Animal Diets | Botswana Wildlife Guide

Hungry Cheetah. Michael PolizaHungry Cheetah
This is the aspect that has the greatest inter-species differences. Historically animals moved / migrated to areas where food and water was plentiful.

By Leigh Kemp

Feeding

With wild lands shrinking national parks were forced to 'manage' the resources and one method was to sink boreholes to provide permanent water in the park. This, in many, places had a detrimental effect on the vegetation and the numbers of some species that relied heavily on the vegetation.

Grazers and Browsers

Giraffe in Ojkavango. Leigh KempHerbivores - grazers, browsers and intermediate feeders - generally have a strict diet preference but will feed on other plants when times are severe. Grazers will feed on leaves and fruit in times of severe drought and browsers will graze when necessary. Intermediate feeders will utilize the most available food source at the time.

Herbivores moving together on the great savannas of Africa have a relationship where they do not compete for food. Zebra are able to utilize the hard parts of plants and they will eat the old grass down leaving the new shoots for the Wildebeest to graze on. The Gerenuk of east Africa has a long neck and is able to stand on its hind legs to feed, allowing it to feed on nutritious new growth. It lives in semi-arid areas where there may not be water for much of the year and even when water is available the Gerenuk will seldom drink. It is totally independent of water and gets all its moisture requirements from the food it eats.

Carnivores

Hyenas and cub. Leigh KempCarnivores have a wide range of diet. Lions for example have been observed feeding on anything from Termites to Elephants. It was previously thought that Lions did not hunt adult Elephant until a pride in Savuti Botswana began to specialize in killing Elephant. Not far from this pride another pride in Linyanti Botswana specializes in killing Hippo. Lions are also now known to scavenge much of their food and in some places are greater scavengers than Hyenas.

Meat-Eating Herbivores

Giraffe have been known to gnaw on bones they find in the bush. This behaviour is ascribed to a calcium deficiency in the animals' diet. The question that has to be asked here is how the Giraffe learnt that bones have calcium thereby leading to the behaviour.Warthog were thought to be omnivorous as they had been observed feeding on fresh carcasses. It is a known fact that they will eat meat under extreme circumstances but it is very uncommon.

When they have been observed at a carcass they are usually eating the stomach contents of the animal as the vegetable matter is partly digested and still fresh. I have observed warthogs eating the feathers of a dove that were lying on the ground. I was too late to observe what had killed or eaten the dove initially.Hippos are statistically the greatest killers of humans in Africa but they do so not to eat, but to protect themselves. Most human casualties occur when Hippo feel threatened - either in their territories or when someone comes between them and water.

Food Storage

Mongeese. Graham HancockAnimals use a number of methods to store food. This storage however is not usually for extended periods as in some species of the colder realms that have a season's store. Leopards will often pull their kills into the upper branches of trees to keep the meat out of reach of other predators such as Lions and hyenas.

They do this to protect their kills and not necessarily as storage, although they do feed off the carcass for up to three days. Baboons are known to stuff food in their cheeks when feeding as a temporary storage facility. This usually happens when they are feeding on fruits and needing to utilize the particular resource as much as possible.One of the more bizarre storage methods is that employed by certain species of mud wasp where they build their nests and then hunt spiders, paralyse the spiders and store them in the nests for the larvae to feed on when they hatch. The spiders stay alive until the larvae feed on them. Some shrike species in Africa will catch insects and impale them on thorns or barbed wire for later consumption.

Animals Using Tools

There are examples all through the animal kingdom of animals using tools to feed. Otters lie on their backs holding a rock on their chests and use their paws to smash crustaceans against the rock to break the shell. Some finches use sticks to pry insects from holes in trees and Egyptian vultures use rocks to break open eggs.Personal observations from various parts of Botswana show banded Mongoose throwing eggs against stones to break them. They maneuver backwards toward a stone while shepherding the eggs with their feet. When they get close into position they flick the egg at the stone, repeating this until the egg breaks.Honey Badgers have been observed using tools to get at their prey. They have been seen dragging logs to set up against banks to enable them to reach their prey.
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