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.

2. Subfamily Reduncinae: rhebok reedbuck and Waterbuck

2. Reduncinae - Rhebok, Reedbuck, Waterbuck

Boher Reedbuck

Boher Reedbuck

The bohor reedbuck  is an antelope native to central Africa.

The head-and-body length of this medium-sized antelope is typically between 100–135 cm. Females are smaller. This sturdily built antelope has a yellow to grayish brown coat. Only the males possess horns which measure about 25–35 cm long. There are 5 subspecies:

  • R. r. bohor Rüppell, 1842: Also known as the Abyssinian bohor reedbuck. It occurs in southwestern, western and central Ethiopia, and Blue Nile (Sudan).
  • R. r. cottoni (W. Rothschild, 1902): It occurs in the Sudds (Southern Sudan), northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and probably in northern Uganda.
  • R. r. nigeriensis (Blaine, 1913): This subspecies occurs in Nigeria, northern Cameroon, southern Chad and Central African Republic.
  • R. r. redunca (Pallas, 1767): Its range extends from Senegal east to Togo. It inhabits the northern savannas of Africa. 
  • R. r. wardi (Thomas, 1900): Found in Uganda, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and eastern Africa. 
The total population of this species is 100,000, and while it is decreasing, it is not currently low enough to justify a near threatened rating, though this might change in the near future. At the current time, I cannot see any of the subspecies being in a worse position but can change this if I find out more.

Mountain Reedbuck

 The mountain reedbuck has 3 subspecies. The western mountain reedbuck only has 450 individuals still living wild, (shown on the map in red) also known as the Adamwa mountain reedbuck which is restricted to the highlands of Cameroon. The Eastern mountain reedbuck (or Chanlers) has 2900 wild individuals, is found in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia. The Southern moutnain reedbuck, blue, (33,000) is found in the Drakensburg mountains of South Africa.

Mountain Reedbuck

Southern Reedbuck

Southern Reedbuck

The Southern, or common Reedbuck is found in Southern Africa. It is a midsized  antelope, standing 134-167cm tall

 It was described in 1785 by Pieter Boddaert. Southern reedbucks live in pairs or alone, though occasionally they will form herds of up to 20. They prefer to lie in grass or reed beds in the heat of the day and feed during sunrise and sunset, or sometimes even at night. Old reedbucks are permanently territorial, with territories around 35-60 hectares, and generally live with a single female, preventing contact with rival males. Females and young males perform an ‘appeasement dance’ for older males.  Within this territory, it is active all the time in summer, but it is nocturnal in the wet season. It regularly uses paths to reach good sites to rest, graze, and drink water. They are hunted by all the top predators in the area, including Lion, Leopard, Cheetah hyena and wild dog, as well as animals like snakes.

They are easily hunted, and combined with loss of territory to human expansion, the population is down. About 60% occur in protected reserves, but in some countries like Gabon and the DRC are though to almost be locally extinct.

Kob

Red Lechwe antelope are found in a band across Africa, including areas of Eastern, Central and Western Africa.

There are 3 subspecies:

  • The western kob, is found in the west
  • The Ugandan Kob is found in sub-Saharan Africa in South Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The white eared Kob is found in Western Ethiopia and South Sudan (this is one of the main animals in the huge migration within sudan)
None are currently threatened with extinction. Their total population is 50,000-60,000
Kob (queen Elizabeth national park)

Red Lechwe

Red Lechwe

Red Lechewe is a species of antelope found in the south of eastern African. The red lechwe is native to Botswana, Zambia, southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, northeastern Namibia, and eastern Angola, especially in the Okavango Delta, Kafue Flats, and Bangweulu Wetlands. They are found in shallow water, and have a substance on their legs which allows them to run pretty fast. Total population is around 160,000

Four subspecies of the lechwe have been recognized

  • Common red lechwe (Gray, 1850) – Widely distributed in the wetlands of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. (80,000)
  • Kafue Flats lechwe  (Haltenorth, 1963) – It is confined within the Kafue Flats (seasonally inundated flood-plain on the Kafue River, Zambia). (28,000)
  • Roberts’ lechwe  (Rothschild, 1907) – Formerly found in northeastern Zambia, now extinct. Also called the Kawambwa lechwe.
  • Black lechwe (Kobus leche smithemani(Lydekker, 1900) – Found in the Bangweulu region of Zambia. (50,000)

In addition, the Upemba lechwe (1000)  and the extinct Cape lechwe are also considered subspecies by some authorities. Although related and sharing the name “lechwe”, the Nile lechwe (below) is consistently recognized as a separate species.

Nile Lechwe

The Nile lechwe or Mrs Gray’s lechwe  is an endangered species of antelope found in swamps and grasslands in South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Nile lechwe can visually signal and vocalize to communicate with each other. They rear high in the air in front of their opponents and turn their heads to the side while displaying. Females are quite loud, making a toad-like croaking when moving. Known predators are humans, lions, crocodiles, cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas and leopards. They flee to water if disturbed, but females defend their offspring from smaller predators by direct attack, mainly kicking. Nile lechwe are crepuscular, active in the early morning and late afternoon. They gather in herds of up to 50 females and one male or in smaller all-male herds. They divide themselves into three social groups: females and their new offspring, bachelor males, and mature males with territories. A males with territory sometimes allows a bachelor male into his territory to guard the region and not to copulate. They are sexually mature at 2.

Nile lechwe feed on succulent grasses and water plants. They have the special capability to wade in shallow waters and swim in deeper waters, and may feed on young leaves from trees and bushes, rearing up to reach this green vegetation. Nile lechwe are also found in marshy areas, where they eat aquatic plants.  Around 32,000 and are classed as endangered

Nile Lechwe

Puku

Puku

The Nyala is a spiral horned species

 found in Southern Africa. The nyala is mainly active in the early morning and the late afternoon. It generally browses during the day if temperatures are 20–30 °C  and during the night in the rainy season. The nyala feeds upon foliage, fruits and grasses, and requires sufficient fresh water. It is a very shy animal, and prefers water holes to the river bank. Not territorial, they are very cautious creatures. They live in single-sex or mixed family groups of up to 10 individuals, but old males live alone. They inhabit thickets within dense and dry savanna woodlands. The main predators of the nyala are lion, leopard and African wild dog, while baboons and raptorial birds prey on juveniles. Males and females are sexually mature at 18 and 11–12 months of age respectively, though they are socially immature until five years old. They have one calf after 7 months of gestation. Its population is stable, with the greatest threat coming from habitat loss as humans expand. There are thought to be 36500 and the population is stable.

Waterbuck

The waterbuck  is a large antelope found widely in sub-Saharan Africa.It was first described by Irish naturalist William Ogilby in 1833.

Its 13 subspecies are grouped under two varieties: the common or ellipsiprymnus waterbuck and the defassa waterbuck. The head-and-body length is typically between 177 and 235cm  and the typical height is between 120 and 136cm. In this antelope, males are taller and heavier than females. Males reach roughly 127 cm at the shoulder, while females reach 119cm. Males typically weigh 198–262 kg and females 161–214 kg. Their coat colour varies from brown to grey. The long, spiral horns, present only on males, curve backward, then forward, and are 55–99 cm long. Waterbucks are rather sedentary in nature. As gregarious animals, they may form herds consisting of six to 30 individuals. These groups are either nursery herds with females and their offspring or bachelor herds. Males start showing territorial behaviour from the age of 5 years, but are most dominant from the six to nine. The waterbuck cannot tolerate dehydration in hot weather, and thus inhabits areas close to sources of water. Predominantly a grazer, the waterbuck is mostly found on grassland. In equatorial regions, breeding takes place throughout the year, but births are at their peak in the rainy season. The gestational period lasts 7–8 months, followed by the birth of a single calf.

Waterbucks inhabit scrub and savanna areas along rivers, lakes, and valleys. Due to their requirement for grasslands and water, waterbucks have a sparse ecotone distribution. The IUCN lists the waterbuck as being of least concern. More specifically, the common waterbuck is listed as of least concern. while the defassa waterbuck is near threatened. The population trend for both is downwards, especially that of the defassa, with large populations being eliminated from certain habitats because of poaching and human disturbance.

The common waterbuck is listed as least concern, while the Defassa is listed as near threatened. Only 60% of this subspecies population is in protected areas, so it could get worse, if they are lost.

Waterbuck

African Dwarf crocodile

African dwarf crocodile

The dwarf crocodile (also known as the African dwarf crocodile, broad-snouted crocodile -a name more often used for the Asian mugger crocodile) or bony crocodile), is an African crocodile that is also the smallest living species of crocodile.

Found in lowlands to mid-height areas, in small and mid-size streams (they avoid large rivers). Generally, they live in rivers that lie in rainforest, though they will venture into the open.

They are known, in places, to be found in pools deeply isolated in Savannah. In western Gabon, there are also a group which have been living long-term in caves. It is considered vulnerable by the IUCN and is Appendix i of CITES. Where they are declining, it appears largely as a result of deforestation and hunting for the bushmeat trade. As a result, while in some regions they have a healthy population, in others (like Gambia and Liberia) they are almost lost.

In zoos in the USA and Europe there are a few of this species, however, records are not good, and quite a few of them are clearly hybrids with little conservation use. I should note, a zoo I occasionally volunteer at (marwell zoo) had one of these crocodiles until last year when it went to another zoo for breeding.

We hope to be able to list places for you to visit to see this species as soon as possible. Any of these will appear below the video and the news section (this lists all the times that this species has been mentioned (if any) in this blog). Below this, we will list all the easiest places we have connections to, to see this species.

 

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 wolf

African Wolf

Perhaps one of the more interesting announcements from wildlife study in the last decade was the discovery of a wolf living under everyones nose in Africa. It is a little understandable, as it does look quite like a jackal, and certainly different to a European wolf. Having said this, it is still a significant oversight

It was initially described as the African Wolf back in 1832. Indeed, Aristotle talked of wolves living in Egypt in his time, however, it was not until 2017 when a second modern study was done on it, and it was definitively recognized as a species. The problem is that, despite this huge range there is no idea how many African wolves there are in the wild. Obviously with this huge range, it is not unreasonable to suggest that they are locally extinct in areas – there are a number of subspecies that have been tentatively suggested, however until true assessments are made, this seems more than we need.

It should be noted, that it is not surprising that the African wolf was overlooked for so long, as it has got smaller over its time in Africa, to the extent that it is very hard to tell the difference between tha African golden wolf, and the golden jackal.

There has been little study of this species, and it is unclear exactly how much range that it has. Hopefully, this will happen in time, but it is clear that the big problem is telling the difference between golden jackals and golden wolves. 

African wolf range

There are a number of subspecies of the African wolf (quite quick, given it was not redeclared as a species 6 years ago. They are classed as a least concern. While not all sub-species have a clear estimate of the current population, genetic analysis suggests that the historic population was not smaller than 80,000 females.

  • Algerian wolf – range Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia -A dark-coloured subspecies, with a tail marked with three dusky rings. It is similar in size to the red fox
  • Senegalese wolf – Senegal – Similar to the Egyptian wolf, but smaller and more lightly built, with paler fur and a sharper muzzle.
  • Serengeti wolf – Kenya, northern Tanzania – Smaller and lighter-coloured than the northern forms. The wild population is 1500-2000
  • Egyptian wolf – Egypt, Algeria, Mali, Ethiopian Highlands, and Senegal – A large, stoutly built subspecies with proportionately short ears and presenting a very gray wolf-like phenotype, standing 40.6 cm in shoulder height and 127 cm in body length. The upper parts are yellowish-gray tinged with black, while the muzzle, the ears and the outer surfaces of the limbs are reddish-yellow. The fur around the mouth is white.
  • Somali wolf – Somalia and the coast of Ethiopia and Eritrea – A dwarf subspecies measuring only 12 inches in shoulder height, it is generally of a grayish-yellow color, mingled with only a small proportion of black. The muzzle and legs are more decidedly yellow, and the underparts are white.
  • Variegated wolf – Sudan and Somalia – A small subspecies standing 38 cm (15 in) at the shoulder, and measuring 102 cm (40 in) in length. The fur is generally pale stone-buff, with blotches of black.

We are incredibly eager to work with any guides who encounter the African wolf in their work, and list your services here. Please get in touch through the list your wild place option at the top of the page.

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

African wild dog

African wild dog

Whether there were originally multiple African wild dog subspecies, these have not been retained. There were once 500,000 wild dogs roaming Africa. There are currently just 6600, spread across Africa, though many of the populations are unlikely to be genetically healthy long-term.

The Kruger wild dog population swings between extremes. In 2007 there were about 350 within the Limpopo transfrontier park. in 2022 there are thought to be about 800 wild dogs in the same area.

The Serengeti wild dog population disappeared during 1995 – wild dogs are highly sociable animals, so illness can wipe out populations. Wild dogs appear to have help on and there are thought to be about 120 at the moment. Inoculation of the domestic dog population surrounding the park will hopefully stop this happening again, and the population will grow back to the former highs -where packs 100 strong could be seen chasing the Wildebeest migration across the plains.

The largest single population lives in the Selous reserve (much of this reserve is now classed as the Nyerere national park) with a population of perhaps as many as 1000.

There are thought to be about 700 wild dogs in northern Botswana.

There are small populations all over Africa, such as 100 in Chad, but whether these survive long-term is another question. The map below shows the huge number of small populations all over Africa. The total african wild dog population is thought to be around 7000, with 700 packs.

There are 5 subspecies that have been recognized:

  • Cape wild dogs                   This is the only subspecies that appears to be doing relatively well with around 4000 animals left (though the underestimate                                                            the current population of the Kruger – while in the past it has been as low as 350, the current population is at its peak of around                                                       850. Significant wild dog populations in this subspecies include the Kruger, while the KAZA transfrontier park is likely to be                                                              another. (Botswana is thought to host around 1300 wild dogs within its boundary, with most of the other countries in the region                                                      having at least 500 somewhere in the country. 
  • East African wild dog     The east African wild dog has a number of good population – Selous has around 800-1000, while the Laikipia region of Kenya is                                                        thought to host around 300 of this rare animal
  • West African wild dog- The West African wild dog used to be widespread from western to central Africa, from Senegal to Nigeria. Now only two                                                                        subpopulations survive: one in the Niokolo-Koba National Park of Senegal and the other in the W National Park of Benin,                                                                       Burkina Faso and Niger. It is estimated that 70 adult individuals are left in the wild – split pretty evenly split between these two                                                         population.
  • Somali wild dog-                The Somali wild dog is thought to be extinct in Somali, though some are thought to survive in Ethiopia. Bale Mountains national                                                         park is known for Ethiopian wolves, but it is thought that 1 pack of around 30 Somali wild dog also live here (though they live in                                                         the dense Harenna forest, so perhaps they never meet. There are likely, some other wild dog in the country, but it is unlikely                                                                that the whole population excedes more than 100.
    tains National Park
  • Chadian wild dog-             The only part of this population that lives on protected land, are found within the Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park in the                                                       Central African republic.           
Limpopo Transfrontier park including Kruger sabi sands and other conservation areas
Greater Serengeti

A recent assessment only found as few as 34 wild lions left in Nigeria, how long can they hang on

Lions have been lost from a huge area in Africa. Already extinct in 26 countries in Africa, there are perhaps as few as 15,000 lions left. Furthermore, most of these are in a small handful of reserves.

Between the Selous, Serengeti, Ruaha, Kruger and the greater Kalarhari zambezi transfrontier park are represented perhaps as high as 14,000.

This means that other reserves that still host lion tend to have very small populations with the inherent risks of inbreeding that this brings.

You will notice that on this list of lion ecosystems, none are in west Africa. This is unfortunately not a mistake. Recent analysis of the Genetics of western African lions has proved something that has been suspected for centuries. The west African lion is not the same species as the eastern and southern lion, in fact these populations are relict populations left behind as the Asiatic lion was pushed back into its home in India. In actual fact the “Asiatic lion” or “Indian Lion” once had a huge range that took in much of Europe, north Africa and Asia.

One of the few remaining Nigerian Lion
Continue reading “A recent assessment only found as few as 34 wild lions left in Nigeria, how long can they hang on”

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

See Animals Wild