The Okavango Delta’s Wildlife
The Okavango Delta supports large concentrations of animals on both a permanent and seasonal basis. Through careful wildlife management it has become perhaps one of the best places to see animals and birds in Africa.
There is a dynamic seasonal shift of animals between the arid region that surrounds the delta and the Okavango Delta itself. During the wet season most large animals move away from the delta to take advantage of the lush grazing that surrounds it. As this grazing begins to die in the winter animals move back to the delta. A myriad of species are found within the delta including African Bush Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Lechwe, Topi, Blue Wildebeest, Giraffe, Nile crocodile, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Brown Hyena, Spotted Hyena, Greater Kudu, Sable Antelope, Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Plains Zebra, Warthog and Chacma Baboon. Notably the endangered African Wild Dog still survives within the Okavango Delta and exihibits one of the richest pack densities in Africa.
In addition to the large animals the Okavango Delta also supports over 400 species of birds and 71 recorded species of fish including Tigerfish, Tilapia and Catfish.
Dragonflies and damselflies
Dragonflies with their outstretched wings and damsels with theirs folded are one of the best understood small groups in the Okavango Delta which is home to over 99 dragonfly species. These vibrant species are drawn to the waters of the Okavango Delta by their need to breed in water, in fact much of their life is spent there as fierce larvae that eat other animals.
Which species are found in a particular area is related to patterns of water availability and flooding. For example, dragonflies around temporary pools are typical of the species found at short lived rainwater pools in the dry Kalahari. These species have very short life cycles emerging only 30 days after the eggs have been laid. Those species living on the permanent waters, by contrast, require water throughout. The greatest variety of species are found where both permanent and temporary waters are close together.
Crocodiles are shy retiring animals, often seen slipping into the water as people approach. Despite limited hunting in the Delta, the population is not as great as might be imagined. Reproduction suffers both from man’s impact, disturbance of nesting sites, burning, the trampling action of cattle and the wash of boats as well as natural predation with water monitor lizards often dig up nests to eat the eggs. It is estimated that only 2 percent of all eggs laid hatch into young crocodiles.
The majority of the crocodile population is found in the Okavango Delta’s Panahandle and upper reaches of the Permanent Delta with counts showing approximately 2600 crocodiles in the Panhandle. Of these close to one quarter are adults. Crocodiles diet depends on their size with the smallest feeding on insects and small fish whilst the biggest take proportional larger prey. The vast majority of a crocodile’s diet comprises fish, with the abundance of large fish in the Permanent Delta and Panhandle explaining their concentration here.