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All Creatures,

Episode 40: Hooked on Cape Buffalo

June 26, 2018

The Cape Buffalo is the common name for the African Buffalo. Known as a cankerous, tough bovid, these animals survive everything Africa throws at them and more. There are four species recognized by the IUCN of African Buffalo. They are:

  • Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer)
  • West African Savanna Buffalo (S.c. brachyceros)
  • Central African Savanna Buffalo (S. c. aequinoctialis)
  • Forest Buffalo (S. c. caffer)

Cape Buffalo Origins

There is some controversy related to the origins of buffalo and other bovids However, DNA evidence is shedding some light. The first recognized ‘bovid’ dates back to 23 million years ago in Europe and Africa and was called Eotragus. This looked like a smaller 2 straight-horned antelope. Specifically Cape Buffalo can trace their lineage back to Ugandax at 10 million years and they emerged as we see them today roughly 4 million years ago.

Of the Bovidae, there are currently 143 recognized species, and 300 extinct (some ancient) species. These include buffalo, antelope, wildebeest, impala, gazelle, sheep, goats, muskox, and domestics.

The species of Buffalo are very diverse and there are four recognized separate genera. They are:

  • Genus Bos (Domestic cattle, Gaur, Yak, and Banteng)
  • Genus Bison (American Bison, Wisent)
  • Genus Syncerus (Buffalo)
  • Genus Bubalus (Asian Water Buffalo, Mountain Anoa, Tamaraw)

Cape Buffalo Facts

The Cape Buffalo is one of the BIG 5 in Africa. The others include elephants, rhinos, lions, and leopards. These are incredibly dangerous animals and maul over 200 people per year, mainly hunters.

  • Live up to 26 years
  • Group is called a herd or gang
  • Can run up to 35 mph
  • Incredible sense of smell but okay vision and hearing
  • Horns fully formed by age 6 but not hardened until age 8. The front portion on males is called the ‘boss’
  • Their horns can weigh 50 lbs.
  • Exhibit incredible behaviors
    • Altruistic- meaning defense of the herd, often sacrificing themselves or risk injury without any direct benefit
    • Great memories. Stories of remembering a hunter harming them and returning to seek revenge. Will often tree lions after they make a buffalo kill.
  • Mainly eat grass
    • Serve critical ecological role making other forage more available to smaller animals
    • Chew cud to mix gastric juices and aid digestion

One of the most incredible animal behavior videos is The Battle at Kruger

This incredible image was captured by Barbara Fleming and can be found HERE. Please visit her website, just amazing photographs!

Cape Buffalo Conservation

There are an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Cape Buffalo and earn a ‘least concern’ rating. However, their populations are declining and they are at risk due to habitat loss and also risk of contracting disease from domestic cattle.

Organizations to Support

Global Wildlife Conservation

Images

Cover Photo by Derek Keats (CC 2.0)

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