When we think about African safaris we almost immediately picture the big five. These magnificent beasts intrigue us with their beauty and mystery. The big five consists of the African Lion, the African Elephant, the African or Cape Buffalo, the African Leopard and the Rhinoceros. This group of animals were first dubbed as “The Big Five” by hunters because the difficulty and danger involved in hunting them on foot. A common misconception is that these animals were chosen because of their physical size – myth busted.
Below are ten other interesting facts about each member of the big five that will prepare you for the next time you go on an African safari vacation.
Introducing The Big Five
- Even though they resemble each other, it is believed that the African buffalo is not closely related to the water buffalo. It is interesting to note that unlike the water buffalo, the African buffalo has never been domesticated.
- African buffalo are considered to be the most dangerous member of the big five. At first glance these creatures may appear calm and peaceful but when they feel threatened they are a force to be reckoned with. It is reported that more people are killed in Africa by buffalo than any other animal.
- The African elephant has become such an integral part of the African landscape. Many plant species have evolved seeds that are dependent on passing through an elephant’s digestive tract before they can germinate. At least one third of tree species on West African plains rely on elephants in this way for dissemination.
- African elephants communicate across large distances using infrasound. The sound emitted is at a low frequency that cannot be heard by humans.
- The rhino is the second biggest land mammal in the world, right after the elephant. Rhinos weigh about 2700kgs on average. The rhino also holds the title for the second longest pregnancy in the world. A rhino’s pregnancy lasts 15 – 16 months.
- Rhinos have poor eyesight and will sometimes attack trees and rocks by accident. They however have excellent hearing and sense of smell, thus making up for
the poor eyesight. – Tweet This Fact
The Big Cats of Africa
- Leopards are nocturnal and notoriously solitary animals. They stay hidden throughout most of the day and are the least-seen of the big five.
- Leopards are excellent tree climbers. They’ll often prevent lions and hyenas from stealing their kill by hauling it into a tree. Leopards are very strong swimmers and will occasionally eat fish and crabs.
- In 2014 a study revealed that lions are critically endangered in Africa. The African lion faces the threat of extinction by the year 2050. The total population of African lions in Africa borders on about 34 000 animals. Lions on the wild savannahs now compete with other wildlife, an increase in human populations and their livestock herds for land.
- African lions are the most social of the big cats and live together in groups called prides. Contrary to popular belief, there is no single dominant male lion in a pride. Males are responsible for protecting the pride’s territory while the females are the primary hunters of the group.
There is still much to learn about the wildlife in Africa. The more we learn about the animals roaming the African plains the more we realise how important it is to look after our environment and to protect the natural wonders that surround us. The 3rd of March 2015 is World Wildlife Day. The theme this year is Serious About Wildlife Crime. We hope to bring more awareness and knowledge about these creatures.
We have compiled the definitive checklist to prepare you for your next safari holiday. Click here if you have not yet downloaded your free copy of the eAfrica Safari Tours checklist.