Baviaanskloof Wildlife

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Tuesday, 8th May 2018

In the Baviaanskloof the wildlife matches the diversity of the plants.  There are fifty six reptile species, twenty three being endemic to South Africa and three found only in the Baviaanskloof. The valley is also home to seventeen amphibian and fifteen fish species.

It was also once home to forty six medium-to-large mammal species but over the centuries, fourteen species, including lion, elephant and black rhinoceros became locally extinct.  Black rhino, cape Mountain zebra, red hartebeest, buffalo and eland have since been re-introduced in addition to existing bush pig, klipspringer, grysbok, grey rhebok, bushbuck, mountain reedbuck and duiker.

As the area encompassed within the reserve expands so more re-introductions will be possible.

The low-lying valley slopes and bottoms are a haven for bush loving species like kudu, bush buck, common duiker and Cape grysbok. Buffalo tend to lie up in thick ravine bush during the day and move up into the densely vegetated slopes at night to feed. 

The high-lying grassy plateaus and fynbos covered mountains are home to the red hartbeest, cape mountain zebra, mountain reed buck, grey rhebuck and klipspringer. The eland are the great wanderers, moving over vast distances and utilizing a variety of habitats. 

Caracal and leopard are the main predators in the area. 

Although caracal may occasionally be seen, the sighting of a leopard is still a very rare and noteworthy event (recent evidence suggests that their numbers are increasing). 

Cape clawless otter, bushpig, aardwolf, aardvark and a host of other smaller mammals are still reasonably common despite being seldom seen.

Four tortoise species occur within the area. Of these, the most likely to be seen are the marsh terrapin and the large leopard tortoise. The tent tortoise, a Cape endemic, is occasionally seen in the drier western and north-western areas while the angulate tortoise is a common resident of the southern part of the Baviaans.

Although the majority of the 24 snake species found in the area have a wide distribution range, 4 of these are South African endemics.

The snakes most likely to be seen are Cape cobra, puffadder, boomslang, rhombic skaapsteker, Karoo and montane grass snakes and the brown water snake. The Cape cobra and puff adder, are generally regarded as the two most dangerous.

The lizard fauna of the wilderness area is remarkable. Of the 28 species present, two newly discovered species, a dwarf chameleon Bradypodion sp. and a flat gecko Afroedura sp. are endemic to the area. A further 7 species are Cape endemics and 7 others are South African endemics!

Most of these occur in the mountainous parts. In summer the Nile monitor is commonly seen near water. The ubiquitous Southern rock agama can be found almost wherever there are rocks and sunshine.

The rivers flowing through the area support a diverse indigenous fish fauna - fifteen species are known to occur here, of which three are endemics to the rivers of the Cape. Little red-finned minnows will swim up to nibble one’s feet if dangled in the water.

There are around 80 subspecies of them in the Baviaanskloof streams, each group cut off from the rest and developing seperately, like Darwin's finches.

Baboons

The most ubiquitous species must certainly be Chacma baboons. They seem to have been just as plentiful, if not more so, in earlier times. The Dutch word for baboon, "baviaan", gave the area its name.

The animals were so plentiful that the establishment of a small baboon-hide processing factory was initiated in the 1920's within the Baviaanskloof. Shoes, aprons, braces, rucksacks, and handbags were all made from the skins. Shoes were the most prized of all these items as baboon was well known as being the softest of all the leathers and, furthermore, wore particularly well. Baboons have a high level of internal fat which was used by the inhabitants to make soap. To-day the baboons are protected. You are asked to help authorities by refraining from feeding them as this leads to problem animals having to be shot.

Mature male baboons weigh up to 40 kg, more than double the mass of the females which average only 17 kg. There is also quite a wide spectrum in hair coloration. This relates to age, sex and also to which area the animals live in.

Baboons are reported to live for about 45 years. They are quite vocal animals as they roam around in search of food and “bark” alarms when they see a potential threat.

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