Except in times of drought, feed the local wildlife only sparingly. The following article reprinted from The Marloth Park Review, November 2005, is a good guide as to who likes what.
If residents of Marloth Park help the wildlife survive droughts, then it should be done responsibly. Do not feed them what is alien to their digestive systems.
Recently a magnificent kudu bull was found dead in the bush. The autopsy showed that his stomach content was dried mealie pips! It was obvious that someone had put down enough mealies to fill him up. See 'Maize is killing our WildLife'.
A hungry kudu will eat what is available. The usual victuals are not available in Marloth Park during the winter drought and the kudu has few options to seek further afield as there is a game fence between him and the Crocodile River, effectively cutting him off from ‘greener pastures’.
What does the kudu usually eat? He eats many kinds of leaves, herbs, fallen fruits, vines, succulents and flowers, sometimes varied with a little new grass. He is described on the internet as a most discerning browser. He has more than one stomach because he is a ruminant. He will gulp food down to fill up the first stomach and will regurgitate at will when it is safe to do so. He will then chew his food and swallow it to the second stomach where it starts the process of digestion. So, the food he swallows first will sit in his stomach for a certain period of time before he is ready to regurgitate. It mixes with the special bacteria that is resident in his stomach and which is dedicated to the needs of the kudu’s digestive system.
Dried maize is not suitable for ruminants as it ferments soon after coming into contact with bacteria and/or the juices of the stomach. The fermenting process produces gas which causes colic in ruminants and, in severe cases, death. Death does not come quickly and it is painful.
Experts advise that it is acceptable to give kudu tasty morsels such as cut up sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, banana, cabbage and pawpaw in small quantities.The best supplement to give kudu is the Game Tech pellets that have been developed by veterinary surgeons from Onderstepoort, says Ronelle Kemp. These pellets are made from the leaves found in acacia and mopane bushveldt, the home of the kudu. They are balanced with correct amounts of protein, starch, fat, sugar, vitamins and minerals. Most importantly, it contains the roughage that is required by game, but not available in large quantities during the present drought. The small amount of 1500 (?) gms per animal is enough to sustain it for a day.
What about other hungry wildlife that visit our homes? The zebra has a similar digestive system to the horse. Dried maize is not suitable for the zebra as it causes colic. What is fed to the kudu will be acceptable to the zebra. Do not overfeed. Remember that wildlife is clever enough to memorize those households that put out the welcome mat and they have a circuit to complete each day. They will more than likely receive more food at their next stop.
The warthog is the opportunist of the bush. They will eat anything but they do have their preferences. They love the dried mealies which do not seem to have a detrimental effect on them. Warthog are grazers mainly, but will browse, eat fruit, seeds and earthworms as well. They will dig for roots, tubers and bulbs. They will occasionally chase wild dog and cheetah from a carcass for the carrion. Take care that plastic bags and polystyrene containers are not carelessly discarded as these will be eaten by warthog if it smells good enough.
More feeding habits
The mongoose forages all day for insects which make up the greater part of its diet. They will also eat small vertebrates, fruit, berries and eggs. They roam around in groups of approximately 30 animals and make small, inquisitive noises as they forage. A little bread soaked in a mixture of egg and milk is a great favourite.
The duiker eats a large range of vegetation including leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, gum and roots but rarely grass. They will sometimes take nesting birds, lizards, caterpillars and even small mammals. They rarely drink but eat wild melon for moisture.
Impala are adaptable feeders. They will graze and browse whatever is available. They will also eat fruit, flowers and acacia pods. However, it is difficult to feed impala as they are too shy to approach households and any food left in the bush for them could be eaten by any opportunist. However, they have been seen recently eating the GameTech pellets when hungry enough to approach. These pellets are excellent for browsers as well as grazers.
The genet is an active hunter of mice and insects. He will kill small birds but unlike a cat will eat its catch, feathers and all. It prefers fresh food so will not scavenge. Scattering bones from the BBQ for the genet is not advisable as it will eventually attract hyena and other scavengers which are not desirable.
A well placed banana in a tree will always attract the lesser bushbaby and the thick-tailed bushbaby after dark. The lesser bushbaby arrives quickly after sundown and the thicktailed bushbaby 2 to 3 hours later. They spend their time foraging for gum, fruit and insects.
The myriad of birds that visit gardens will always enjoy a feast if wild bird seed is put out but take care not to scatter the seed on bare ground. It stands a good chance of growing if there is rain about. Fruit will attract the fruit- and insect-eating birds.
Trouble is on the way in the form of monkeys and baboons if food is left out for animals with no-one there to eat it. It is always a good idea to put food out only when the wildlife appears. Then you can be sure the wildlife receives the correct food. The advantage of this is you get to know the particular animal that visits you and the time it visits. Also, it is not a good idea to throw spoiled food into the garden as this could introduce alien bacteria into the stomach of an animal and thus make it sick.