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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

Otters, Weasels & Honey Badger

   

OTTERS

Introduction: The spotted-necked otter is known to favour deeper waters than the clawless otter. They depends on adequate riparian vegetation such as long grass, reeds and bushes, as this environment provides essential cover, as well as permanent and unpolluted rivers, streams and freshwater lakes. Group sizing depends on availability of food with groups of up to 20 possible in the Okavango and Chobe areas.

Otters are at risk from humans because they believe otters reduce fish stocks and prey on livestock. They are also used for traditional medicine. Opportunities of sighting the spotted-necked otter are greater on the Namibian side of the Chobe River, due to the superior riparian vegetation allowed to develop from Namibia's lower elephant population.
Distribution: Okavango swamps and Chobe River areas of Namibia.

Diet: The spotted-necked otter hunts by sight, capturing mainly small fish, crabs, frogs and aquatic insects in the mouth.

Coloring: Dark brown fur that appears black when wet, white throats and chests.

Breeding: Females have 2 young in spring and the gestation period is around 60-63 days.

Size: Overall head, body and tail length 1m. Weight: 4-6kg.

WEASELS

Introduction: African Weasels live in small family groups of two to four during mating season or when raising litters, but generally has solitary a lifestyle.

Distribution: Suitable habitat includes moist grasslands or woodlands with a rainfall exceeding 700 mm per annum, and also areas where small rodent populations abound. Generally very rare, and due to habitat degradation numbers are believed to be declining in at least some areas. Distributed through the eastern parts of Southern Africa, and further north towards Central Africa. Occurs from the south-eastern coastal regions northwards via KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Northern Province.

Diet: The African Weasel preys almost exclusively on small rodents and young birds on the ground, whereas insects are taken on occasion. Prey is bitten behind the neck while they control it by clasping it with the forefeet and by rolling on its side in order to throw the prey animal off balance. At the same time the prey is pulled backwards while the hind feet are anchored against the lower body of the prey, in order to break the spine.

Coloring: They have long slender bodies with short legs. Distinct longitudinal black and white stripes along the back. The top of the head and tail is white.

Breeding: The African Weasel normally gives birth to one litter per season, each consisting of one to three altricial young. Reproduction occurs during spring and summer. Females give birth after a gestation period of 32 days. Young develop canine teeth after 35 days and their eyes open after 52 days. Offspring are grown at 20 weeks, but can kill prey as of 13 weeks.

Size: Head and body length is 300mm, and the tail measures 175mm. The African Weasel weighs about 250-350 g.

HONEY BADGERS

Introduction: The honey badger or 'ratel' is a badger-like animal and is so called because it often feeds on honey. They are about the same size as a European badger or a medium-sized dog. They have long claws and their thick, loose skin protects them from stings or bites. Honey badgers can be very ferocious and have been known to attack creatures as large as buffalo! Normally active between dusk and dawn, these nocturnal critters also have special glands that give off a foul-smelling liquid that discourages their enemies.

Honey badgers live in holes in the ground, among rocks, or in hollow logs, stumps or trees. They may travel alone or in pairs. These seemingly eternally hungry creatures often look for honey in Namibia with the help of the lesser honeyguide, (1 of 4 types of honeyguide that can be found in Southern Africa). This relationship is called mutual symbiosis, which means living together where both parties benefit. (This liaison also occurs when an algae and a fungus grow together to form a lichen!)

The lesser honeyguide uses a regular call-site from where it calls 'klew, klew, klew...' in series of 30-40 calls at a time and leads the honey badger to a beehive. The badger then breaks open the hive with its claws, and both animals feed. Quite a sight!

Distribution: The honey badger is found almost everywhere in Namibia, except in the Namib Desert. There are frequent sightings of honey badgers in the Halali Rest Camp in Etosha National Park, where they have been known to steal food from unsuspecting tourists.

Diet: They feed chiefly on honey, insects, small mammals, lizards and both poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. They also eat plants, roots and fruit and if all else fails, raiding rubbish bins is a specialty.

Coloring: The black bottom half of the badger is separated from the grey top half by a white stripe.

Breeding: A single cub is usually born after a gestation period of 6 months. The female will sometimes produce up to 2 cubs per litter.

Size: The honey badger can weigh up to 12kg. Their shoulder height is 26cm and they can be nearly 1m from head to tail.

   
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