DESCRIPTION: There are four sub-species recognised: the forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus), West African Savannah buffalo (S.c.brachyceros), Central African Savannah buffalo (S.c.aequinoctialis)and the Southern Savannah buffalo (S.c.caffer). They can stand as high as 170 cm (5½ feet) at the shoulder2 and can weigh up to 700kg in weight. Depending on the sub-species they range in colour from dark brown to black (in savannah-living races), to the bright red of the forest buffalo (although this colouration tends to darken with age), with males tending to be larger and darker than the females. Horns are present in both sexes and can grow as long as 160cm (5¼ feet) in males6 and broaden across the forehead into a heavy shield, known as a ‘boss’6.
HABITAT: African Buffalo are found throughout Africa, south of the Sahara. Cape buffalo are found mainly in savannah habitats, such as open plains and wooded grasslands. They live in large herds, with almost 70% of the savannah sub-species being found in and around National Parks and other protected areas3.
FEEDING: African buffalo are grazers, feeding for around 8–10 hours a day. They do occasionally browse on leaves2.
They need to drink daily so are never further than 9 km (5½ miles) from water5.
BREEDING: Female African buffalo are pregnant for around 11 months and the young is born within the herd. The mother will stay with it and defend it fiercely should the herd move off1. Young males will leave their mothers at 2 years old, but young females will stay much longer, sometimes until they themselves have calves2.
CONSERVATION: These buffalo are not classed as endangered by the IUCN, however, they are hunted throughout their range, especially for bush-meat. Their biggest threat is disease such as rinderpest or anthrax, which have previously had drastic effects on their numbers3.
1 Macdonald (Ed), Encyclopaedia of Mammals, Oxford University Press (2001)
2 Nowak, R. Walker’s Mammals of the World. John Hopkins University Press (1991)
3 IUCN REDLIST www.iucnredlist.org.uk
4 WAZA, VIRTUAL ZOO www.waza.org
5 ANIMAL, Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 2001
6 Ultimate Ungulate. www.ultimateungulate.com/artiodactyla