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Spotting the “Big Five”

By Jennideep Hayre

Posted: 2nd October 2012 09:04

Everyone should have the chance to experience a safari at least once in their life.  When on the subject of African safaris the phrase “Big Five” comes to mind.  This refers to the African lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. 

The name “big five” was given by big game hunters as these large animals are extremely difficult to hunt, due to the danger involved and the fact they’re wildly ferocious.  Safari tour operators and guides have now adopted the term “Big Five” as a marketing and tourist tactic.

The African lion (Panthera leo) is a large cat that cohabit in prides and one of the more exciting animals to see during a safari.  They are usually found sleeping during the day rather than hunting.

Interesting fact: Lions rest for about 20 hours a day.

The African leopard (Panthera pardus) is nocturnal, secretive and can camouflage itself well from its environment thanks to their spots.  These animals use trees for protection and observation platforms so keep an eye on the trees as well as on the ground.   

Interesting fact: Leopards are excellent swimmers. 

The African black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) are the second largest mammal in the world after elephants and suffer from poaching hence why they have dramatically reduced in population in the past twenty years. 

Interesting fact: A charging rhino can reach speeds of 35mph.

The African elephant (Loxodonta Africana) is the largest mammal in the world and can be found in 37 sub-Saharan countries in Africa.  They can typically be found living in forests, deserts, woodlands and savannas.  Poaching has always been a major issue in Africa after the numbers of elephants still in existence slowly decrease mainly due to the demand of ivory. 

Interesting fact: An elephants’ skin is an inch thick.

The African Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) are large animals that can stand at 4 – 6 feet tall and weigh around 700kgs.They can commonly be found in protected wildlife areas through sub-Saharan Africa near to water.  Apparently the Cape buffalos have killed more big game hunters than any other animal in Africa.  Numbers have fallen because they are regularly hunted for their meat and have been victims of various cattle diseases.

Interesting fact: Buffalos mate and give birth during rainy season.

The African elephant and lion species are endangered whereas the black rhinoceros is critically endangered.  The leopard has been classed as vulnerable and near threatened.  On the plus side the Cape buffalo is of least concern and is in fact the most popular of the five to be hunted.   

All members of the “big five” can be found together in certain countries such as: South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The “big five” can be difficult to spot sometimes so always remember to take your binoculars. 

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