Carnivores are a group of animal-eaters comprising of 7 families and further broken down in the following order;
Jackal; in Uganda , the side-striped is the common animal which weighs between 7.3 and 12 kg.
It is drabber, shorter-legged and shorter eared than other jackals and can generally be distinguished by the white tip to its tail. A jackal is mainly a nocturnal animal.
Its habitats are various savanna and thicket types to the edges of forest. It is common in various montane habitats up to 2,700 m high. A jackal is an omnivorous animal which depends on both plants like fallen fruits, unripe maize, carrion, organic rubbish and invertebrates. It may travel as a family group but more frequently moves alone. It also makes wide repertoire of growls, yaps, whines and screams.
Hyena; these are long-legged, long necked carnivores with large eyes and ears and a blunt muzzle. They have complex social relationships regulated by scent signals, loud calls and elaborate behavior. Hyenas are sub divided into 4 classes’ i.e. striped hyenas, brown hyenas, spotted hyenas and aardwolf.In Uganda , apart from the brown hyena, all the 3 sub species do exist.
Spotted hyena; it weighs between 40-90kg. It is powerfully built, dog-like with a black muzzle and black tip to the short, brushy tail. Female hyenas on average are 12% heavier than males. Its’ loud long distance call, a repetitive and reverberating ‘who -up’ carries for up to 5 km. Less frequent is its’ famous ‘laugh’, a shill, social appeasement call.
It lives in open savannas, all acacia communities, montane moors and grasslands, various dry steppes with abundant herbivores are preferred environments. It is an opportunistic carnivore and scavenger wherever animal waste, from the feeding of other carnivore, or humans or the vicissitudes of nature is available. Where food is in plenty, a single clan can number over 100 with range of 35-80 adults.
Leopard; on average, a male leopard weighs between 35-90 kg while a female one is between 28-60 kg.
It has numerous black and brown rosettes on back and upper limbs but single solid spots on the face, lower limbs and underside. Ground color varies from pale cream to deep orange or tawny brown with variably sized and spaced rosettes depending on the climate it lives in
Its habitat is a broken terrain and heavy vegetation. It is rare or absent from wholly arid areas. The leopard basically depends on small to medium large mammals. It will also take birds and arthropods. Although able to kill large antelopes, it prefers prey no heavier than itself.
Leopards traverse a range between 9 to over 63 km squared but defended core areas are much smaller. They do visit most of their home range very regularly, walking about 25 km a night. At various landmarks, they may drop faeces, spray urine or scratch tree trunks to recognize their home ranges.
Cheetah; it weighs between 35 to 65 kg. A cheetah is a tall, slender animal with evenly spaced, circular spots all over a tawny-cream background. Face notable for its rounded verticaly, a peculiarity emphasized by black ‘tear stripes’.
Very young cheetahs are dirty white above, near black below.
They prefer the vegetation which is not too dense or the ground too broken as their habitat. Patchy cover is most favorable. The cheetahs depend on impalas, springboks, gazelles and kobs which form their staple food. Many other smaller mammals are also taken but only occasionally. They prefer to stalk to within less than 50 m before racing out at about 60 km/h.
While 2 or 3 males often form lasting associations that jointly defend shared territory (40-80 km sq.), the majority of adults live in home ranges that are much larger (50-1000 km sq.)
Location; – Kidepo Valley N.P
Lion; an average female lion weighs between 122-182 kg while a male one is between 150-260 kg.
A lion is the largest of all cats ranging in color from nearly white to deep ochre-brown. Commonest color is tawny yellow but ash grey is not uncommon. Males develop a thick woolly mane that varies individually in color and extent. Leopard-like rosettes are a characteristic of the young. Both sexes roar but male do roar more loudly. Roaring starts with a few moans followed by full roars that then die away into presence and position of a lion and may also denote status.
Lions do fairly at most altitudes and in all vegetation types except the most extensive forests and driest deserts. These carnivores feed on mammals weighing between 50 and 300 kg. When prey of this size cannot readily be caught, any animal between 15 and 1000 kg may be attacked. The smaller are eaten by individual lions, the heavier killed and eaten by groups. Most prey is caught after a skilled stalk (taking advantage of any type of cover, including dust, vehicles or cloud over the moon) and a fast run or charge.
Lion social groups, commonly called prides, typically contain about 5 (2 to 20) adult females and 2 adult males and their young and sub adult offspring.
Otter; these are long-bodied, long tailed, amphibious carnivores with dense waterproof fur, a blunt, short face and a prominent moustache of whiskers. They are sub-divided into 3 classes i.e. swamp, African clawless and common otters. Apart from the former the latter are commonly visible in Uganda . For example, a common otter which weighs between 6-18kg has a short face with prominent eyes and a brush of stiff whiskers on the muzzle.
Its coat can vary from light tan or grey tints to deep dark brown. It has strong, well-clawed and webbed toes.. The common otter makes chirping contact calls and a soft whistle of alarm. It is largely a nocturnal animal.
It is limited within very few localities associated with dense vegetation for cover and safe retreats in holes, hollow trees for breeding. Solitary individuals, pairs or families range over 12-24 km of shoreline and some up to 60 km on which they use up to 40 habitual resting spots each well spaced from the next.
Serval; also belongs to the carnivores family. An average female serval weighs between 6-12.5 kg while a male one is between 10-18kg.
It’s a tall spotted cat with very large ears, a small muzzle and short tail. In Uganda , they are more visible in south-western part. Various forms of melanin servals through all black animals also occur.
Their most habitable environments are grass savannas, sub-alpine and montane mosaics of moorland, forest and glades.
Servals are also abundant along the margins of forest galleries, reed beds and marshes.
Servals mostly depend on a wide range of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. They are known to have small, defended core territories but share much large areas from 2 to 10 km sq. with other servals.
Zorilla; this is a small animal that weighs between 700-1400 kg. The carnivore has strong claws on the fore legs, black under parts and a well furred white tail. It prefers very patchily distributed, scarce or absent in most heavily wooded areas. Upland grasslands or steppes also form a favorable habitat for this animal.
Wild cat; These carnivores weigh between 3-6.5 kg. A wild cat closely resembles a domestic cat with a grey or buff ground color and warmer tints on the face, back of the ears and on the belly. Darker types are found in more humid areas. The wild cats consist of several sub species.
The animal basically prefers woodlands, savanna grasslands and steppes as their habitat. It mainly depends on rats, mice and small mammals up to the size of a hare or very small antelope. Birds and less frequently reptiles, frogs and insects are also taken. Wild cats move across hunting grounds slowly and silently, alerted to prey by hearing or sight. Prey is approached with a gliding, ground-hugging run after which they inch forward until they can strike. Most hunting occurs in the early morning or evening.
Its’ behavior is influenced by rodent seasons or periods of prey abundance which may provide the basis foe breeding peaks. A single male’s range tends to overlap those of several females.
Genet; genets are slender, long-bodied and cat-like carnivores. They are predominantly arboreal; they have soft fur, retractile claws, and a spotted or blotched coat pattern. Genets are sub-divided into 11 classes of which we shall look at a blotched genet as the case study.
Blotched genet; it weighs between 1.2-3.1 kg. It is soft-furred, short-legged without a well defined dorsal crest. A blotched genet normally lives in rain forest, reverine vegetation, secondary growth, moist woodlands and all moist forest and woodland mosaics.
A blotched genet mainly feeds on rodents but more on invertebrates and fruits than other species.
Mongoose; these are small to medium sized carnivores with long bodies and tails and short legs. These carnivores have inconspicuous ears, small eyes a more or less pointed muzzle. They are primarily terrestrial. Mongooses are sub-divided into several classes from which we shall look at banded mongoose as a case study.
Banded mongoose; it is a small animal that weighs between 1.5 and 2.25 kg. A banded mongoose is a chunky, coarse haired with short, muscular, well clawed legs. It is prominently banded rump. It is also larger and darker in moist habitats and smaller and paler in drier habitats. It is strictly a diurnal mammal.
Forest/cultivation mosaics to arid acacia scrub and open short grasslands which are closely associated with termitaries are the preferred habitats.
A banded mongoose depends on termites, beetle larvae, cryptic litter, fauna in forested areas and small invertebrates. These carnivores live in packs that can reach about 40 members before dividing into smaller groups with an average of between 15 and 20 members.