Botlierskop is bursting with new buffalo arrivals. Twelve buffalo calves have been born over the last eight months, bringing the sizeable population on the reserve to 65-one of the largest buffalo populations along the Garden Route! This is a far cry from the initial five buffalo on the reserve back in 2000.
The babies won’t stay small for long; buffalo calves grow extremely fast in their first year, and can gain a whopping 0.43 kilograms per day! This fast growth rate is necessary to reach an adult weight, usually at age 10, of between 500-1000 kilograms. The cow can give birth from the age of 4 years and can produce a calf every 15-18 months depending on the vegetation.
The Cape or African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) has roamed the Western Cape landscape for centuries; records indicate the presence of buffalo in the Cape Peninsula from as early as the mid-17th century. Areas such as Buffelsbaai were once home to large herds of Cape buffalo, but sadly, as occurred throughout much of South Africa, hunting for meat, habitat destruction and disease decimated the herds.
Buffalo are now an essential ecotourism asset on game reserves and selective breeding has resulted in many high-quality, disease-free populations. Disease is a major issue with buffalo as they are hosts to foot-and-mouth and corridor disease. Both diseases, not harmful to the buffalo themselves, can pose a serious risk to other animals, especially domestic livestock. Buffalo can also contract and carry bovine tuberculosis which can be fatal.
The buffalo of Botlierskop are all disease-free, as are all buffalo in the Western Cape– a so called ‘green area’ because of this. Disease-free buffalo are originally bred from an ecotype known as Addo buffalo or disease-free stock. To determine whether a buffalo is free of disease it must pass stringent tests including a minimum of four negative tests in differing stages of quarantine.
Buffalo take one of the prestigious spots on the Big Five animals list. But do you know how these five animals – the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard – came to be called the Big Five? It was originally a hunting term referring to the top five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot.
Dangerous is right, buffalo are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and cause more than 200 deaths per year, mainly through goring. This is hard to believe when watching them docilely chewing cud, eyeballing you with a look often described as “You owe me money”. But don’t be fooled, an animal known as “The Black Death” or “Widowmaker” is not one to be messed with. Unsurprisingly, all domestication attempts with Cape buffalo have failed due to their aggressive nature.
Buffalo are fiercely protective of their herd and young ones and there are many incredible stories of herds defending youngsters and other herd members against lions. Check out this for one such encounter.
Have you had or heard of any interesting buffalo encounters? Leave us a comment and let us know!