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East Africa is the ultimate travel destination. Booking a safari here is the best way to get a feel of this. It boasts of lots of parks which are home to a wide array of animal and plant species. It is in East Africa that you will have a chance to see the big five animals all in one park. You will also get to marvel at the wildebeest migration and swim with the dolphins at the coast.
East Africa has a very pleasant climate. It is rather atypical of equatorial regions due to the combination of the region’s generally high altitude and the rain shadow of the western monsoon winds created by the Rwenzori mountains located on the Uganda and DRC border and the Ethiopian Highlands. East Africa is surprisingly cool and dry for its latitude.
September to mid-October tends to be a very hot and dry period in East Africa. Human beings and animals alike are not spared of the sizzling, sweltering and blistering heat. This tends to be a harsh month, with the land and animals utterly desperate for rain. Ironically, this is the perfect time to book a visit the region for an action-packed and wildlife-filled safari.
With a few weeks to go until the welcoming relief of the rains, the question is, how do animals deal with the dry heat? Below are some of the weird and sophisticated ways that some of the animals cope with the sweltering heat.
In case you didn’t know, only mammals have the ability to sweat. However, very few of them sweat because most of them do not have sweat glands. In September and October when there is little water and the temperatures are increasing, hippos have a unique way of keeping cool.
They do not sweat in the traditional sense, but instead secrete a reddish-orange liquid that acts as a form of sunscreen, protecting the hippos from harmful UV rays as they feed during the day. A close look at the hippos one would think that they are sweating blood. However, a recent study revealed that the sweat is made up of two pigments- one red, which acts as an antibiotic, and one orange which acts as a sun block.
Often referred to as the ugliest bird in the world, there is no denying the marabou stock is quite weird looking. You are guaranteed to see this bird when you book a safari to this place. It has a featherless neck, a pink specked face, a pink wattle and very long whitish grey legs. The white color on their feet is a buildup of excrement. Marabou storks usually defecate on their legs to cool down. This peculiar cooling method is what is known as urohydrosis.
You might be wondering how this works. Well, this is how: Birds poo is mostly liquid and it works the same way as sweat, through evaporative cooling. As the bird’s fecal matter dries on its legs, heat is lost, thus bringing the stork’s body temperature down. The white color also aids in further cooling by reflecting the sun. In as much as this might not seem as an ideal way to deal with the heat, it certainly quite effective.
From our biology classes, it was made clear to us that larger animals retain more heat compared to their smaller counterparts. This is due to the fact that the latter have a smaller surface area for heat to escape from in relation to their bodies. The elephant is the largest and heaviest mammal on earth. It does not have any sweat glands on any other part of its body apart from the toes.
Elephants love wallowing in the mud and rolling in the dust. Have you ever asked yourself why? They do this because, the mud and dust protects their skin from the harsh sun rays. Biologists have also discovered that elephants are covered in “hot spots”. And whenever they overheat, their blood supply is usually directed to these hot spots and heat is lost rapidly. These patches are scattered all over the elephant’s body as well as in large areas on their ears and they have the ability to expand and contract depending on the temperature. This is a very fine-tuned heat regulation mechanism.
Instead of sheltering under shady trees or in water holes like most animals, ostriches rely on their desert-adapted bodies to deal with the sweltering heat. They make use of a unique cooling technique known as “behavioral thermoregulation.”
This entails baring of their upper legs, flanks and thorax to release heat, using a selective brain cooling mechanism which regulates the temperature of the blood going to the brain and controlling the flow of air through their lungs to release heat through evaporation. As a result of these adaptations, ostriches are able to live in the dry African savannahs and deserts, bearing temperatures of up to 56 degrees Celsius easily.
Warthogs are known for their not so good looks. They have effortlessly made it on the list of Africa’s ugly five. However, they are remarkably resilient and skilled at adapting to their surroundings. They may lack sweat glands, but are able to tolerate higher than average body temperatures due to the fact that they lack a subcutaneous fat layer. They also conserve moisture in their bodies and can survive for months without water.
These are regarding as kings of the jungle and most tour guides will use this term on your safari. Lions like most animals have no option but to take shelter under shady trees whenever it gets too hot. If trees are far from sight or have shed all their leaves due to the effects of the scorching sun, then they result in heavy panting. This reduces the heat generated in their bodies. Lions like most animals also take afternoon naps which help stabilize their body temperature. Lions also drink water for further cooling, but unlike other animals, they don’t let a drop of water touch their bodies, not even their paws. This can’t be painted better enough, booking a safari and seeing it first hand would do.
September and October may be difficult months for the wildlife, but it is one of the perfect times to travel to East Africa for a safari holiday. Before the rains start, most of the wild animals crowd at the surviving waterholes to quench their thirst and to cool their bodies. As a result, you are bound to have magnificent and awe instilling sightings. For more information on where to visit, we at Gidtor Travel Dairies are ready to help. Feel free to call and write to us at any time. We will also undertake to book and plan your East African safari for you.
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