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Nature Life: Buffalo And Nature

By Obiabin Onukwugha

The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large sub-Saharan African bovine. There are five subspecies that are recognized as being valid. Syncerus caffer caffer, the Cape buffalo, is the nominotypical subspecies, and the largest one, found in Southern and East Africa. S. c. nanus (the forest buffalo) is the smallest subspecies, common in forest areas of Central and West Africa, while S. c. brachyceros is in West Africa and S. c. aequinoctialis is in the savannas of East Africa.

The adult African buffalo’s horns are its characteristic feature: they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield across the top of the head referred to as a “boss”.

Its unpredictable temperament may be part of the reason that the African buffalo has never been domesticated.

Natural predators of adult African buffaloes include lions, African wild dogs, spotted hyenas, and Nile crocodiles. As one of the Big Five game animals, the Cape buffalo is a sought-after trophy in hunting.

Buffalos have an average lifespan of 25 to 40 years.

The domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) has an important role in the agricultural economy of many developing countries in Asia, providing milk, meat and draught power.

It is also used in some Mediterranean and Latin American countries as a source of milk and meat for specialized markets.

Although the buffalo can adapt to harsh environments and live on poor quality forage, reproductive efficiency is often compromised by such conditions, resulting in late sexual maturity, long postpartum anoestrus, poor expression of oestrus, poor conception rates and long calving intervals.

The age at puberty is influenced by genotype, nutrition, management and climate, and under favourable conditions occurs at 15-18 months in river buffalo and 21-24 months in swamp buffalo.

The ovaries are smaller than in cattle and contain fewer primordial follicles. Buffalo are capable of breeding throughout the year, but in many countries a seasonal pattern of ovarian activity occurs.

This is attributed in tropical regions to changes in rainfall resulting in feed availability or to temperature stress resulting in elevated prolactin secretion, and in temperate regions to changes in photoperiod and melatonin secretion.


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