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Savanna Smackdown Facts

With a stocky build, sharp hooves and chisel-like incisors - zebras are built for battle.

With a stocky build, sharp hooves and chisel-like incisors - zebras are built for battle. (View larger version)

Photograph by Kevin Lunham

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  • The most dangerous predator to a lion cub is...another lion. Males often kill cubs that are not their own when they attempt to take over a pride and mothers have to risk their lives to defend their progeny.

  • Research shows that 27% of all cubs die when a male takes over a pride. The situation is even worse for cubs under 9 months where only 14% survive a takeover.

  • Thanks to seven huge vertebrae, connected by ball and socket joints, the giraffe can use its neck to swing its club-like head into an opponent’s body in a devastating blow.

  • The sling-shot-like hit of a giraffe’s head is so strong that it can deliver a single knock-out blow to a 4,000 lb individual. However, the attacker will suffer no damage thanks to huge air- filled sinuses that act like airbags at the top of its skull.

  • The white rhino’s front horn is a 5 foot long dagger than are used to gore a rival. To defend themselves, they have skin with incredible properties: 6 times thicker than human skin, very elastic and with cross-linked fibres that confer the same kind of protection as a medieval chain-mail suit.

  • If hippopotamuses cannot find water to cool down in they will die. In the dry season, what little water is left gets extremely crowded and this is when tempers flare and fights are plentiful.

  • Hippopotamuses are responsible for more human deaths than any other African animal, but it is not only our species they kill. Male hippos fight over harems of up to 30 females and their teeth the length of a forearm commonly inflict fatal injuries to their opponents.

  • Pound for pound, leopards are the strongest climbers of all the cats. They have been seen carrying a 275 pound giraffe carcass up a tree; that’s twice their own body weight!

  • When ready to reproduce, a female leopard will make a rasping call to attract males. Like a siren she will draw several of them towards her, but only one will mate and fierce fights determine who the lucky contender is.

  • At the age of 30, elephants will enter a unique state called “musth”. An elephant in musth’s sole purpose is to find a female to mate with. But with 8 times more testosterone than normal running through its body, it gives short thought to a rival male and fatal fights can ensue.

  • An elephant’s tusk and trunk weigh a combined 500 pounds, but a super light-weight air-filled skull with a huge surface area for muscle attachment makes it surprisingly adept at wielding these hefty weapons.

  • Some animals fight over females, some over food, and others over… dung. Dung beetles rely on balls of dung in which to lay their eggs. However, instead of making and rolling their own, they often steal another’s.

  • Unlike their much loved cousin, zebras have never been domesticated. This is because they are just too aggressive an animal: their kick can kill another zebra with a single blow, and they are responsible for more injuries to zoo keepers than any other animal in the world.

  • Hamadryas baboons carry out huge gang wars in an attempt to steal each other’s females. These gangs are led by possessive males who aggressively herd their females and punish any that dare wander astray.

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