Wildlife of Namaqualand — mammals

While looking at flowers we managed to see quite a variety of animals in the Namaqualand National Parks near Kamieskroon and Springbok, in the northern Cape region of South Africa. This is a harsh environment for warm-blooded birds and mammals, with its searing summer daytime temperatures and extreme aridity, but life finds a way to survive, even here.

gemsbok at Goegap National Park, near Springbok, South Africa

A gemsbok (Oryx) foraged among the wildflowers at Goegap National Park near Springbok.

Gemsbok are the largest antelope in the Oryx genus, found only in the arid regions of southern Africa, including the Kalahari Desert and sand dunes of Namibia.  Gemsbok are so well adapted to the desert that they do not need to drink, getting moisture from the dew that forms on plants overnight, and can keep their brain cooler than their body temperature by passing arterial blood flowing to their head through a network of venous blood that has been cooled by evaporation from nasal sinuses.

Mountain Zebra at Goegap National Park near Springbok, South Africa

A herd of Mountain Zebra (different species than those in East Africa) checked us out before running off in a cloud of dust.

Mountain Zebra at Goegap National Park near Springbok, South Africa

And they do run together in a herd, heads aligned in a row.

Mountain zebra inhabit the dry, shrubby deserts of Angola, South Africa, and Namibia.  They not only look different than their cousins in east Africa, their behavior is quite different too.  Instead of forming large herds that mingle with other antelope that migrate over vast expanses of grasslands, Mountain zebra roam the rocky, hilly, steppe lands in small family groups of one stallion, several mares, and their recent offspring. Small groups of bachelor males might try to poach the mares of a family group, and stallions may spend a lot of time fighting these interlopers off.

Springbok at Goegap National Park, near Springbok, South Africa

Springbok are small antelopes named for their unusual habit of spring stiff-legged into the air. This “pronking” or “stotting” usually occurs when the animal is excited about something.

Springbok were once the most numerous antelope in southern Africa, but their numbers have been reduced by hunting pressure and fences that limit their migration.  Like the Gemsbok, they can live independent of water all year, or for most of their lives, by obtaining water from dew-laden plants.  Grazers when grasses are plentiful and browsers when forage is limited, these little antelope can adapt to a variety of habitats in their arid desert range in Namibia and western South Africa.

Red Hartebeest in Namaqualand National Park, South Africa

A herd of Red Hartebeest topped the hill just at sunset in Namaqualand National Park.

Hartebeest (or Kongoni) are nomadic grazers that forage along the boundary between grassland and scrub in southwestern Africa.  They are more dependent on water than Gemsbok and springbok and can be found near water sources in the evening.

Native ungulate (hoofed) mammals have to contend with grazing cattle as well as the occasional mules and horses belonging to the local farmers.

Mules on farms in the northern Cape region of South Africa

Mules were brought into the copper mining regions of the Northern cape region to haul ore carts.  Now they are handy to have when you need transportation over the rough back roads.

Mule-drawn cart in copper mining region near Springbok, South Africa

 

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