Big and small hunters of the Pilanesberg


The Afrikaans name for the serval is a ‘tierboskat’ which means tiger bush cat. It is similar in size to a caracal but it is slender and taller. The ‘tiger’ description comes from a unique combination of spots and stripes on their coats. They have very large rounded ears and, like the caracal, have phenomenal hearing and can pick up the smallest sounds of prey in long grass.

The serval’s main source of food is rats and small bush hares, where it will leap high into the air and land on its prey with its forepaws. This stuns the prey and they then go in for a bite kill.

Black-backed Jackal

This slender, long-legged jackal with a pointed, fox-like muzzle is also known as the silver-backed jackal. It has a distinctive black and silver saddle marking on its back, while the rest of its body is reddish-brown to tan. It is easy to recognise in the bush, with a bushy black-tipped tail and large pointed ears.

The black-backed jackal has bones that are fused in the forelimbs, which makes it an excellent runner and it can keep up a slow trot of 12-16 kilometres per hour for long periods of time.

The black-backed jackal is not fussy about what it eats and lives happily on a diet of reptiles, birds and their eggs, and small fresh-water crabs. It is mainly nocturnal and very shy; it will avoid human interaction as much as possible.

Bat-eared fox

These cute, big-eared creatures are mostly seen foraging at night or in the early morning in the short grasslands and arid savanna. They are highly sociable and hang out in family groups. The bat-eared fox lives on a diet of small birds, mammals and reptiles but they are also partial to snacking on termites, spiders, scorpions and crickets.

Bat-eared foxes have extremely pointed teeth and chew their food quickly and efficiently. They seldom drink water as most of the moisture they need comes from the food they eat. The female fox leaves her young pups with her male partner while she forages for food to maintain her milk production.

Brown hyena

The shaggy brown hyena is an unusual looking fellow, with front legs that are longer than its hind legs and a sloping back. Its pointed ears are set high on their head and it has powerful jaws with strong teeth. The brown hyena prefers to hunt at night and is usually seen silently slinking through the bush on its own, hunting for small mammals, fish, birds and insects. They will also snack on fruit, vegetables and reptile or birds eggs to supplement their diet.

Females tend to mate with nomadic males rather than those within the clan which prevents interbreeding and, when they are old enough to be moved to the communal den, the pups are nursed by any lactating female. The brown hyena is not endangered but it is a threatened species.

Nocturnal aardwolf

The aardwolf is a member of the hyena family but, unlike its brown brother, exists solely on a diet of termites. It can eat up to 300 000 termites a night, and will also occasionally snack on maggots and soft-shelled crabs and reptiles. Its Afrikaans name is “earth wolf”, because it reaches into termite mounds with a very long, sticky tongue to dig out its food.

The aardwolf is a nocturnal creature but during winter, it conserves its energy by sleeping at night and feeding during the day. The aardwolf mates with only one partner in a lifetime and lives in underground burrows that are usually abandoned aardvark and porcupine homes.

Regal antelope of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Blue wildebeest

This antelope is easily recognised as the ‘old man’ of the reserve. It has a long black main and a beard of hair that hangs from its throat and neck. Both sexes grow short curved horns, and adult bulls’ horns are heavily bossed. The blue wildebeest is a gregarious herbivore, and prefers to live in large herds.

Greater kudu

This majestic antelope is easily recognised by the male’s spectacular spiral horns, which can reach astounding lengths of over one metre. The female kudu is smaller and does not have an impressive set of horns. Pale white stripes drip down its grey-brown coat, creating the illusion that someone has spilt paint on its back.

Sable antelope

The Sable antelope is the most handsome of all the antelopes and males are recognised by its glossy black coat and white underparts and white facial markings. Cows and young are dark brown. Herd sizes vary and it is not uncommon to see a small herd of lone bulls grazing on their own. Territorial bulls will evict young bulls from the breeding herd when they become sexually mature at the age of three years. Pregnant cows separate from the large herd but will re-join the family when her calf is a bit older.


Roan antelope

This regal antelope is a rare sighting in most game reserves. There is a very high mortality rate among its calves, with eight out of ten calves dying in the first two months. The Roan antelope is listed as an endangered species. The breed is easily recognisable with its distinctive black and white facial markings, long pointed ears and heavily ringed horns.


This unusual looking antelope has an equally strange name. It looks ungainly but is in fact the fastest antelope in South Africa. Despite its speed, it is still been relentlessly hunted by big game hunters. This is mainly due to one mistake it makes; it will flee, and then stop to look back at the impending danger. Hunters take advantage of this weakness.


This dainty antelope is indigenous to the dry, arid regions of South Africa but isolated groups have settled in the Pilanesberg habitats that mimic the dry Kalahari Desert. They are easily recognisable in full flight, leaping high into the air when pursued by a predator. They are able to withstand long bouts of drought and can go indefinite periods without drinking water.