Hair and milk
Mammals are characterised by having varying degrees of hair on their bodies and the ability of the females to produce milk for their young. When the majority of people think of mammals they think of animals that live on land. Although they are mammals, whales and dolphins are not generally put in the same animal group as lions and elephant and for the purpose of this guide we will initially concentrate on the land-based mammals of Africa.
Of the over four thousand known species of mammals in the world just over one thousand are found in Africa. These range in size from the elephant shrew to the elephant. They inhabit all habitats of the continent from the great deserts to the rain forests and river systems.
The ranges of the African mammals have shrunk dramatically in the last three-hundred years due to colonialism and the human population growth. This, in turn, has led to a change in the behavioural patterns of many species. Except for a few examples such as the great migration of East Africa the great herds of the past are now part of history. Huge strides have been made recently in conservation and new land is been set aside for game reserves.
With new technology, there are new discoveries relating to animal behaviour taking place regularly. Some previously held theories are been questioned. One of the most dramatic examples is that of elephant communication. It has been recently discovered that elephants communicate ultra-sonically over great distances. Studies done in Etosha National Park in Namibia have found that elephants can distinguish individual communications.
Facts and observations
The ideal of this guide is to share known facts about mammals and to record personal observations in order to build up information relating to Africa’s animals.