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Animals: BUFFALO

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Buffalo -Syncerus caffer
Habitat requirements    
Buffalo occur in savanna with sufficient edible grass and shade, usually near water.  Buffalo do not prefer open areas of grassland of floodplain far from the shade of trees, as they require shade in order to rest during the heat of the day.  Buffalo are sensitive to heat.  Places where grass has been trampled or overgrazed are avoided.  Grassland may however be utilised after sunset or before.  Buffalo like to take shelter in reedbeds of vleis or rivers courses.
Food preference    

Buffalo are predominantly grazers, but a small percentage of browse is also included in the diet.  Buffalo are attracted to freshly sprouted grass, but less so than most other herbivores and will readily feed on old grass.  Preferred grass species include  Themeda triandra, panicum maximum, cenchrus ciliaris, heteropogon contortus and  Digitaria eriantha.  Occasionally buffalo will browse on Grewia spp.  Dichrostachys cinerea and Combretum spp

Water requirements    
Buffalo are water dependable and generally drink two times per day
Minimum viable group size    
Sex ratio    
Three males for every five females
Herd population growth per annum    
20 percent
Life span    

23 years

The buffalo is a bulk grazer.  It utilises long grass and therefore opens up the grass sward.  Their presence and feeding behaviour thus benefits grazers that prefer short grass.  For this reason it is thought that buffalo would be a real asset to Pride of Africa Nature Reserve.  When the biomass was determined by the end of the dry season, it indicated that there still remained plently of long, dry grass on the veld. A fair percentage of the grass sward included Decreaser species.  It can thus be deducted that the full potential of the grass sward is not utilised.  Buffalo and other bulk feeders, such as white rhinoceros will ensure that the grass sward is utlised to its full potential, thus increasing the productivity of the reserve.

Buffalo herd sizes found naturally vary greatly.  It is therefore impossible to recommend an optimal herd size.  The mean herd size for African buffalo in the Kruger National Pak varies from 180 to 260 animals.  However few game ranches can support such a large number of buffalo.  A minimum group of eight animals, consisting of three bulls and five cows, is recommended for establishment.  On ranches where no dams or natural waterholes are present, it is important to create mud baths by channelling the overflow from artificial waterholes to small depressions or pools a short distance away from the waterhole. 

Buffalo have long been carriers of foot and mouth disease and corridor disease or theileria.  Tuberculosis has recently emerged as a major disease.  Brucellosis is also a problem in some buffalo herds, affecting their level of reproduction.  Few buffalo herds in South Africa are free of these diseases.  In order to be certified as a disease-free animal, a buffalo has to be found free of these four disease.  Disease-free buffalo are appearing on the market and are in high demand for re-establishment on game reserves.  These animals are, however, very expensive, pricing between R120,000 to R150,000.  buffalo are also susceptible to anthrax under natural conditions.  During outbreaks of anthrax it is important to immunize all the buffalo on a game ranch.

It is recommended that eight buffalo, two males and six females, be introducted to Pride of Africa Nature Reserve, as it constitutes the minimum viable group size for the species.  The number of buffalo on the reserve can be increased thorugh means of reproduction to 20 individuals.