Acacia Trees: The Bushveld Browsers’ Buffet

Acacia Trees: The Bushveld Browsers’ Buffet

The abundance of acacia trees at Nambiti Big 5 Private Game Reserve make the area a browsers’ buffet for our giraffe, elephants and antelope to enjoy.

But what about all the thorns?

It’s fascinating to watch browsers as they eat with expert precision, negotiating around the long, knife-sharp thorns of acacia trees to enjoy delectable mouthfuls of the delicious green foliage.

Never mind the thorns…

Have you ever noticed that an animal munching on an acacia tree will suddenly move off to browse on another tree just after a few mouthfuls?

With the long thorns as their first lines of defence, the acacia trees have a very clever Plan B in place to prevent over-browsing (considering that a giraffe can eat up to 29 kilograms of acacia leaves and twigs a day!). A chemical called tannin causes the sweet leaves to become bitter after only a few bites. You’ve probably heard of tannin before – it’s the same chemical compound used for tanning leather, fruit ripening and the making of wine and cocoa. Besides tasting awful, tannins also interfere with the animal’s digestive enzymes, making the plant proteins difficult to digest. In fact, ingesting too much tannin can even be fatal for animals.

The browsing bush telegraph

Amazingly, acacia trees are able to spread the word to other trees that it’s time to release the tannins! Once an acacia releases this chemical, the neighbouring acacias get wind of this and also release the chemical. This forces the animals to move further afield to find sweet juicy foliage.

In a true battle of the browsers and the browsed, giraffes have figured out that they should browse into the wind so that the trees they move on to haven’t received ‘the message’ carried on the wind from their neighbours.

Would you like to witness the fascinating behaviour of our browsers first hand? Book your Nambiti stay today: