Ruaha National Park is the largest Tanzania safari wildlife park. The addition of the Usangu Game Reserve and other important wetlands to the park in 2008 increased its size to about 20,226 square kilometers, making it the largest park in Tanzania and the whole of East Africa. The name of the park is derived from the Great Ruaha River, which flows along its southeastern margin and is the focus for game-viewing during Tanzania wildlife safari game drives. Tanzania safaris are popular because of the varied wildlife species in the country that survive in abundance. For Ruaha National Park, a wildlife safari in Tanzania will definitely pay off with these species expected to be sighted;
Lions are one of the big five African game and can be frequently sighted in Ruaha National Park. Lions are part of the big cat family and are muscular, deep chested with rounded heads. Most of the African lion males can be distinguished from the females by the presence of a mane around the necks and heads which is clearly absent in females. The male lions are usually bigger than the females but their sizes vary according to location. In east Africa, adult female lions have a body length of 160-184cm or 63-72in weighing in at 119.5kg or 263Ib on average while the adult males have a body length of 184-208cm or 72-82in weighing in at 174.9kg or 386Ib on average. Lions are social animals that live in groups called prides led by a dominant male. Lions are carnivores and are at the top of the food chain feeding on almost all browsers and grazers. They have the ability to hunt as a pride and carry out well coordinated and planned attacks which enables them to take down prey that can even be between 2-4 times bigger than them such as zebras, elephants and buffaloes. Being carnivores, tourists are advised to keep in the vehicle during a Tanzania wildlife tour. Tree climbing lions can also best be seen on a Uganda wildlife tour to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
African elephants are the largest land mammals in the world with a male elephant weighing in at 4,700-6,048kg or 10,362-13,334Ib and a shoulder height of 3.2-4.0m or 10.5-13.1ft while their female counterparts weigh in at 2,160-3,232kg or 4,762-7,125Ib and a shoulder height of 2.2-2.6m or 7.2-8.5ft. What set these land giants apart from the rest of crowd are their elongated tusks which are in fact their second set of incisors. This means that the tusks are very strong as they are used to up root trees and also as weapons they use while fighting. Elephants usually live in groups called families which comprise of 10 or more closely related females with their calves and each of these families is led by an older female called a matriarch. Elephants have an exposed skin so in order to control over heating of their body, they flap their big ears so as to carry away the heat or bathe in water ponds. The elephant trunk is also used for breathing, snorkeling and also as an extended arm for holding, lifting or pushing anything they want to carry. A female elephant reaches sexual maturity at the age of 10-12 years and can reproduce after every 3-6 years throughout its lifetime. They have a gestation period of up to 22 months being the longest in all land mammals. Just like humans and apes, elephants are also highly intelligent species with a brain that weighs about 5kg or 11Ib which about 4 times heavier than that of human making it the heaviest brain of any land mammal. With such a brain, these land giants are believed to exhibit character traits like grief, learning, sense of humor, compassion, self-awareness, a very strong and vivid memory, play and use of tools and possibly a language.
Hippos are a popular aquatic species seen on Uganda wildlife safaris, wildlife safaris in Kenya and wildlife tour Tanzania in Ruaha National Park’s Ruaha River. Hippos are large animals only behind the African elephant that can weigh anywhere between 1300-1500kg or 2870-3310ib for both sexes. The hippos are semi aquatic as they both live on land and in water. Hippos are herbivores animals can come on land in the evening to graze, they can be easily identified basing on barrel shaped body, short legs and long muzzles or mouths, their body is hairless with a purplish gray to blue black color which is also thick about 2in or 6cm. due to lack of body hairs, hippos secret an element that is reddish orange to brown to act as a protective layer both from the scotching sun and bacterial infection. This phenomenon is referred to as “blood sweating” hippos have a very powerful jaw which can open as wide as 180o and its filled with monstrous teeth with their incisors growing up to 40cm or 1ft4in and canines growing up to 50cm or 1ft8in. Despite their short legs and big sizes hippos can burst to 30km/hr. in short distances. Hippos are highly territorial while in water but not on land, they have a gestation period of 243days and can live up to 40-50 years.
Masai giraffe can be distinguished from other giraffe sub species from their star-like stamped patches which are irregular and become darker especially in males as they age. The Masai giraffe is generally brown in color with several shades of color which can range from dried oak to orange and cream. The lower parts of their limbs are sticky like or very skinny but the upper parts of these limbs are study so as to support their massive weight. The giraffes have a unique walking pattern where as they have the ability to move both the front and hind limbs of one side of the body at once and then counter balance it by moving their long neck in the opposite direction. The adult male giraffe has an average height of 4.3-5.7m or 14.1-18.7ft and weighs in at 1192kg or 2628ib while an adult female weighs in at 828kg or 1825ib hence showing sexual dimorphism amongst giraffes. The giraffe also has a long tongue that is measured at an average of 45cm or 18in and it has a purplish black color which is believed to protect it from sunburns. The massai giraffes have the longest tail among all land mammals which measures up to 3.3ft long. The Masai giraffe are completely herbivores and spend their biggest part of the day about 16-20 hours feeding so as to satisfy their big appetites. The giraffe has a gestation period of 14-15 months and the birth period is between 1-6 hours after which a single calf is born and the mother will give birth while standing hence the calf will have to be ready for a rough landing when it comes out. The calves are born almost ready to walk because it takes a calf between 20 minutes – 1 hour to start walking. Masai giraffes have a life span of up to 25 years in their natural habitat. In the whole of East Africa Murchison Falls National Park is the best place to see giraffes.
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest animals with the ability to accelerate up to 100-120km/hr. in short circuits of about 100m or 330ft and this is all possible because the cheetah has its body built for speed in the following ways: the cheetah has a slender body, small rounded head which makes it perfectly aero dynamic with low air resistance, and long thin legs to give it big and quick strides and long flexible tail for stability during high speed chase. The cheetah is the smallest of all big cats and its usually confused with the leopards but here are some striking and distinctive features that separate the 2 cats from one another; the cheetah has small solid black spots on its body unlike the leopard which has large rosettes, the cheetah has black eye streaks or tear marks on its face but the leopard lacks these features on its face. The leopard has a body length 112-150cm or 44-59in with an average shoulder height of 70-90cm or 22-28in and an average body weight of 21-72kg or 46-159Ib. This therefore makes a cheetah taller and heavier than a leopard in terms of body size. The cheetah has its coat colored in a yellowish or rufous greyish white with nearly 2000 solid black spots. The leopards can be distinctively identified using the pattern of their black spots which is unique to each cheetah just like finger prints are in humans. Cheetahs have a set of 8 teeth with mostly canines which makes them a perfect predator for crushing the wind pipes of their prey which usually consists of animals like gazelles, Uganda kobs, kiplisingers and impalas. The cheetahs have a gestation period of about 95days and a life span of 10-12 years in their natural habitat. In East Africa, not only can a cheetah be seen on a wildlife safari Tanzania but also on Uganda wildlife tours to Kidepo Valley National Park.
Hyenas feature in many of our savannah plains national parks and Ruaha National Park is no exception to this canine hunter. Hyenas are closely related to canines in terms of behavior and body structure as both hyenas and other canines kill most of their prey using their teeth than their claws. They have a wolf like body structure with their fore limbs being longer than the hind limbs and the entire hind quarters are visibly lower and the back slopes downwards towards their rumps. Even though in human society, hyenas are depicted as cowardly animals, this isn’t entirely true as these animals have been widely documented chasing off big and fierce predators like lions and leopards from their kills and have the kill for themselves, this doesn’t strike as an act of cowardice by any means. Usually hyenas are nocturnal animals but they can also be seen in the morning hours doing their hunting and stocking rounds on early morning Tanzania tour game drives.
An African wild dog is also called the painted hunting dog or painted wolf or African hunting dog. African wild dogs are animals that are highly social animals and they live in groups. The wild dogs are the heaviest of the African canids group animals, they have a coat that has bristle hairs with no under fur, and their coat is predominantly black with small yellow and white patches. The African dogs have a black muzzle that turns brown on the cheeks; they have a white color pattern on their fore region of the legs. The tail is white at the tip, black in the middle and brown at the base. These African dogs have a shoulder height of 60-75cm or 24-30in, a body length of 71-112cm or 28-44in and a tail that measures 29-41cm or 11-16in. these dogs have an average body weight of 20-25kg or 44-55ib but these dogs exhibit sexual dimorphism were the females are slightly smaller than their male counter parts 3-7%. The African dogs are highly social animals that live and hunt in packs that ranges from 4-30 individuals. Unlike in other mammal species where the males leave the natal group after attaining sexual maturity, amongst the wild dogs, it’s the other way round as the females are the ones which leave the natal group after attaining sexual maturity and will at times chase away the other females they find in the new groups they have joined. The wild dogs are carnivores and entirely feed on flesh. They can give birth to a litter of 6-12 puppies. Since they give birth to so many puppies which make feeding them by the group difficult, it’s only the dominant females in a group that have to give birth hence when other females in a group give birth, the dominant female is likely to kill their puppies. The puppies will join the hunting party when aged 8-10 weeks old.
Leopards are some of the big cat family predators that roam the plains of Ruaha national park and they are at the top of the food chain together. Leopards are usually taken to be the same with cheetahs but they are completely different as cheetahs have tear marks on their faces small round spots while leopards have no this distinctive mark on their faces and have larger rosettes on their body. The skin color of leopards’ ranges from pale yellow to golden or yellowish brown with rosettes and this enables these super predators to camouflage so that they can stalk their prey without ever being noticed. Male leopards are muscular with short limbs and a broad head, the males have an average shoulder height of 60-70cm or 24-28in and weigh in at 37-90kg while the females have an average shoulder height of57-64cm or 22-25in and weigh in between26-60kg. the cheetah has a very long tail that’s white tipped with a length of 60-100cm or 24-39in and this enables the leopards make quick sharp turns at high speed while on a chase.