The African Savanna biome is a tropical grassland in Africa between latitude 15° North and 30 degrees S and longitude 15 degrees W and 40° West. It covers Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’ivore, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, and South Africa. Annual rainfall in the African Savanna is about the same as that of Wisconsin. During the rainy season, beginning in May and ending in November, they get fifteen to twenty-five inches of rain a month. In the dry season they only get about four inches of rain. The dry season occurs more then seven months of the year, from October to March in the southern hemisphere and April to September in the northern hemisphere. The dry season comes in the low sun period and the wet season comes in the high sun period. They have a wet-dry tropical climate.
A rolling grassland dotted with trees is one way to define the African Savanna. The African Savanna is a thornbush savanna, which has many different kinds of plants such as acacia Senegal, candelabra tree, jackalberry tree, umbrella thorn acacia, whistling thorn, Bermuda grass, baobabs, and elephant grass. The Serengeti Plains are a grass savanna that has very dry but nutrient-rich volcanic sand. Around 2 million large plant-eating mammals live in the savanna. There are 45 species of mammals, almost 500 species of birds, and 55 species of acacia in the Serengeti Plains. There are animals such as lions, African wildcats, klipspringer, steenbok, Burchell’s zebra, African Savanna monitor, and puff adders. They have the largest diversity of hoofed animals in the world including antelopes, wildebeest, buffalos, zebras, and rhinoceros. Both plants and animals have adapted very well to living where they live.
Some animals are grazers, some are browsers, and some do a little of both. One herd of browsers nibbles at the trunk of a tree, another looks a little higher for food, a third eats even higher than the ones below them, and another herd browses at the very top. Many plants have developed long taproots to reach down to water. Some kinds of trees have thick fire resistant bark and trunks that can store water. Some animals migrate when it gets too hot or too cold for them, and others burrow in the ground. Some animals have tough cheek teeth so they can stand their diets, many animals cannot eat tough grasses like the animals of the African Savanna. Some animals have developed speed for hunting such as cheetahs others such as giraffes have developed long legs to become too high for a cheetah or other predators to get to. Naked mole rats feed on large underground tubers produced by plants, the secretary bird feeds on snakes so it has evolved to have long legs to walk through the grasses, and ostriches can run as fast as 31 miles per hour to escape predators.
They can also have very thick skin to make it so predators cannot bite through their skin. This biome has been helped, hurt, and changed by humans in many ways. For example people use the land for cattle grazing, which kills the grass and turns the savanna into a desert, they cause many fires that destroy the land, use of wood for fuel also causes problems to the environment, and people also poach (hunt the animals illegally) very often causing animals to become extinct. To repair damage people are creating controlled burning programs to keep worse fires from developing, they are creating nature preserves to keep the savanna natural, and they set up a biosphere reserve in South Africa to help protect the environment.
The Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area together have been named a World Heritage site. The Serengeti is one of the most famous national parks in the world. It has the most grazing animals and their predators in Africa. Some of the greatest wildlife scenes ever seen take place there. The African Savanna takes up almost half of the continent, about 5 million square miles. If it weren’t for the efforts that people made to preserve the savanna they may not have all the animals, plants, and other wonderful things they have now
| The zebra is the horse of the savanna. Grant’s zebra is the most abundant of the 3 species of zebra. The zebra looks like a horse, only smaller. It doesn’t sound like a horse, and “barks” instead of neighs. Its height is about 50 in. from shoulder to hoof, and weighs in at 500 to 600 pounds. It has rather short legs and a large head. The zebra has black and white stripes, a black nose, and black hooves. It also has a short, erect mane. The stripes on its side are vertical but bend to become horizontalon its rump. Every zebra’s stripe pattern is different. |
The zebra lives in close-knit groups called families or harems, led by a single male. There can be up to 17 members in each family. Everybody in the family relies on each other to look out for danger and help those who are in trouble. They stay close to each other even when they migrate in herds of 10,000 or more. They slow their pace for weak or young members and never leave them. They can live to be 28 years old. When the zebra is attacked by a predator, it has several ways to defend itself. If they see a predator, the herd will bunch together and all the predator will see is a maze of stripes and it won’t be able to tell one zebra from another and will not be able to tell it’s front from it’s rear end. Or a herd may run away. The zebra can reach speeds of up to 40 m.p.h.
The male guards the rear. If all else fails, it will use it’s strong hooves and sharp teeth against a predator. The zebra’s main predators are hyenas and lions. It is easy to see a zebra in the middle of the grasslands because of its black and white stripes, but the stripes actually confuse a predator. There are about 300,000 zebras left on the savanna. They are fun to watch and study. They may not be endangered yet, but two rarer species are. Some subspecies are actually already extinct.
Like the other endangered animals, we must help the zebra and try to make it so it does not reach extinction. The lion is the powerhouse of the savanna, weighing in at 265-420 pounds and up to 10 feet long. The lion is a powerful predator. Imagine a powerful looking beast that looks like your average house cat. But its bigger, faster, and stronger. Lions have dirty beige colored fur and rounded heads. Males have something females don’t… manes. Manes are a ruff of long hair around the neck which is brown in the front and black in the back. |
Lions live in the savanna of Africa south of the Sahara and a small area in Asia. Savannas are open spaces with tall beige, or green colored grass, where water is scarce in the summer season. Lions eat gazelles, buffalo, zebras and many other small to medium sized mammals. Lions are the only cats that live in groups called prides. Each pride is like a community of 4 to 40 individuals. They all help hunt in order to keep every member healthy, and every cub fed. The pride is made up of one dominant male and maybe a few other males, and related females and their cubs. The males protect the pride and the females hunt and take care of the cubs. When the dominant male is killed or driven off by a new male, the previous male’s cubs are killed.
This makes sure that there is room for the new male’s cubs in the pride. Cubs are born a little over a month after mating. They depend on their mother’s milk for 3 or 4 months. They nurse not only from their own mother, but any other nursing female. They are off on their own in 2 years. Lion’s coats are perfect camouflage for sneaking up on their prey. They will sneak up to their prey as close as they can as a group. Some in the group will charge at their victim, while the others cut off their escape. But often they don’t not get close enough so they have to run them down. Lions can run up to forty miles per hour for short distances. They have sharp hooked claws which they can retract or extend at will. The pads on their feet protect their paws from the rough terrain that they might walk over.
They have sharp teeth that are perfect for chomping, and biting and chewing up meat. The lion can be crucial to other animal’s survival. When a lion makes a kill and is done eating, there are usually leftovers, or scraps, which scavengers like vultures and the occasional hyena, come and eat, and thus are helped to survive too. Lions indeed are very wonderful creatures. They are interesting to see and find out about. But they are endangered from over-hunting and loss of habitat. Efforts have been made to save there creatures but they need all the help they can get. If you see a way that you can help one of these beautiful creatures, please do, so that generations after ours can enjoy them too. If we don’t…they will be gone, leaving a huge chunk out of nature’s balance as we know it.
The senegal gum acacia is a small to average sized thorn tree of the African grassland savanna. It can grow up to 20 meters tall. It has many branches that spread out into a flat and rounded top. These branches have many thorns that come in pairs. The leaves are a grey-green color. The flowers are yellow or cream colored and grow on spikes just above the thorns. These flowers turn into seed pods about 8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. They look like giant dried up pea pods, and are yellowish to brown in color, and flat.The acacia can live through long periods of drought. They tend to grow in sandy places where there is only between 12 to 15 inches of rain a year. Periods without rain can last from 5 to 11 months a year. | When the rainy season ends the trunk of the acacia begins to ooze sap, or gum. This gum is collected from December to June and is used to make gum Arabic. Gum Arabic is used in making medicine. It is used to make a cream for skin inflammations and ailments of the respiratory and urinary tracts. Its also used for coughs, sore throats, eyewash, diarrhea, and dysentery. It is also used as flavoring in certain soda (pop). The acacia provides shade and shelter for the animals of the savanna.
Giraffes, antelopes and elephants eat its leaves, and birds make their nests in its branches and use them as perches to look out over the flat grasslands. Acacia was considered sacred by the ancient Hebrew. It is said that Moses used acacia wood to build the Ark of the Covenant and the sacred Tabernacle (Exodus, chapters 25-40). Legend also has it that the thorns of the acacia were used for Christ’s crown of thorns. © Willem van der Merwe 2001 | The Jackalberry tree is found throughout Africa, from Senegal and the Sudan to Mamibia and the northern Transvaal. It is most commonly found on savannas or savanna woodlands where it can be found growing on termite mounds. In heavy soils the termite mounds provide the tree with aerated soil, and a source of moisture. The roots provide protection for the termites, who don’t eat the living wood. Jackalberry wood is almost termite-resistant after it has been cut down.
The tree prefers moist soil, rocky soils. It grows well in red loams,| volcanic and loamy sands. Jackalberry trees are also commonly found along river beds and swampy areas. The Jackalberry tree can grow very tall, up to 80 feet, with a trunk circumference of 16 feet. Most trees don’t grow that tall, however, and heights of 15 to 18 feet are more usual. The trunks grow straight and high, with the first spreading branches growing far above the ground. The mature trunks from older and heavier trees have fluted, flattened ridges along the trunk which buttress and strengthen them. The bark is dark brown when young, turning dark gray as it matures with a rough texture, forming deep horizontal grooves. They have a dense, dark green and spreading crown. The single leaves are elliptical in shape, up to 5.5 inches long and 3 inches wide with smooth or slightly wavy edges. Older leaves have a glossy, leathery look, darker green above and a lighter green below. Young leaves and twigs are covered with downy hairs.
While they are young the trees don’t lose their leaves, but as the tree gets older it will shed its leaves in early spring. New leaves will grow from June to October and be pinkish, orange or reddish in color. Jackalberry flowers are small and inconspicuous. The fragrant, white to pale cream hairy flowers are separate genders, growing on different trees. The females grow singly on a hairy stalk while the males grow in clusters. The fruit only grows on female trees. The tree flowers during the rainy season, and fruits in the dry season. The fruit of the Jackalberry tree is a favorite of many animals.
The fleshy fruit is oval, almost round in shape and about 1 inch in diameter and yellow or yellow-green in color. Five sepals of the calyx of the flower remain on the bottom of the fruit, their tips curling backwards. Two to six wrinkled seeds can be found inside the fruit. The skin is tough but the edible fruit has a chalky, floury consistency with a lemon-sweet flavor. They can be eaten fresh or preserved. They are also dried and ground into flour. A beer and brandy is also brewed from them. When the Jackalberry fruit is fully ripe, it turns purple, but one hardly ever sees it this color since it is eaten by various animals long before it can get that ripe. Animals such as kukus, nyalas, impalas, warthogs, baboons, parrots, and hornbills, to name a few, love to eat the fruit of the Jackalberry.
It got its name because the Jackalberry seeds are also found in the dung of jackals. The leaves are eaten by elephants, rhinos, giraffes, buffaloes, and kudus. The larvae of the bushveld emperor butterfly also eat the leaves of this tree. The Jackalberry tree is part of the Ebenaceae family, and is also known as African ebony. Wood from the tree is hard, heavy and very strong, and almost completely resistant against termites. The heartwood is fine-grained and good for floors, high quality furniture and pestels.
It varies in color from light, reddish brown to almost black. The trunks are used to make canoes. It is also traditionally used for medical purposes. Tanin is contained in the leaves, bark and roots, and acts as an astringent that helps stop bleeding. The tree is also supposed to have antibiotic substances that help heal wounds. A mixture made from the roots is used get rid of parasites like ring worm, and dysentery and fever. It is also considered a remedy for leprosy Although Jackalberries aren’t found in very many places outside of the savannas and savanna woodlands of Africa, they aren’t in danger of becoming extinct eirher.