Animal Facts

Buffalo prefer open savannas characterised by tall grass. They avoid trampled areas. Shade and wallows are necessary habitat features.

  • Food preference: Buffalo mainly eat grass and prefer species such as Themeda triandra, Panicum coloratum, Panicum maximum and Digitaria species. Occasionally trees and bushes of Grewia, Dichrostachys and Combretum species are browsed.
  • Water requirements: 31 liter per day, water dependent.
  • Group size: Eight individuals, consisting of three males and five females.
  • Reproduction: Mating usually takes place from March to May, followed by a gestation period of 330 days. Single calves are born throughout the year, peaking during February month.
  • Life span: 15 years (Smither’s 2000)
  • Population grow/year: 20 to 35 percent (Smither’s 2000)
  • Home range: Buffalo can adapt to a wide range of habitat from dense woodland to open plains. It is seldom far from water.
  • Minimum viable goup size and sex ratio: 12 and 1 : 6 (ECOCAP)
  • Description: Both sexes carry horns, which are massive with a broad base. The buffalo is a very large, oxlike animal with short neck and broad, naked muzzle, large ears and a long tail ending in a tuft. The colour of males is blackish. Cows and calves are reddish-brown.

Recommendation: On Highlands Wildeness Game Ranch, Buffalo can serve as a very important ecological role since it will prefer grassland area on the game ranch. Currently there are no bulk feeders on the ranch except zebras. Their numbers should be maintained at the recommended stocking densities, because of limited suitable habitat. Buffalo is considered one of the most effective non-selective grazers, with little preference shown for specific grass species; aggressive behaviour, range limitations and economic considerations usually exclude this animal from introduction onto small game areas. Highlands Wilderness Game Ranch has excellent buffalo habitat, especially on the eastern section, but before introducing buffalo certain regulations will have to be met. Holding facilities need to be constructed, as the animals require quarantine and adaptation time prior to release on the ranch. Regulations concerning foot and mouth disease, corridor disease, bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis need to be considered, and transport as well as holding permits will have to be acquired from provincial and national veterinary services. Furthermore, fences need to be adapted, if necessary, according to the regulations for buffalo ranching of the Limpopo Department of Environment and Tourism. The purchase of certified disease free animals is recommended as diseases can be transmitted to neighbouring properties. Moreover, certified disease free animals are of higher value, which is of interest when selling surplus animals. The best alternatives to stocking buffalo are either, Burchell’s zebra, white rhinoceros or cattle. On Highlands Wilderness Game Ranch the number of buffalo will depend on the number of other bulk grazers, especially zebra. 

Blesbok Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi 

  • Habitat requirements: The blesbok is found in open grassland with permanent water (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Food preference: The blesbok prefers grasses but will browse occasionally (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The blesbok prefers short grass, especially growth flushed by fire. They select for species in older grass and for growth stage in short grass (Smither´s 2000). Themeda triandra and Eragrostis curvula are the main grass species utilised by the blesbok (Bothma, Van Rooyen, and Du Toit 2002).
  • Water requirement: The blesbok is water dependent and utilises approximately 3 litres a day (Smither´s 2000 and Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size:2 to 25 adults (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Reproduction: Most blesbok lambs are born between November and January with a peak in December. Gestation period is approximately 240 days and the lamb has a mass of 6 to 7 kg at birth. The lamb can run with the mother within 20 to 30 minutes after birth (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The lambs wean at 4 months. Females are sexually mature at 2 to 3 years (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span:13 years (Smither´s 2000).
  • Population grow/year: 20 percent (Smither´s 2000).
  • Home range: The home range of a territorial ram is about 2.5 hectare (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 10 and 1: 9 (ECOCAP).
  • Description: Both sexes carry the horns which are rather small, heavily ringed, evenly curved backwards and outwards; their tips recurved upwards. The blesbok is similar to the bontebok except that it is smaller, slighter and less richly coloured. The white facial blaze is broken by a dark, narrow band between the eyes. The rump patch is pale.
  • General: Blesbok usually nod their heads a great deal due to the irritation caused by botfly larvae which inhibit their nasal passage.

Recommendation: Blesbok can do damage to the environment, especially on the sensitive vegetation in the western part of management unit 1. Blesbok can over-utilise preferred vegetation areas in management unit 1 and should therefore be monitored. Their numbers should be maintained at the recommended stocking densities, because they are in completion with wildebeest. 

Blue duiker Cephalophus natalensis 

  • Habitat requirements: Blue duiker requires thickets, savannas and woodlands that provide shade and cover they preferably occur ecotones. (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Food preference: Blue duikers are browsers. They feed on twigs, flowers and fallen fruit, especially Solanum species.
    Occasionally blue duikers feed on grasses and forbs(Smither´s 2000).
  • Water requirements: One litre per day, not water dependent but will drink when water is available. (Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size:6 to10 animals. They sometimes found in small groups and pairs and are mainly solitary.
  • Reproduction: A single calf is born at any time of the year but mostly in summer. The gestation period is approximately 115 to 125 days (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span: 6 years (Smither´s).
  • Population grow/year: 15 to 30 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Home range:Because of their secluded habitat, the little is known of their habitat. Mostly nocturnal, they spend the day in the deepest parts of thickets. Secretions from their facial glands are used to mark territory (Smither´s 2000).
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 2 and 1 : 1 (ECOCAP).
  • Description: Both sexes carry the horns as a rule (though they may be absent in some females). The horns are short, straight, strongly ringed and point backwards. This is a very small antelope with dark, slately-grey coat, darker on the back where it has purplish gloss. The naked line of glands on the face is curved. The crest between the horns is short. The tail is bushy, dark brown above and white below. The blue duiker is the smallest of all the antelope in southern Africa.

Blue wildebeest Connochaetes taurines 

  • Habitat requirements: The blue wildebeest shows a preference for open savanna woodland and open grassland. The access to drinking water is essential (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Food preference: The blue wildebeest is an essential grazer, showing preference for short green grass (Stuart and Stuart 2001). They prefer fresh growth less than 10 to 15 cm high and do not select for species or parts (Smither´s 2000). A blue wildebeest eats a mean of 3.7 kg of dry plant matter per day (Bothma, Van Rooyen, and Du Toit 2002).
  • Water requirements: Access to drinking water is essential (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The blue wildebeest can survive without water by eating wild melons such as tsamas Citrullus lanatys (Smither´s 2000). The blue wildebeest requires 9 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size:12 to 30 (Smither´s 2000). (Up to thousands during migrations)
  • Reproduction: The mating season is usually from March to June, with most of the calves being born from mid-ovember to the end of December. A calf weighs about 22 kg and is born after a gestation period of approximately 250 days. The calf is able to run with the mother a few minutes after birth (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The calf is weaned after 8 months. Females have their first calf at 2 years and breed annually (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span: 15 years (Smither´s 2000).
  • Population grow/year: 20 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002)
  • Home range:The home range of a calf and cow in the Kalahari with no access to permanent water was 2700 km², compared to 917 km² for one with access to water. Home ranges are three times larger during droughts. Males have smaller home ranges than females, 38 to 420 km² (Smither´s 2000).
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 12 and 1: 11 (ECOCAP).
  • Stocking density: Must not exceed 10 animals per 100 ha (ECOCAP).
  • Description: Both sexes carry the horns which sweep outwards and then sideways and upwards. Large, dark grey-brown animals with darker vertical stripes on neck, shoulders, and body, they have a dropping black mane along the back of the neck to the withers; a “beard” below the chin, and a long, cow like black tail; sloping back, thin legs. Calves are reddish-brown, with shaggy coat and more or less upright horns.
  • General: Inquisitive animals, they will stand snorting, shaking their heads and whisking their tails before galloping off only to stop, wheel round and stare again.

Recommendation: Blue wildebeest on Highlands Wilderness Game Ranch are already posing a threat of patch over-utilisation. Preferred areas within the herd’s territory are being utilised intensively and are often similar to blesbok’s preferred grazing spots. There are only a certain number of suitable habitat areas for blue wildebeest on the ranch and these areas are Sporobolous pyramadalis – Hyparrhenia hirta short closed grassland and Hyperrhenia filipendula – Eragrostis rigidior tall closed grassland sub-communities in management unit 1. The blue wildebeest does not depend on shade during the hot time of the day like most other game species. 

Burchell´s Zebra Equus burchelli 

  • Habitat requirements: The zebra is found on open woodland, shrub and grassland (Smither´s 2000).
  • Food preference: The zebra prefers short, green grass but will take readily take tall, coarse growth. They occasionally browse and will eat the fire-scorched leaves and twigs of mopane Colophospermum mopane. Being an unselective bulk feeder, zebras are less sensitive to food quality than other large herbivores and can maintain body condition on very poor forage (Smither´s 2000). The zebra eats a mean of 7.8 kg of dry plant matter a day (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Water requirements: The zebra is strictly dependent on water and rarely moves more than 12 km away from it (Smither´s 2000). The zebra requires 12 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size: 4 to 6 (family unit) (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Reproduction: A single foal with a mass of 30 to 34 kg is born in summer after a gestation period of 375 days (Stuart and Stuart 2001). A foal stands within 10 minutes, walks after half an hour and can run after an hour. They start eating grass within a few days and are weaned at 11 months (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span: 35 years (Smither´s 2000).
  • Population grow/year:20 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Home range:Home ranges cover 110 to 220 km² in Kruger National Park (Smither´s 2000).
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 7 and 1: 6 (ECOCAP).
  • Stocking density: Must not exceed 4 animals per 100 ha (ECOCAP).
  • General: Zebra leads the migratory succession by grazing on parts with very fibrous plant material. The zebra takes in large amounts of fibrous materials, and in doing so, the less fibrous plant material in the underlying layers of the herbaceous layers is exposed or given chance to grow. This provides better food for the wildebeest and other ruminants, which follow where zebra has been. In the end, the herbaceous layer is sufficiently exposed for the smaller ruminants which do not consume fibrous food stuffs (McNaughton 1976).

Recommendation: On Highlands Wilderness Game Ranch, zebra should play a bigger part in the grazing ecology of the ranch. Zebra being bulk feeder, they can utilise coarse vegetation better than selective grazers. Their number should be kept low considering that zebra do consume large amount of coarse fodder (Furstenburg 2002c). During the study period, zebras were mostly sighted in management 5 and 4, which is suitable habitat. The amount of rainfall in Highlands Wildernis Game Ranch is most suitable for Burchell´s Zebra. 

Eland Tragelaphus oryx 

  • Habitat requirements: prefer mesic to open savannas (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Food preference:The most important trees utilised by eland are Acacia species, Albizia harveyi, Colophospermum montane, Combretum apiculatum, Grewia species, Sclerocarya birrea, Terminalia sericia species, and Ximenia caffra. Grasses are preferred in the wet season. Preferred grass species are Chloris virgata, Schimidtia papphroides and Urochloa mosambicensis. Aristida species are utilised only seldom, eland also eat fruit and use their hooves to dig bulbs and tubers and their horns to break off branches (Smither´s 2000).
  • Water requirements: Eland requires 23 litres of water a day, not water dependent (Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size:20 individuals (Smither´s 2000).
  • Reproduction: A single calf is born at any time of the year but mostly in spring. The gestation period is approximately 270 days. After 3 to 4 weeks in hiding the calf begins to follow the mother and joins the herd (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The calf is weaned at 6 to 9 months and females give birth for the first time when they are 2 years old (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span: 15 years (Smither´s).
  • Population grow/year: 20 to 35 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Home range:Elands usually gather in huge herds, sometimes associates with other species (Smither´s 2000).
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 12 and 1 : 6 (ECOCAP).
  • Description: Both sexes carry the horns although those of the cows are slender and sometimes longer. This huge, cow like animal is the largest of all antelopes. The general colour is fawn, turning blue-grey with age. Juveniles and young cows have narrow, lighter vertical stripes. Eland have humped shoulders, a prominent dewlap, a black stripe along the back and a short mane. The ears are narrow and pointed. The tail is long and black-tufted. Bulls have a matt of dark hair on the forehead. The cows are smaller and more slightly built.

Recommendation: The eland population on Highlands Wilderness Game Ranch is currently estimated to be at maximum number of animals that can be sustained. It is recommended that minimum ranch size to stock eland is 3000 ha (Furstenburg 2003). A small group of animals do occur on management unit 2 and 5. However, only small number of animals can be sustained in management unit 2 without degradation of the environment. According to the game ranch manager, the numbers of eland are increasing exponentially. Their numbers should be maintained at the recommended stocking densities, because they are in competition with Kudu, impala, springbok, and red hartebeest. 

Gemsbok Oryx gazella 

  • Habitat requirements: The gemsbok occurs in arid areas northwest of the sub region, extending north into Angola (Stuart and Stuart 2001). They also occur in semi-arid open grassland and shrub open woodland penetrating into savanna woodland (Smither´s 2000).
  • Food preference:They are primarily grazers but will browse if grass is not available and dig for roots, bulbs and tubers. The gemsbok obtains minerals by eating soil and salt encrustations at water holes (Smither´s 2000).
  • Water requirements: The gemsbok can survive without surface water and eats tsama melons Citrullus lanatus and gemsbok cucumber Acanthosicyos naudianus for their water content (Smither´s 2000). The gemsbok requires 9 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size:8 to 15 animals (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Reproduction: A single calf is born after a gestation period of approximately 264 days, usually in summer. The calf hides and will move with the mother at night to a new resting place. A calf is usually 3 to 6 weeks old before joining the rest of the herd (Stuart and Stuart 2001). Females are sexually mature at 2 years, males also at 2 years but they do not breed until 5 years old (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span: 20 years (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Population grow/year:25 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Home range:Mature bulls hold territories of 14 to 45 vertical m² in the southern Kalahari. The female’s ranges average 248 km² in wet years and 1000 to 2750 km² in droughts. Home ranges are smaller if permanent water is available (Smither´s 2000).
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 12 and 1 to 11 (ECOCAP).
  • Stocking density: Must not exceed 10 animals per 100 ha (ECOCAP).
  • Description: Both sexes carry the very long, straight and deeply-ridged horns. A large animal with a distinctive black and white face pattern. The neck and the body are a pale, fawn-grey. A narrow, vertical black stripe is visible down the throat and there is a slight dewlap. A broad black band separates the flank from the white belly and a dark spinal stripe widens at the rump to form a dark patch. The upper parts of the legs are black and the lower parts white. The tail is long and tufted. Females are similar but smaller with longer, more slender horns.
  • General: Calves are hidden by their mothers for some months before being brought back to join the herd. Calves are born with horns a few centimetres long.

Recommendation: The habitat for gemsbok is marginally suitable on Highlands Wildernis Game Ranch. The minimum viable group size of at least 12 can be introduced. The management unit 2, 3, and 5 should not be considered for the introduction of gemsbok because of the habitat being mountainous and stony. Since sex differentiation is not that easy with gemsbok, sex ratios could easily be skewed without the management being aware. In such a case the reproduction rates would be inhibited and unnecessary deaths due to bulls fighting for dominance could occur. 

Giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis 

  • Habitat requirements: Dry savanna woodland.
  • Food preference:Giraffes are browsers, only rarely eating grass. Their long necks and legs give them access to a food supply beyond a reach of all other browsers. Although they feed from a fairly wide range of trees and bushes they are very selective in what they eat. Twigs are pulled into the mouth by the lips and the long prehensile tongue, which may reach 45 cm in length, and the leaves are shredded of into the mouth. Between 15 and 20 hours of each day is spent feeding (Stuart and Stuart 2001).Acacia trees are the most important source of food (Smither´s 2000).
  • Water requirements: Independent of water if fresh green food is available (Smither´s 2000). The giraffe requires 40 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size:12 to 60 animals (Smither´s 2000).
  • Reproduction: Calves weighing at about 100 kilogram may be born at any time of the year after a gestation period of 450 days. The newly born calf can stand and walk within an hour after birth but remains isolated from the herd for up to 3 weeks (Stuart and Stuart 2001). Social bonds between mother and calf persist past weaning until the next birth. Giraffe calves suffer heavy predation in their first year (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span: Up to 20 years (Smither´s 2000).
  • Population grow/year:18 percent (Smither´s 2000).
  • Home range:Home ranges are about 25 km² in the lowveld and 80-120 km² in less productive areas (Smither´s 2000) .
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 3 and 1 : 2 (ECOCAP).
  • Stocking density: Must not exceed 1 animal per 200 ha, minimal ranch size of 1500 ha (ECOCAP).

Recommendation: Giraffe generally feed at height of between 2.5 and 5.5 m, thus not competing with other browsers. Stocking density should not exceed one animal per 200 ha. The available habitat on Highlands Wildernis Game Ranch, not more than two animals can be sustained on management unit 4. 

Impala Aepyceros melampus 

  • Habitat requirements: The impala occurs in open or light savanna woodland. They avoid grassland unless there is scattered bush cover (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Food preference:They prefer short grasses and browse and are very selective. The impala consumes also flowers, fruits, pods, bark and fallen leaves. 80 percent of feeding is below 40 centimetres (Smither´s 2000).
  • Water requirements: The impala is dependent on water (Smither´s 2000). The impala requires 2.5 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size:15 to 20 (sometimes 50-100) animals (Smither´s 2000).
  • Reproduction: lambs are born in summer after a gestation period of 196 days. The lamb weighs 5 kg (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The lambs stay hidden for a day or two. The females have their first lamb at age 2. Males are sexually mature at 13 months, but do not breed until they are 4 to 5 years old (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span:12 years (Smither´s 2000).
  • Population grow/year:35 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Home range: The range size of o herd varies from 2.5 to 7.0 km², depending on veld condition and population density (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Minimum viable groupsize and sex ratio: 24 and 3 : 21 (ECOCAP).
  • Stocking density: Must not exceed 12 animals per 100 ha (ECOCAP).
  • Description: Only the males carry the slender, graceful lyrate horns. Impala are the extremely graceful handsome, medium-sized antelopes with a glossy, bright rufous coat and a distinctly two tone side to their body, lighter below and becoming white on the under parts. The chin and the upper throat are white as is the rump which has two vertical black stripes. Above the hooves on the hind legs are characteristic black tufts of stiff hairs, hiding a scent gland. Females are more slightly built and unhorned.
  • General: impala are the finest jumpers of all antelopes; leaps of 10 metres long and more than 3 m high have been recorded. Young are able to stand almost immediately after birth and play within hours. After a day or two they join the herd.

Recommendation: Impala is a very popular biltong and sport-hunting animal with high possibilities for venison production. On Highlands Wildernis Game Ranch impala make an important contribution by utilising a broad spectrum of the vegetation and plant types. Many of the shrubs utilised by impala are not utilised by other game species. Impala therefore, contribute to making the ranch’s ecological system more productive. 

Kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros 

  • Habitat requirements:The kudu is an antelope of wooded savanna. They may occur in arid areas but only where there are stands of bush that provide cover and food. They do not occur in open grassland or forest. In many areas they show preference for rocky areas and acacia woodland (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Food preference:The kudu is a predominantly browser but does occasionally graze. They eat a wider variety of browse species than any other antelopes occurring in South Africa (Stuart and Stuart 2001). In Kruger National Park 148 species are eaten including aloes and euphorbias. Acacia and Combretum species are favoured (Smither´s 2000).
  • Water requirements:Independent of water as long as green food is available (Smither´s 2000). The kudu requires 9 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002).
  • Group size:3 to 12 animals (Stuart and Stuart 2001 and Smither´s 2000).
  • Reproduction: Calves are born throughout the year but most births take place in the summer months. The kudu moves away from the herd to give birth to a single calf, which weighs about 16 kilogram. The gestation period is approximately 210 days. The calf hides for a few days until they are strong enough to keep up with the herd (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The calf is weaned at 6 months and horns start growing at 5 months. Males are sexually mature at 3 years and first breed at 6 years. Females first calve at 2 or 3 years (Smither´s 2000).
  • Life span: 15 years (Smither´s 2000).
  • Population grow/year: 20 to 30 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • Home range:Kudu’s are not territorial and have home ranges of 360 to 520 hectare in Kruger National Park. Bulls wander more widely than cows but return to a fixed core area (Smither´s 2000).
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 8 and 2 : 6 (ECOCAP).
  • Stocking density: Must not exceed 4 animals per 100 ha (ECOCAP).
  • Description: Only the males carry the magnificent, spiral horns. Large, very elegent antelopes. The body colour is a bluish-grey to brownish-grey with 7 to 10 light, vertical stripes on sides, a white chevron between the eyes; a fringe down the neck and a bushy tail with a white underside. The female is smaller and has no horns.
  • General: Kudu run heavily and clumsily, showing the white underside of their bushy tails. They are very wary and when hiding in the shelter of a bush become almost invisible, only the flick of an ear giving their position.

Recommendation: Kudu browse a wide range of plants but Acacia and Combretum species are favoured. It is advised that an area with as wide range of vegetation types as possible be provided as range area, which will ensure that kudu will have access to both deciduous and evergreen trees, grasses and forbs. This will ensure sufficient food availability during dormant periods when food is scarce. Kudu are prone to tannin poisoning during times of dry season, especially if the stocking density of an area is too high (Bothma 2002). Fence should be checked regularly because Kudu are powerful jumpers, they can clear normal fences

Nyala Tragelaphus angasii 

  • · Habitat requirements: Thickets in savanna woodland, including forest patches on old termite hills, and dense riverine bush. Nyala benefit from shifting agriculture where abandoned fields and overgrazing cause bush encroachment (Smither´s 2000).
  • · Food preference:Nyala browses and grazes according to seasonal and local availability of grass and broad-leaved plants. It takes a wide range of grass species and will eat both fresh and fallen leaves, shoots, fruit, flowers, and bark (Smither´s 2000).
  • · Water requirements: Not dependent on water as long as there is green food (Smither´s 2000).
  • · Group size:Nyala are gregarious, with herd sizes varying from two to five, but with a mean size of 4.1 animals (Bothma et al. 2002).
  • · Reproduction: Breeds throughout the year. Calves of 4.2 to 5.5 kg are born after a gestation period of 220 days. Females first lamb at 2 to 3 years (Smither´s 2000). The lamb remains hidden for up to 18 days before it follows the ewe around (Bothma et al.2002).
  • · Population grow/year: 20 to 30 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002).
  • · Home range:The ranges of males and females overlap, and may vary in size from 6.5 ha for adult females to 39 ha for adult males (Bothma et al. 2002).
  • · Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 3 and 1 : 2 (ECOCAP).
  • · Stocking density: Limited distribution (ECOCAP).
  • · Description: Only the males carry the magnificent, lyre-shaped horns (black with ivory tips). The males are large, slender, and very narrow-bodied with a shaggy slate-coloured coat. The sides of the body have 8 to 14 vertical stripes (sometimes indistinct) and there are a number of white dots on the body, and a white chevron between the eyes. A thick crest on the neck and back may be raised when the animal is alarmed or afraid. There is a heavy fringe from under the chin down the neck and along under the body. Orange “socks” are found on the lower legs. The females are much smaller and have an orange-brown with a black stripe down the back. They have more distinct side stripes and spots and no chevron.
  • · General: Young males may be confused with bushbuck, but the yellow “stockings” are distinctive.

Recommendation: The nyala is aggressive and drive even large antelopes such as sable out of their habitat. This species is suitable for introduction onto Highlands Wildernis Game Ranch and is a valuable trophy, tourism and live sale animal. They form small herds of about 6 to 20 animals. Dense bush in management unit 3 is a suitable habitat for nyala. 

Red hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus 

  • Habitat requirements: The red hartebeest occurs in open grasslands and semi-arid bush savanna. They avoid denser woodland except when passing through (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Food preference:The red hartebeest is a selective grazer and browser. They select for species and for leaf over stem (Smither´s 2000). They will also eat the seedpods of the camel-thorn Acacia erioloba. The red hartebeest is the first animal to lose physical condition when the veld deteriorates (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit). ·
  • Water requirements: Drinking water is not essential but will drink when water is available. If not the red hartebeest eats melons and digs for tubers (Stuart and Stuart 2001 and Smither´s 2000). The red hartebeest requires 5.5 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002). ·
  • Group size:Up to 20 (larger groups up to thousands during migration) (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Reproduction: A single calf is born away from the herd, after a gestation period of approximately 240 days. The calves are born usually in early summer. They remain hidden until it is strong enough to keep up with the other animals (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The calf starts grazing at 2 weeks and is weaned at 7 to 8 months. Cows first calve when they are 3 years old (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Life span: 15 to 16 years (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Population grow/year: 20 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002). ·
  • Home range:Females have home ranges of 320 km² and males 230 km². The home ranges are five times bigger during droughts (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 10 and 1 : 9 (ECOCAP). ·
  • Description: Both sexes carry heavily-ridged horns which are V-shaped when viewed from the front, but which curve forwards, outwards and then sharply back. It is a large, high shouldered, awkward looking animal with a long, narrow face accentuated by the dark, vertical blaze and the horny pedicle on the top ot the head from which the horns emerge. The coat is glossy reddish-brown, with dark marks on the legs and tail. ·

Recommendation: Red hartebeest could have a valuable contribution to the ecological system on Highlands Wildernis Game Ranch since they are mixed feeders and are very adaptable to a wide range of veld types. It is a low impact grazer of intermediate, more roughage type of grass species (Fursrenburg 2003d). Red hartebeest will not necessary compete with other selective feeders like blesbok and wildebeest. 

Reedbuck Redunca arundinum · 

  • Habitat requirements: Tall grass cover or reedbeds are preferred but not open veld or bush encroached areas. Cover is a vital habitat requirement (Stuart and Stuart 2001).
  • Food preference: Reedbuck is a mixed feeder, and almost exclusively a grazer. It will also eat small quantities of herbs when grasses such as Panicum maximum, Heteropogon contortus, Chloris gayana and Cenchrus ciliaris are not available. They are primarily nocturnal, but will feed diurnally when conditions are harsh (Smither´s 2000).
  • Water requirements: Drinking water is not essential but will drink when water is available. (Du Toit 2002). ·
  • Group size:20 individuals with a master ram, females and immature (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Reproduction: After a gestation period of 225 days a single young is born. Young lie up for up to 3 months and therefore cover is essential habitat requirement. Males are usually mature at 2 years and the females can conceive first at between 15 and 18 months of age (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Life span: 8 to 9 years (Smither´s). ·
  • Population grow/year: 20 to 35 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002). ·
  • Home range:Reedbuck is very territorial and can be found in monogamous occupying a home range which the male defends against any other males. The male advertises the territory with his “rocking horse” canter and “proud” posture display. Although not gregarious, reedbucks do form pairs or family pairs that may aggregate when habitat conditions are locally limiting. Females leave the family in the second year after they reached maturity, but the male live till third year (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 4 and 1 : 3 (ECOCAP). ·
  • Description: Only the males carry the horns which are nearly straight and vertical, parallel to each other and ringed only at the base. This is a small antelope with a rust coloured coat and slender neck. The ears are very long, pointed, and narrow. The underside is hardly paler. The tail is short, bushy and has a white underside. The female is similar but slightly smaller and unhorned. ·

Recommendation: The habitat on management unit 3 and 4 is suitable for reintroducing more reedbuck according to ecological capacity. The species is considered good for trophy hunting, and increasing species number could be considered where higher species diversity is sought. 

Sable antelope Hippotragus niger · 

  • Habitat requirements: Sable antelope prefer open savannas with scattered low shrubs bordering vleis, medium to tall grassland. It is never found far from water (Stuart and Stuart 2001). ·
  • Food preference:Sable antelope prefer grass that is 80 to 140 mm tall. Of the sable antelope prefer grass species only Panicum maximum and Brachiaria nigropedata, Eragrostis jeffreyi, Themeda triandra and Urochloa bolbodes. However, sable antelope occasionally feed on browse. (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Water requirements: Sable antelope requires 9 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002). ·
  • Group size:7 to 9 animals are recommended if kept in a 200 hectare camp (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Reproduction: A single calf is born at any time of the year but mostly in summer. The gestation period is approximately 270 to 280 days. After 3 to 4 weeks in hiding the calf begins to follow the mother and joins the herd (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The calf is weaned at 6 to 9 months and females give birth for the first time when they are 2 years old (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Life span: 11 years (Smither´s). ·
  • Population grow/year: 15 to 25 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002). ·
  • Home range: Sable live in herds, usually of between 10 and 40, led by a master bull, accompanied by females, young and immature animals. Bulls often become solitary or form small parties (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 6 and 2 : 4 (ECOCAP). ·
  • Description: Both sexes carry the large, ridged horns which rise upwards and sweep backwards in a pronounced curve. Horns in the female are smaller and much less curved. This is a large antelope with conspicuous black and white head markings. The general colour of the males is a glossy black with white under parts, and a mane of stiff hairs. The ears are big and narrow, white inside and not tufted. The females are paler than the males, tinged with a dark chestnut colour, and the calves are fawn-coloured.

Recommendation: Sable antelope are very expensive, as well as being very sensitive towards their environment. Sable antelopes are sought after photographic, trophy and live sale animals. For breeding purposes it is advised to keep the animals in smaller enclosure under semi-intensive conditions. Increased parasite load and therefore, increased risk of disease with the confinement of the animals in camps has to be kept in mind. Sable antelopes will chew on bones and ingest soil to obtain minerals (Apps 1996). Supplementary feeding should therefore be provided. Sable antelope are especially susceptible to anthrax. Transport permits are required. This animal species is considered suitable for introduction, either as free roaming or for intensive breeding purposes on either management unit on Highlands Wildernis Game Ranch. For free roaming purposes it is recommended that a breeding herd of approximately 5 to 10 females and two males (breeding bull and sub-adult) be introduced from a similar area. Combining two different groups of females in the same area is dangerous as alpha females from two different groups could fight and inflict serious wounds on each other and could even kill one another. The same could happen if two adult breeding bulls are introduced into the same area without enough space to range away from each other. These bulls could easily kill one another with serious financial implications. 

Waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus · 

  • Habitat requirements: The waterbuck is associated with water and prefers areas with reed beds and tall grass as well as woodland. They will utilise open grassland adjacent to cover (Stuart and Stuart 2001). ·
  • Food preference:The waterbuck is mainly a grazer with a preference for long grass. They sometimes browse when the grass is low in protein (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Water requirements: The waterbuck requires 9 litres of water a day (Du Toit 2002). ·
  • Group size:6 to 12 animals (up to 30) (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Reproduction: A single calf is born at any time of the year but mostly in summer. The gestation period is approximately 280 days. After 3 to 4 weeks in hiding the calf begins to follow the mother and joins the herd (Stuart and Stuart 2001). The calf is weaned at 6 to 9 months and females give birth for the first time when they are 2 years old (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Life span: 11 years (Smither´s). ·
  • Population grow/year: 13.4 percent (Bothma, Van Rooyen and Du Toit 2002). ·
  • Home range:Male territories vary from 90 hectare to 660 hectare. Nursery herds have home ranges overlapping male territories (Smither´s 2000). ·
  • Minimum viable group size and sex ratio: 6 and 2 : 4 (ECOCAP). ·
  • Description: Only the malescarry the imposing, heavily-ridged horns which rise base. This is a large, level-backed antelope with a coarse, greyish-brown coat, marked by a characteristic white ring round the rump. Waterbuck have white markings around the eyes, muzzle and throat. The tail is moderately long with a black tip. The cow, with its long, floppy ears and no horns looks almost mule-like. ·

Recommendation: On Highlands Wildernis Game Ranch, waterbuck can serve a very important ecological role since it preferred different vegetation types that occur on the ranch. Waterbuck is a popular after trophy and tourism species and are as popular on live sales – especially trophy animals. Waterbuck are adaptable to various savanna habitats as long as ample water is available. They generally do not mind grazing in the mountain slopes near streams or dams where they prefer longer more nutritious grasses. If fed, they become very tame and become very popular on photographic safaris in game ranches. Warthogs and their young ones were not introduced in the ranch but are present in the game ranch. Habitat requirement for warthogs is open savannas, grasslands, vleis and flood plains with short heavily utilised grass. The boar has four facial warts, two beneath the eyes and two above the mouth. The two warts beneath the eyes can be up to 120 millimetres long beneath the eyes. Two small, lower vestigial warts may occur in the sow, but this is rare. The tusk of an old sow curves further around the snout than those of an old boar. Warthogs are mostly selective grazers, preferring short, tufted or stoloniferous grasses, but also eat roots and bulbs, especially in the dry season. They dig extensively for the rhizomes of the grasses. These animals are well known of crawling underneath or through the fence and cause potential escape route for valuable animals. Porcupines are common on Highlands Wildernis game ranch (about three pairs plus their immature offspring). Most Burkea africana saplings bear porcupine feeding scars 2 to 5 cm in diameter just above the root collar. Porcupines preferentially eat the basal bark of young specimens of Dombeya rotundifolia, Burkea Africanaand to a lesser extent, Terminalia sericea in the late dry season. 

While we had the chopper there for the game count we arranged with Marius (the Vet) to do the honours and play it safe on the Giraffe.

For those wondering how it works: 

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 Firstly the medication needs to taken from the ice packs and injected into the darts used.
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The rifle has a normal .22 bolt rifle base, but the bullets used are actually ballistic charges (A green one for the Hilty people). As the shot is fired the gasses from the ignition feeds up into a second barrel on top of the normal one where it uses the gas power to blow out the dart. The green barb to the tip of the dart acts to let the dart stay on the skin of the animal for a short while. In doing so the shooter can see if and where the dose has been delivered. The impact of the shot uses the momentum of the shot to execute the injection.

Loading the rifle therefor implies 2 loads. One in shotgun style to add the dart on top and the second a normal bolt action to load the ballistic charge. A range finder scope is uses.

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Six giraffe in four minutes speaks of professional practice!

I looked the giraffe up the next day and they were merrily munching away and they were not spooked at all.

10/10 for this round 🙂