Article

The Big 5: Meet Africa's Icons

Ben Nelson Grayscale photo
Ben Nelson
26 Jan
Min

The term originated from big game trophy hunters during Africa's colonial period in the 1800s, who considered these animals most challenging and dangerous animals to hunt on foot. Now they are instead an awe-inspiring goal to see on safari, and by doing so, we support the authorities who protect their conservation so future generations can do so too.

Leopard

The smallest and most elusive of The Big 5. These magnificent creatures are primarily nocturnal animals; they are not social and prefer to live a solitary life. They can also often be found in trees, where they usually take their prey to protect it from other predators.

Interesting facts about Leopards
  • Leopards can run up to 57 km/h
  • Leopards have the largest territory of all the big cats
  • Pound for pound, Leopards are the strongest of the big cats
  • Leopards can leap 6 meters horizontally and 3 meters vertically
  • Leopards are strong swimmers
  • Leopards will purr when content and growl when angry, almost like that a domestic cat
  • They have distinctive dark spots called rosettes

Leopards play a large role in the ecosystem and are unfortunately endangered. They have faredbetter than other big cats, mainly due to their adaptability, but a loss of habitat and prey has greatly diminished their numbers.

Lion

Lions are the second-largest cat in the world, second to Tigers. They are social cats and live in groups called Prides. Prides can have up to 3 males, and the rest will be females and their young. A prides territory can reach as far as 265 square kilometres, and it is the male's duty to protect this territory whilst the female Lions' primary job is to hunt and care for their young.

Interesting facts about Lions
  • A Lion's roar can be heard as far away as 8 km
  • They are the only big cats with manes
  • The darker the mane, the older the Lion
  • Female Lions live together for life

The role that lions play in the environment is crucial. They play a vital role in the food chain in assisting the control of the herbivore population. Lions do prey on the weakest herd animals, thus keeping the population resilient and healthy as well as also allowing more food for the remaining healthy herbivores.

Elephant

Elephants are the largest of all land mammals and can spend up to 16 hours a day eating. They consume between 300 two 500 pounds of food per day. The tusk of an elephant grows on average of 7 inches per year. They are used to dig for water, roots, salt, debark trees, clear paths and occasionally fight. 

Interesting facts about Elephants
  • Elephants can live up to around 70 years in the wild
  • Elephants prefer one tusk over the other, like humans being left or right-handed
  • The Elephants trunk has 40 000 muscles in it
  • The trunk can sense the size, shape and the temperature of an object
  • Elephants are the only mammal that can not jump
  • Elephant babies, when born weigh approximately 250 pounds
  • The average weight of an Elephant heart is between 26 to 46 pounds
  • The elephants' ears are used to cool the body down when warm

There is a very structured order in elephants. The females spend their lives in tight family groups of grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters and daughters. The eldest female will normally lead the group.

Buffalo

Interesting facts about Buffalo
  • African Buffalo have an incredible sense of smell
  • Buffalo have poor eyesight and hearing abilities
  • Buffalo will travel through water, as lions don't like to get wet
  • When travelling, the younger or weaker will stay in the centre of the herd as a protective measure
  • Buffalo are seriously aggressive if injured and they are very dangerous to be around
  • The Buffalo's neck can be as thick as 2 inches
  • Buffalo have exceptional memories
  • One will usually see birds sitting on Buffalo; these are Ox-peckers who remove ticks and insects from the Buffalo
  • Lone Buffalo are usually known as Dagga Boys; they are older and have passed their prime and have been separated from the herd

Rhino

Interesting facts about Rhinos
  • A crash of rhinos; a group of rhinos is known as a herd or a crash
  • White and black rhinos are the same colour; both species have a grey skin colour
  • Rhinos love plants; they are herbivores and have to eat a lot each day to be full
  • Rhinos have small brains, small but mighty!
  • The name rhinoceros means 'nose horn'; it comes from Ancient Greek words: Rhino (nose) and ceros (horn)
  • Rhinos are speed machines, running at 45–60 kilometres per hour
  • Rhinos communicate by excrement; this is how they share information with other rhinos nearby
  • Some rhinos can swim; greater one-horned rhinos can swim and dive underwater

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