Home / Articles / Environment / Strange but True facts on just about Everything

Strange but True facts on just about Everything

This A-Z list of strange but true facts on just about anything and everything is an ongoing project. So far, the list includes the following subjects (scroll down to see the actual entries):

  1. Alcohol
  2. Ants
  3. Bees
  4. Birds
  5. Buffalo
  6. Chameleons
  7. Cheetah
  8. Coconuts
  9. Countries
  10. Crocodiles
  11. Cultures
  12. Elephants
  13. Fish
  14. Flowers
  15. Frogs
  16. Giraffe
  17. Gold
  18. Hippopotamus
  19. Hyena
  20. Lightning
  21. Lion
  22. Ostrich
  23. Palms
  24. Penguins
  25. Rats
  26. Rhino
  27. Scorpions
  28. Sharks
  29. Shrimp
  30. Snails
  31. Spiders
  32. Snakes
  33. Starfish
  34. Survival
  35. Time
  36. Trees
  37. Vultures
  38. Wasps
  39. Water
  40. Whales
  41. Zebra
  • Absinthe is another name for the herb wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and the name of a licorice-anise flavored green liqueur that was created at the end of the 18th century, and manufactured by Henry-Louis Pernod. Called the ‘green Muse’ it became very popular in the 19th century, but was eventually banned in most countries beginning in 1908. The reason is the presence of the toxic oil ‘thujone’ in wormwood, which was one of the main ingredients of Absinthe. Absinthe seemed to cause brain lesions, convulsions, hallucinations and severe mental problems. Thujone was the culprit, along with the fact that Absinthe was manufactured with an alcohol content of 68% or 132 proof.
  • An ant will always fall on its left side when it is intoxicated.
  • If you draw a large circle on a piece of paper and put it near an ant hill, the ants will follow the smell of ink and keep walking in circles until the entire colony dies. Because ants live underground, they are almost totally blind, and smell is their primary sense. Ants are attracted to the smell of ink, especially the ink from markers, because it has a strong smell and because the smell of markers is similar to the smell of the pheremones ants use to leave a trail for the ants behind it to follow. Because a circle has no ending, the ants will continue to walk for no reason until they all die of either old age, exhaustion, or malnutrition.
  • The smell of bee pheromones can be replicated with things normally found in your kitchen. Bananas can be used to make bees sting because the smell of the pheromones released by a bee sting for the rest of the hive to follow smells almost exactly like bananas and sugar water can be used to make bees swarm around something because the smell of the pheromones used by queen bees to communicate with the rest of the hive smells like sugar water.
  • A queen bee lays about 1,500 eggs on an average day.
  • A group of geese is only called a gaggle if they’re on the ground. A group of geese in the sky is called a skein.
  • A pied-billed grebe is called a peebeegeebee by birdwatchers.
  • About 20% of bird species have become extinct in the past 200 years, almost all of them because of human activity.
  • Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other wild animal on earth. (Contributed by Legacy Hotels & Resorts).
  • The same chemical that allows chameleons to change colour is also found in human skin.
  • Cheetahs are nearly twice as fast as racehorses: The fastest racehorse runs 43 mph (69 kph), but cheetahs can run up to 70 mph (113 kph).
  • A cheetah’s feet don’t touch the ground for more than half of the time it’s running.
  • Cheetahs can turn in midair while sprinting after their prey.
  • King cheetahs have lengthwise stripes and are very rare. Their distinct markings are due to a recessive gene.
  • The name “cheetah” in English is derived from the Hindi word “Chita,” which means “spotted one.”
  • Emperors and other royalty hunted gazelles with trained cheetahs in the 16th century.
  • Cheetahs are very vocal. They make a unique bird-like sound called a “chirrup” when they’re excited or calling their cubs. They can’t roar like lions or tigers, but they do growl, hiss, snarl, moan, bleat and purr.
  • They get the moisture they need from the bodies of their prey, so cheetahs rarely need to drink water.
  • Cheetahs are the only cats with black tear marks on their faces. Scientists think these might act as sun protection, like football players painting black marks under their eyes.
  • Cheetahs, the fastest land mammals in the world, are built for speed. They can reach running speeds of up to 70 mph (113 kph), and they can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) in three seconds — faster than most cars. A single bound can cover 22 feet (7 meters), thanks to a flexible spine that lets their front legs extend extra far.
  • Their deep chests and enlarged hearts, lungs and nostrils help cheetahs take in more oxygen during intense chases. Their high-set eyes have a 210-degree field of view. Non-retractable claws help them gain traction when running on soft ground, and their tails help them balance as they make sharp, high-speed turns while chasing their prey.
  • Full-grown cheetahs are about 4 feet (1.2 m) long, not including a 30-inch (76-centimetre) tail. They weigh about 75 to 145 pounds (34 to 66 kilograms) and are 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 m)tall at the shoulder.
  • Female cheetahs are solitary, but males live in small permanent groups called coalitions, which are usually made up of brothers. Both males and females hunt alone. Usually only one male in coalition mates with any particular female.
  • Cheetahs live to be about 12 years old in the wild and as long as 17 years in zoos.
  • There are about 7,500 adult cheetahs living in the wild. Scientists think the species has declined by about 30 per cent over the last three generations or about 18 years. Their biggest threats are habitat loss and hunting by humans, either for trade or to protect livestock.
  • Activated charcoal made from coconut shells is the odour absorbing agent in odour-eating shoe liners.
  • Every country in the world is larger on the northern end than the southern end and nobody knows why.
  • Tunisia: The original Star Wars movie sets for the film’s planet Tatooine, were housed in the Tunisia desert. Nowadays, visitors to Tunisia can visit and even stay in Luke Skywalker’s home.
  • Sahara Desert: The Sahara is the world’s hottest desert, and the third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic. At over 9,400,000 square kilometres, it covers most of North Africa, making it almost as large as China or the United States.
  • Sudan has over 220 pyramids – twice as many as Egypt (which only clocks in at around 110).
  • Crocodiles have been around for 200 million years, outwitting dinosaurs by 60 million years.
  • Crocodiles can hold their breath underwater for over 10 minutes and can go for months at a time without food.
  • Crocodiles have the strongest bite of any animal on earth, but the muscles they use to open their jaws are not so strong, so it is relatively easy to hold their mouth shut.
  • Crocodiles keep their mouths open for staying cool.
  • Alligators and crocodiles don’t have x or y chromosomes, the chromosomes that determine the gender of an embryo. instead, the gender of baby alligators and crocodiles is determined by the temperature of the air.
  • In the Banda tribe of the Central African Republic, a girl isn’t considered ready for marriage until she first, eats an entire raw chicken without breaking any of its bone and then go an entire year without doing any work, including feeding or bathing herself.
  • Burmese women are making beer, they need to avoid having sex or the beer will be bitter.
  • African elephants can grow to be over 14 feet tall and 30 feet wide.
  • An elephant drinks 30-50 gallons of water every day.
  • Elephants are vegetarian and consume up to 375 lbs of vegetation every day which can take them up to 16 hours to consume.
  • Elephants communicate using a variety of low-frequency grumbles and rumbles which can be picked up 6 miles away.
  • Elephants live in family groups of up to 100 members, headed by a matriarch.
  • A young elephant is weaned at 4-5 years old when their tusks start to get in the way, and they may move out of the family group at 10-12 years old.
  • Elephants prefer one tusk over the other, just as people are either left or right-handed.
  • Elephants waive their trunks up in the air and from side to side to smell better.
  • Did you know that 1.4kg of elephant dung can vanish within just two hours when 16 000 greedy dung beetles arrive at the scene to collect their piece of the pie? (Contributed by Legacy Hotels & Resorts).
  • Elephants can hear one another’s trumpeting calls from up to eight kilometres away. (Contributed by Legacy Hotels & Resorts).
  • The Coelacanth, a type of ancient fish was presumed extinct. However one was re-discovered in 1938 off the shores of South Africa, and again, in early 2000 a population of six Coelacanth were been found living in the Sodwana area.
  • South Africa has the most diverse and unique floral kingdom in the world, and 70% of the Cape floral kingdom occurs nowhere else on earth.
  • Frogs are immune to gradual changes in temperature and can freeze or fry if the temperature changes slowly.
  • The Paradoxical frog is the world’s weirdest frog. The tadpole is five times larger than the adult. It is the only creature on earth that shrinks as it reaches adulthood.
  • Giraffe tongues are dark blue and average around 20 inches in length.
  • The giraffe neck contains special veins and blood valves to stop the giraffe from blacking out when it takes a drink. They can’t drink for long because of this and they don’t drink often, they can survive without water for weeks at a time.
  • Baby giraffes drop six feet to the ground when born but manage to stand up just five minutes later.
  • All giraffes suffer from high blood pressure.
  • Absolutely pure gold is so soft that it can be molded with the hands.
  • Male hippos actively defend their territories and humans tend to get killed by hippos when they stand on a riverbank or beach that a male hippo considers being his territory.
  • Hippos can run at speeds of over 20 miles an hour and they have enormous jaws host up to 20-inch canines.
  • Hippos are vegetarian and consume up to a hundred pounds of the green stuff every day.
  • Hippos poop huge amounts, up to sixty pounds a day, and some of it is literally showered around by a fast-moving, rotating tail.
  • Hippos are sensitive to the sun and secrete a natural sunscreen that is coloured red and eventually turns brown.
  • The hippo’s closest living relative is the whale.
  • While hippos can swim and stay underwater for up to ten minutes at a time, they cannot jump.
  • The expression “sweating blood” comes from the blood-red sweat off hippos.
  • Hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs, and even more closely related to meerkats.
  • Hyenas are the most common of all large carnivores in Africa, they are true survivalists.
  • Live in clans, with some groups numbering over 70 members.
  • Hyena cubs are most commonly born in twos and if they are the same sex, they may try and kill each other.
  • Are known as scavengers, but also regularly hunt live prey.
  • Hyena dung is white (when dry) because of the large amounts of calcium it consumes when crunching up the bones of its kill.
  •  A team of researchers excavating a cave near Johannesburg, South Africa, discovered five human hairs at least 200,000 years old in fossilized hyena dung, thus exceeding the record for the oldest known human hair by more than 190,000 years.
  • There is quite a difference between young spotted hyenas and young striped hyenas. Striped hyenas are born with adult markings, closed eyes and small ears. Spotted hyenas are born with eyes wide open and teeth intact, ready for action. They live in clans dominated by the larger built females.
  • A typical lightning bolt is two to four inches wide and two miles long.
  • Lions are more likely to be seen sleeping than hunting because lions rest for 20 hours a day on average.
  • Lions don’t purr like house cats.
  • The tufts on the ends of a lions tail emerge at around 5 months of age.
  • Lions often kill their prey by strangulation or suffocation (by covering the nostrils and mouth of their prey).
  • Other than man, crocodiles are one of the few natural predators a lion has (although their cubs are vulnerable to other hunters).
  • Lions are the only members of the cat family where the male and female look very different and they are also much more social than most other cats.
  • Lion numbers have declined by 30% in the past two decades, primarily due to traditional hunting customs among local tribes in Africa, big game hunters, as well as a reduction in habitat and prey.
  • Lions can reach around 14 years of age, but many males die sooner because they get injured fighting one another.
  • Female lions synchronize the birth of their cubs and cooperate in raising them. Females tend to stay with their pride for life, male cubs get kicked out when they are between 2-4 years old.
  • Females lions hunt more than males and all lions will happily scavenge given half a chance.
  • Lions ambush their prey, (like leopards), rather than track and chase (like hyenas).
  • Ostriches can sprint up to 43 miles (70 kilometres) an hour and use their wings as rudders to change direction.
  • An Ostrich can kick a man to death, but only in a forward direction, so it’s safer to stay around the back.
  • Ostriches are the largest birds on earth.
  • One Ostrich egg can easily make an omelette for a dozen hungry men
  • Ostrich eggshells have been used to make ornaments and necklaces for thousands of years by several African tribes. The shells are also handy for storing water.
  • Ostrich meat is a popular lean red meat in upscale restaurants throughout the world
  • The single-seeded fruit of the giant fan palm, or Lodoicea maldivica, can weigh 44 lbs. Commonly known as the double coconut or coco de mer, it is found wild only in Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
  • African Penguins are becoming an endangered breed, with only 55 000 left to date, compared to the 200 000 that were around in the early 2000′s.
  • A penguin swims at a speed of approximately 15 miles per hour.
  • A rat can go without water longer than a camel can.
  • To prevent poaching, rhino horns are being poisoned. The poison is non-toxic to the animals, however, any poisoned horn that is poached will show up on airport scans, and whatever powder, tea or cream is then made, will result in a bitter taste and possible burns.
  • A rhinoceros horn is made of compacted hair.
  • What is the easiest way to kill a scorpion? Put some alcohol on its back. Even the slightest bit of alcohol will make a scorpion drunk enough to sting itself to death.
  • The majority of the worlds proto-mammalian fossils have been found in the Karoo – the most unique thus far is a 280 million-year-old shark.
  • In the months of November to January, you can swim with whale sharks in the Gulf of Tadjourah in Djibouti.
  • A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.
  • A shark can grow a new set of teeth in a week.
  • A shark can detect one part of blood in 100 million parts of water.
  • A shrimp’s heart is in its head.
  • A snail can sleep for 3 years.
  • Snails can have about 25,000 teeth.
  • A snail can actually glide over the sharp edge of a knife or razor without harming itself. This has something to do with the mucus it produces.
  • The Bajillion Spider of South Africa is one of nature’s most bizarre spiders. Every single spider is actually recursively composed of thousands of tiny spiders that together form a group consciousness and work together as one collective.
  • The largest spider ever observed by scientists was over 8 feet long and weighed in at 530 pounds. It was actually immobile though, its legs had been broken long ago by merely carrying its own weight.
  • Spiders are known for preserving their prey alive in silky cocoons in order to enjoy a “fresh meal”. The Viedant Spider takes this one step further – when it comes across a dead insect, it uses an unusual form of venom to inject new life into the unappetizing corpse. Scientists are studying the spider as a potential treatment for several forms of deadly cancer.
  • The word “Spider” comes from an acronym. Scientists investigating spiders in the 17th century would abbreviate “Sample — Please Investigate Data; Exoskeleton Regular” on their insect containers.
  • Spiders are almost all homosexual. Their species evolved to be that way as a form of population control. That’s why there are so many male spiders and so few females. And that’s also why the queen kills the male after mating with it because she views him as a genetic anomaly.
  • Harvard Neurologists have discovered that an average spider’s brain possesses a greater mental capacity than the world’s most brilliant scientists. If their brains didn’t lack a cognitive lobe, they’d be more intelligent than Einstein.
  • The Harjack Spider can produce enough silk to suffocate the average human infant in a matter of minutes.
  • The Orange Magma Spider can resist heat up to 5,300 degrees F. Ironically, they exist only at the southernmost tip of the South Pole’s largest glacier.
  • While spiders are usually known for their webs, they can also weave wind-sailing “parachutes” capable of taking them high above the world below. Furthermore, the so-called WindCurrent Spiders have actually evolved to live without a verticle base – they have lived for hundreds of millennia within the Earths ionosphere. The WindCurrent Spider is cannibalistic, it also retrieves many of its nutrients from sunlight, via a process not unsimilar to photosynthesis.
  • Spiders can sustain hundreds of atmospheres of pressure and can work flawlessly in a vacuum. Scientists have discovered spiders working at both the bottom of the sea and in the ultra-thin atmosphere thirty miles above the Earth.
  • The most valuable spider is the Kenyan Applecrosser. These elegant spiders actually grow beautiful, near-flawless emeralds on their abdomens.
    There’s actually an extremely rare spider in Eastern Africa, called the Snow Spider. Its body is completely white, but it spins a completely black web.
  • A spider’s carapace, if sufficiently scaled, could adequately shield a nuclear blast.
  • Spiders cannot physically die of natural causes. If kept safe, a spider can continue to live and grow larger for a theoretically unlimited amount of time. In fact, in China, there exists a collection of ‘holy’ spiders, hatched some 2,800 years ago during the height of the Mang-Tsun dynasty.
  • A spider egg contains as much DNA as four humans combined? And that’s just one of the unborn spiders, the entire egg sac outnumbers the population of India.
  • A single strand of spider web has more potential energy than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki? But because spiders do not naturally exist in areas of high fusion, there is little danger to the average person.
  • Spiders with hair on them are mammals and thus produce delicious (and unusually cold) milk. Spiders produce milk using the same glands that they produce silk threads with.
  • A strand of spider web may be stronger than an equal diameter of steel.
  • The Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is one of Africa’s most dangerous snakes and feared in East, Central and Southern Africa.
  • The Black Mamba can reach speeds of up to 12 mph (20 km/ph).
  • The Black Mamba IS the largest venomous snake in Africa with adults reaching an average of 8 feet in length (2.5m).
  • Black Mamba’s are not black at all, but brown/olive skinned.
  • Black Mambas can strike up to 12 times, each time delivering enough neuro and cardio-toxic venom to kill a dozen men within 1 hour. Without anti-venom, the mortality rate is 100%.
  • When cobras feel threatened, they produce a low pitched growling noise. cobras are the only known species of snake that can growl.
  • A starfish can turn its stomach inside out.
  • A person who is lost in the woods and starving can obtain nourishment by chewing on his shoes. Leather has enough nutritional value to sustain life for a short time.
  • A person will die from total lack of sleep sooner than from starvation. Death will occur about 10 days without sleep, while starvation takes a few weeks.
  • According to an Old English system of time units, a moment is considered to be one and a half minutes.
  • A notch in a tree will remain the same distance from the ground as the tree grows.
  • A vulture will never attack a human or animal that is moving.
  • The Ficus wasp (they’re less than 2mm long) has an ingenious way to pollinates figs. The female wasp crawls in through a tiny hole in the bottom of the fig and lays eggs before dying. After hatching the male fig wasp bites a hole through the flower wall and impregnates the hatching females. He then chops a tunnel for his pregnant pollen-dusted female to escape from the fig. (Contributed by Legacy Hotels & Resorts).
  • A single drop of water contains one hundred billion billion atoms.
  • A whale’s penis is called a dork.
  • A wind with a speed of 74 miles or more is designated a hurricane.
  • A zebra is white with black stripes.

Share your knowledge – if you have a Strange but True fact on anything related to Africa, simply email editor@tourismtattler.com and we’ll add it to the list.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: