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Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > October-December 2018 (84) > Making connections

Making connections

Mike Unwin helps us to understand Africa’s ecosystems, and why wildlife and their habitats are so important for us all

What are you hoping to see on safari? A black rhino, perhaps, or a pack of wild dogs? We often think of African wildlife in terms off individual species, but no animal exists in isolation. The more you understand the connections between them, the richer your safari becomes.

Picture, for instance, a lilac-breasted roller snatching up a dung beetle.

This is not some random event. The roller is adapted to savannah habitats. Its presence thus tells you about the plant community (grass, with scattered trees), which, in turn, tells you about the soil and climate.

What’s more, the roller nests in tree holes: a clue, perhaps, to the presence of elephant, which leave standing dead wood as part of their feeding. The dung beetle, in turn, buries the elephant’s droppings as a food store for its larvae, thus recycling nutrients to the soil, enabling more plants to grow and more herbivores to munch them.

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