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.

The African Wild Dogs are oftentimes misunderstood. There are only about 5 000 left in the wild, putting them on the critically endangered list. They are very effective predators, with an 80% hunting success rate, in comparison with the 30% success rate of lions.

Here are a few interesting facts about the illusive animals.

Interesting Facts about African Wild Dogs

#1 Peculiar Physique

The scientific name, Lycaon pictus, means “the painted wolf”. It refers to their multi-coloured fur, painted with yellow, brown, black and white spots. The dappled fur serves as a unique fingerprint for each dog, no two patterns are alike. The African Wild Dogs boast with a potent bite, their specialised molars evolved to give them the ability to effortlessly break bones and shear meat off a carcass.

They have a set of killer senses with excellent sight, smell and hearing. The dog’s large rounded ears can be swivelled around like radars because of the numerous muscles. Their long legs and a lean shape turns the dogs into formidable hunters. They also boast with rapid muscle recovery.

Interesting Facts about African Wild Dogs 1

#2 Dynamic Social Hierarchy

The African Wild Dogs are truly a social pack. They operate with a very altruistic system. As with all pack animals, the dogs operate under a strict hierarchy. The alpha breeding pair rule over the other subordinate pack members. Once new pups arrive on the scene, they are prioritized, even above the alphas. When they are old enough to fend for themselves, they join the hunting party, with first choice of the spoils. This ranking system ensures that they rarely fight about food.

If a member of the pack falls ill, is injured or elderly, and is unable to be effective as a hunter – the rest of the pack takes care of it. An example of this remarkable altruistic system was seen in Botswana. An alpha female lost a foreleg during a hunt. In any other animal pack system, it would have been a death sentence. But she remained top of the pack for a few years after the incident, still breeding and raising pups. Her pack took care of her.

#3 Nomadic Animals

The African Wild Dogs can travel up to 50km in a day. This means they have huge territories that can range between 400 to 1 500 square kilometres. The only time they remain in one area, is during denning.

Top 10 Interesting Facts about African Wild Dog

#4 African Wild Dogs Have Good Coordination

Their high hunting success rate is mainly attributed to their well-coordinated nature, as well as working together as a pack. Communication is very important and during a hunt they constantly update each other about their location as well as that of the prey. The excellent teamwork of the African Wild Dogs and their high intelligence give them the ability to adapt to scenario changes during their hunt.

#5 Agile Hunters

Most African predators rely on their stealth to hunt. But the African Wild Dogs have other tricks up their sleeves. They are streamlined for high stamina chases. The hunt usually starts with the pack forming a line, to better move and cover ground. When the prey has been targeted, the dogs will start to approach and test the defences, pinpointing a weak target.

When the target is secured, they will start to threaten the herd and force it to separate. Next, the chase begins, focusing on the targeted animal. The pack will enclose the animal, blocking any escape routes. They start operating like an Olympic cycling team. If the dog at the head of the chase starts tiring, it will pull back, and another dog will take its place. The prey eventually becomes too exhausted to continue, a few kilometres into the hunt. But the African Wild Dogs have excellent stamina and teamwork on their side, and the take down happens effortlessly.

Another tactic they use, is to force a herd towards a source of water, such as a river or lake. In Africa large bodies of water means lurking crocodiles, and most African wildlife are afraid of venturing into deep water. Sometimes the prey is brave and takes the chance of diving into the water. But mostly they panic and turn back towards the pursuers. Other times the African Wild Dogs use a tactic borrowed from lions, with one hunter flushing out the prey and driving it words the others awaiting ambush.

Top 10 Interesting Facts about African Wild Dog

Photo by Flickr

#6 Few Natural Enemies

In the African wild, only lions are the African Wild Dogs’ main threat. A high population of lions means a low population of the dogs. Not many other predators are a threat to them. The hyenas will try to steal their kill, but won’t deliberately hunt the adult pack members.

Humans, on the other hand, are a very real threat to the African Wild Dogs. Although there are no concrete evidence to support the belief, they are seen as pests. Only in desperate times would they attack livestock. And till this day, there are no noted incidents in Africa of wild dog attacks on humans. But because farmers see them as vermin, they shoot the dogs when they see them near their livestock. And sometimes they will even track them down and poison the whole pack.

Other threats they have to deal with include diseases like rabies, which they usually contract from domestic animals. Because they are such social animals, one rabid wild dog will infect the whole pack, wiping it out entirely.

#7 The African Wild Dog Is Crepuscular

This means they are mostly active at twilight, the period before dawn and again after dusk. This is the best time for the African Wild Dogs to pursue their prey because it’s the time they are most active. And the darkness gives them the upper hand to hunt effectively, perfectly camouflaged because of their dappled fur. This has a two-fold advantage, hiding them from both their prey and predators.

Interesting Facts about African Wild Dogs Pups

#8 Strong Focus on Relationship Values

The alpha pair remains monogamous and are usually the only ones to breed within the pack. Sometimes a beta pair will also produce a litter, but then they are either adopted or killed by the alpha pair. A litter can range between 4 to 12 pups.

They have an unusual tradition of the sexually maturing males staying within the pack territory. And the mature females will travel far and wide in search of a potential mate. This is a great countermeasure against inbreeding.

Top 10 Interesting Facts about African Wild Dog

Photo by African Sky

#9 Strange Genetics

Although the ancient ancestor of the African Wild Dogs is the wolf, they are no longer genetically compatible with any other canid. So unlike domesticated dogs that can be subjected to selective breeding, this is not possible with their wild counter parts.

They used to populate the whole African continent but are now limited to South and East African countries. Their population density is most in the Selous Game Reserve and Okavango Delta. The East African wild dogs are a little smaller than the South African dogs. There are five subspecies, namely the East African wild dog, the West African wild dog, the Chadian wild dog, the Somali wild dog, and the Cape wild dog.

#10 Can’t Be Domesticated

For centuries people have tried to tame the African Wild Dogs, but without luck. They remain naturally distrusting of people, or in fact of any animals outside the pack. Domesticated dogs have certain characteristics in common, including a willingness to be touched by a person. Combined with curiosity and pure luck, humans were able to domesticate dogs. But African Wild Dogs remain weary of humans, and will most likely remain undomesticated.