07 September 2010 by Kate Turkington

Who's doing what and why?

You’ve spotted that sought-after animal, but you’re not sure what it’s doing. Here are some interesting behaviours to look out for.

  • If you see mating lions, don’t expect a grand display - it’s all over in a minute, although the copulation itself goes on every 20 minutes for 4 days and nights. The female finally gets fed up and starts swatting her suitor because he has a barbed penis, which is very uncomfortable when he extracts. Don’t be alarmed by the neck-biting and snarling - it’s a ritual display.
  • Look out for rhino middens - huge flat heaps of dung, often lining the roadside. These are territorial landmarks - stay away other rhinos, this territory is mine. Cows and subordinate bulls also use the midden, but will never break the dung up in the manner of the dominant bull. These calling cards tell the boss who has been visiting and when.
  • Nyala are the most striking antelopes and have the greatest sexual dimorphism - it’s hard to believe that the male and female are the same species. Check them out in your mammal book. But when the male encounters another male, it will raise its white mane along its back and curl its tail up in order to demonstrate its superiority.
  • If you’re in the bush during the impala rutting season, at its height in May, don’t be surprised to hear horns clashing and fierce roars - roars that have often been mistaken for a lion’s roar. These are all signs of an impala ram trying to set up a territory. Females are only in oestrus for 3 weeks, so he has to be quick about it.

What have YOU seen?

Category: Adventure, Attractions

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