A big Mammal Day

Дата канвертавання25.04.2016
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A Big Mammal Day
Last month I believe I set a new world record for number of mammal species seen in one day. It helps of course that nobody has tried it before, but that is of minor consequence to me in this period of triumph and glory. In preparing for the endeavour I had to decide what rules I would follow, with the big question being whether to count trapped specimens or only include free-ranging animals. Small rodents and bats can be difficult to see and often impossible to identify to species level in the field so trapping is considered standard practice in the mammal community. The problem though is how to create a level playing field. Almost every country has a bevy of regulations controlling the capture and handling of wild animals, and few outside the scientific or wildlife community are able to obtain the necessary permits. If trapping were allowed this would restrict this activity to a select group of individuals, and limit its potential for dramatic world-wide expansion. The gentlemanly thing to do, I decided, was to allow everyone a fair chance; I abandoned the idea of trapping and instead followed the rules set by the American Birding Association. Hearing an animal call would count, and, for species such as rodents and bats that are hard to identify to species level, identification could occur at genus level, with only one animal of that genus allowed per list. Participants would also have to find the animals without assistance from others.
Of course while keeping the rules fair is the honourable thing to do, it doesn’t prevent one from stacking the odd’s in one’s favour by selecting the very best viewing environment. I happen to live in Tanzania close to the Serengeti ecosystem, and chose this as my stomping ground. On the 29th May 2004 I started at midnight on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, then gradually meandered down to the southern Serengeti, and finished off with night viewing on the short grass plains. And the final tally was … 42 species (see the full list attached). OK, so a very modest day out by birding standards, but excellent when your target animals have four legs. The final sighting of the day was of a young leopard trying to swat a very angry porcupine who put up a fierce display of stomping the ground and rattling its quills (the leopard backed off). While I don’t imagine there are many other wild places that afford the wildlife viewing of the Serengeti plains, I humbly lay down the gauntlet in case anyone wishes to challenge the record. I would also encourage others to set their own targets – big mammal day North America perhaps? Good luck and let us know how you got on.

List of mammals seen

Latin Name

Yellow winged bat

Lavia frons

Hildebrant’s horseshoe bat

Rhinolophus hildebrandti

Lesser galago

Galago senegalensis

Vervet monkey

Chlorocebus pygerythrus

Olive baboon

Papio anubis

Golden jackal

Canis aureus

Black backed jackal

Canis mesomelas

Bat eared fox

Otocyon megalotis

Common genet

Genetta genetta

White tailed mongoose

Ichneumia albicauda

Banded mongoose

Mungos mungo

Spotted hyeana

Crocuta crocuta

Striped hyeana

Hyeana hyeana


Acinonyx jubatus

African wild cat

Felis libyca


Felis serval


Panthera leo


Panthera pardus

Rock hyrax

Procavia johnstoni

Bush hyrax

Heterohyrax brucei

Savanna Elephant

Loxodonta africana

Burchells Zebra

Equus burchelli


Hippopotamus amphibius


Phacochoerus africanus

Bush pig

Potamochoerus porcus


Giraffa camelopardis

Coke's hartebeest

Alcelaphus buselaphus cokii

Blue wildebeest

Connochaetes taurinus


Damaliscus lunatus topi


Raphicerus campestris

Kirks dikdik

Rhynchotragus kirki

Common waterbuck

Kobus ellipsiprymnus ellipsiprymnus


Aepyceros melampus

Thompson gazelle

Gazella thomsoni

Grants gazelle

Gazella granti


Tragelaphus scriptus

Cape eland

Taurotragus oryx

Cape buffalo

Syncerus caffer

Cape hare

Lepus capensis

Unstriped grass rat

Arvicanthis spp.


Hystrix cristata

Spring hare

Pedetes capensis

This article appeared as a letter in the March/April 2005 issue of Birding, a publication of the American Birding Association.

Charles Foley is a biologist working for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania.

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