Most of the protected land in the ecosystem of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere is contiguous, with the majority of the fences having been removed. This allows for relatively free movement of mobile aggregations of animals.
This large tract of land is one of the few remaining savannah habitats in both South Africa and the sub-continent, which enables the large-scale movement of faunal species. This is particularly important for a significant number of mammalian species including those as diverse as the African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus), Elephant (Loxodonta africana), Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and Burchell's Zebra (Equus burchelli).
The African Wild Dog (Painted Wolf as it is more evocatively known) is an endangered species threatened with extinction due both to habitat loss and to being hunted as vermin.
The savannah core and buffer zones are one of the few areas in the country that still provide large enough habitats for these magnificent animals with their extended home ranges of 300 kilometres or more. Kruger Park has embarked on a large-scale census and monitoring program, invoking the help of the general public who visit the Park who are asked to report details of sightings.
The Biosphere area in general conserves a diverse range of mammals including all of southern Africa's big cats. All but six of the sub-continent's Carnivora (35 species) are found within the Biosphere Reserve.
The Biosphere is home to one of the few remaining viable gene-pools of cheetah; estimated total numbers are around three hundred.
The Bovidae family is well represented in the biosphere area: two-thirds of the southern Africa’s bovines occur here.
It is also home to a diverse range of antelope species, some of whose survival status is threatened. For example, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest (Alcelaphini lichtensteinii) was actually considered extinct in South Africa, until Kruger National Park reintroduced a group into the reserve. The group is being carefully monitored.
The Sable antelope is considered vulnerable due to loss of preferred habitat and bush encroachment, which changes the preferred habitat of open canopy and long grasses to dense inpenetrable thickets. It is also a species that is prized amongst hunters and game viewers alike, which gives the sable a significant economic value. Kruger2Canyons.com offers a case study on the decline of rare game: the roan, sable and tsessebe antelopes.
A special species is the Meller's mongoose (Rhynchogale melleri) which is only represented by a drawing in most (if not all) reference books because of its evasive nature. There are relatively few mammalian endemics, but Juliana's golden mole (Amblysomus julianae), confined to the Lowveld savannah,is a significant one.
The smallest mammals are definitely not to be neglected and can sometimes be seen whilst on foot in the protected areas. Of the Sorcidae (shrew) family, two are endemic to southern Africa. The Greater Dwarf Shrew has an 'indeterminate' status in the Red Data Book of endangered species.
The area has a number of bat species, nine of the microchiroptera being of similarly unknown survival staus, which indicates how little is understood about these animals.
A number of the pressures imposed on the mammal population by mankind, besides habitat destruction and compression, revolve around their worth to the traditional medicinal trade.
Both species of rhinoceros (white and black) were notably driven to near-extinction by the high prices paid for their horns for use ground up as aphrodisiacs in the far east. Warriors in the middle east celebrated their status in society with swords with lavishly carved elephant tusk handles.
Today pressure still exists on some lower profile species such as the Pangolin (Mannis temminckii) and Aardvark (Orycteropus afer).
- Explore the Kruger2Canyons.com Big Game Safaris
- Read about some of the representative species of the Kruger region
- Explore the history of Conservation in South Africa, and the establishment of the Kruger
- Move on to Kruger's important reptiles, amphibians and fish.