Mother and child
Anatidae Ducks, swans, geese
Anas platyrhynchos Mallard
This duck is very widely distributed across subarctic, temperate, and subtropical areas of North America, Eurasia, and North Africa, southwards to Mexico, Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, and China, and it has also been introduced to many other places as a hunting object, including South America, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.
The drake is a gorgeous bird in breeding plumage, with grey sides, purple breast, and glossy-green head, with a blue shine from certain angles. The female is a uniform speckled brown. Pictures, depicting male and female, may be seen on the page Animals – Animals as servants of Man: Poultry.
Mallard with ducklings, feeding in a pond, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Anser cygnoides Swan goose
This species has a restricted distribution, breeding in Mongolia, northern China, and south-eastern Siberia. It is readily identified by the large knob at the base of the bill. It was first domesticated in China, maybe as early as 1000 B.C. The domesticated form, often called Chinese goose, comes in about 20 breeds.
Domesticated swan geese with goslings, Sauraha, southern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Branta canadensis Canada goose
Seven subspecies of this very common bird breed in North America, from Alaska and northern Canada southwards to the northern third of the United States. It has also been introduced to Britain, Sweden, New Zealand, Argentina, and other places. It is very bold and has been able to establish populations in urban areas, where it has no natural predators. In many areas, it has been declared a pest because of its noise, droppings, and aggressive behaviour.
Canada goose with goslings, Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Atelidae Spider monkeys and howler monkeys
Numerous monkey species are described on the page Animals – Mammals: Monkeys and apes.
Alouatta palliata Mantled howler monkey
Comprising 5 subspecies, this monkey is widespread, distributed from south-eastern Mexico southwards to northern Peru. The golden-mantled howler monkey, ssp. palliata, ranges from extreme eastern Guatemala eastwards to eastern Costa Rica, or possibly extreme western Panama. This subspecies is quite dark, with a rufous mantle. It mainly lives in the lowland, occasionally found up to 2,000 m altitude.
A tiny golden-mantled howler monkey, clinging to its mother’s tail, near Bagaces, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ateles geoffroyi Geoffroy’s spider monkey
Six subspecies of this monkey, which is also called black-handed or Central American spider monkey, are distributed from south-eastern Mexico eastwards to Panama. It mainly occurs in evergreen rainforest, but may also be found in deciduous forest. The species is threatened due to habitat loss, which has been severe across its entire range. It is estimated that it has declined by as much as 50% during the last 50 years. Today, it mainly survives in protected areas.
A young Geoffroy’s spider monkey, subspecies yucatanensis, clings to its mother’s back, Tikal National Park, Guatemala. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bovidae Bovids (cattle, sheep, goats, antelopes, and others)
Numerous antelope species are described on the page Animals – Mammals: Antelopes.
Antidorcas marsupialis Springbok
When the Boer (Dutch immigrants) arrived in South Africa in the 18th Century, they noticed a species of antelope, which would often jump about, obviously for sheer pleasure. For this reason, they named it springbok (’jumping buck’). This behaviour is called pronking, where an animal, on stiff legs, leaps several times into the air, sometimes as much as 2 m above the ground, arching its back and raising a pocket-like, white skin flap, which extends from the tail along the midline of the back.
The scientific name is derived from the Greek anti (‘opposite’) and dorkas (‘gazelle’), indicating that this animal is not a true gazelle, and from the Latin marsupium (‘pocket’), alluding to the skin flap. Another difference from the gazelles is that its horns are either straight, or with the tips curving slightly forward, whereas those of the gazelles usually are curving backward in an arch. (However, see Grant’s gazelle below.)
The springbok lives in dry areas of south-western Africa, from extreme southern Angola southwards through Namibia and western Botswana to western South Africa. It is the national animal of the latter country.
Springbok kid, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bos taurus Cattle
Archaeological evidence indicates that cattle were first domesticated from the aurochs (Bos taurus ssp. primigenius) in south-eastern Turkey and western Iran about 8,500 B.C., and in Europe they arrived roughly at the same time as agriculture, i.e. around 6,400 B.C. These cattle later evolved into today’s taurine cattle.
Domestication of the eastern subspecies of the aurochs, ssp. namadicus, took place about 6,000 B.C. in the Indus Valley. These domesticated animals evolved into today’s zebu, with its characteristic hump. From the Indus Valley, this breed was brought to practically all warmer areas of Asia, including China, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. Around 2,000 B.C., it arrived in Africa. Today, it is also found in tropical areas of the Americas. (Source: Ajmone-Marsan et al. 2010)
Many pictures, depicting cattle, are shown on the page Animals: Animals as servants of man.
Cow with a newborn calf, Fanø, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Scottish Highland cattle, various colour morphs, Funen, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Suckling calf, a cross breed between Red Danish cattle and Brown American cattle, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Suckling zebu ox calf, village of Khorma, Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bos grunniens Yak
The yak is a high-altitude species, which used to roam the Central Asian highlands in large numbers. It is adapted to a life in this harsh environment, having a luxurious fur, which keeps it warm in temperatures below -30o Centigrade. – A Nepalese legend, which explains how the yak got its rich fur, is related on the page Animals: Animals as servants of man: Water buffalo.
The yak was domesticated by nomadic tribes as early as c. 5000 B.C., and today the population is estimated at 14 million, the vast majority in Chinese territories. The population of wild yak may be fewer than 15,000, and though it is legally protected, illegal hunting still takes place and may threaten this magnificent animal with extinction.
The scientific name is Latin for ‘grunting ox’ – a most descriptive name, as it grunts incessantly.
Female yaks, known as nak, with calves, Khumbu, eastern Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Bubalus bubalis Water buffalo
The wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee ssp. arnee) is native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It was first domesticated about 5,000 years ago, and through selective breeding it has become the docile beasts that we today see working in the paddy fields, or pulling heavily loaded carts.
The difference between the domestic water buffalo and its wild cousin mainly lies in the shape of the horns, which in the wild form are massive, spreading out sideways almost horizontally, only curving at the tip, whereas the horns of the domestic form are smaller, curved almost from the base.
The water buffalo is described in depth on the page Animals: Animals as servants of man.
This buffalo cow and her calf are for sale at a market in Sonpur, Bihar, India. Oil has been applied to their body, making them look more attractive to buyers. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Capra ibex Alpine ibex
At one point, this magnificent animal was almost hunted to extinction, only surviving in a few pockets in northern Italy. Due to the alarming decrease of the population, Victor Emmanuel, later to become king of Italy, declared the Royal Hunting Reserve of Gran Paradiso in 1856, and a protective guard was created for the ibex. In 1920, King Victor Emmanuel III donated the original 21 square kilometres to the state, and it became Italy’s first national park in 1922. Despite the park, ibex were poached until 1945, when only 419 remained. Since then, the population has increased, and there are now almost 4,000 in the park. It has been reintroduced to numerous other areas in the Alps, and also to Bulgaria and Slovenia.
In summer, the alpine ibex lives in rocky areas just below the snow line, at elevations between 1,800 and 3,300 m, descending to lower altitudes in the winter.
Female alpine ibex with kid, Valnontey, Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Connochaetes taurinus Blue wildebeest
Members of the genus Connochaetes are variously called wildebeest or gnu. The generic name is derived from the Greek konnos (‘beard’) and khaite (‘flowing hair’ or ‘mane’), alluding to the long, flowing beard of these animals. The name wildebeest is Afrikaans for ‘wild cow’, whereas gnu is the Khoikhoi name for these antelopes.
The blue wildebeest, also known as brindled gnu, is distributed from southern Kenya southwards through eastern Africa to central Zambia, and from southern Angola and Zambia southwards to South Africa and Mozambique. The specific name means ‘bull-like’, derived from the Greek tauros (‘bull’), whereas the prefix blue refers to the bluish sheen of the coat.
Five subspecies are recognized:
The nominate blue wildebeest (ssp. taurinus) is widely distributed in southern Africa, from southern Angola and south-western Zambia southwards to central South Africa and southern Mozambique.
Cookson’s wildebeest (cooksoni) is restricted to the Luangwa Valley, Zambia.
The black-bearded wildebeest (johnstoni), also called Nyasaland wildebeest, occurs from central Tanzania southwards to northern Mozambique. It is extinct in Malawi (formerly called Nyasaland).
The eastern white-bearded wildebeest (albojubatus) lives in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, east of the Rift Valley.
The western white-bearded wildebeest (mearnsi) is found in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, west of the Rift Valley, westwards to Lake Victoria. This subspecies undertakes a spectacular annual migration, where 2 or 3 million wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti Plains northwards to southern Kenya, and later vice versa.
The pictures below all depict white-bearded wildebeest, subspecies mearnsi.
Running wildebeests with a calf, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wildebeest with a calf, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Resting wildebeests, Ngorongoro Crater. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Wildebeest calves may suckle even when half-grown, in this case in the Ngorongoro Crater. The birds to the left are a blacksmith lapwing (Vanellus armatus) and a wattled starling (Creatophora cinerea). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Kobus kob Kob
A heavily built antelope with black markings on the forelegs. It is found in grasslands of northern central Africa, from Senegal eastwards to southern Chad, South Sudan, Uganda, and extreme north-eastern Zaire. Three subspecies are recognized, leucotis in South Sudan, thomasi in Uganda and Zaire, and kob in the remaining area.
Uganda kob, subspecies thomasi, females and young, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Nanger granti Grant’s gazelle
This powerful gazelle was named for Scottish explorer Lieutenant-Colonel James Augustus Grant (1827-1892), who explored parts of East Africa. Five subspecies have been described, distributed from South Sudan and Ethiopia southwards through Kenya to northern Tanzania. The male has thick horns that curve backwards and outwards, whereas the female has slender, usually straight horns, with the tip pointing slightly forward. In this respect, they resemble those of the springbok (above).
Suckling Grant’s gazelle kid, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ovis aries Domestic sheep
Sheep were among the first animals to be domesticated by humans, maybe as early as 11,000 to 9000 B.C., in Mesopotamia. The ancestor of the domestic sheep is still disputed, but today the most common hypothesis is that it is descended from the Asiatic mouflon (Ovis orientalis). Previously, it was assumed that it is descended from the European mouflon (O. musimon). However, today many authorities regard this species as an ancient breed of domestic sheep, which has turned feral.
The domestic sheep is described in depth on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
Oxford Down sheep with lambs, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Redunca bohor Bohor reedbuck
In parts of its distribution area, the bohor reedbuck is partial to moist grasslands and swamps, elsewhere it also lives in drier savannas and woodland. It is a medium-sized antelope, males measuring up to 90 cm at the shoulder, and weighing a maximum of 65 kg. Females are somewhat smaller. Only the male has horns, which may reach a length of 35 cm.
This species is distributed across the Sahel zone of central Africa, from Senegal eastwards to Ethiopia, and thence southwards to southern Tanzania. It was first described in 1767 by Prussian naturalist Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811). Five subspecies are presently recognized.
Grooming female bohor reedbuck, subspecies wardi, with a young, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Camels are described in depth on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
Camelus dromedarius Dromedary
The dromedary, or one-humped camel, is extinct in the wild, but is widely distributed as a domestic animal, from India across the Middle East to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Somalia, and northern Kenya. It was probably first domesticated around 3000 B.C. in Somalia or southern Arabia.
Dromedary with a foal, between Tozeur and Tamerza, Tunisia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Dromedary with a foal, photographed at a breeding farm for camels, Bikaner, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Canidae Dog family
Many members of this family are described on the page Animals – Mammals: Dog family.
Canis lupus ssp. familiaris Domestic dog
Researchers disagree as to when the wolf (Canis lupus) was first domesticated. Some maintain that it took place about 15,000 years ago, others say that it happenened long before that, about 35,000 years ago.
Under all circumstances, the archaeological evidence shows that the wolves, which were domesticated by hunter-gatherers, were the first domesticated animal species of all. This domestication took place at different localities simultaneously, probably in Western Europe, Central Asia, and East Asia.
The complicated ancestry of the dog is described on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
Stray dog, suckling her pups, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Suckling pups of wire-haired dachshund, 3 weeks old, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lycaon pictus African wild dog
This species was once rather common throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but has declined drastically, and today it is highly threatened everywhere. As few as 6,500 of these dogs may exist, divided into about 39 populations. It is most common in eastern and southern Africa, with a few scattered populations in the Sahel zone.
My encounters with this fascinating animal are described on the page Animals – Mammals: Hunting dogs – nomads of the savanna.
African wild dogs, feeding pups, about 4 weeks old, by regurgitating meat, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Caviidae Cavies (guinea pig, capybara, and others)
Cavia porcellus Guinea pig
This rodent originated in the Andes Mountains, where it is a domesticated form of a wild relative, C. tschudii. It was raised as a food source, and is still eaten in some parts of the Andes. It is now widespread as a pet around the world, and is also much used in laboratory research. The latter has given rise to the slang expression guinea pig, meaning persons being used as test objects.
The common name is rather odd, as the animal never lived in Guinea, and is far from related to pigs. It is of unknown origin.
Pet guinea pigs, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cercopithecidae Old World monkeys
Numerous monkey species are described on the page Animals – Mammals: Monkeys and apes.
Chlorocebus pygerythrus Vervet monkey
This species was previously regarded as a subspecies of the green vervet, then called Cercopithecus aethiops. Today, most authorities accept the former 6 subspecies of this monkey as full species.
The vervet, as of today, is distributed from Ethiopia and southern Somalia southwards through Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and Botswana to South Africa. It lives mainly in savanna and open woodland, almost always near rivers, but is extremely adaptable and able to survive in cultivated areas, and sometimes in towns. There are no major threats to this species, although many are shot in agricultural areas, where they do damage to crops. It is also hunted as bushmeat in some areas.
Female vervet monkey with a young, Victoria Falls National Park, Zimbabwe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Macaca cyclopis Taiwan macaque
As its name implies, this monkey is endemic to Taiwan, where it is quite common. It mainly lives in various primary forest types, but may also be found in secondary forest, from where it enters agricultural areas, and even towns, in search of food. It is quite a nuisance in some areas, but is not harmed, partly because it is protected by law, partly because of the widespread Buddhist conception that you should not kill animals.
Taiwan macaque occurs from sea level to c. 3,600 m altitude, but is most common between 1,000 and 1,500 m. There are no major threats to the species.
The fur of the Taiwan macaque is pale grey with a brownish tinge here and there. This female is grooming its young, Bagua Shan Mountains. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Macaca fascicularis Long-tailed macaque
Of the 23 species of macaque, this one is the most widespread, found from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, southwards to the Malaysian and Indonesian Archipelago, and thence eastwards to the Philippines.
Long-tailed macaques, mothers with young, Wenara Wana Temple (popularly called ‘Monkey Forest’), Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Macaca mulatta Rhesus monkey
The well-known brown monkey of India, in Hindi called bandar, is found almost everywhere in the country north of the rivers Tapti in Gujarat and Godavari in Maharashtra. The total distribution area of this species is from Afghanistan eastwards through Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos to Vietnam, and thence northwards to central China.
The rhesus monkey has become well-known through its usage in medical research, which detected the rhesus factor, an inherited antigen in the blood of humans. Its fur is mainly brown, with an orange tinge on the hind parts, and the tail is rather short, 20-30 cm. This monkey lives in very diverse habitats, from semi-desert via various forest types to temple groves and cities, from the lowland up to elevations around 2,500 m.
These rhesus monkey females are enjoying the evening sun in Sariska National Park, Rajasthan, India. The one in front is suckling a tiny young. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Female rhesus monkeys with young, Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Macaca radiata Bonnet macaque
This macaque is restricted to the southern half of India, replacing the rhesus monkey (above) south of the Tapti and Godavari Rivers. It is a little smaller than the rhesus monkey, its fur being greyish-brown, paler on the belly. It has an extremely long tail, longer than the body. On its crown is a cowlick, resembling a bonnet.
This species is very common, locally abundant, living in all forest types, scrubland, plantations, agricultural lands, and urban areas. It is usually found below 2,000 m altitude, occasionally up to 2,600 m. As it often feeds in agricultural areas, conflicts with humans is an increasing problem. It is locally hunted, and many are caught for research, as well as for street performing.
Female bonnet macaque with a tiny young, Azhiyar Ghat, West Ghats, Tamil Nadu, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Macaca sylvanus Barbary macaque
The Gibraltar Rock, southern Spain, is home to a population of about 300 Barbary macaques, divided into five troops. This species, which is native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, was possibly introduced to the rock by the Moors. It differs from most other macaque species in being tail-less.
Barbary macaque, mother and young, Gibraltar. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Papio anubis Olive baboon
This species is named for its coat, which is grey with an olive tinge to it. It is the most widespread baboon, ranging throughout woodland and savanna from southern Mauritania and Mali eastwards to the Sudan, and thence southwards to Zaire and Tanzania. There are also isolated populations in the Tibesti and Air Massifs in the Sahara.
It is very adaptable and is able to survive in secondary forest and cultivated areas. Despite being considered a pest, which is trapped, shot, and poisoned in places, it is still locally common.
The specific name refers to Anubis, the Egyptian god of embalming, who had the head of a jackal. Baboons have dog-like muzzles.
Young olive baboon, riding on its mother’s back, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The pictures below show motherhood among olive baboons in Lake Manyara National Park. A subordinate female approaches another female with a tiny young, exposing its behind to the mother as a sign of submission, after which it is allowed to touch the baby. Note that the older female’s cheek pouches are filled with food.
(Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Theropithecus gelada Gelada baboon
The generic name is from the Greek thero (‘beastly’) and pithekos (‘monkey’), alluding to the rather grotesque appearance of the male of this species. In Greek mythology, Thero was a fierce Naiad, who was the nurse of the infant Ares, who later became god of courage and war, but also of civil order.
The gelada baboon is restricted to high grassland escarpments along deep gorges of central Ethiopia, between 1,800 and 4,400 m altitude. It is still widespread, but was much affected by droughts, which ravaged Ethiopia in the 1980s. From an estimated population of maybe 800,000 individuals, a present guesstimate says c. 200,000. Its habitat is being eroded as a result of agricultural expansion, as an increasing number of people are moving into the central highlands. In some areas, the grazing pressure is high, forcing the geladas to move to less productive grass slopes.
In the Simien Mountains, the gelada baboon is fairly common in some areas, here at Gosh Meda. This picture shows a female with a young. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Numerous deer species are described on the page Animals – Mammals: Deer.
Cervus unicolor Sambar deer
This very large deer, by some authorities named Rusa unicolor, has a wide distribution in Asia, on the entire Indian Subcontinent, including Sri Lanka, and thence eastwards to southern China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, and Borneo.
The weight of a stag is typically around 350 kg, although large specimens may weigh as much as 550 kg. Hinds are smaller, weighing 100-200 kg. Populations of this deer have declined substantially in most areas, mainly due to hunting and habitat destruction. It has been introduced to various countries around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
The common name is derived from Sanskrit sambara (‘deer’).
Suckling sambar calf, Ranthambhor National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ciconia ciconia White stork
This large bird breeds in 3 separate areas, in the southern Iberian Peninsula and Morocco, in eastern Europe, and in Kazakhstan. It is very rare as a breeding bird in northern Europe. The two western populations spend the winter in sub-Saharan Africa, whereas birds from Kazakhstan winter in south-eastern Iran, Pakistan, and north-western India, and, to a lesser extent, in Oman.
These pictures show a tame white stork in Thy, Denmark, which had been damaged and was unable to fly. However, it paired up with a wild stork, breeding on a scaffold in a garden, from 1968 to around 1980. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The sad fate of the elephants is described on the page Animals – Mammals: Rise and fall of the mighty elephants.
Elephas maximus Asian elephant
Formerly, the Asian elephant was distributed across Asia, from Asia Minor in the west to northern China in the east, and southwards into Indonesia. Today, it is restricted to small pockets of forest in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Yunnan Province of southern China, Southeast Asia, and on Sumatra and Borneo.
A new-born Asian elephant calf weighs about 100 kilos. This picture was taken in an elephant breeding centre near Chitwan National Park, southern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Loxodonta africana Savanna elephant
Formerly, the savanna elephant was distributed all over the African continent, with the exception of deserts and rainforest areas. Today, it is restricted to savannas and semi-deserts in eastern and southern Africa. The closely related, but smaller forest elephant (L. cyclotis) lives in rainforests of Central and West Africa. Some scientists still consider the savanna elephant and the forest elephant as belonging to the same species.
A new-born savanna elephant calf weighs about 120 kilos. These pictures are from Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Equus africanus ssp. asinus Donkey
The donkey, or ass, is descended from the African wild ass (E. africanus). Formerly, this species had a wide distribution, from Somalia north to Egypt, and westwards to the Atlas Mountains.
The donkey is described in depth on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
This jenny (female donkey) and her foal are grazing in an alpine meadow in the Markha Valley, Ladakh, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Equus ferus ssp. caballus Domestic horse
The domestic horse is described in depth on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
The Exmoor pony is an ancient horse race, which is kept in semi-feral conditions several places in Europe. Its short mane is a wild-horse trait. This mare with a suckling foal was photographed on the island of Langeland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Equus ferus ssp. przewalskii Przevalski’s horse
Przevalski’s horse, which was named after Russian geographer and explorer Nikolai Przevalski (1839-1888), survived as scattered herds on the vast grass steppes in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia, but died out in the wild around 1960. However, it survived in zoos around the world, and in later years small herds of this horse have been released into the wild from breeding centres in Mongolia. Once again, true wild horses roam the steppes of Central Asia.
Givskud Zoo, Denmark, has a rather large population of Przevalski’s horse. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Equus quagga Plains zebra
The plains zebra is the commonest and most widespread of the three species of zebra. It was formerly far more widespread, but today the range is fragmented, with scattered populations of 5-6 subspecies found from southern Ethiopia southwards through eastern Africa to northern Namibia and north-eastern South Africa.
Plains zebra with a newborn foal, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Plains zebras with foals, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Previously, plains zebras in Namibia were regarded as a distinct subspecies, antiquorum. However, recent studies have revealed that it is genetically identical to Burchell’s zebra, subspecies burchelli, which was once regarded as extinct. As subspecies burchelli was described prior to antiquorum, the former name takes precedence. Thus, the plains zebras of Namibia are now called E. quagga ssp. burchelli.
Plains zebra, ssp. burchelli, mare and foal, Etosha National Park, Namibia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Equus zebra Mountain zebra
The mountain zebra is divided into two subspecies, the Cape mountain zebra, subspecies zebra, which is restricted to a few scattered herds in southern South Africa, and Hartmann’s mountain zebra, subspecies hartmannae, which lives several places in western Namibia and extreme south-western Angola. They differ from the plains zebra in being slightly smaller and by having stripes all the way down the legs.
By the 1930s, the Cape mountain zebra had been hunted to near extinction, and only about 100 individuals survived. Since then, strict conservation measures have had the effect that the population has increased to more than 2,700.
In 1998, the population of Hartmann’s mountain zebra was estimated at about 25,000 individuals, whereas recent estimates say around 33,000.
Cape mountain zebra with a foal, De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Acinonyx jubatus Cheetah
The fastest land mammal on Earth, during hunts often running at speeds of up to 64 km/h, being able to accelerate up to 112 km/h on short distances. Because of this ability, the cheetah was tamed as early as the 16th Century B.C. in Egypt, and later also in India, to be used for hunting.
This species mainly inhabits savanna, but is also found in various types of open forest. Four subspecies are currently recognized. The nominate jubatus occurs from Uganda and Kenya southwards through eastern and southern Africa to Namibia and South Africa. It has been exterminated in Zaire, Rwanda, and Burundi. The population is estimated at around 5,000 individuals.
Subspecies soemmeringii is restricted to north-eastern Africa, occurring in South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
With a total population estimated at less than 250 individuals, subspecies hecki is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. It has a scattered occurrence of tiny populations in southern Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Benin.
Today, the Asiatic cheetah, subspecies venaticus, is confined to Iran. It is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN, as the total population in 2017 was estimated at fewer than 50 individuals, scattered over the central plateau of Iran. In former times, this subspecies was distributed from the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey eastwards to Central Asia and India.
By 2016, the total cheetah population was estimated at around 7,100 individuals in the wild. Its decline is caused by loss of habitat, poaching for the illegal pet trade, and conflict with humans.
The generic name is derived from the Greek akinitos (‘motionless’) and onyx (‘nail’ or ‘hoof’), thus ‘motionless nails’, referring to the fact that the cheetah, unlike other cats, is unable to retract its claws. The specific name is from the Latin iuba (‘mane’ or ‘crest’) and atus (‘like’), thus ‘having a mane-like crest’, referring to the long mane of cheetah kittens below the age of 3 months. This mane is a means of camouflage, when the kittens are left in dense cover by their mother, when she goes hunting. The name cheetah is derived from the Sanskrit citra, meaning ‘variegated’, ‘spotted’, or ‘speckled’.
Cheetah with young, resting on a termite mound, Chief’s Island, Okawango, Botswana. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Felis catus Domestic cat
The domestic cat is presented in depth on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
Kittens, Funen, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Panthera leo Lion
Lions live in prides, consisting of females and young, and a single or several males. If there is more than one male, they are brothers or half-brothers. Even if they often don’t participate in a hunt, the stronger males will chase away lionesses and cubs from a prey, if it is not large enough to feed the entire pride.
The lion is unique among cats due to the male’s mane, a large growth of hair around the neck and down the chest, and often a little way down the back. The mane makes a male lion look larger than he actually is, without the disadvantage of a larger weight, which would require more food. A large mane is a signal to other males that here comes a powerful animal that shouldn’t be challenged, even if the challenging male is in fact larger than his opponent, but has a smaller mane. The mane also gives some protection during fights among males, for instance when stray males attempt to take over a pride.
The lion is described in detail on the page Animals – Mammals: Lion – king of the savanna, and an unusual nightly encounter with lions is related on the page Travel episodes – Tanzania 1990: Lions in the camp.
Lioness with a small cub, Masai Mara National Park, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lioness with suckling cubs, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. It seems to be painful to her. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Lion cub, licking a sibling, Serengeti National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sculpture on a Daoist grave, depicting a lion with a cub, Taichung, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Balearica regulorum Grey crowned crane
Previously, this crane was regarded as being conspecific with the black crowned crane (B. pavonina), but is now regarded as a separate species with two subspecies, regulorum, which is distributed from Zambia and Angola southwards to South Africa, and gibbericeps, which is found from central Kenya and Uganda southwards to Zambia. It is the national bird of Uganda.
The grey crowned crane lives in savannas and river valleys, and also sometimes in agricultural land, provided there are accessible wetlands. Traditionally, some tribes have regarded this bird as sacred, and in many places it has adapted to living near people. It is mainly sedentary, but moves around in search of areas with recent precipitation. It often spends the night in trees.
During the last 50 years or so, this species has declined drastically, and the total population may now be as low as 25-30,000, with two thirds of this number in East Africa. The decline is caused by draining, conversion of savanna to agricultural lands, and lack of flooding due to construction of dams. East African populations are classified as near-threatened, whereas the South African population is stable.
Grey crowned cranes with young, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Helogale parvula Dwarf mongoose
These small carnivores live in family groups, comprising up to twenty individuals, dominated by a matriarch, who will only mate with the strongest male in the group. The pack often lives in a termite mound, and the males act as guardians on top of the mound to warn the group against enemies like eagles, snakes, and jackals. For this reason, more males than females are killed by these enemies.
Dwarf mongoose with a young, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Mungos mungo Banded mongoose
This is another small mongoose, living in family groups, often in termite mounds. It was named for the dark vertical stripes on the side of the body.
Banded mongoose, suckling her young on a termite mound, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hippopotamus amphibius Hippo
This species and its smaller cousin, the pygmy hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis), are both described on the page Animals – Mammals: Hippo – the river horse that lives on both sides.
Hippo with a newborn calf, which has difficulty climbing the river bank, Masai Mara National Park, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hippo with a calf, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Hominidae Great apes, Man
Pongo pygmaeus Bornean orangutan
This fascinating animal is described in depth on the pages Animals – Mammals: Monkeys and apes, and Travel episodes – Borneo 1985: Visiting orangutans.
In 1985, I visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, where orphaned orangutans are trained to a life in the wild. This female, which often came to the centre, adopted a young by breaking into its cage and abducting it. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Crocuta crocuta Spotted hyaena
This animal is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of deserts, rainforests, and alpine areas on mountain tops. This species once ranged all over Europe and northern Asia, from Spain and France east to eastern Siberia. It is still not clear why it went extinct in Siberia, but its disappearance from Europe is linked to the decline in grasslands – its favoured habitat – about 12,500 years ago.
The spotted hyaena has a very complex social behaviour, with respect to group-size, hierarchical structure, and frequency of social interaction among both kin and unrelated group-mates. However, their social system is openly competitive rather than cooperative, with access to kills, mating opportunities, and the time of dispersal for males, all depending on the ability to dominate other clan-members. (Source: Holekamp, Sakai & Lundrigan, 2007. Social intelligence in the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, 362, pp. 523-538)
Spotted hyaena with a very young pup, resting outside their den, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. When the pups are born, they are jetblack. With age, they become pale grey, before changing into the brownish pelt of adults. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Laridae Gulls, terns, skimmers
Larus michahellis Western yellow-legged gull
This species is found in the Mediterranean Sea. It resembles the widespread herring gull (L. argentatus), but can be identified by its yellow legs and very powerful beak.
Western yellow-legged gull with chicks in its nest, placed on a house roof in Istanbul, Turkey, where this species is extremely common. It is very bold, and if a window is left open, it may enter to search for edibles. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Mustelidae Mustelids (martens, otters, badgers, and others)
Enhydra lutris Sea otter
Before the fur trade began in the 1740s, the population of sea otters is thought to have been between 150,000 and 300,000 in the North Pacific, from northern Japan along the coasts of Russia and America to Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. The fur trade reduced the sea otter’s numbers to an estimated 1,000 to 2,000.
Since its protection, the sea otter has made a dramatic comeback, and the total population may be as high as c. 110,000 individuals, with the most stable population, counting c. 27,000, living in Russia, notably on the Kuril Islands.
Young sea otter, begging food from its mother, Point Lobos, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Otariidae Eared seals
Arctocephalus pusillus Brown fur seal
There are two widely separated populations of this seal, also known as Afro-Australian fur seal: the South African, or Cape, fur seal, subspecies pusillus, and the Australian fur seal, subspecies doriferus.
The Cape fur seal ranges along the southern coasts of Africa, from Ilha dos Tigres in southern Angola, along the Namibian coast to Algoa Bay in South Africa, whereas the Australian subspecies lives in south-eastern Australian waters, along the coasts of Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, with the largest concentration in the Bass Strait.
The preferred breeding habitats of these seals are rocky islands, or pebble or boulder beaches. The population of the Cape fur seal is approximately 2 million, whereas that of the Australian fur seal is around 120,000. (Source: iucnredlist.org/details/2060/0)
Female Cape fur seals, nursing their pups, Cape Cross, Namibia. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Phalacrocorax capensis Cape cormorant
This southern African species is breeding on coasts of Angola, Namibia, and western and southern South Africa. Outside the breeding season, it has been recorded as far north as Congo Brazzaville on the west coast, and southern Mozambique on the east coast.
Cape cormorant with chicks, Lambert’s Bay, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Phalacrocorax carbo Great cormorant
This bird has an extremely wide, but rather patchy, distribution, found all over Europe and most of Asia, in Australia and New Zealand, and in north-eastern North America and Greenland.
In the 1800s, this species was persecuted all over Europe, partly because it was competing with fishermen, partly because its guano destroyed the trees, in which it was breeding. The complete contrast to this persecution is seen in the Far East, where fishermen, for thousands of years, have been using tamed great cormorants for fishing. Pictures, depicting this practice, are found on the page Fishing.
Great cormorant with a small chick, Nature Reserve Vorsø, Horsens Fjord, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Young great cormorant, begging food, Nature Reserve Vorsø. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Phasianidae Chickens, pheasants, and others
Gallus gallus Chicken (red junglefowl)
Recent studies indicate that chickens, or simply fowl, were first domesticated in China about 8000 B.C., descended from the red junglefowl, which is still found in the wild in India and Southeast Asia. In these areas it was domesticated several places at a later stage, about 6000 B.C.
The domestic chicken is described in depth on the page Animals – Animals as servants of Man: Poultry.
Hen with chickens, Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rallidae Rails, coots, moorhens, and others
Fulica cristata Red-knobbed coot
During the breeding season, this species has two bare red knobs on the forehead. Otherwise, it looks much like the widespread common coot (F. atra). It is widely distributed, from Eritrea southwards through eastern Africa to the entire southern Africa, in Morocco, Portugal, and Spain, on Madagascar, and also a few places on the Arabian Peninsula.
The specific name means ‘crested’, a somewhat erroneous name for the red knobs on the forehead.
Red-knobbed coot, feeding its chick with water plants, Rondevlei, Cape Town, South Africa. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ceratotherium simum White rhinoceros, square-lipped rhinoceros
This is the largest living species of rhino, growing to 4 m long and weighing up to 2.3 tonnes. Females live in small herds, as opposed to other rhinos, which are largely solitary. There are two subspecies, the southern nominate race, which counts about 20,000 individuals, and the northern, subspecies cottoni, which has gone extinct in the wild due to poaching. Today, only two females remain, both in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where they are protected round-the-clock by armed guards.
The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek keras (‘horn’) and therion (‘beast’). The specific name is derived from the Greek simos (‘snub-nosed’), alluding to the square mouth of this species, an adaptation for grazing.
It has often been claimed that the most commonly used name, white rhino, is a mistranslation of the Dutch word wijd to the English word white. Wijd means ‘wide’ in English, and it was supposed to refer to the width of the rhinoceros’s mouth. However, this is not the case. In fact, the name white rhino can be traced back to a letter in Dutch, written by the Boer Petrus Borcherds to his father in 1802. In this letter, he mentions two rhinos, both killed in 1801, a male of the ‘black variety’, and a female ‘white’ rhino. Concerning the female, Borcherds stated (still in Dutch): “She was of the type known to us as the white rhinoceros. (…) I expected this animal to be entirely white, according to its name, but found that she was a paler ash-grey than the black male.” (Source: Jim Feely 2007. Black rhino, white rhino: what’s in a name? Pachyderm 43, pp. 111-115)
However, both species are in reality grey, the ‘black’ rhino somewhat darker than the ‘white’ rhino.
White rhino with calf, Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Northern white rhino, ssp. cottoni, with calf, Meru National Park, Kenya, 1981. In those days, there were still a few of this subspecies left in Kenya and elsewhere. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Diceros bicornis Black rhinoceros, hook-lipped rhinoceros
In former days, this rhino was abundant in sub-Saharan Africa, divided into 7 or 8 subspecies. However, due to poaching it has largely disappeared, today surviving in small populations in reserves in Kenya, Tanzania, and southern African countries.
Both scientific names mean ‘two-horned’, the generic name derived from the Greek dyo (‘two’) and keras (‘horn’), the specific name from the latin bis (‘twice’) and cornu (‘horned’). The common name is explained above, see white rhino.
Black rhinos with calves, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cynomys ludovicianus Black-tailed prairie dog
Although it has declined drastically, this species is still fairly common, distributed from Montana and North Dakota southwards to eastern New Mexico and western Texas, and the northern part of the Mexican state Chihuahua.
By far the largest colony is in the Janos Region of Chihuahua, where hundreds of thousands of animals survive, although their numbers are declining, mainly due to increasing cultivation of the area.
Female black-tailed prairie dog with young outside their den, Tucson Desert Zoo, Arizona. Research has revealed that no less than 39% of young prairie dogs fall victim to cannibalism. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Young black-tailed prairie dog suckling, and afterwards grooming its mother, Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Spheniscus demersus Jackass penguin
This bird, named for its donkey-like braying, is confined to coasts of South Africa and Namibia. Its numbers have declined drastically since 1800, when the population was estimated at 4 million. Today, there are proably as few as 20,000 – a result of overfishing as well as climate change.
Other pictures, depicting this species, are shown on the page Animals – Birds: Birds in Africa.
Young jackass penguins, begging food, Boulders, Simonstown, Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Phacochoerus africanus Common warthog
Previously, this animal was thought to be the only member of the subfamily Phacochoerinae, under the name P. aethiopicus, but recently it has been split into two species, the desert warthog, named P. aethiopicus, which lives in arid areas of northern Kenya, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia, and the widespread common warthog, named P. africanus, which lives in grassland and woodland in most of sub-Saharan Africa, only avoiding deserts and rainforest.
From a distance, this animal appears largely naked, seemingly only with a crest along the back, and tufts of hair on the cheeks and tail. At close quarters, however, you notice a cover of short, bristly hairs on the body. The name warthog refers to the facial wattles, larger in the males, which also have prominent tusks that may sometimes reach a length of up to 60 cm, much smaller in the females.
Common warthog with half-grown piglets, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Common warthog with a half-grown piglet, drinking from the Grumeti River, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sus scrofa Wildboar
This pig is found in a vast area, from almost all of Europe and North Africa across the Middle East and Central Asia to Japan, and thence southwards to Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Sumatra, and Java. It has also been introduced elsewhere, notably the United States, Australia, and New Guinea.
I once had a close encounter with a wild boar, see Travel episodes – Iran 1973: Car breakdown at the Caspian Sea.
An amusing account of a wild boar hunt is related on the page Quotes on Nature, written by the famous hunter and conservationist Jim Corbett (1875-1955).
This wild boar sow and her piglets enjoy a mud bath at a waterhole, Sariska National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sus scrofa ssp. domestica Domestic pig
Most authorities regard the domestic pig as a subspecies of the wildboar, whereas others maintain that it is a separate species, named Sus domesticus. The domestic pig is described on the page Animals: Animals as servants of Man.
Sows are loving mothers, nursing their piglets about every hour. – Melstedgård Agricultural Museum, Bornholm, Denmark (top), and Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sulidae Gannets, boobies
Sula dactylatra Masked booby
This widespread species, divided into 4 subspecies, lives in tropical waters, from the Red Sea and Tanzania eastwards to Southeast Asia and Australia, across the Pacific to Mexico and South America, and also in the Caribbean and in the western part of the Atlantic off the coast of South America.
The specific name is derived from Ancient Greek dactyl (‘finger’) and from the Latin ater (‘black), alluding to the black, splayed wingtips in flight.
Masked boobies with a downy chick (top) and a black immature, Latham Island, Tanzania. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded January 2023)