The Cape Buffalo
On our way into South Africa’s Kariega Reserve we observed termite mounds littering the landscape. This one is small (three or four feet) compared to some found on the Internet.
We saw animals other than the Big Five, some I recognized while others were new to me.
Even though dangerous, these are nothing compared to the Big Five. The dangers of the lion and elephant appeared in prior articles. But, did you know the Cape Buffalo is believed to have killed more people than any of the other Big Five animals? Look at a Cape Buffalo through binoculars from a long distance away. He seems to stare at you and say, “I don’t like you.
He isn’t beautiful. In fact, he’s quite ugly with his drooping hairy ears, saggy neck and sharp horns. The horns are parted in the middle of his forehead, grow downward, then upward like a flipped hairdo.
He looks nothing like buffalo in America but more like a cow, only big, black, bulky, and ugly. His actions are often surprising and purposely mean. He is known to crush fences, ruin crops and attack humans.
“Four buffalos charged our vehicles in the last few weeks,” said the ranger. “See how he scrapes his horns against the bush. That means he is agitated.” The ranger turned the vehicle around. “So, we’re out of here,” he said and sped away.
Even though the Cape Buffalo stood many yards away and most likely weighed over 1,500 pounds, the ranger claimed the animal could rush the vehicle at around 35 miles per hour. If given a head start, he could even outrun a lion. The buffalo attacks with his horns and gores his opponent to death.
Most times Cape Buffalos travel in herds as large as a few hundred head of mostly females and calves. When a female reaches the age of four or five, she can conceive and starts a cycle of a calf about every two years. She carries the unborn baby for eleven or twelve months.
The females and calves stick together but the young males wander off alone. Older males stay closer to the group. Their teeth wear down and eating becomes harder. They lose weight and strength and need the herd’s protection.
Cape buffaloes feed on grasses and require lots of water. They seldom live in an area that receives less than 10” of rainfall a year.
Although Cape Buffalos’ sight and hearing are poor, their sense of smell is good. Especially dangerous if wounded or cornered, his greatest enemies are humans and lions.
With a lifespan of only about twenty years, Cape Buffalos need protection or they will slowly disappear. Perhaps this one’s agitation was due to his defending his mate who rested nearby.