African animals and love; 7 special relationships

On safari you can encounter the most fantastic African animals. With a bit of luck, you will witness special behavior and make stunning photos of wildlife in a spectacular landscape. If you travel in the right season (and this varies a bit by country or region), the savannah or bush will be filled with newborn African animals. We all know about the birds and the bees. But did you know that some animals have very special relationships? Read about Valentine’s Day in the African animal kingdom!

Powerful African animals: lions

Male lions are known for being tough and powerful. That’s right, but they’re also very lazy. The lionesses hunt and care for the cubs. Much more often than is thought, the lionesses even actively contribute to the protection of the territory.

Mating lions

Lions like it rough… Credit: Michael Wicks

As soon as one of the ladies goes into heat and secretes a bunch of pheromones, the Lion King goes crazy. The lioness gives consent to mate, although you wouldn’t tell from her body language. Grunting, she bares her teeth and even lashes out with her claws. The bigger and stronger lion will not be deterred by this and once mating starts it can easily take up to three days in total. They roar and do the deed every half hour, then catch their breath and immediately continue. Day and night!

Colorful African animals: lovebirds

Lovebirds or agapornises are popular aviary birds around the world. But nothing beats seeing the different species in the wild in Africa. Everyone loves the chirping in the bush and seeing a flock of beautiful colors puts a smile on everyone’s face!

Lilian's Lovebirds

In Malawi you mainly see Lilian’s Lovebirds

Such a flock of lovebirds consists mainly of pairs. These birds are monogamous and are called lovebirds for a reason. While many bird species that mate for life do play around with others as well, lovebirds seem to remain very loyal to each other. So much so, that if one of the two dies, the other becomes depressed and often dies of a broken heart.

Small African animals: siafu ants

Most people find ants annoying. But did you know they have very complex social lifestyles? There are differences per species, but the foundation is almost always a queen who is the only one to lay eggs and a whole bunch of female workers who build the nest, gather food and care for the eggs and larvae.

Siafu ant bite

If you accidentally stand too close to a group of siafu ants, you will be bitten badly. And yes, been there, done that… Credit: Wikipedia

Some species, such as siafu ants (also known as safari ants or driver ants) have soldiers within their colony. These are a lot bigger than the workers and have large jaws. With these they can bite attackers and chase them away. These soldiers are also all females.
Then you probably wonder where the male siafu ants are. Well, only a very small percentage of males are born anyway, because the colony mainly needs females. And those few males that are born, leave as soon as they become adults. With siafu ants, the males look very different than the females. They are often referred to as “sausage fly” and you can guess why. They are so fat they cannot even walk. Fortunately, they do have wings that allow them to fly around at ease.

Male siafu ant

Siafu ant males are also called “sausage fly”. Credit: I. Seringveld

As soon as the females in a colony notice that a male is flying nearby, they release so many pheromones that he cannot resist. The moment he lands, the ladies jump on top of him and pull his wings off. Now that this sausage is no longer able to move, he is carried to the queen. Here he is forced to mate with her, after which he is eaten as a snack… The queen lays a million eggs the following month, allowing the colony of siafu ants to continue growing.

Tall African animals: giraffes

Giraffes always look calm and peaceful. Until one of the females goes into heat! The males come from afar to mate. If there are several at once, the smallest will soon give up. Are there two males of approximately the same size? Then they’ll fight. Giraffes don’t bite or kick, but strike each other with their necks. The goal is to throw the other off balance, so they’ll fall.

Necking giraffes

When male giraffes fight, it’s called “necking”.

Except for the dull sound of the blows, it’s very quiet during such a fight. And it can last for hours, with the occasional break. This is one of the most bizarre forms of animal behavior you can see in African nature. Meanwhile, the female quietly continues to nibble on the acacia trees around.

Mating giraffes

Mating is not easy when you are that tall. Credit: Brendon Jennings

If one of the two falls or gives up, the other can finally mate. That is, if he still has the energy to do so. He first has to jump with the front of his body 2-3 meters off the ground to land on the back of the female. And when you know that a male giraffe can weigh about 1300 kg… This takes a lot of energy. In addition, it is difficult to find the correct position without sliding off of the back of the female again.

Prehistoric African animals: crocodiles

The Nile crocodile is arguably one of the most terrifying animals in Africa. With their hard skin, super strong jaws and razor-sharp teeth, you better stay away from them. Although they don’t radiate love, Nile crocodiles are quite romantic! The large males fiercely defend their territory against other males. Smaller ones are welcome, because they are not competitive. They do their best to bond with a nice group of females. Yet it’s no given that all those females also want to mate with him. The male courts a female by swimming after her and hitting the water hard with his head and tail. All that splashing shows her how big and strong he is. If this pleases her, he can come closer and blows bubbles in the water. In the meantime, he makes low sounds at a frequency that people can’t hear. If she then leaves, he has to start all over again. If she stays, he comes even closer to rub noses. Then when he gets her approval, they finally make love.

Crocodile mother

No, this crocodile isn’t eating a small one, but protects it! Credit: Johan Wessels

Did you know that Nile crocodiles are also very good mothers? After laying the eggs, they protect the nest until the little ones hatch. If they start to squeak from the egg, the mother also helps them by digging out the nest again. Then she carries her little ones in her mouth to a sheltered safe place in the water, where they can learn to find for food themselves.
This incredible behavior can be witnessed during the rainy season in Malawi’s Liwonde National Park!

Feathered African animals: weavers

Weavers are fun birds. The best-known species are bright yellow and make joyful sounds. People love them for the beautiful nests they weave from grass and sometimes twigs.

Southern Masked Weaver

Weavers are real craftsmen!

Did you know that the males make those nests? The females then come along for an inspection. She only allows the male to mate with her if the design pleases her. And if bridezilla doesn’t like it, she just destroys the entire artwork… The males that have had some years of experience make several nests, just to be sure. Then there is bound to be at least one with which they can score!

Laughing African animals: spotted hyenas

Last, but not least, we write about one of the most bizarre African animals in terms of their reproduction. Spotted hyenas are often portrayed in movies as evil, dirty beasts. But nothing is less true! They are intelligent and have an interesting social system.
Spotted hyena clans are ruled by females. There is an alpha, followed in rank by a number of other leaders and then the “regular” females. Then followed by the young. The adult males are at the very bottom of the hierarchy. The females are also a lot bigger, stronger and more aggressive than the males.
In fact, scientists have found that the higher the female’s rank, the more male hormones she gives to her young in the final stages of pregnancy. These will always fight a little harder for a meal, for example.
Spotted hyenas are very social and everyone in the clan helps to care for the young. But what makes them especially interesting animals are their reproductive organs.

Spotted Hyena Pseudopenis

Spotted hyena females have a “pseudopenis”

In the past, people thought that this hyena species is hermaphrodite. In other words, with sexual characteristics of both sexes. It seems that the females also have a penis. The confusion was only made worse by the dominant behavior of the much larger and muscular females. Yet these are the ones where the young come to drink milk.
So how does that work? What looks like a penis is actually an elongated clitoris and birth canal in females. This means that giving birth is very painful and often fatal wounds occur. Spotted hyenas have an unprecedented high mortality rate in first-time mothers. In addition, it’s difficult to even get pregnant in the first place for the higher-ranking females. Because of all the extra male hormones, the ovaries have shrunk…

Parende gevlekte hyena's

You don’t often get to see spotted hyenas mating!

Mating itself is also very difficult and many males never get it right. However, practice makes perfect. Because the male with high-ranking mothers have also received an extra hormone boost, they already start trying to mate from the age of only a few months. As a result, they have the greatest chance of successfully mating when they’ve grown up.

What do you think is the most special African animal when it comes to romance and sexuality? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

13/02/2021

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