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2015-08-19 Megan Lategan 
Zebra duiker (Cephalophus zebra)

Mad Mammal Mondays!

Today we have a look at the Zebra duiker (Cephalophus zebra) named for the 12 to 15 black bands that, like a zebra, stretch down its back. Zebra duiker is herbivore (plant-eating animal). It eats leaves, buds, shoots, grass and fruit that are falling from the trees. The zebra duiker also eats droppings of other animals.

Zebra duikers are found only in closed-canopy rainforests in West Africa. They are very sensitive to forest disturbance, and their range - centred around Liberia - continues to decline. Recent population estimates suggest that only 15,000 individuals may survive in the wild. The zebra duiker is so small; it has many predators, including Africa's many species of big cats and even its birds of prey. The zebra duiker is also poached by humans for its meat.

2015-08-05 Megan Lategan 
African clawless otter (Aonyx capensis)

Mad Mammal Mondays!

This Monday we had a look at the African clawless otter (Aonyx capensis). As the name describes the African clawless otter has hand-like forefeet which are its most remarkable feature, enabling it to grapple with its prey with notable ease.

The forefeet have long fingers, rounded finger tips and lack any claws. African/Cape clawless otters are 1 of 4 otter species that lives in both marine and fresh water ecosystems. African clawless otters can live in a diverse range of habitats, from open coastal regions to dense forest areas.

Their diet generally consists of a variety of small items including frogs, worms, fish, and crabs. They are very fast when it comes to catching and consuming prey. Once captured, the otter may float in the water whilst eating its prey, or take larger items ashore. They are avid hunters, even looking under logs and rocks for creatures that they can eat. They use their whiskers as the primary source of finding food. These whiskers are highly sensitive to vibrations all around them. They rely on them both in the water and on land.

The African clawless otter may breed at any time of the year, giving birth to a litter of one to three cubs after a gestation of 63 days. At just one year of age, the young African clawless otters are independent.

~Megan Lategan




2014-11-30 Megan Loftie-Eaton 

Happy SCALY SUNDAY!! Most people fear snakes, but it is important to remember that snakes are a key component of natural ecosystems. Common in many types of habitat, they affect the "balance of nature" as both predators and prey. From an ecological point of view, snakes help to control rodent populations. Snakes and their eggs are in turn eaten by fish, amphibians, other snakes, birds and predatory mammals. Snakes are an important part of the food web. We must help to protect them rather than harm them. The best policy when it comes to snakes is to just leave them alone and in peace. They are not out to get you!

“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

The species in the spotlight today is the Mole Snake (Pseudaspis cana) - this beautiful snake has a widespread distribution throughout southern Africa and occurs in nearly every habitat, although its preferred habitat is grassland. The photo shown here, taken in Limpopo Province, is from the ReptileMAP database (view here: http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=ReptileMAP-3414 ). Mole Snakes prey on golden moles (hence the name), rats, mice and gerbils. For this reason, they are considered useful for the natural control of problem rodents. Juveniles, however, are largely restricted to preying on lizards.

Mole Snakes are uniform brown, grey or black in colour (juveniles have zigzag or mottled markings) and they have round pupils. They can grow to an average length of 1.4 m but may reach 2 m in length, particularly in the Cape. The Mole Snake gives birth to live young, between 25 and 50 young, in late summer. This species of snake is are non-venomous and not dangerous to man but they can inflict a painful bite, so it's best to just leave them be.


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© Animal Demography Unit 2015
Department of Biological Sciences - University of Cape Town

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