The smallest resident in African Rift Valley is really quite big for being a bug. Okay, so African black millipedes (aka African giant millipedes) are not actually true bugs, but they do fall into the category of “creepy crawlies.” Unfortunately most bugs and other creatures with more than four legs fall into this category. Having four legs per body segment, millipedes are in their own unique group of animals and the African black millipede is the largest of all, growing up to 11 inches long!
As scavengers, millipedes have an important job of eating decaying plant matter and returning the nutrients back to the soil. They can’t really hurt humans unless they get scared, secreting a liquid irritating to our skin and eyes. This liquid helps defend them from being eaten by birds or meerkats. African black millipedes seem to know they are not very tasty and will often walk around the African Savannah in plain view during the early morning hours. If you go on a walking safari in
South Africa, be sure to watch
where you step so you don’t accidentally crush a giant millipede!
Can you think of any other scavengers who live in African Rift Valley at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo? Join us next time as we take you up close and personal with some birds that LOVE carrion!