, I  dont know what has happened since

4. Kainji Lake National Park, Nigeria is thought to host around 30, while Yankara may only have 5 left.       

5. Bénoué ecosystem: (Faro, Bénoué and Bouba-Ndjidda national parks as well as 32 hunting areas, covering 30,000 square km) contains 250 lions 

Are these over-estimates? A significant number of sources claim just 250 in the world, though others suggest around 400. Having said that, should we assume the minimum population for the WAP complex and Benoue estimate being accurate (studies are recent and thorough) this gets us to to over 400 already. 

 

What is unfortunate though is the populations in the other 3 reserves. 

Having said that, back around 1900 there was only an estimated 20 lions left in India, so a similar recovery could give each of these reserves a 400 population in 50 or so years. I would estimate given the reliability of these numbers that at the time of the study in 2020 the total population numbered around 800. though even half of this would be enough for a recovery over a relatively short term.

The western and the central lion population was (relatively recently) far larger. 1900 it is thought that there may have been as many as 200,000. Even as recently as 1970 there were thought to have been 90,000.

Unfortunately, at the current time, I have no links in these place – but would love to, please get in touch if you work in one of these reserves, we would love to help people find you.

 

Known as Panthera Leo Leo, the Asiatic Lion is more complicated than once thought. Historically found throughout North, West and Central Africa, Large parts of Asia as well as throughout Southern Europe. Different parts of this huge area have been lost at different times. Oddly despite this, it appeared to be officially forgotten for some time, so that only recently it was demonstrated genetically that the West African lion and the Central African lion are the subspecies as the Asiatic lion, and as such there are actually more Asiatic lions in Africa. As such, the Asiatic lion is split into 3 clades. Which will be handled separately.

So the central African lion is thought to have a population of around 2200 (as of 2015-2016): I have not been able to calculate a proper number for this, I hope to have more information in the future.

 

Asiatic lion from the Gir fores

Known as Panthera Leo Leo, the Asiatic Lion is more complicated than once thought. Historically found throughout North, West and Central Africa, Large parts of Asia as well as throughout Southern Europe. Different parts of this huge area have been lost at different times. Oddly despite this, it appeared to be officially forgotten for some time, so that only recently it was demonstrated genetically that the West African lion and the Central African lion are the subspecies as the Asiatic lion, and as such there are actually more Asiatic lions in Africa. As such, the Asiatic lion is split into 3 clades. Which will be handled separately.

So the North African and Asiatic clade: The north African lion, otherwise known as the Barbary lion, was lost some time ago (the last one was shot in 1942). However, there has been much discussion about reintroducing them to Morocco, for some time. It could well be done in the near future. 

The rest of this clade (remembering that the West and Central African lions are the same subspecies as this) are found in the Gir forests of India. This population is thought to be as high as 600, though deaths have been particularly high for a significant period of time. This population only currently has one protected home, from which the lions are overflowing- the Gir forest. The forest is home to as many as 600 lions, though only covering 1400 square km (545 miles) the best reserves in Africa have roughly 1 lion per every 5 square miles. Many of these lions live outside, with as many as 200 having made their home by the sea, a great distance form the park.

 

Scientists have long argued that some of the lions should be moved to another reserve as having all of them in one place leaves the entire clade vulnerable to natural disasters or indeed an epidemic. Indeed, it has gone all the way to the high court in India, but the Chief minister of Gujarat has simply refused to enforce the order (he does not want to loose the status of housing the only wild Asiatic lion (at least the Asiatic clade). There was much effort to give the Indian lions a second home, but the government saw them as their property and refused to allow any to be moved. The proposed home was set up for them – the Kuno reserve, with a number of villages moved to accommodate them. The Gujarat government has suggested all sorts of reasons to refuse, including that the reserve is unacceptable – despite being almost identical to Gir.

Kuno is now the home of the cheetah reintroduction (not that this should rule it out, as they lived alongside each other in the past, and from where they have been moved). Never-the-less, Gujurat has refused to budge even having lost the case in the supreme court.

 

It seems absurd that something this important can be held up because of politics but there we are. There are plans to move 40 lions to Barda wildlife sanctuary, which would at least give a second home. However, given the Asiatic Lions historical range covering such a vast area, the idea that one state in India could block translocations to anywhere else is quite scary. 

Never-the less, it is still a fascinating place to visit.

 

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

White rhino population in the Kruger has crashed by ⅔ in a decade

The white rhino recovery was a huge success story- from a low of just 60 animals the population rose to over 20,000, the biggest single population, lying within the huge Kruger national park.

Unfortunately, while China has slowly got their illegal wildlife trade under control (still a big problem, but for rhino, nowhere near the biggest) Vietnam and Laos, have seen a demand for rhino horn rocket.

Continue reading “White rhino population in the Kruger has crashed by ⅔ in a decade”

See Animals Wild