The aviary teems with sound and color. Visitors to the open-air bird center will enjoy the scarlet ibis, a resplendent red bird; the cattle egrets who live by eating insects from the backs of grazing mammals; the multicolored Lady Amherst Pheasant; three different species of hornbills; the iridescent Nicobar Pigeon; and the oddly-beaked African spoonbills. In the safari park there are many other species of bird such as three different types of flamingo, in shades of pink, white and cream; lovely rainbow lorikeets; several species of cranes; graceful black-necked swans; and the ostrich, a perennial favorite among animal lovers.
The safari park is home to hundreds of animals. Zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, Cape buffalo and white rhinos are among the best-known of the park’s residents. There are many more animals to see, particularly ungulates (hoofed mammals), including eland, oryx, Watusi cattle, gemsbok, gazelles, kudu and impalas. The primate zone of the park houses two different types of lemurs, as well as colobus monkeys, De Brazza’s monkey, and the Patas monkey. The wild cat enclosure is home to cheetahs, caracals and servals.
The cheetah is perhaps the most popular animal at Safari West. The sleek form of the cheetah, its beautiful spotted fur and its adorable cubs make it a favorite of many animal lovers. The word “cheetah” is derived from a Hindi word meaning “spotted one.” The fastest of land animals, the cheetah can reach speeds of up to 85 miles per hour. Cheetahs hunt by running, unlike other felines, who use the stalk and leap style of hunting. Although it is a majestic creature, the cheetah is not considered a “big cat” like lions and tigers, as the cheetah is unable to roar. In order to roar, a cat must have a floating hyoid bone in its throat, and in the cheetah, the hyoid bone is fixed in place, leaving it unable to produce the loud vocalizations of other large felines. The cheetah is most at home in grasslands, and today mostly survive in Namibia. Due to the encroachment of farms in Namibia, almost all of the country’s remaining cheetahs live on cultivated land, and are in grave danger of loss of habitat. As a rule, cheetahs do not breed well in captivity, and so their future is uncertain.
Giraffe are wildly popular animals on game drives, and guests respond to them with shock and awe. It is not until guests are close to giraffes that it can be appreciated how truly enormous these animals are. Safari West has two different kinds of giraffes: Reticulated Giraffes and Masai Giraffes. Masai Giraffes, particularly the males, are taller than Reticulated Giraffes, and there is a vast difference in the markings of the two sub-species. Masai Giraffes have uneven dark brown spots that most resemble oak leaves, while Reticulated Giraffes have markings that are almost geometrical, like polygons, with smooth, straight sides. Giraffes are the tallest animal in the world; even infant giraffes are taller than most humans. Giraffes eat, sleep and give birth standing up, although they do not sleep very much. Unusual in the animal kingdom, giraffes sleep only two hours a day, sometimes less.
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