The Panthera Pardus, better known as the African leopard, is one of the most sophisticated and powerfully built hunters of the African jungle. Among all the other wild big cats, the leopard is arguably one of the most gorgeous because of their unique print. Compared to the tiger, lion, jaguar, and cheetah the leopard is slightly built and smaller compared to the other wild cats in the Panthera family.

Leopards can be found across sub-Sahara Africa and Asia. Their skin colour varies between individuals, ranging from dark golden to pale yellow. Dark spots scarred across its body are grouped into rosettes. The belly is whitish in color and its tail is ringed with dark patches.

Secret Africa - Interesting Facts About Leopards

Leopards found deep in the African bushes and mountains are much darker with a deep golden colour coat. If you have ever wondered what it’s like to see one up close, then these interesting facts about leopards will make you even more curious.

Leopards are Strong Predators

Compared to all the other wild cats, the leopard is considered one of the strongest. They can climb trees while carrying their prey and will often choose to rest on top of tree branches in the middle of the day. The reason why they prefer to eat their prey up in a tree is to ensure that other animals do not steal it, especially lions and hyenas.

Leopards are Fast

The leopard is well known for its agility. They can run up to 58km/h and can leap 3m vertically and 6m horizontally. They don’t mind water and are very resilient swimmers. Leopards can hunt their prey even while they are in the water or take their prey across bodies of water and up a tree where they can eat it in peace.

Leopards are Secretive and like Solitude

As a leopard ages, it eventually becomes more solitary and territorial. They like to roam in one specific area away from other animals, and prefer keeping to themselves most of the time. They will only interact with other leopards when they want to mate. Leopards mark their territories with urine or scratch their claws on tree barks.

Leopards are good at Camouflage

Leopards put their unique spots to good use. The beautiful cream and gold spotted fur helps them blend into their surroundings of trees and other shrubs, to hunt their prey effortlessly. It’s really difficult to spot a leopard in the wild because they blend in so well. Their fur also helps them stay out of sight from other animals up in a tree so they can eat in peace.

A Leopard’s Tail is used for Balance

A leopard’s tail is almost as long as its body. The longer the tail, the better they can balance themselves when climbing a tree. The leopard also has very powerful claws that can help it climb a rough straight cliff just like a human would rock climb.

The Leopard is a Major Carnivore

The leopard prefers medium sized prey with a body mass that ranges from 10 – 40kg. Prey that weigh in this range prefer open areas and these include the bushbuck, sitatunga, impala, chital, sambar deer, thompson’s gazelle, and southern reedbuck, to name a few.

Secret Africa - Interesting Facts About Leopards

Leopards also prey on smaller carnivores like the black backed jackal, genet, and cheetah. They can also kill prey that’s as heavy as 550kg. If there are no other lions or tigers in the area, the leopard can prey on a giraffe. The largest prey that a leopard has ever killed was a male eland weighing in at 900kg.

Leopards are Cats of the Night

Leopards are nocturnal cats. Just like the lion, the leopard likes to hunt their prey at night. Most leopards will hunt their prey starting from dusk till dawn, except for those that can be found in western Africa. Leopards from this part of Africa hunt during twilight and are diurnal.

Female Leopards like to tease Males for Mating

Female leopards have a special game plan when they want to invite a male to mate. The female leaves a scent on the trees in her territory by rubbing her body against them, so that male leopards can reach her by following her scent or hearing her mating call.

Leopards are becoming Endangered to Save Humans

Humans use different body parts of these beautiful animals for medicinal purposes. Since the medicine that includes their body parts are highly effective, they have started to become a vulnerable species. Along with using their body parts to cure some human illnesses, their fur is also used for clothing and decorative ornaments.

Leopards can Resort to Eating Humans

Most leopards avoid humans in general, but occasionally we may actually be targeted as prey. The majority of all healthy leopards would prefer wild prey compared to eating humans. But if they are injured, sickly or struggling in any way and there’s a shortage of prey — they may resort to hunting humans and become accustomed to it.

Man-eating leopards are considered hard to track and become very bold. Although these kinds of situations are very rare, they are still highly capable of killing a human.

At first glance, seaweed might not seem like much. A slimy shrub floating in the water we see at times floating in the ocean, or washed up on the beach. Many people are repulsed by it, refusing to swim with it. Don’t be fooled though, these marine plants are completely harmless and essentially very beneficial to our health in many ways.

Rich in nutrients, seaweed contains many trace minerals and cancer fighting compounds that is said to heal the body and rejuvenate the skin. With the help of scientists, we are learning that seaweed is far more precious than we originally thought.

In fact, a lot of people now are finding different ways to include seaweed in their diets and skin care regiments. Don’t believe the hype? Here are some interesting facts about seaweed that might change your mind.

Seaweeds are not Plants

Seaweed is actually a type of algae not a plant. They have no leaves, stems, or roots to transport water or nutrients. As an alternative however, each cell develops what it needs directly from the seawater around it. The only similarity land plants and seaweed have with one another, is that both rely on sunlight for energy through photosynthesis.

Most of the Oxygen We Breathe comes from Seaweed

You may want to give a silent thank you to seaweed the next time you take a deep breath, because of the glorious oxygen it provides for all of us. Seaweed, kelp, phytoplankton, and algal plankton produce 70% of the air we breathe, which is why they are very important.

Secret Africa, Interesting Facts about Seaweed

Believe it or not, the rain-forest only produces 28% of our oxygen, while the remaining 2% comes from other sources. Surprising, right? This is one of the reasons why we need to protect our oceans and keep them free of pollution.

Seaweed is Used with many Asian Dishes

Interesting Facts about Seaweed, Asian Dishes

Kombu, Nori, and Wakame are all well-known seaweed ingredients used in most Asian countries as an add-on or an actual ingredient in food. Asia consumes around 2 million tons of seaweed every year to use in their complex fusion of culinary dishes. This is why we love seaweed so much, because it is both nutritious and a great snack.

Seaweed can be used in Many Skincare and Healthcare Regiments

Seaweed has been used for many centuries to cure all kinds of illnesses. Seaweed can help cure tuberculosis, prevent obesity, and ovarian cysts. Another good reason why the Japanese are extremely healthy is because they include a lot of natural seaweed in their diets. The ancient Romans used seaweed to treat burns, wounds, and rashes. Today, many hospitals also use seaweed as a form of wound dressing.

Seaweed Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

Seaweed can come in many shapes and sizes. There are the microscopic micro seaweeds and the large macro seaweeds. The smaller ones are those you can see that are washed up on shore at the beach, while the bigger ones are those you can find covering large rocks or carried to shore by large waves.

Seaweed Has Over 12,000 Species

Seaweed does not refer to just one plant alone but rather it is a common name for many other species of marine plants and algae. There is still no formal term for this though, but seaweed is grouped into three main categories which include brown, red, and green algae.

Interesting Facts about Seaweed - Seaweed Has Over 12,000 Species

It is also considered a super food and can provide your body with many health benefits starting with lowering the risk of breast cancer to fighting off deadly diseases. Seaweed is in reality considered the kale of the ocean and can be used in many different ways to help us become more intentional with our health.

Seaweed Can Make a Great Substitute for Bacon

Have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian? But you’re big fan of bacon and will sorely miss it? You’re in luck then, because seaweed can actually taste like bacon when it is served fried. Not only does it taste wonderful but this unproved strain of seaweed has more nutritional value than kale.

Seaweed is also gluten free, a low carbohydrate, sustainable, and organic. All thanks to seaweed, you can now have a healthier alternative to bacon without the guilt.

Rwanda is considered as one of the smallest countries of Africa. It is located just a few degrees south of the equator. The country is bordered by Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mutilated by perhaps the most ruthless post-war genocide and political drama of the 20th century, Rwanda has come a long way since its rough past. Today, despite many claims of low-key exploitation and human rights abuse, the country remains a reinforcement of hope for other central African countries trying to recover from an agonizing past.

Rwanda is considered Africa’s kick ass come-back country. Two decades after the genocide, the country has made extensive effort to promote harmony and opulence amongst the people, inspire clean streets, and enrich the country back to its illustrious natural beauty.

With its awe-inspiring landscapes, captivating wildlife, and lush green forests — it’s impossible not to fall in love with the place. Here’s our top travel picks for Rwanda:

Kigali Memorial Centre Genocide Memorial

The Kigali Memorial Centre is not a very scenic site but holds great historic significance. The somber building with gardens and a concrete mass of graves marks one of the largest massacres sites. You should consider visiting it to truly understand the impact of Rwanda’s terrible past, and how the country has recovered from it.

Kigali Memorial Centre Genocide Memorial

The display is thought-provoking, depicting the horror of the three-month long genocide, which wrecked the country in 1994. Personal photography, film footage, and personal accounts of the historic moment were all captured. 99.9% of the population was affected by the genocide — a painful past that makes the present kindness and positivity of the locals more significant.

Congo Nile Hiking Trail

One of the best ways to experience Rwanda in all its natural beauty is through a quick hike. The Congo Nile Hiking Trail is a famous route taking you to the edge of the country’s most alluring stretch of crystal clear water, Lake Kivu. While on the trail, you will experience thick forest vegetation, intense landscapes and rolling hills, which is how Rwanda got its nickname, “Land of a Thousand Hills”.

Volcano National Park

The Best Places to Visit in Rwanda - Volcano National Park

If you want to experience seeing mountain gorillas up close, Volcano National Park is an excellent choice. This small park is considered the safe haven for these critically endangered animals. The park is home to 10 habituated gorilla families existing in different parts of the park. Other than the mountain gorillas you will also get to see over 75 species of different mammals like buffaloes, elephants, giant forest hogs, bush bucks, and spotted hyenas.

It is also home to over 180 species of birds and 26 of these you can find in the Rwenzori and Virunga mountains. Other than wide variety of animals you’ll see in this park there is also the Dian Fossey Grave, Mount Bisoke, and Mount Karisimbi.

Related: Interesting Facts About Mountain Gorillas

King’s Palace Museum

This palace was the residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa until his death in 1959. It’s located in Nyanza, about 88km south of Kigali City. It was built by the Belgium Government in 1932. The museum is considered a cultural center that sheds light on Rwanda’s monarchy practice of the past 200 years.

King’s Palace Museum

Inside, tourists can view the king’s traditional seat. Unfortunately many of the other objects and materials of tradition were destroyed or stolen in 1994 during the genocide. In order to rebuild it back to its former 19th century state, other materials of traditional heritage had to be added. These include traditional cows also known as “lnyambo”, which represents the Rwandese culture. The museum also allows you to view the burial grounds of King Mutara III and his wife Rosalie Gicanda on the neighbouring hill of Mwima.

Mountain Gorillas are one of the most delightfully friendly and loving animals in the world. While many find them to be extremely ferocious creatures, they are actually the total opposite in nature and can warm up to humans easily compared to other wild animals. They are quite shy, but they are also very smart.

Unfortunately, the species is drastically decreasing in numbers because of the human encroachment and conflicts near their African homes. They are considered an endangered species. Many tourists from all over the world fly to Africa just to get a glimpse of these magnificent creatures. Sadly, they are also sought after by poachers, which make them hard to spot in the wild.

Perhaps the interesting things about them will help spread awareness and make it easier to fall in love with them more. Here are a few interesting facts about mountain gorillas.

Gorillas Share Human DNA

Gorillas are special primates that share 98% of their DNA with humans.

If you have ever seen one up close at a zoo, their intelligence is just extraordinary. This is what makes them interesting too, because they can be taught and can adapt to human activities quite well.

Gorillas Breed Slowly

Female gorillas do not give birth until they reach the age of 10. When they do give birth, their babies have to be watched over and guarded very carefully until they are old enough to fend for themselves.Interesting Facts About Mountain Gorillas

Just like human children, gorillas also take care of their young very proactively and make sure they are protected at all times.

Gorillas have Emotions

One of the most fascinating things about gorillas is the fact that they also have emotions. Believe it or not, gorillas cry when they are sad and can even laugh when they are tickled. Because they are so similar to humans it is easy to spot how they feel.

Gorillas can last without Water

Unlike many other animals gorillas don’t need access to a constant rich source of water like a lake or a stream. They get most of their water from the moisture in the plants they eat or from morning dew.

Facts About Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas actually dislike water in general and try to avoid crossing streams of water. They only become interested in regular water sources during the dry season and when there are only little pools of water. They prefer this to avoid the danger of their infants getting washed away by flowing sources of water.

Gorillas are very Shy and Docile

Gorillas are very shy and docile creatures, and will only react when they are provoked by danger. This counters the popular belief that gorillas are very aggressive and violent creatures.

Gorillas Stay in Families

Gorillas are very social animals that form harems. Just like humans, they are very close with members of their families. Gorilla families can have up to 20 members. One silverback gorilla (dominant male) can live together with several other female gorillas and their offspring. However, 40% of mountain gorilla groups can contain several other adult males that are closely related to each other.

The majority of all gorilla groups contain more females than males, which is why a lot of males are left roaming the forest alone. Mountain gorilla males that are loners will occasionally form an all male group, which varies in size. On average, each group of gorillas can contain up to 10 members.

Want to see Gorillas in the wild? Why not stay in a luxury lodge in Uganda for the ultimate Gorilla trekking experience.

Gorillas get sick like Humans

Gorillas can get sick easily just like humans. They are prone to human sicknesses as well, like pneumonia and other bacterial and viral diseases, when they are exposed to cold and wet climates for long periods of time.

Interesting Facts About Mountain Gorillass

Humans can make gorillas sick by sneezing close them. Gorillas are prone to human respiratory infections and even other sicknesses that can lead to sudden death among mountain gorillas. This is why tourists are advised to stay as far away from them as possible.

Gorillas are “Occasional” Carnivores

Gorillas are very curious animals and enjoy exploring. Although most of them predominantly feed on roots, fruits, and plants, occasionally when they are feeling a bit adventurous, they will engage in hunting small animals. But this happens very seldom.

The Majingilane Coalition got their name from the reference of watchmen patrolling the night. They marched with intention, never altering their course. Their origin was traced to the Manyelethi Game Reserve, where they were part of a pride with a reputation as buffalo hunters.

The five Majingilane males were born between 2004 and 2005. By 2009 their solo journey apart from their main pride started. And so they moved south towards Sabi Sands. The brothers decided to stick together and the gang started causing a big stir in their new territory.

Challenging Their Predecessors

By 2010 the new coalition faced off against two formidable Mapogo males – Mr. T (Satan) and Kinky-Tail. The encounter was brutal. The Mapogos managed to isolate and kill one of the Majingilanes, breaking his spine with their sheer force. But the remaining four Majingilane lions managed to strike back with a night attack and killed Kinky-Tail.

Mr. T (Satan) joined his other remaining brothers again in the western sector of the Sabi Sands. Everyone was holding their breath for a big showdown between the two coalitions, but this never happened. The remaining four Majingilane males managed to take control of most of the Londolozi reserve area. Following in the brutal footsteps of their predecessors, they purged the land of all the lions not bowing to their dominion.

Related: The Notorious Mapogo Lions of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Settling In To Their New Territory

The first pride that was targeted by the Majingilane Coalition, was the much-loved Tsalala Pride. Out of the eight sub-adults, four were killed. Only the four younger lionesses and their three mothers survived. By 2010 the two adult lionesses succumbed to their powers and started mating with the “enemy”. Survival of the fittest took over and even though the Majingilane males had killed their cubs, they knew that the strongest and best genes had to be passed on.

Their next target was the Sparta Pride. The Majingilanes killed two of the three cubs and by the beginning of 2011 quite a few pride members were missing. The pride had been split up, and not wanting to draw attention to themselves, they did not call out to each other. This means they could not reunite to stand their ground against the attack. The Majingilane lions grew stronger, with their manes darkening and thickening. And they took over more and more land. They reigned the land for over 7 years.

Making Their Mark

The mighty Majingilane male lions definitely ruffled feathers with their arrival. Similar to the way the Mapogo coalition sowed havoc, the Majingilanes greatly affected the lion population of the Sabi Sands.

Their reputation rests on a few factors. Firstly, the size of their territory, as well as the number of pride takeovers they managed. Not quite as infamous as the Mapogo coalition, the Majingilane lions were just as powerful.

The brothers were born in the Orpen area of the Kruger National Park. They meandered into the Sabi Sands reserve at the beginning of 2010. They dominated 5 prides in total. The Majingilane lions were named according to prominent physical features: Dark Mane, Golden Mane, Scar-Nose, and Hip-Scar.

Cubs born from the coalition:

Tsalala Pride 11 cubs with 3 surviving
2 killed by buffalo, 2 killed by a flood, 1 killed by Scar-Nose (Majingilane) and 3 disappeared
Breakaway Tsalala Pride: no cubs
Fourways Pride 4 cubs with 3 surviving.
1 cub disappeared
Styx Pride 6 cubs with 5 surviving
1 cub disappeared
Sparta Pride 13 cubs with 8 surviving
3 killed by flood, 1 killed by Tsalala Pride, 1 disappeared
Total 34 cubs, with 19 surviving

In the prime of their dominion over the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, it was estimated that they controlled 26 676 Hectares. That’s 267 square kilometres or 65 919 Acres. To put it into more perspective, the area they patrolled was about the same as 50 706 American football fields! The perimeter came to about 64.6 km (40.2 miles).

The Majingilane Lions of Sabi Sands

Image by Londolozi Lodge
A map of their territory. The black lines show the borders of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. And the red area is the estimated territory of the Majingilane Males Coalition.

The End of an Era

On average a male lion lives to the age of 10. As part of a coalition, they can maybe stretch their lifespan a little bit further. But because the battle for dominance over their territory is so fierce, they usually don’t make it much further than a decade of domination.

By the end of the Majingilane coalition, the four brothers split up. The first brother to pass away, was the Hip-Scar male. People following the journey of the formidable four lions, had predicted that he would be first to die. He seemed to be the outsider, mostly a loner away from the group. Sometimes the other brothers would ignore his roars, not answering immediately.

Next the Golden Mane lion went missing. Reports say that he was badly injured during a buffalo hunt. And an old lion’s chances of recovering from such an ordeal, are slim to none. He succumbed to his injuries.

The Dark Mane and Scar-Nose males were the core members of the coalition. They were constantly seen together, almost as if inseparable. In the end they also split up, both emaciated. After 8 years of a reign of terror, it was old age that crumbled their dominion.

Click here to view a tribute to the majingilane

 

The lion (Panthera Leo) is part of the big cat family, Felidae. A lion is an animal symbol used by a wide variety of human cultures to depict strength, superiority, courage, and more. The mighty king of the jungle often appears as sculptures, on flags, and in paintings. They also regularly appear in literature and films. Since the Roman Empire, lions were kept in confinement. And till this day they are a highly sought-after species for zoos worldwide.

The lion is a muscular big cat, with a deep chest and a short, rounded head. The male’s majestic mane is unmistakable and both males and females have a cheeky tuft of hair at the end of their tails. The male and female lions are very distinct from each other. A male can weigh between 150 to 250 kg (330 to 550 lb) and females between 120 to 182 kg (265 to 400 lb). And a lion’s roar is an unmistakable sound, echoing over the African savannah. They prefer living in the savannas and grasslands instead of forests.

Lions are mostly active during the day, but sometimes they hunt at night or twilight as well. The lion population has dwindle to Sub-Saharan Africa and they are critically endangered in western India. Since 1996 their population status is Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. A steady decline of up to 43% has been noticed since the early 90’s. The cause of the population drop is uncertain, but conflicts with humans and habitat loss are the biggest concerns.

Interesting Facts about Lions

The king of the jungle has fascinated people for centuries. Below a few things you might not know about lions.

  • There are about 20 000 lions left in the wild. In 26 African countries they are already extinct. 90% of the lions’ historical roaming grounds have disappeared.
  • At the rate of expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s estimated that in 2050 lions will be extinct in the wild.
  • A lion’s biggest enemy is surprisingly the porcupine. About the same size as a small dog, a porcupine is literally a thorn in the lion’s flesh. They are often tricked to sniff at the spikey nemesis and the sharp quills often get stuck in a lion’s jaw for its entire life.
  • Lions are the only cat family members with a tasselled tail. These aren’t just for show, they use their fluffy tails as communication tools, either to indicate a direction change, or as a flirty “come hither” invitation.
  • A lion’s claws are super sharp. But they are retractable. This way they remain sharp and it prevents accidents during play time. The claws grow in layers. As a layer reaches its end, another replaces it. A claw can measure up to 4cm (1.5 inches) from the nail base to its tip.
Scary Facts about Lions

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

  • The lion’s back teeth (carnassals) have a scissor-like function. This helps them to tackle a fresh piece of meat. But lions don’t really chew food, they swallow chunks from the side of their mouth.
  • Male and female lions have a special way of greeting each other. They rub up against each other, sometimes so enthusiastically, one of them gets knocked over. It’s a sign of bonding, while the lions are rubbing against each other, scent markings are left behind. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s why your cat rubs against your legs.
  • The African lions are rated the most social among their big cat cousins. A pride can consist of up to 15 lions.
  • A male lion’s main job is to defend its pride’s territory. And the females are in charge of hunting. But the males still get to eat first.
  • Before habitat loss, lions lived in Europe and Asia as well. But now most lions stay in Africa. There are only a few Asiatic lions left in the Sasan-Gir National Park, India. It’s estimated that there are only between 300 to 400 lions remaining in the park, which was created specifically to protect them.
Scary Facts about Lions

Photo by Wade Lambert on Unsplash

  • You can hear a lion’s roar up to 8km (5 miles) away.
  • Lions can maintain a speed of 85 km/h (50 mph) for a short distance, and can leap up to 10 m (36 feet)
  • The name “king of the jungle” is misleading, seeing as lions prefer the plains and grasslands. This popular term may stem from the association between jungles and Africa.
  • You can gauge the age of a male lion by looking at its mane. The darker its mane, the older the lion.
  • While it is walking, a lion’s heels don’t touch down on the ground.
  • A lion can sleep up to 20 hours per day.

Read more about the famous Lions of the Sabi Sands, the Notorious Mapogo Lions.

Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla Beringei Beringei) are a small subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla. The species is also possibly split down further into two sub groups. Just over half of the existing Mountain Gorilla population live in the Virunga Mountains. These are a range of extinct volcanoes on the border of three African countries – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The rest of the Mountain Gorillas live in Uganda, inside the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The gorilla subspecies was discovered in 1902. They have endured the turmoil of their home countries, battling years of war, habitat destruction, hunting, and disease. They barely held on and at one point it was estimated that Mountain Gorillas would be extinct by the end of the twentieth century.

Gentle Giants of the Jungle

They are still on the endangered list, with a population of just over a 1 000. A Mountain Gorilla can grow up to 5 ½ feet when standing on its hind legs. They weigh up 440 pounds. The Mountain Gorillas prefer living high up into the mountains, in forests at an elevations of between 8 000 to 13 000 feet. Compared to their other ape cousins, their fur is much thicker and denser. This helps them to cope with temperature drops in the mountains, oftentimes below freezing.

Because humans have invaded their territory more and more, Mountain Gorillas are forced to move higher up into the mountains. This exposes them to possible deadly weather conditions they are not accustomed to. Luckily for the past couple of decades extensive conservation efforts have been made to preserve the Mountain Gorilla population. They are still battling against poaching, civil conflict, and the ever growing human population. But Mountain Gorillas have fought back and in the last couple of years their numbers have increased.

Interesting Facts about Mountain Gorillas

If you are intrigued by these mighty apes, here are a few interesting things you might not have known about Mountain Gorillas.

  • A Mountain Gorilla’s DNA is 98.5% similar to a human’s.
  • They are the biggest primates on earth. Males can weigh up to 390 pounds and females about 250 pounds.
  • A Mountain Gorilla displays human-like emotions. They also laugh when tickled and cry when hurt.
  • Male Mountain Gorillas can devour up to 49 pounds of vegetables per day, and the females eat only slightly less than this.
  • Mountain Gorillas don’t drink much water. They prefer hydrating from eating plants.
Fun Facts about Mountain Gorillas

Photo by virungaparkcongo.com

  • The female Mountain Gorillas build special beds for their young ones, from branches and vine leaves.
  • A baby Mountain Gorilla weighs about 4.5 pounds when born.
  • Mountain Gorillas live in groups, sometimes including more than 20 members. A troop will stay together for over 20 years.
  • Although Mountain Gorillas do have four limbs that they can use for walking, they don’t use all four regularly, preferring moving around on only two.
  • They don’t have tails.
Fun Facts about Mountain Gorillas

Photo by insideclimatenews.org

  • Mountain Gorillas are extremely intelligent. In captivity they can learn sign language to engage in interactions with humans.
  • They build new nests each night for sleeping, and sometimes also build a nest for an afternoon nap.
  • Old male Mountain Gorillas grow a patch of silver hair on their back as they age. This is where the term “silverback” comes from.
  • A Mountain Gorilla can live up to 54 years.
  • A female Mountain Gorilla reaches the breeding stage after about 10 years. Their gestation period is eight to nine months.

Did you know that elephants can die of a broken heart or that an elephant’s tooth can weigh as much as three kilograms? Being the largest of all land mammals on earth, elephants are magnificent, fascinating creatures. Not only are they intelligent beings with complex physical and social needs, but they express humour, love and compassion.

If you’re like most humans, you’ve probably had a love affair with elephants since a child, but because of poaching and habitat loss, the population of these magnificent beasts is fast decreasing. You probably do not need another reason to love elephants – but poaching is out of control. To raise awareness and mark World Elephant Day on the 12thAugust, we’ve made a list of ten amazing, elephant-astic facts to make you love them even more.

10 Amazing Facts About Elephants richard jacobs unsplash

  1. They display human-like behaviour

Elephants are amazing when it comes to family bonds and loving their offspring.Showing similarities in human behaviour, they have the emotional connections we share with our families. They form alliances to solve problems, and they perform greeting ceremonies when a friend returns. Bonding easily, they cuddle and show empathy by putting their trunks in each other’s mouths, offering comfort through touch.

  1. An elephant’s brain is massive

The African elephant is not just the largest living land animal, but it also has an enormous brain size to match. Their brains can weigh up to a whopping 5.4kg, which would explain their incredible memory-power and high level of awareness. Along with humans and other primates, elephants can recognise themselves in a mirror. Not only does this show a sense of self, but it shows they can identify themselves as individuals, rather than just part of a herd.

  1. They mourn and cry for the dead

Having a sense of self may be the reason for their social and altruistic habits. Just like humans, elephants will mourn and cry when they lose a loved one. They cover the body with leaves and stand silently next to their departed loved one for hours, sometimes for days. Later, and even every year on their anniversary, they may return and pay respect to the bones by gently touching it with their trunks and feet.

10 Amazing Facts About Elephants alan j hendry unsplash

  1. An elephant can listen with its feet

Partially blind, elephants use hearing and vibrations to navigate direction.Boasting nearly 2,000 special genes that detect odours in the environment, they can also detect sub-sonic rumblings made by other elephants and humans with sensory cells in their feet. When an elephant places its trunk on the ground and positions its feet, the vibrations travel through the body to the inner ear. Very interesting fact!

  1. They use sunscreen

An elephant’s skin is actually very delicate and can easily get burned in the sun. To prevent sunburn, these intelligent creatures created their very own sunscreen. After a bath, they roll in mud and toss sand over their bodies to protect themselves. They also stop their young from getting burnt by standing over them to cast a shadow. Clever, right!

10 Amazing Facts About Elephants sander wehkamp unsplash

  1. They are environmentally awake

Oh yes, they are the one species that instinctively care for their environment by digging waterholes and creating pathways, giving other animals access to water too. In fact, many animals depend on them for their survival, and many plants will not germinate unless eaten by an elephant. Eating up to 18 hours a day, elephants also keep the land fertile by generating up to one tonne of dung per week.

  1. Elephants are afraid of ants and bees

No, we are not kidding. Who would have thought the largest animal with the mostcommanding presence would be terrified of ants and bees? While there is good logic behind these fears, this only confirms even more that elephants are gentle giants.

  1. Elephants are feminists

Elephants live in families for life, know their relatives, and are ruled by a female. She’s fierce, she’s a leader, she’s a protector of her herd, and she will decide where and when they move and rest, day to day. While the females travel, protect and support each other from birth till death, they push the males out of the herd to roam in temporary “bachelor herds” until they reach sexual maturity.

10 Amazing Facts About Elephants kevin philipson unsplash

  1. They are excellent sprinters

You definitely do not want to be in the path of a 6000-kilogram elephant charging your way. Elephants run faster than you would expect, easily reaching speeds of 40km/h – not even Wayde van Niekerkerk can outrun an elephant.

  1. The African elephant’s ears resemble the map of Africa

To the untrained eye, African and Asian elephants can be indistinguishable, but to the trained eye, the ears are a dead giveaway. Whereas Asian elephants have smaller ears that resemble the shape of India, African elephants have large ears that resemble the shape of Africa, Amazing, right!

While it’s a tragedy, losing any animal to extinction, it’s a special tragedy, losing our very own African elephant. Elephants have no real predators in the wild, except humans, and will only truly be safe when the demand for ivory ends. Until then, you can help save our elephants by knowing these ten amazing facts and by spreading the word.

An aardvark, meaning an earthpig, is a little nocturnal animal. They are mostly found in Africa. These peculiar animals are not known by many people. Sometimes they are also called “Cape Anteater”, referring to the Cape of Good Hope, or another name for them is the “African Antbear”.

The aardvark almost seems like a conglomerate of a few different animals. With an arched back, sparse hair, plus a snout-like nose — it’s easy to see why their name includes “pig”. But their ears are more rabbit-like, they have duck-like webbed feet, bear-like claws, and a kangaroo-like tail. And with a long tongue and fondness for ants, you would think they are cousins of the anteater. But they are not from the same family tree.

In the Maasai culture they believe it will bring you good fortune if you spot an aardvark. They live across Africa, but are mostly found south of the Sahara Desert.

Amazing Facts About Aardevarks 2

Unique and Curious Looking

The aardvark is one of a kind, being the only one of the Tubulidentata species order. Their name comes from the Afrikaans language and is derived from the reclusive little animal’s fondness of sheltering underground.

An aardvark can weigh between 60 to 80kg (130 to 180 pounds). They can grow up to between 105 and 130 cm (3.44 to 4.27 feet). When you include their tails, they are about 2.2m (7 feet 3 inches) long. This makes them the biggest member of the Afroinsectiphilia clade. Raised in captivity, an aardvark can live up to 23 years.

Made to Last by Mother Nature

The genetics of aardvarks are almost a living fossil. The chromosomes reflect an early eutherian arrangement, before more recent divergence of the modern taxa. And this ancient genome makes them the most closely related cousins of elephants. Aardvarks reproduce very slowly, with only one little earth pig born at a time. They are born inside the den and the mommy aardvark looks after the little one for a whole year.

Their teeth are very unique. They don’t have a pulp cavity. Each tooth is made up of a cluster of very thin, hexagonal tubes of vesodentin alongside each other. It’s basically a modified dentine. Cementum hold the teeth together. The teeth aren’t covered in enamel. An aardvark’s teeth are constantly worn down and regrowing.

Amazing Facts about Aardvarks

Photo by Science News

The Hunter in the Night

They are not fond of the sun and heat. During the day they prefer to hide in burrows under the ground, which the aardvarks dig out themselves. These burrows are far away from water and rocky terrain.

During one night’s scavenger hunt, an aardvark can consume up to 60 000 termites and ants. This great feat is achieved using their 30cm long sticky tongue. While extracting their food, an aardvark can close off its nostrils to prevent dust from entering, or ants crawling up its nose.

Aardvarks prefer eating ants, but there are only so many ants available to fill their tummies. So they are forced to also eat termites. The ant population is closely linked to seasonal changes. With its handy claws, an aardvark can demolish an entire termite mound. Which is an impressive feat, a mound can become close to concrete hard. The aardvark will slurp up the entire colony after breaking in, sometimes even snorting them up through its nostrils.

A rare daytime spotting of an aardvark

Compensating with a Unique Physique

Aardvarks can’t see very well. But although their eyesight is terrible, their keen senses of smell and hearing make up for the loss. They can hear a single sound from a long distance away. Aardvark claws are spoon-shaped and very sharp. They use them to borrow through the ground, as well as protection against predators. They can dig a burrow in a hurry, a very handy defence mechanism.

The Kings of the Underground

After eating all the inhabitants of a termite mound, they often make their burrows in it. Their underground homes are up to 13 meters long, and can have about seven different entrances. They like moving house often. And their abandoned burrows then become inhabited by warthogs, wild dogs, and pythons.

An aardvark territory can stretch for a few square kilometres. Oftentimes they don’t return to the same spot for up to seven weeks. This way the insect population can rebound a bit. The aardvark is thick skinned to protect it from the ant and termite bites. An aardvark can travel up to 16km during an evening of foraging, and sidestepping predators.

Amazing Facts About Aardevarks 1

Living On Their Own Mission

Because they are nocturnal, not much is known about these curious creatures. They are not very social and prefer to live a solo life. They only meet each other during breeding season. Again, due to their fondness of the dark, not much is known about how exactly they mate and what rituals they follow. A female aardvark is pregnant for seven months before giving birth to a solitary little aardvarkie.

The Pangolins are peculiar African and Asian mammals. Their bodies are covered with hard scales and they can curl up into a cute little ball in a defensive moment. Unfortunately they also have the title of world’s most trafficked animal. The name comes from a Malay word “penggulung”, meaning “one that rolls up”.

Once they have rolled up into a ball, it’s impossible to penetrate their sturdy scale shell. They look like something from a cartoon with a small head, long snout and surprisingly long tongue. Pangolins eat ants which they extract from inside the nests with their handy long tongue. Another name for this quirky little animal, is a scaly anteater. Depending on the species, Pangolins are between 40 to 50cm long, weighing on average about 1.5kg to 12kg. The Giant Pangolin weighs about 33kg.

#1 The Pangolin Endangered Stats

In total there are eight species, four African and four Asian. According to fossil discovery it’s speculated they may have originated in Europe. All eight Pangolin species are threated. They are listed in the IUCN Red List.

Species Scientific Name Endangered Status
Chinese Pangolin Manis Pentadactyla Critically Endangered
Indian Pangolin / Thick-Tailed Pangolin, Manis Crassicaudata Endangered
Sunda Pangolin / Malayan Pangolin Manis Javanica Critically Endangered
Philippine Pangolin, Manis Culionensis Endangered
Tree Pangolin / White-Bellied Pangolin, Phataginus Tricuspis Vulnerable
Long-Tailed Pangolin / Black-Bellied Pangolin, Phataginus Tetradactyla Vulnerable
Giant Pangolin / Giant Ground Pangolin Smutsia Gigantica Vulnerable
Cape Pangolin / Ground Pangolin / Temminck’s Ground Pangolin / South African Pangolin / Steppe Pangolin Smutsia Temminckii Vulnerable

Visit www.pangolin.africa for more information

#2 One of a Kind

Pangolins are the only mammals covered in scales. Their closest cousins are carnivores. The Pangolin is covered in sharp, overlapping scales from head to tail. The only areas uncovered are the sides of its face, inner legs, throat and tummy. These scales keep growing in the same way as hair. While they are digging and burrowing, the scales are ground down and then regrow again. The scales contain keratin, found in human fingernails. They make up 20% of the Pangolin’s body weight.

But many people around the world believe that the Pangolin scales hold special magical powers, even though they are basically the same as fingernails. In 2017 the Cameroon government confiscated 8 tonnes of Pangolin scales. That means about 15 000 animals were killed to harvest their scales.

#3 Carrying a Shield on Their Back

Pangolin scales are excellent to protect the little creatures from predators. There are very few hunters that can penetrate their shield of armour. It’s only the big cats that can take a shot at attacking a Pangolin such as a leopard, lion, or tiger. Hyenas sometimes succeed in breaking through the scales. Oftentimes the predators simply give up after a few attempts.

#4 Adaptations for Survival

Pangolins are professional ant hunters. They use their specialized noses to find the ants, sniffing out the underground ant hills. Once they start attacking an ant colony, they are able to close their nostrils and ears to prevent a counter-attack from the ants. This is done with the help of strong muscles, specially adapted to provide this skill.

#5 The Boniest Tail in All the World

Another unique body trait of the Pangolin, are their bony tails. They can boast with more vertebrae in their tails than any other animal. A few of the Pangolin species also use their tails to climb trees, and it can support almost its full bodyweight. These include the Indian, Philippine, and Sunda Pangolins. The tree-living Pangolin has a semi-prehensile tail. The females can also use their tails for carrying baby Pangolins. The black-bellied Pangolin wins the prize with 46 or 47 tail vertebrae.

Top 10 Amazing Facts about Pangolins

Photo by BCM Class Blog

#6 A Sneaky Tongue

The Pangolin’s tongue is longer than its body and head! It is attached close to the pelvis, at the end of its ribs. This body feature is engineered to make them excellent ant hunters. Some Pangolin tongues can measure more than 40cm when fully extended.

#7 Another Unique Defence Mechanism

Pangolins use another tactic to deter other predators from showing an interest in them. They have a nasty smell similar to a skunk. It’s secreted from little glands near the anus. It is used both as a defence mechanism and to mark territory.

#8 Interesting Eating Habits

These intriguing little creatures don’t have any teeth. So Pangolins can’t munch their food properly. To counter this, they regularly swallow a few stones. Their stomachs are lined with keratinous spines and the swallowed stones then assist with the grinding of the food. This technique works similar to the gizzard of a bird.

Top 10 Amazing Facts about Pangolins

Photo by National Geographic Blog

#9 Versatile Travellers

Although many Pangolin species only live on solid ground, there are a few that traverse across land, trees, as well as water. They are very good swimmers. The Pangolin’s semi-prehensile tail works well to grip onto tree bark, as well as help with steering in the water.

#10 Build for the Hunt

Pangolins have sharp little claws, boasting with three per foot. These handy tools help them to tear an ant or termite hill apart, and also assist the tree dwelling Pangolins with better climbing skills.

When is World Pangolin Day?

On the third Saturday of February each year people across the world celebrate these curious creatures. World Pangolin Day was created to make people more aware of the plight of these little critters.