New Big Mammal Day record

Singita-Grumeti Big Mammal Day_FOLEY

Here’s an account of a Big Mammal Day that we did in the Serengeti ecosystem last year, where we set a new species record. I thought that this total would be hard to beat, but last weekend, quite unexpectedly, the original team – plus one new member – broke this record quite convincingly in a different ecosystem in Tanzania. I’ll post that report on here once I’ve got around to writing it.

Big Mammal Days are good fun and I hope this encourages more mammal watchers to go and try them, no matter where you are based. You might be surprised at how many species you can tally with some preparation and local knowledge.



  • Robert Foster

    Well done Charles (and team)! And a great read.

  • Floyd Hayes

    Congratulations, it will be hard for our California team to beat that!

    • Charles Foley

      You know what Floyd, your California record provided huge motivation to our team. When planning the event our constant refrain was ‘I can’t believe they matched the record, IN A BLOODY TEMPERATE AREA’. Getting over 40 species in a day in the tropics is one thing, but doing it in temperate California is nothing short of amazing. I would actually give the temperate areas a 1.5x species handicap over tropical areas, so perhaps you should consider your record to be 64! Where you really helped us was by highlighting how important bat identification is to a Big Mammal Day. I finally put in the effort to figure out how to id the bats (at least to genus level) and that is what really boosted our numbers.

  • Venkat Sankar

    Wow, Charles, that’s really impressive. It’s also really good to know about Singita Grumeti, as I’ll add it to my list for my next trip to Tanzania. Always good to know about sites where we have the freedom to drive at night and focus on smaller mammals. Do the guides still see Patas Monkeys in that area?

    Also, I’m guessing you beat this record in the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem?

  • Charles Foley

    Hi Venkat, the Singita-Grumeti is an amazing area, both scenically and in terms of wildlife densities. For instance you can see herds of 2,000 – 3,000 Topi here, which are not found elsewhere in the ecosystem, and the large carnivore density is really impressive. The concession consists of private land, a Wildlife Management Area (WMA), and two Game Reserves. You only have complete nocturnal access to the private land and WMA, but those areas are pretty large, so you won’t feel constrained. Bear in mind though that this is one of the most exclusive companies in Africa, if you’re a paying customer, the price is equally exclusive!

    Unfortunately the Patas Monkeys have almost disappeared from the Singita-Grumeti area, perhaps as a result of changes in livestock densities in the WMA or fire frequency. Regardless, they are now seen extremely infrequently – perhaps once a year or so. I still hear reports of this species from the Western Corridor in the Serengeti Park itself, but I fear this sub-species may be heading for extinction.

    Yes our latest endeavour took place in the Tarangire ecosystem, including Tarangire NP and Manyara Ranch.

  • Floyd Hayes

    Charles, it was Brian Keelan who deserves the credit for identifying bats with SonoBat software during our mammal big days. Without him we could not have gotten the 42 species.

  • Floyd Hayes

    Peter Pyle asked me to point out that “if we’d combined the morning of the 2016 day with the
    afternoon of the 2017 day we’d have hit 50, so it’s within reach.” He also wanted to point out that an article he wrote is posted here:

    • Charles Foley

      Hi Floyd,

      Would the logistics of your Big Mammal Days have allowed you to marry your 2016 morning with 2017 afternoon? The problem we run into in Tanzania is the ‘dead time’ between 12 pm and 4 pm; at this stage we’ve already seen all of the expected species, and everything else is hiding from the heat. On our latest attempt we drove for close to 4 hours during this time of the day just to see 3 species. We haven’t figured out an easy way to get around this period of downtime. I don’t suppose you have to deal with this in California or is there also a midday lull in the action?

  • Robert Berghaier

    Hello Charles Foley,
    Several years ago I got your Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania. I have been to Tanzania seven times – 79, 92, 97, 02,13,14 and 2017. I have been to Ngorongoro Crater on my trips. On May 25, 2017 I was leading a group of 11 people going to Northern Tanzania. On May 25th we were going to the Serengeti and early in the morning we left from Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge. I was in a vehicle from Tandala Safari with my driver guide Jerry. We were driving on the eastern side of the Crater forest and it was foggy at times. I was in the front of the vehicle with Jerry and we saw a small duiker running in front of us. For this duiker both Jerry and I thought this was a blue duiker. According to your book blue duikers are not found here. I have previously seen blue duikers doing research in Bioko Equatorial Guinea and both Jerry & I thought this was a blue duiker. What do you think of this one?

    Best Regards – Robert (Bob) Berghaier

    • Charles Foley

      Hi Bob,

      I would suggest that what you saw was almost certainly a suni. They are the same size, shape and often the same colour as a blue duiker, and are easily confused. They are also extremely common in the area. We carried out a major camera trap study of the Ngorongoro forests a number of years ago and suni were by far the most abundant species accounting for over 25% of all mammals that we photographed.

      Cheers, Charles

  • Robert (Bob) Berghaier

    Charles, thanks for your email. I relooked at your book on suni antelope and released that you had previously listed them from Ngorongoro Conservation area. I had previously seen suni in Mt. Kenya and Mnemba Island off of Zanzibar. Charles you are correct, this is the species that Jerry and I saw in May 25th 2017. Best regards – Bob

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