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Monthly Archive November 15, 2020

Calendar Pictures 2021

Here you can view all pictures of “Wildlife of Kenya 2021”. Needless to say that the pink sign on the ostrich-pictures has been edited for the print version.

 

Reticulated Giraffes

Many people know reticulated giraffes from zoos where this species can be found relatively often. Yet scientifically a lot is not known yet. Already the question whether it is a species or “only” a subspecies is not fully agreed upon. Traditionally giraffes are considered to be one species with nine subspecies with the reticulated giraffe being one of them. An extensive genetic analysis of the Senckenberg Institute delivered the result that giraffes have to be evaluated anew. Four different species were recognized, of which one is the reticulated giraffe.

 

For the reticulated giraffe this means that she is not one of about 100.000 giraffes but an own species with only about 8.700 animals left in the wild, which is listed as critically endangered. Their habitat is Northern Kenya, Southern Ethiopia and Somalia – even this is not correct anymore as we will realize in the next time.

 

Among the giraffes the reticulated giraffe optically differs more from the others than other kinds. The fur is also rather crème-colored but due to the large brown spots it appears as if they were brown with a white net as frame, while other giraffes seem to be light with dark spots. Any attentive zoo visitor can recognize that all giraffes have an individual pattern and no animal is equal to another one.

 

Male reticulated giraffes can grow up to six meters height and weigh 900 kg – and this as mere vegetarians. One giraffe requires about 50-60 kg food per day, which is the reason why giraffes are wandering around that much. Giraffes spend about half of their day with eating. Also in relation to other large animals giraffes have a very large heart that weighs 12 kg alone.

 

A widely known fact is that the long neck is held by seven vertebrae, the same number as humans have. Interesting are the ossicones. The males in the wild often have them blank and not covered with fur as they use them for fights against rivals. In contrast to females who merge together with other females and their offspring, bulls are roaming the savannah alone and do not accept other males near them. Only younger bulls who just left their moms join other juvenile bulls for a bachelor group.

 

Offspring is not a big problem for reticulated giraffes. The cow gives birth to a baby after gestation period of fifteen months. It does not take long until she is ready to mate again, so that the time between two births is about one and a half years. Grown up giraffes can defend themselves very well. Lions are the biggest threat but they put their own lives at risk when attacking a giraffe due to their long and powerful legs. The juveniles are much more endangered and can be killed by mid-size carnivores like cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs as well. Only every second giraffe reaches the maturity age. Much more dangerous for the species are human beings though by restricting the habitat of the animals and hunting them.

The Drill

Due to supporting Rettet den Drill (Save the Drill) he is in the focus of Charity Kalender again this year. But what kind of a monkey is the drill anyway? We put an eye on the animal, his situation in his countries of origin and his situation in the zoological gardens over the next weeks.

 

The Drill is at home in Nigeria, Cameroon and the island of Bioko, which belongs to Equatorial Guinea, and thus belong to the old world primates. Together with the mandrill he is summarized to the genus Mandrillus. While the mandrills are pretty famous due to the showy colorful face of the males, only few people have heard about the drills. The females of both species are even pretty similar, but the males mainly differ by the drills having a black face. The back of the male is very colorful though and shines in a variation of blue and purple – the more shining the higher is the rank of the animal. At a length of about 60 cm the males weigh about 30 kg, the females only a bit more than a third of it.

 

A drill group with about 25 individuals consists of a dominant male, a harem group of females and their offspring. Various group can merge together to a big squad of more than 100 individuals. At an age of 5 to 7 years the young males leave their birth group, while the females remain.

 

Drills live in the tropical rain forest. They are not tree residents though but mainly can be found on the ground. The forest offers protection for the animals and serves as food source. Drills are omnivorous and do not reject meat. Destruction of the rain forest for tropical wood and agriculture is the biggest threat for the primates, which are listed as endangered by IUCN. Drills play an important role for the ecosystem. By eating fruits they spread the seed in the forest and help trees and plants to grow. Probably about 5.000 animals are left in the wild, a massive loss of 50% over the last 30 years. Next to the loss of habitat they are hunted for their meat, or killed for planting banana, coconut or manioc plantations.

Calendar Cover 2021: Southern White Rhino at the Solio Ranch

Actually the cover picture has a sad background. It shows the Southern white rhino, a subspecies, which originally did not exist in Kenya. Thus, it is an invasive species but in this case it was intentionally imported. The picture was taken at the Solio Ranch – the place that imported Southern white rhinos to Kenya in 1980.

 

Why was it done? Kenya originally is home to the East African black rhino and the Northern white rhino. Black and white rhinos do not have a common territory – the version with the wide mouth uses it as lawn mower on the ground and eats grass, while the version with the peaky mouth uses it to eat from the bushes. Since 1966 the Solio Ranch was in ownership of a man, whose separated parts of his property – 55 km² – for wildlife as his wife asked him to. Rhinos were not home to this territory although the territory would have fitted both species. This was realized by the Kenyan government in 1970 when they suspected that despite of 20.000 black rhinos in the country they would not be able to protect the species from poachers. So they asked Solio Ranch to place some animals on their ground. During the next decade a total of 27 black rhinos were sent to Solio Ranch – during the same time the number of free living black rhinos in Kenya reduced by more than 90% to only 1.500 animals.

 

At Solio they recognized that the territory was also good for the white rhino. However, the Northern white rhinos were so few that the fight was basically already lost – in 2008 the last specimen died in the wild, only two females are living in custody today. So Solio imported 16 Southern white rhinos from South Africa in 1980. This story is an amazing success. All Southern white rhinos in Kenya stem from these 16 imports, such as mother and calf on the cover picture.

 

East African black rhinos are roaming here as well. The rhino offspring was not only sent to Kenyan national parks and other wildlife sanctuaries, but also to other countries like Malawi or Uganda. How fragile everything still is shows that also on Solio 30 rhinos were poached within five years at the beginning of this century – this however marked the beginning for more intense protection and monitoring.