Finding The Big Five


Posted on January 21st, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Resources.

The term “big five” was coined by game hunters to refer to their most prized kills.  These five animals are considered the most ferocious when cornered, and so the most difficult to “bag”.

The mystique of the “big five” continues today, although tourists are more likely to shoot with their camera than a rifle.   Many of our clients head out on safari with these animals at the top of their “must see” list.   So here are some quick facts to consider.

 

African Lion

Lions in Kalahari

Quick Facts

  • Social animals, lions live in prides of several females, their young and a couple of males.
  • Female lions tend to hunt more than the males.
  • Lions ambush their prey rather than tracking and chasing.
  • Female lions synchronize the birth of their cubs and cooperate in raising them.
  • Females tend to stay with the pride for life.  Males will leave between 2 and 4 years of age.
  • The size and colour of a male lion’s mane shows other males how old he is.  The darker and larger the mane, the older the lion.

Did You Know?

  • You are most likely to catch a lion napping – they rest approximately 20 hours a day.
  • Lions can climb trees.  In certain areas lions will rest in trees to avoid buffalo and tsetse flies.

Best Places for an Encounter

Botswana: Okavango Delta & Linyanti River region.

South Africa:  Greater Kruger Area

Zambia: South Luangwa National Park & Kafue National Park.

Kenya: Masai Mara, Tsavo and Amboseli National Parks

Tanzania: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area & Katavi National Park.

 

African Elephants

Elephant Linyanti

Quick Facts

  • The African Elephant is the largest mammal in the word and can be 3 meters tall and weigh up to 6,000 kilos.
  • Elephants are vegetarian and consume 170 kilos of vegetation daily and drink 120 – 190 liters of waters.
  • Elephants live in woodlands, forest, deserts and savanna.  They are spread across 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Peaceful if left alone, elephants can be dangerous when they feel threatened.
  • Elephants are extremely social animals, living in family groups of up to 100 members, headed by a matriarch.
  • Elephants communicate using a variety of low frequency grumbles, which can be picked up as much as 10 kilometers away.

Did You Know?

  • You are most likely to catch an elephant snacking – they spend 16-18 hours a day eating.
  • Elephants prefer one tusk over another, just as humans are right or left-handed.

Best Places for an Encounter

Botswana: Linyanti River region, Mashatu and Okavango Delta

South Africa: Greater Kruger Area

Namibia: Etosha National Park

Zimbabwe: Hwange National Park & Mana Pools National Park

Kenya: Masai Mara, Tsavo, Meru and Amboseli National Parks

Tanzania: Serengeti National Park, Tarangire National Park, The Selous

Zambia: South Luangwa National Park & Lower Zambezi National Park

 

African Leopard

Leopard

Quick Facts

  • Leopards are shy, nocturnal animals that prefer not to be seen.  Their spots act as camouflage.
  • Leopards mark their territory with urine and faeces and by leaving claw marks on the bark of trees.
  • Leopards can climb, swim and live in a wider range of habitats than most other cats.  They prefer thick bush and riverine forests.
  • Smaller than a lion, the leopard is still a big cat!  And adult male can weigh up to 90 kilos.
  • Extremely fast and agile, a leopard can run at speeds over 55 kilometers per hour and jump as high as 3 meters straight up.
  • A leopard will stalk and pounce its prey rather than chase over long distances.

Did You Know?

  • You are most likely to spot a leopard in a tree – they use trees as observation platforms and to protect their kill from scavengers.  Don’t forget to look up!
  • The leopard’s spots are circular in East Africa and square in southern Africa.

Best Places for an Encounter

Botswana: Okavango Delta & Linyanti River region

South Africa: Greater Kruger Area

Zimbabwe: Hwange & Mana Pools National Parks

Kenya: Masai Mara and Samburu

Tanzania: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Zambia: South Luangwa, Kafue & Lower Zambezi National Parks

 

African Rhino

Rhino

Quick Facts

  • There are two species of rhinoceros in Africa: the black rhino and the white rhino.
  • All rhinos are in fact grey.
  • What differentiates white and black rhino is the lips.  Black rhino have a prehensile lip to strip leaves from bushes and white rhino have a long, flat lip for grazing.
  • There are only 4,000 black rhino left in the wild.  They are usually solitary and live in savanna, shrub and tropical bush areas.
  • White rhinos are more numerous, with over 17,000 remaining.  They are more social and are heavily concentrated in southern Africa.
  • A charging rhino can reach speeds of up to 55 kilometers per hour.
  • An adult rhino can weigh up over 2,500 kilos.
  • Rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine.  Increasing poaching to cash in on this demand has brought rhinos close to extinction.

Did You Know?

  • You are most likely to see a rhino in South Africa – over 80% of the African rhino population is concentrated in South Africa.
  • White rhinos derive their name from the Dutch word “weit”, meaning wide.  This reference is to the white rhino’s wide, square jaw.

Best Places for an Encounter

South Africa: Great Kruger Area

Namibia: Etosha National Park

Kenya: Lake Nakuru, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater

 

The Cape Buffalo

Buffalo herd from hot air balloon, Kafue, Zambia

Quick Facts

  • The buffalo is considered one of Africa’s most dangerous animals and is said to have killed more game hunters than any other animal.
  • Hunters have an adage that says the buffalo never forgets.  They are known to ambush hunters that have injured them in the past.
  • Left alone and unthreatened, buffalo tend to be quite placid.
  • Buffalo are exclusively grazers.
  • On open grasslands they appear in large herds of up to 1,000.
  • The number of buffalo is shrinking due to hunting and domestic cattle diseases.  There are thought to be 1 million left in Africa.
  • When chased by predators the herd sticks close together, marshaling the young into the centre for protection.

Did You Know?

  • You are most likely to see a buffalo with a bird on its back – the Oxpecker bird keeps the buffalo clean by eating all the parasites that live in its thick hide.
  • Buffalo will engage in mobbing behaviour to fight off predators, especially if a calf cries for help.  They have been known to kill a lion.

Best Place for an Encounter

Botswana: Okavango Delta & Linyanti River region.

South Africa: Greater Kruger Area

Zimbabwe: Hwange & Mana Pools National Park

Kenya: Masai Mara & Amboseli National Park

Tanzania: Serengeti National Park & Katavi National park

Zambia: South Luangwa & Lower Zambezi National Park