The term “Big Five” was originally used to refer to the difficulty of hunting the lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and buffalo, because these species were known to be so dangerous. However, today the term has a much gentler meaning and portrays the power and beauty of some of Africa’s most iconic animals. To give you a deeper understanding of why the Big Five are amongst the most sought after and impressive animals in Africa, we’ve compiled a list of five facts for each of the Big Five to impress your friends with when you go on your next (or your first) safari.
- The African buffalo
Do not be fooled by the African buffalo – they may look like slow and placid grazers, but they are considered among the most dangerous animals in the savannah.
- The African buffalo’s primary predator is the lion.
- Buffalos have killed more hunters in Africa than any other wild animal.
- They have very good memory skills and are known to ambush hunters that have harmed them in the past.
- A buffalo’s gender can be indicated by their horns. Adult males have a shield on their horns at the base of the skull – whereas females and younger males don’t.
- It is estimated that the impact of their horns’ collision is equal to a car hitting a wall at 50km/h.
- The Lion
Lions are amongst the most feared, but also the most charismatic, beautiful and powerful animals in Africa and are appropriately referred to as the “King of the Jungle”.
- Typically, the darker a lion’s mane, the older he is.
- A lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away and it is one of the most impressive sounds of the African savannah.
- Female lions are commonly known to be the better hunters, but males always feed first.
- The Kruger National Park is known to have at least one big pride of up to 25 lions.
- Lions have no natural enemies other than hunters.
- The African elephant
These gentle giants fear no other animal, other than humans – something that is difficult to believe, as we stand no chance against the largest land animal.
- African elephants communicate across large distances at a low frequency that cannot be heard by humans.
- They have large, thin ears made up of blood vessels that regulate their temperature.
- If you see an elephant flapping its ears, it’s probably for better blood circulation and to cool itself down.
- Elephants throw sand on their bodies to keep insects off and to prevent sunburn.
- Some baby elephants suck their trunks for comfort, similar to young humans sucking their thumbs.
- The Rhino
The two types of rhinos that are found in Africa are the Black Rhino and the White Rhino – even though both are actually grey in colour. Rhinos can be a very intimidating sight, but unfortunately, due to poaching, there are not many left to see these days. Many conservation organisations, such as Save the Rhino, are working very hard to save these animals and keep them safe for future generations.
- The rhino is the most endangered animal of the Big Five and very few rhinos now survive outside national parks and reserves.
- Rhinos have such bad vision that they will sometimes attack trees and rocks by accident.
- They make up for their poor eyesight with their excellent sense of smell and hearing.
- Rhinos are herbivores and their diet mainly consist of grass and leaves.
- Sometimes you’ll see a rhino eating mud or soil, which acts as a dietary mineral supplement.
- The Leopard
The beautiful, dramatic and charismatic animal that everybody wants to see – the leopard is a solitary animal and will do anything to defend its own hunting territory from other predators.
- Leopards are excellent at climbing trees and will often safeguard their kill in a tree to prevent other scavengers and predators from stealing it.
- They eat anything from big antelope to small animals like rodents, monkeys and reptiles, and even birds, insects and fish.
- They are great swimmers.
- The leopard is nocturnal and usually hides during the day.
- They are the most difficult to see of the Big Five.
Reading through these facts reminds us of the incredible diversity of wildlife that South Africa has to offer, and nothing is better than seeing game first hand through a guided safari. Come face to face with the Big Five by booking one of our safari tours and look forward to one of the most exciting, memorable and exhilarating experiences you will ever have.