LEOPARD – Leopards are solitary animals, the male only associating with female when she is in season. The leopard is active by day and night, but where hunted, it remains very secretive and nocturnal. Leopards are traditionally one of the most dangerous of the wild cats. Its sense of hearing is exceptional. Whereas the cheetah hunts by speed, the leopard catches its prey by careful, stealthy stalking. The leopard sleeps in trees and among rocks and can be seen in all national parks and game reserves.
LION – Rarely alone, lions usually live in family groups. Lions have very good sight, a sharp sense of hearing and good sense of scent. Lions usually hunt at night but you may be lucky enough to see a kill during the day. Lions normally hunt as a team, by stealthily stalking their prey, crouching low to the ground before rushing for the kill when close enough. Weighing up to 200kgs, a lion is exceptionally strong and can bring down a large animal like a buffalo that is four times its weight. Lions can be observed in most of the Tanzania national parks and game reserves.
CHEETAH – The cheetah, sometimes mistaken for a leopard, is a more lightly built animal, distinguished easily by dark ‘’tear marks’’. Female cheetahs are always solitary but males sometimes form groups of two or three. Cheetahs are specialized predators relying on a concealed approach to prey, followed by a swift chase, reaching up to 110kmph. Cheetahs rely primarily on eyesight and speed and do not hunt at night. Unlike the lion, they do not hunt jointly. The typical habitat is open plains like the Serengeti.
BUFFALO – Buffaloes can be seen in mixed breeding herds or in small all-male groups of old bulls or sometimes alone. They are entirely grazers, but generally avoid the open grass plains, preferring the bush country for shade during the day, and are especially fond of wallowing. They are rarely found far from water, as they also need to drink regularly. Buffaloes weigh up to 800kgs and carry massive, heavily bossed horns. If lions are bold enough to approach a herd, the bulls form a ring with the cows and calves in the centre and usually drive the lions away. Their sense of smell is very good, while hearing and sight are moderate.
FLAMINGOES – Flamingoes are migratory birds, with unpredictable movements, arriving in hundreds of thousands. Lesser flamingoes are smaller than the greater flamingoes and their plumage, with colour resulting from their diets, are much pinker. Flamingoes are common in soda lakes such as Natron, Manyara and in the crater.
RHINOCEROS – Rhinos are usually solitary as adults. The most stable association is that of a mother and calf which are can be seen in Tanzania, are browsers and have pointed prehensile lips adapted for browsing off thorny shrubs. They feed at night, dawn, and dusk, resting during the heat of the day. They have a good sense of hearing and smell (scenting over several km) but their sight is poor at more than 30metres. Rhinos weigh up to 1600kgs and can live up to 40 years. Rhinos are an endangered species but can easily be observed in the Ngorongoro crater and possibly in the Selous reserve.
OSTRICH – The Ostrich is the world’s largest bird and the only flightless bird native to Africa. Males are black and white, with naked necks and thighs. Ostriches are very fast runners and are able to maintain their pace for a considerable time. This together with the ability to swerve sharply enables them to outwit predators.
ELEPHANTS – Elephants are the largest living land mammals, weighing up to 6 tons. Daily food requirements, depending on body size is 100 to 200kg and they can live up to 60 years. Like the lion, the social system of the elephant is based on close family kin. Daughters remain in the same family as their mothers and grandmothers whilst males leave once they reach adolescence. Senses of scent and hearing are very good and sight is moderate. If you watch a female herd you may be able to spot the matriarch. Usually this oldest and largest animal acts as the leaders, particularly during defence when she will govern the course of action.
WILDEBEEST – Wildebeest live in large herds and are good grazers. Large concentrations quickly exhaust a pasture and so wildebeest aggregations have to keep moving, a phenomenon which is very pronounced in the Serengeti. In the Serengeti, the migration is a continuous quest for greener pastures and water, taking the wildebeest over an annual circuit of 800kms. They have excellent sense of sight and hearing. Wildebeest have many predators, including lions, cheetahs, hunting dogs and hyenas.
GIRAFFE – Giraffe feed almost exclusively on the tender leaves of acacia trees and they are rarely seen anywhere but in areas where these trees grow. For all its great length, the giraffe’s neck has only seven vertebrae, the same as man. A male giraffe weighs about 800kgs and stands three and half meters at the shoulders and about 6meters at the crown. Giraffes have good eyesight (over 1km) and can distinguish colours. They protect their young from lions by powerful kicks. Giraffe walk with a characteristic gait that brings both limbs on the same side forward together.