Mammals of the Garden Route

Mission Blue defines Hope Spots as special conservation areas that are critical to the health of our oceans - which it calls Earth’s blue heart.

The health of the ocean is intimately linked to the health of the shore, and in this respect, Knysna is fortunate to form part of South Africa’s first unfenced national park - the Garden Route National Park.

Nearly seventy species of mammals occur naturally here (in the wilderness areas, on the farms, and in the urban areas of the region). On this page we’ve described some of the better-known species - and provided a complete checklist of the mammal of the area.

African Elephant
Large herds of elephant roamed the Cape until well into the 19th Century. In 1876 the local Forestry Officer reported that there were between 400 and 600 elephants in the Knysna-Tsitsikamma district. But hunting, poaching, the Great Fire of 1869, and human encroachment on their environment almost wiped out the elephants of the Southern Cape. A few survivors still range freely in the Knysna area, and although they're associated with the forests, Reay Smithers noted in his Mammals of The Southern Africa Sub-region that “elephants are not a forest species, and their occurrence in the Knysna Forest appears to be due to their being forced into this unnatural environment by man.”

For up-to-date research on the Knysna elephants, please see Gareth Patterson’s book ‘The Secret Elephants: The rediscovery of the world's most southerly elephants’ (Penguin Books,  Johannesburg, 2009).

Blue Duiker
In her novel Circles in a Forest, Dalene Matthee described these smallest of Southern African antelope as “the most beautiful of them all... So tiny, so nimble of foot...”

Their habit of following defined paths through the forest and thick coastal bush has left the blue duiker susceptible to poachers. They’re difficult to study in the wild but we do know that they form permanent mating pairs which each produce a single offspring about twice a year.

They browse on shoots and leaves and will also take fruit which has fallen naturally or which has been discarded by monkeys or baboons.

Bushbuck are generally found in the underbush close to rivers and other permanent stands of water. They occasionally venture into clearings to browse. Their diet includes leaves and fine twigs as well as flowers, fruits and grass.

Cape Clawless Otter
These otters always live near water (fresh or salt) and they’re often seen playing and hunting in the breakers. They do sometimes wander onto dry land in search of food, which includes crabs, frogs, fish, small mammals, insects and birds.

Chacma Baboons
Baboons occur in many different habitats, but they’re largely associated with forests and krantzes. They are omnivorous and will eat almost anything.

Please note that it’s both dangerous and illegal to feed baboons.

Duthie's Golden Mole
This pretty little creature is found in alluvial sand and sandy loam. Although they are intriguing and beautiful, we know almost nothing of their habits or diet - but we do know that they’re classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Honey Badgers
Honey badgers live in almost any habitat. They eat insects, wild berries and fruit, and will often follow honeyguide birds to bee’s nests, where they take both the honey and the larvae. They are threatened by unscrupulous beekeepers who hunt and trap them to protect their hives.  This is why you should buy honey only from suppliers  that are known to be badger-friendly.

Large Grey Mongoose (Cape Ichneumon)
These mongoose occur in various vegetation types, but they’re always associated with rivers. They feed on rodents, birds, reptiles, snakes, frogs and insects. The Cape grey mongoose and the water mongoose are lso fairly common in the Knysna area.

Large-Spotted Genet
Genets are associated with fynbos in the Southern Cape. They feed on insects, rodents, birds and reptiles.

Leopards are usually associated with forests and rocky mountain ranges. The feed on any mammals and will take prey up to twice their size. They’re classified in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as ‘Near-threatened’.

Porcupines occur in most habitats (except deep forest) where they can find good cover during the day. They’re largely vegetarian, but will feed off carcasses and will gnaw on bones when their diet is lacking in phosphorous. They’re destructive feeders, so they are often considered a problem by crop farmers.

Vervet Monkey
Vervets are usually associated with forests. They are predominantly vegetarians, although they will also eat insects, and the chicks and eggs of some bird species (cattle egrets, weaver birds, etc.).

Checklist Of Mammals Of The Garden Route.

Download this checklist in pdf format here

Order Insectivora - Shrews, Elephant Shrews, Hedgehogs and Golden Moles
Duthie’s Golden Mole Duthiese Gouemol Chlorotalpa duthiae
Forest Shrew Bosskeerbek Myosorex varius
Greater Musk Shrew Groter Skeerbek Crocidura flavescens
Hottentot Golden Mole Hottentotgouemol Amblysomus hottentotus
Least Dwarf Shrew Kleinste Dwergskeerbek Suncus infinitesimus
Long-Tailed Forest Shrew  Langstertbosskeerbek Myosorex longicaudatus
Reddish-Grey Musk Shrew Rooigrysskeerbek  Crocidura cyanea
Round-Eared Elephant Shrew Ronde-oorklaasneus Macroscelides proboscideus
Zulu Golden Mole or Knysna Golden Mole Zoeloelandsegouemol of Knysnagouemol Amblysomus iris

Order Chiroptera - Bats
Cape Horseshoe Bat Kaapse Saalneusvlermuis Rhinolophus capensis
Cape Serotine Bat Kaapse Dakvlermuis Eptesicus capensis
Common Slit-Faced Bat or Long-Eared Bat Gewone-spleutneusvlermuis Nycteris thebaica
Egyptian (Cape) Fruit Bat  Egiptiese Vrugtevlermuis of Kaapse Vrugtevlermuis Rousettus aegyptiacus
Egyptian Free-Tailed Bat Egiptiese Losstertvlermuis Tadarida aegyptiaca
Geoffroy’s Horseshoe Bat Geoffroyse Saalneusvlermuis Rhinolophus clivosus
Kuhl’s Bat Kuhlse Vlermuis Pipistrellus kuhlii
Lesser Long-Fingered Bat or Black Clinging Bat Swartvlermuis of Klein grotvlermuis Miniopterus fraterculus
Long-Tailed House Bat or Long-Tailed Serotine Bat Langstertdakvlermuis Eptesicus hottentotus
Melck’s Serotine Bat Melckse Dakvlermuis Eptesicus melckorum
Schreiber’s Long-Fingered Bat Schreibersse Grotvlermuis Miniopterus schreibersii
Temminck’s Hairy Bat or Cape Hairy Bat Temminckse Langhaarvlermuis Myotis tricolor
Tomb Bat Witlyfvlermuis Taphozous mauritianus

Order Primates - Bushbabies, Baboons and Monkeys
Chacma Baboon Bobbejaan Papio ursinus
Vervet Monkey Blou-aap Cercopethicus pygerythrus

Order LAGOMORPHA - Hares and Rabbits
Scrub Hare  Kolhaas of Ribbokhaas Lepus saxatilis

Order RODENTIA - The Rodents
Brant’s Climbing Mouse Brantsse Klimmuis Dendromus mesomelas
Cape Dormouse or Spectacled Dormouse Gemsbokmuis Graphiurus ocularis
Cape Dune Molerat Kaapse Duinmol Bathyergus suillus
Cape Spiny Mouse Kaapse Stekelmuis Acomys subspinosus
Common Molerat Vaalmol Cryptomys hottentotus
Forest Dormouse or Woodland Dormouse Boswaaierstertmuis Graphiurus murinus
Grey Climbing Mouse Grysklimmuis Dendromus melanotis
House Mouse (introduced) Huismuis Mus musculus
House Rat (introduced) Huisrot Rattus rattus
Krebs’ Fat Mouse Krebsse Vetmuis Steatomys krebsii
Namaqua Rock Mouse Namakwalandse Klipmuis Aethomys namaquensis
Porcupine Ystervark Hystrix africaeaustralis
Pouched Mouse Wangsakmuis Saccostomus campestris
Pygmy Mouse Dwergmuis Mus minutoides
Striped Mouse Streepmuis Rhabdomys pumilio
Verreaux’s Mouse Verreauxse Muis Praomys verrauxii
Vlei Rat Vleirot Otomys irroratus
White-Tailed Mouse Witstertmuis Mystromys albicaudatus

Order Carnivora  - The Carnivores
African Wild Cat Vaalboskat Felis lybica
Cape Clawless Otter Groototter Aonyx capensis
Cape Fox Silwervos Valpes chama
Cape Grey Mongoose Kleingrysmuishond Galerella pulverulenta
Caracal Rooikat Felis caracal
Honey Badger Ratel Mellivora capensis
Large Grey Mongoose or Cape Ichneumon Grootgrysmuishond Herpestes ichneumon
Large-Spotted Genet Rooikolmuskejaatkat Genetta tigrina
Leopard Luiperd Panthera pardus
Lion (*re-introduced) Leeu Panthera leo
Serval Tierboskat Felis serval
Spotted-Necked Otter Kleinotter Lutra maculicollis
Striped Polecat Stinkmuishond Ictonyx striatus
Water Mongoose Kommetjiegatmuishond Atilax paludinosus

Order Proboscidae - The Elephants
African Elephant Olifant Loxodonta africana

Order Hyracoidae - The Dassies
Rock Dassie Klipdas Procavia capensis

Order Perissodactyla
Cape Mountain Zebra Kaapsebergsebra Equus zebra

Order Artiodactyla - Even-Toed Ungulates
Blue Duiker Blouduiker Cephalophus monticola
Bontebok (*re-introduced) Bontebok Damalsicus dorcas
Buffalo (*re-introduced) Buffel Syncerus caffer
Bushbuck Bosbok Tragelaphus scriptus
Bushpig Bosvark Potamochoerus porcus
Common Duiker Gewone Duiker Sylvicapra grimmia
Eland (*re-introduced) Eland Taurotragus oryx
Grey Rhebok Vaalribbok Pelea capreolus
Hippopotamus Seekoei Hippopotamus amphibius
Klipspringer Klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus
Steenbok Steenbok Raphicerus campestris

*Re-introduced: a species which once occurred in the region but was hunted out and has now been re-established by private landowners

Text: Martin Hatchuel www.thistourismweek.co.za