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African Buffalo

Description

Also one of the great big stomping foot, hoof and horn brigade - the Big Five - the African buffalo is like a massive cow on steroids. Once popular trophies for big game hunters, they're fascinating and incredibly gregarious animals that can gather in herds that number several thousand.

Driving through such a herd can be the ultimate game viewing rush, even if they're just peacefully grazing, which they do most of the time. If you do manage to drive near such a herd, cut the engine and listen to the munching of thousands of big black buffalo and try to out-gaze their challenging stares. Buffalo are extremely hierarchical and form subunits that stick together. Basically that means that everyone has a place in the herd, with the higher ranking groups at the front and centre, gaining the best grazing and protection from predators.

The lowest ranking buffalo graze at the back and are the main targets of predators. Of course testosterone plays a major role in this class conscious society and bulls dominate the cows. Females move up the hierarchy when they have a calf in tow. Males raise their status by using their fighting prowess with lots of head butting, charging each other at 20 km an hour and smashing heads together with a force similar to a car crashing into a wall at 50 km an hour.

Buffalo herds are usually placid but if alarmed they will stampede with dire consequences to any predator that happens to be in their path. The herd actively protects its members, especially if there is a distress call from a calf. The whole herd will rush to its defence and even chase lion away.

Status: The African buffalo has been given a Lower Risk Conservation Dependent status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When is the best time to spot buffalo? Spending time at waterholes in the early morning or afternoon or going on a night drive has great rewards. Buffalo tend to seek shade during the heat of the day and feed mainly at night.

Where do buffalo roam? They prefer open woodland savanna and grasslands that has access to shelter.

Reproduction: Calves are usually born in the wetter summer months and keep up with the herd within a few hours. The gestation period is about 12 months and they weigh about 40 kg at birth.

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