Ecosystems are not made up of plants alone and the animals that are indigenous to an area are integral to its health.
As you hike keep your eyes peeled for the animals that call the Table Mountain National Park home. Many are so well adapted to the fynbos ecosystem that you need to be quick to spot them.
The animals listed below are but a few of the Park's residents and may not be as overtly exciting as the “Big Five” but those lucky enough to observe them will be amazed by the variety of life supported by the Table Mountain chain.
Historical evidence (rock art and fossils) give evidence that the Cape Peninsula was once populated by a variety of larger mammals such as lion, leopard and hyena, however due to hunting and environmental degradation they are but a memory.
TMNP management has started reintroduction of locally extinct species - but on the tamer side of things with the tiny klipspringer.
Antelope species adapted to fynbos are generally tiny and hard to spot but well worth the patience. Look out for klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), recently reintroduced to Table Mountain. These petite buck are likely to be seen standing proudly on rocky outcrops. Grysbok (Raphicerus melanotis), common duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), Grey Rhebok (Pelea capreolus) and steenbok (Raphicerus campestris) can also be spotted towards evening and in the early mornings.
Larger Antelope species such as Eland (Taurotragus oryx), Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), Bontebok (Damaliscus dorcas dorcas) can be found in the Cape of Good Hope section of the TMNP.
Other mammals include: Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra), caracal or rooikat (Felis caracal), Large-spotted genet (Genneta tigrina), Small-spotted genet (Genneta genetta), porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralus), Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis), Chacma Baboons (papio ursinus), Cape Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis), Water mongoose (Atilax paludinosus); Cape Molerat (Georhycus capensis), Striped Polecat (Ictonyx striatus); Cape Dune Mole (Bathyergus suillus) Water mongoose (Ayonix capensis), Small Grey Mongoose (Galerella purverulenta) and the Cape Fox (Vulpes chama).
Table Mountain hosts an amazing variety of reptiles and amphibians that, if you take the time to observe, are as interesting as larger animals, if not more so.
The TMNP is home to around 22 snakes, 10 of which are non-venomous, although they can still deliver a nasty bite if provoked and five of the venomous species include the Cape Cobra, the Puff Adder, Boomslang, Rinkhals and Berg Adder. The good news is it they are mostly shy and will avoid human contact. The one you are most likely to encounter is the Puff Adder which moves at a leisurely pace and enjoys a nice warm spots, such as rocks and pathways.
Of the species of lizard that inhabit the TMNP the most common are the Southern Rock Agama (males identifiable by a bright blue head during mating season), the Black Girdled Lizard (all black and definitely prehistoric in looks) and the Cape Skink (usually found relaxing on a good sunny rock).
TMNP is a haven for a variety of amphibians most notably the endemic and endangered Table Mountain Ghost Frog (Heleophryne rosei) and the endemic Cape Chirping Frog (Arthroleptella lightfooti).
Also look out for the Cape River Frog (Afrana fuscigula), the diminutive Arum Lily Frog (Hyperolius horstocki) and the Leopard Toad (Bufo pantherinus).
The slowest of all the reptiles, but definitely worth watching are the tortoises. Look out for the Angulate Tortoise (Chersina angulata) and the Parrot-beaked Tortoise (Homopus areolatus).
Although bird numbers are not always impressive (compared to the bird rich eastern and northern parts of South Africa), the Table Mountain National Park's cumulative bird list is a large one and there are several endemic species.
The diversity of habitats present (ocean, shoreline, cliff-face, rocky highland, fynbos, forest and suburbia) contributes to the large species count, as does the geographical positioning at a continent's corner, which means many vagrants swell the list, due to weather conditions blowing stray birds or miscalculated flight journeys on the part of individual birds. Please note that this list is not all inclusive.
In fynbos regions one should search for Grey-backed Cisticola (Cisticola subruficapilla), Karoo Prinia (Prinia maculosa), Cape Sugarbird (Pomerops cafer), Orange-breasted (Nectarina violacea), Malachite (Nectarina famosa) and Lesser Double Collared (Nectarina chalybea) sunbirds. Cape Siskin (Pseudochloroptila totta), Cape Rock-thrush (Monticola rupestris) and Ground Woodpecker (Geocolaptes olivaceus) should be looked for in rocky areas at higher elevation.
Birds of Prey should also be looked for overhead in higher altitude areas. Verreaux's (Black) Eagle (Aquila verreauxii), Jackal (Buteo rufofuscus) and Steppe (Buteo buteo vulpinus) buzzards, Rock Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), and Peregrine Falcon (Falco Peregrinus) should all be scanned for.
In forest patches look for Sombre Bulbul (Andropadus importanus), Olive Thrush (Turdis olivaceus), Cape Batis (Batis capensis), Dusky (Muscicapa adusta) and Paradise flycatchers (Terpsiphone viridis), African Olive/ Rameron Pigeon (Columba arquatrix) and Cinnamon Dove (Aplopelia larvata).
African Wood-Owl (Strix woodfordii) are often present in forest areas as are Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk (Accipiter rufiventris) and African Goshawk (Accipiter tachiro).
Dense thicket on forest fringes is the haunt of the Knysna Warbler (Bradypterus sylvaticus).
One of the birding highlights of the peninsula is the African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) colony at Boulders Beach. Other seabird's include: Cape Gannet (Morus capensis), Black-browed Albatross (Diomedea melanophris), Sooty Shearwater, White-chinned and Giant petrels can be seen all year round when strong winds bring the birds closer to shore.
In winter look out for the Shy (Diomedea cauta) and Yellow-nosed (Diomedea chlororhynchos) albatross and Pintado Petrel (Daption capense).
Along the Peninsula coastline, the endangered African Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini) can be found as well as four resident species of cormorant namely - Crowned (Phalacrocorax coronatus), Bank (Phalacrocorax neglectus), White-breasted (Phalacrocorax carbo) and Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis). Kelp (Larus dominicanus), Hartlaub's (Larus hartlaubii) and Black-headed (Larus ridibundus) gulls are abundant throughout.
Download the birding checklist for Table Mountain National Park - Cape of Good Hope section.
The Cape Peninsula straddles the two bio-geographic provinces – the cool temperate Namaqua province to the west and the warm temperate South Coast province to the east. This is one of the most diverse and productive stretches in South Africa. The Cape Peninsula is even endemic to this change-over region. It is also the area of the longest commercial fishing in South Africa. The MPA was declared in order to protect this precious biodiversity from commercial and recreational exploitation.
Species that occur here range from microscopic planktons, crustaceans, abalone and rock lobster to giants such as the great white shark and the southern right whale. In between occur numerous types of fish such as hake, yellow tail and cape salmon – all three top-targeted commercial species. Others include red roman white steenbras and galjoen – popular for recreational anglers but under strictly regulated conditions due to their threatened status.
Want to find out the status of fish, simply SMS "fish species" to 079 4998795.
One of the reasons for the profusion of Great White Sharks in the False Bay is the abundant population of Cape Fur seals that have colonised Seal Island in the middle of the Bay. The Cape Fur Seal is also an efficient hunter in its own right.
A major tourist attraction is whale spotting as the MPA is a popular breeding ground for species such as the Southern Right (Eubalaena australis) and Humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) whales. From August to October these giants of the deep awe visitors on an annual basis with their amazingly graceful marine acrobatics. Good vantage points for whale spotting are Chapman's Peak Drive, Rooikrans, Boyes Drive and the Scarborough/ Kommetjie Pass.
Other popular marine mammals are the dolphins that inhabit the MPA, these graceful and curious animals can be found body surfing the various breaks around the peninsula. Commonly sighted species are the Bottlenose Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus delphis), the Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and the Dusky Dolphin (Tursiops truncates).
There are a profusion of insects in the TMNP and they play an integral role in the fynbos ecosystem either by directly pollinating plants or as a vital source of nutrient for birds and animals that themselves act as distributors of seed.
Certain insects are especially adapted to service specific plants. Look out for butterflies such as the Mountain Pride Butterfly (Aeropetes tulbaghia) that is the exclusive pollinator of a variety of red plants such as the red disa, and the red crassula.
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Min: 7°C / Max: 23°C
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