Wherever your African safari destination may be, keep your eyes open and perhaps you will spot these 5 animals that mate for life.
Monogamy is unusual in the animal kingdom and animals that mate for life are a rarity.
The romantic side of us is always interested in love stories. In the African bush it is the survival of the fittest, and propagation of the species is the number one priority.
It is for this reason that most animals have multiple breeding partners in their lifetime as they search for the strongest gene pool to ensure the survival of their kind.
Why are some animals monogamous?
Monogamy is common among birds but rare among mammals. Animals that inhabit the African bush are focused on one thing and one thing only – survival.
If that interest is best served by having multiple breeding partners, than that is how they have developed.
If however the survival need is best achieved by having a single partner, then that is how that species evolved. It is thought that animals vulnerable to predation stick to one partner because it is too dangerous to travel far and wide in search of other mates.
This sounds a bit far fetched to me as many small mammals in Africa have lots of predators after them and they are not monogamous. The impala springs to mind as one such animal.
5 animals that mate for life
Below are five animals found on African safari that mate for life. This list includes pictures of them, brief details of their habits as well as where to find them.
African Wild dog
The African wild dog – also known as the Painted Wolf, live in packs that run on a strict hierarchy.
The alpha male and alpha female dictate everything that happens in the pack including when they hunt, where they den, who eats first etc.
It appears that this dominant pair are often the only dogs in the hunting pack that mate for life. Wild dogs share parenting among the whole pack with both males and females getting involved in baby sitting the puppies.
Packs can number up to 40 individuals and they are incredibly efficient hunters. Wild dogs succeed in over 80% of their hunts.
The species is unfortunately critically endangered due to habitat loss, transferable diseases and hunting by man.
Where to find wild dogs
The largest numbers of wild dogs are to be found in Botswana, one of my favourite safari destinations.
You will also be able to see them in several parks and reserves in South Africa, particularly the Greater Kruger Park region and Madikwe Game Reserve in the north west province of South Africa
A pair of black-backed jackals will stay together until one of them dies. Working in true partnership they find food together, sleep together in the same shelter, and generally look out for each other.
The female usually gives birth to a litter of between 3 and 6 pups. During the weeks immediately after birth, the female never leaves the pups and the male turns provider by feeding them regurgitated food.
Black backed jackals survive by scavenging from the kills of other predators and you are likely to see them hanging around lion kills waiting for the lions to move off.
What is not widely known is that they are omnivores and eat practically anything. They will even hunt and eat snakes, scorpions and birds eggs.
Where to find black- backed jackals
Black – backed jackals are common in southern Africa and they are also to be found in east Africa. You should be able to see them at any Safari destination as they are not endangered.
They can be found in desert as well as tropical areas and they can sometimes be seen at the coast where they hunt for baby birds and eggs on the beach.
The steenbok is one of the smallest antelope to be seen on Safari. It grows to only 50 cm ( 20 inches) tall and weighs about 10 kg ( 22 lbs).
The males and females look identical other than the male has two sharp horns on his head that grow to about 15 cm ( 6 inches) long.
Steenbok are usually solitary and only come together to mate. Males and females occupy the same territory for long periods of time so it is not entirely clear if this is just for convenience or whether they are truly monogamous.
The steenboks’ size works against them in that they are prey to many animals including eagles and honey badgers. Wild dogs will also hunt them if they are lacking in other prey.
Where to find Steenbok
A commonly seen animal on Safari, you will find the steenbok in eastern and southern Africa. It is common in southern Kenya and in large parts of South Africa.
The steenbok is also present in most southern African countries including Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The common or grey duiker is another small antelope that mates for life. They live in monogamous breeding pairs and appear to breed all year round.
It is slightly larger than the steenbok and is one of the very few antelope that are omnivores.
They will eat insects, small birds and even carrion. Their preferred diet is almost any form of vegetation, from which they get their water intake.
Duikers can go for very long periods without drinking water and this explains how widely spread they are in Africa.
The male marks his territory by rubbing secretions from a gland on his cheek onto trees and rocks and he is fiercely territorial.
Where to find the common Duiker
Thanks to their remarkable water retention abilities and their wide and varied diet, duikers can be found in most countries in sub Saharan Africa.
The common duiker is a very common sight in the Kruger National Park. They are skittish and wary of vehicles so you are likely to only catch fleeting glimpses of them as they run across the road.
The name dik-dik comes from the sound that they make when they feel threatened. This monogamous animal belongs to the family of dwarf antelopes and is a herbivore.
The dik-dik grows to only 30 cm (12 inches) tall and weighs around 5 kg. Like the duiker, the dik-dik gets most of its water requirements from the fruits and berries that it eats.
It browses for most types of vegetation and seldom eats grass. The males are fiercely territorial and will fight other males that stray into their domain.
There is some evidence that ‘single’ males play the field but mating pairs stay together in a single territory for life.
Where to find the Dik-dik
Dik-diks are found all across eastern and southwestern Africa. They are commonly seen in Tanzania where you will very likely spot them when on safari to Ngorogoro.
They also thrive in northern parts of Namibia as well as the border regions of Namibia and Angola.
Why do most birds mate for life?
Working as a pair has evolved into being the best method to ensure survival of their young and therefore 90% of bird species are monogamous.
Female birds are often larger than the males and this is because they carry most of the incubation responsibility and need to cover all of the eggs in the nest.
The males’ smaller size has evolved so that he can be more agile and faster, all with the aim of catching prey to bring back to the nest.
There is some debate among ornithologists as to what monogamous means in the world of birds.
Most birds pair up for the duration of the breeding season while some pair up for life. This would suggest that monogamy is more of a breeding tactic than a lifelong commitment.