Veld Facts

go! - - Contents - – Al­bie Ven­ter

S ur­vival in the wild is hard work. An­i­mals ex­pend huge amounts of en­ergy to pro­cure food and to avoid be­com­ing food. The av­er­age her­bi­vore must eat for most of the day to get suf­fi­cient en­ergy to sus­tain it­self. The plants it eats of­ten have low nu­tri­tional value. An ele­phant, for ex­am­ple, needs to eat about 350 kg worth of grass, leaves, bark and twigs – per day! Preda­tors are ac­tive for shorter pe­ri­ods of time, but the hunt­ing process also takes a lot of en­ergy. Stud­ies show the rea­son chee­tahs and lions lie around for up to 20 hours a day is to save up en­ergy for this pur­pose. They can only sus­tain a high-speed chase for a few min­utes. This also ex­plains why many big preda­tors – and rap­tors – don’t bother with small prey. If you’re an ea­gle, catch­ing a weaver re­quires the same amount of en­ergy as catch­ing a guineafowl, but the guineafowl is a main meal while a weaver is just an ap­pe­tiser. Prey species, on the other hand, need to em­ploy a host of tac­tics to avoid be­ing de­tected, or to out­run which­ever preda­tor is com­ing for them. The hard shell of a tor­toise is one such method of pro­tec­tion. It’s es­sen­tially a mod­i­fied ribcage cov­ered by a bony plate, which is cam­ou­flaged and nearly im­pen­e­tra­ble. The shell also pro­tects the tor­toise from the el­e­ments, like the hot sun. But is this ar­mour al­ways ef­fec­tive? Re­cently, I wit­nessed a young spot­ted hyena at­tempt­ing to eat a ju­ve­nile leop­ard tor­toise in the North­ern Tuli Game Re­serve in Botswana. At first it looked like the fate of the tor­toise was sealed, but then the ta­bles turned. The hyena tried its best to gnaw through and its teeth did ob­vi­ous dam­age to the shell, but the core of the shell re­mained un­bro­ken and the tor­toise’s body was pro­tected. Af­ter all that ef­fort without the re­ward of a meal, I doubt this par­tic­u­lar hyena will try and eat a tor­toise again…

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.