South Africa’s diversity is not only evident in the many people, languages, cultures and customs that make up this Rainbow Nation. The fauna and flora is equally varied and exciting. Some of our animal species can be classified as being a little more than varied, though.
In fact, they may be considered to be downright strange. These include:
1. The Pangolin
This insectivore is identified by the scaly armor that covers his entire body. While this was designed as a protection against predators (who cannot easily penetrate the scales), it has also made pangolins the victims of hunting, as their covering makes for sought-after leather products. A pangolin can measure up to a meter in length and can weigh a hefty 18 kilograms. Its incredible sense of smell enables it to find ants and termites hiding under the soil.
2. The Aardvark
This nocturnal mammal is the last remaining one of its prehistoric class. Its name is Afrikaans, and means “earth pig”. Its body has some coarse hair covering it, but it is rather sparse. The legs of the aardvark are relatively long, ears large and pig-like snout long and tubular. It is a rather large animal, with a body length of up to 1.3 meters and a weight of between 40 and 60 kilograms. Aardvarks can be found anywhere south of the Sahara Desert.
3. The Dung Beetle
This little guy’s entire life centers on the feces of other animals. This is because its diet consists exclusively of feces, which is often rich in minerals and roughage that has passed through its original host undigested. There are three broad categories of dung beetles, which are all from the Scarabaeoidea family. These are DWELLERS, which live in the dung, TUNNELERS, which bury their stash of dung, and ROLLERS, which roll the dung into neat balls in order to transport it to their nests. These beetles play an important role in the recycling of nutrients and the maintenance of a healthy soil structure. The rare Flightless Dung Beetle can be found in the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth.
4. The Bushbaby
This strange little critter is also incredibly cute, as its name implies. Also known as the Galago and the nagapie (“night monkey” in Afrikaans), these nocturnal primates are known for their massive eyes, which assist with their night vision. They feed on insects, other small animals, and fruits. While small, a bushbaby is able to cover an impressive distance as it jumps between trees.
5. The Elephant Shrew
These mouse-like mammals get their name from their snout, which is distinctly trunk-shaped, giving them a rather comical appearance. Their long legs seem disproportionate to their small bodies (which can range between 10 centimeters and 30 centimeters in length), but allow them to cover longer distances as they jump, rather than run. They are elusive and difficult to trap, making them even more mysterious.
The wonders of South Africa are unending, delighting visitors and luring them back for more.
Story & Photos Courtesy of National Geographic