Here are twenty things I think I know that you never knew that you need to know about Africa and African wildlife. If you know what I mean.
1. Early European explorers thought that giraffes were carnivorous because they were seen chewing bones. In fact they do this occasionally to supplement calcium in their diet.
2. The female spotted hyena is much larger than the male……..and has a false penis.
3. Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania is named after the sound made by the bells that hang around the necks of cattle that belong to the local Maasai tribe.
4. A group of Zebra is called a dazzle.
5. Although it is a cat, like a dog, the cheetah cannot retract its claws.
6. Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free standing mountain. (Not part of a range.) Its peak is 19,341 feet above sea level and it stands 16,732 feet above the surrounding plain.
7. A group of rhinos is called a crash.
8. The British empire builder Cecil John Rhodes is buried at the top of one of the granite kopjes (hills) at Matobo Hills near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The views from the site are stunning, especially at sunset.
9. Soweto – Johannesburg’s most famous township is an abbreviation of South West Township.
10. The elephant’s closest relative is the dassie or hyrax which weighs in at just 4.5kgs.
11. South Africa’s Blyde River Canyon in the northern Drakensberg Escarpment is the world’s third largest canyon and is the world’s largest “green” canyon.
12. The black mamba snake is usually gun-metal grey or dull olive, never black – it gets its name from its black mouth lining. I recommend that you don’t get close enough to check!
13. The iconic flat-top acacia thorn tree of the East African plains gives off a chemical message when a giraffe eats its leaves. It tells other trees in the vicinity to produce tannin which the animal finds bitter and so moves on to another area to feed, thus the trees aren’t decimated by the animals. Isn’t nature incredible?
14. A group of giraffes is called a journey or a tower.
15. More people are struck by lightening at Matobo Hills (See No 8.) than anywhere else in the world. Apparently it’s due to the granite. You can test this yourself by waving a golf club above your head at Cecil Rhodes’ grave during a thunderstorm. (Disclaimer - No responsibility taken for death or injury caused to anyone stupid enough to do this.)
16. The “Big Five” were originally so called because they are the most dangerous animal for humans to hunt. They are – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros (specifically black rhinoceros as they are more aggressive than the white variety).
17. Both white and black rhinos are the same colour – grey. The name white is a corruption of the word wide – as in wide mouthed rhino. The black rhino was so called just to differentiate. Actually they have a prehensile, hooked upper lip. White rhinos graze, black rhinos browse.
18. One of the world’s greatest early travellers was an African. The Moroccan Ibn Battuta was born in 1304. His travels took him as far east as China, and as far south as West Africa. He also visited central Asia and India. His full name was Hajji Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Al Lawati Al Tanji Ibn Battuta, but his Aussie mates called him “Ibbo”.
19. The Zambezi River which thunders spectacularly over the Victoria Falls is one of very few major rivers in the world to have no industry or major cities on its banks. It can probably claim to be one of the worlds cleanest. It is the 4th longest river in Africa after the Nile, the Zaire (Congo) and the Niger.
20. As well as a “Big Five” there is also an unofficial “Little Five.” They are the leopard tortoise, the ant lion (We get these in Australia too. Look for small conical holes in the dust – they live at the bottom of them.), the buffalo weaverbird, the rhinoceros beetle and the elephant shrew.
WHAT: A Maasai Warrior comes to talk
WHEN: Thursday 4 November 2010
WHERE: Ucango Travel & Cruise Centre, Maroochydore
TIME: From 6.30pm
Possibly the only Maasai Warrior in Australia, Sianga Kuyan will speak of the problems and challenges faced by the Massai people today as well and will speak about the Future Warriors Project - a not for profit organisation set up to empower young Maasai to build a strong, sustainable future for themselves, their families and their communities.
Sianga will also speak about travel to the region and promote his upcoming fully guided Maasai Culture & Wildlife Tour of Tanzania in March 2011. This unique 14 day luxury camping tour will visit Sianga's village, Ngorogoro Crater, The Serengeti and Lake Manyara.