Geologic Landscape and the Resulting Wildlife

Summary of Chobe General information gathered at www.andbeoundafrica.com

Chobe was declared a National Park in 1967, becoming the first National Park in Botswana and is home to one of the largest concentrations of elephant on the African continent. Chobe is also well known for its large herds of buffalo, as well as the two antelope that cannot be encountered anywhere else in Botswana, the puku and the Chobe bushbuck.

Chobe offers both dry savanna and permanent swamp, in addition to the vast floodplains along the river. Dense teak woodland provides thick cover in the northeast parts of the reserve. The burgeoning elephant population has been responsible for removing the riverine forest that formerly fringed the Chobe, opening up this habitat for other herbivores and the carnivores that prey on them. Watching the elephant families drink and bathe in the river is an unforgettable sight, all the more impressive when herds of buffalo, hippo and gigantic Nile crocodiles are part of the scene. Lion and spotted hyena are frequently seen on the floodplains, where red lechwe, puku, zebra, sable and roan come out to graze.

The Chobe River encourages the growth of a dense forest of tall trees, which are forced upward in the race for sunlight, ending in typically small crowns. Little grass survives among the shrubs and creepers in their deep shade. The region’s steadily growing elephant population has had an effect on this dense riverine growth, with many trees being uprooted during the pachyderms’ continual quest for food. As the forest has become less dense, it has formed a suitable habitat for many other herbivores and the carnivores that prey on them.

Located in the far northwestern corner of Chobe is the Linyanti marsh, an area of permanent swamplands often referred to as the miniature Okavango. Semi-aquatic antelope such as the red lechwe and sitatunga, as well as bird species such as the slaty egret, lesser jackana and Pel’s fishing owl occur in this watery wilderness. Large numbers of elephant concentrate around the waterways and marshlands in the dry season. Crocodile and hippo can be found in the larger channels and open water areas of the Linyanti. Lion and hyena, as well as smaller predators such as the African wild cat or caracal, can be encountered in the area.

A hot and dry corridor extends throughout portions of the park, where vegetation becomes sparse and water more difficult to find. The elusive oribi antelope can be seen in this difficult terrain, as can gemsbok, eland, ostrich and steenbok. Other species wandering through this area include giraffe, roan, sable and elephant. Bird enthusiasts can enjoy the sight of white-faced duck, knob-billed duck and red-winged pratincole in their thousands. Carmine bee-eaters build massive colonies in exposed sandbanks, while guinea fowl and francolin roam the riverside.

Renowned as one of the top wilderness reserves in the world, Chobe National Park is home to the largest concentration of elephant on the African continent. The vast elephant population has had a significant impact on the park, thinning out the dense riverine thickets on the banks of the Chobe River. The huge bulk of these majestic animals requires almost 150 kg of fodder each day, with grass, leaves or even tree branches making up their diet. Elephant herds rely upon their matriarch to lead them to the best feeding and water sites, with individuals seldom straying from each other and ready to come to the aid of a family member who is in trouble.

Chobe also boasts two antelopes rarely encountered elsewhere in Botswana – the puku and the Chobe bushbuck. The puku, with their shaggy orange-brown coats and V-shaped horns, can be spotted grazing the floodplains. Always on the lookout for predators, a repetitive whistle is used to warn fellow herd members. In contrast, the Chobe bushbuck is nocturnal and rarely forms groups of more than one pair. Rarely seen, this shy antelope, with its short, spiral horns relies on a sharp bark as an alarm call when threatened. Both the puku and the bushbuck have a number of predators to contend with, from lion, hyena and leopard, to African wild dog, civet and caracal.

With an incredible wealth of species, Chobe is a haven for birding enthusiasts. Striking colonies of carmine bee-eaters build their nests in the exposed sandy banks of the river. Water birds, including many species of duck and the rare red-billed pratincole can be spotted in their thousands, and guinea fowl and francolin dart through the grasses on the river’s edge. A quintessential African sound, the haunting call of the fish eagle can often be heard echoing over the Chobe River. With their striking chestnut and white colors, these intensely territorial birds challenge competitors to regular calling duets.

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