This beautiful piece of Waterberg wilderness combines some of the most dramatic scenery in South Africa with a plethoric wildlife experience. The Marakele National Park holds a truly immense variety of mammals that are readily seen. The mountains are a safe haven to a number of interesting and unique plant, mammal and bird species.
- A highly sought after species on safari due to its naturally low densities and nocturnal habits. It has acquired a reputation of an animal rarely seen.
- Although it is a member of the Hyena family, it is distinctly different to its much larger relatives – the Brown and Spotted Hyenas – and does not eat meat or carrion, but rather insects (especially termites).
- The generic latin name, Proteles, comprises of ‘protos’ and ‘teleos’ – ‘completed in front’. This refers to the front feet having five toes each, unlike the four-toed hyena.
- They locate their food by sound and also from the scent secreted by the soldier termites.They can consume 250,000 termites per night. They do this with the aid of a long and sticky tongue.
- On average they travel 8–12 kilometres (5.0–7.5 mi) per summer night, and 3–8 kilometres (1.9–5.0 mi) per winter night in search for food.
THE BAT-EARED FOX
- Bat-eared foxes are considered specialist insectivores, and they are distinguished from other canids by their diet. They play an important role in regulating numbers of Harvester termites (which devour huge amounts of graze).
- The foxes’ teeth are small but numerous (each having 46-50 teeth), which they use to mince their prey before ingesting.
- A feature which is very prominent is their ears, used to help them to find prey through echolocation (a sonar-like sense). They are able to detect insects and larvae centimetres into the earth, which are then easily dug up in even the hardest calcrete.
- Socially, Bat-eared Foxes are found in closely bonded, non-territorial pairs.Their young may occasionally remain behind as helpers.
- They may have up to 6 pups, but 3-4 is a more common number, after a gestation of 60-70 days. They usually give birth in spring (Sep-Nov).
- Their dens are often incorporated into old abandoned aardvark burrows.
THE LEOPARDS OF THE WATERBERG The Waterberg has never been famous for its leopard sightings …. until Marataba. In the Marataba section of the Marakele National Park we have at least 30 known leopards, with many more to be discovered. There are, in fact, 8 new leopards which we are seeing on a more regular basis. The mere fact that we are able to view these animals so readily in a comparatively new reserve is truly great, placing us in a position to compete with other well known areas for leopard sightings.
THE GROUND PANGOLIN
- This is another rarely seen species which can be viewed more often at Marataba than at most other reserves.
- It has keratin scales covering its skin – the only known mammal with this peculiar trait.
- Newer genetic evidence indicates that their closest living relatives are the Carnivora.
- The word Pangolin comes from the Malay word pengguling, meaning “something that rolls up”. It is comparable to a pine cone or globe artichoke.
- It has an extremely elongated tongue that extends into the abdominal cavity, which it uses to lick up its prey. It lubricates the tongue with sticky, ant-catching saliva.
- It uses its sense of smell to find species of ants and termites. It has very poor sense of vision, and therefore relies heavily on smell and hearing as its predominant senses.
- The pangolin uses its long tail to counterbalance its torso as it walks on its two hind legs, much like a dinosaur. When they first leave the burrow they will hitch a ride on their mother’s back.
- Their conservation is critical, as they are hunted and eaten in many parts of Africa and are one of the more popular types of bush meat. There is also a great demand for them in Asia, where it is believed that pangolin scales have medicinal qualities. This, coupled with deforestation, adds to their demise. All eight species of pangolin are classified by the IUCN as threatened to extinction, while two are classified as critically endangered.
THE BROWN HYENA
- The Brown Hyena is also known as the ‘Strandloper’ or ‘Strandwolf’ – both interpreted to mean ‘Beachwalker’ or ‘Beachwolf’ due to them inhabiting the Namib desert dunes of the west coast of our sub-continent.
- They are predominantly scavengers, mostly unlike their near-relative, the Spotted Hyena. Spotted hyenas, in contrast, are in many cases predominantly predators. Therefore, wherever other larger predators occur in good numbers in their range (and as long as they have carcasses) Brown Hyenas will be there in good numbers.
- Brown hyenas will occasionally turn to vegetable matter as a source of food, including roots, tubers and wild fruit.
- These animals have an incredibly powerful jaw, which they use to crush and consume bones and marrow. As much as the jaw is powerful – it is even more flexible. This very unique ability allows it to open its jaw exceptionally wide – so wide that it has been known to pick up ostrich eggs! A single Brown Hyena can clear an entire ostrich nest by cleverly caching the eggs in well concealed hideouts.
- Brown hyenas live in small kinship clans, yet are rarely seen together. The forage alone and wander great distances for food when the need arises.
BIRDS OF MARAKELE Birdlife in the park is prolific with a species list of just over 400 species. The mountainous terrain is home to a healthy population of Verraux’s Eagle too. These are the largest eagles in Africa and are experts at hunting Rock Hyraxs. The plains, the waterways and variety of savannah types hold the greater abundance of species. The 2014 Big Birding Day on the reserve, where rangers on the reserve collectively sought after the most number of species in a 24 hour day, produced over 150 species for a relaxed days birding! Species include (to name just a few):
- Gurneys Sugarbird
- Cape Vulture
- Half-collared Kingfisher
- White-backed Night-Heron
- Verraux’s Eagle-Owl
- Mountain Wagtail
- Ant-eating Chat