Animals of Fernkloof Nature Reserve.
Where is Fernkloof?
History of Fernkloof
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|The relatively limited number of mammalian species and their small populations reflect the low carrying capacity of the fynbos which covers most of Fernkloof. The mammals most likely to be seen are baboon, klipspringer, mongoose and dassie which are all daytime feeders. Others such as porcupine, genet, hare and grysbok are nocturnal and their presence is only revealed by evidence such as spoor, droppings or effect on vegetation.
Several species of rodent make their home here, including the Cape Spiny Mouse (Acomys subspinosus) which, although locally common, is listed in the Red Data Book as a rare species. Illustrations by Clare Abbot from
Smithers, R.H.N. 1986. Land Mammals of Southern Africa, A field guide.
Published by Macmillan South Africa (Pty) Ltd. Futher reading:
Smithers, R.H.N. 1983. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. University of Pretoria. Pretoria.
Apps, Peter (ed.) 1996. Smithers Mammals of Southern Africa. A field guide. Southern Book Publishers. Halfway House.
Skead, C.J. 1980. Historical Mammal Incidence in the Cape Province. Dept. Nature and Environmental Conservation. Cape Town. ( Copy in Fernkloof Library)
Dr Pierre le Roux of Voelklip , retired animal doctor, has cycled more than 13 000 kilometres along mountain bike trails in the reserve and has interesting observations to make on the animal life he has encountered along the way. He says, apart from birds, the animal contribution is underestimated. Info pamphlets make mention of klipspringer, grysbok, steenbok, snakes, tortoises and baboons - but there are much much more. The seventeen species of ant and numerous spiders, frogs and butterflies have not been touched upon. The habits and modes of life of animals are varied, he says. Some are nocturnal and seldom seen, but all have distinctive spoor which identifies them. So keep your eyes peeled and use a spoor guide to get started. For instance, did you know that a magnificent large male caracal lives above the lagoon, east of the old dumps? Dr Le Roux has come across him on three occasions, been permitted a good look from 30 metres away before he shot off. Dassies feel secure near their hideouts and will allow you to approach them while sunning themselves, especially on the coast. We also know that the odd leopard has been rearing her cub on dassies and stray dogs. Otter tracks occur near the water and early in the morning they can be be seen swimming at Langbaai or at the mouth of the Mossel River. Steenbok latrines occur along the thickets of the river but it is a shy species. You may get a quick glimpse of a striped mouse or marsh rat as they scurry across the path. Porcupine quills, tracks and signs of their rooting are everywhere. Sandy patches have a variety of molehills and burrows and tortoises, padloper and angulate, like this terrain for grazing. Above Voelklip look out for the tracks of grey mongoose (large and small) . The small variety is often active in daylight as they approach houses to scavenge. Several grey duikers frequent the road to the Three Dams and grysbok graze all over on green shoots of grass, often among the blue gums east of the golf course. Above the Stanford road look for tracks of genet, porcupine and clawless otter and the spoor of the Vogelgat baboon troop moving between the lagoon and the mountain. Dung pellets may alert you to what spoor to expect. The grey rhebuck's look like miniature cow pats, a porcupine's like date stones. Baboon's is sticky and consists mainly of fynbos seeds, with old ones sprouting with seedlings. Dung beetles make balls from whatever is available, which they feverishly roll along to nowhere, fighting one another before digging around it to sink it into soft sand. Tortoises, snakes and lizards particularly suffer from veld fires but at least there is a move these days to rescue wild life before the bulldozers move in to destroy their environment. Human encroachment is, after all, the animal kingdom's worst threat.
ANIMALS OF FERNKLOOF
|They were here long before the rest of us, in the days when the whole of the coastal plain and mountainsides were theirs to roam at will. Our resident Fernkloof baboons must be rueing the day when Hermanus Pieters decided to permanently camp out at the local spring and so set the scene for a human population explosion over the next 150 years. Unlike the Cape Peninsula baboon scene, very little statistical research has been done into our local baboon troops with regard to numbers and ratios of male to female etc. But from the Baboon Management Strategy for the Cape Peninsula final report by Ruth Kansky and Dave Gaynor dated January 2000 follow these interesting facts about the controversial creatures: Baboons require a diversity of vegetation types to get the 115 different plant species they eat. They are the most adaptable of African mammals but the Cape fynbos with its hot dry summers, cold wet winters and above all, lack of nutrients, provides a tough challenge. The soils are leached and nutrient poor. Fynbos as a result contains few nutrients and little protein - mainly many indigestible compounds. That is why you find baboons digging in the ground to mine nutrient rich deposits, eating so many varieties of plants and, in the old days, getting protein by foraging in tidal pools for limpets and shark egg cases. In the fynbos they play a role. They spread seeds and create thousands of small microhabitats for seeds to germinate as they dig up bulbs and turn over rocks. Among the plants they eat, besides luscious bulbs, are, surprisingly, certain ericas, leucadendrons, acacias, pelargoniums, arctotis, elegias and, of course, the berries of the Chrysanthemoides monilifera. Domestic foraging saves a lot of time and trouble - after all half a loaf of brown bread would fulfil the daily nutritional needs of a female baboon and save her four hours of searching for food. An adult male baboon weighs between 28 and36 kg and female about half that size. Only adult male baboons of five to six years of age (when the snout is elongated and the canines developed) regularly move round alone and are then sometimes labelled "rogues". This is evidently not always the case. A male baboon grows up in the troop he is born in, but when he matures he leaves to find another troop where hopefully he can reproduce. It is part of a system that ensures that males do not breed with close relatives. They are agents of a highly evolved behaviour that ensures genetic mixing between troops. Con van Eeden, a guide student from Vermont in 2002, did spend several months watching the Fernkloof troop and hopes one day to return to his research. His findings were that our troop is a healthy and gregarious one, with approximately eight adults, seven sub-adults and eight juveniles at that particular time. Females outnumbered males at between 1 and 6 to 1 and immature classes made up about 65%.|