big5-banner.jpg
Get Adobe Flash player

Big Five

Lion

Scientific Name: Panthera leo
Family group: Felidae
Age: 20 years
Average shoulder height: 1.06 m (42”)
Average mass: 210 kg (460 lb)
Habitat: Widespread in savannah and semi-desert areas. Availability of especially medium-sized to large game is an important requirement. Also essential are shade for resting during the day and other shelter for stalking its prey.
Diet: Carnivore. Anything from mice to buffalo and even young elephants. Prefers blue wildebeest, impala and zebras. In the arid Kalahari desert their main prey is gemsbok. Independent of water.
Breeding: One to four (occasionally six) cubs are born at any time during the year after a gestation period of +/- 3 months.
Vocalization: Well-known roar, gradually getting shorter and softer.

The lion is the tallest (at the shoulder) of the felines, and is also the second-heaviest feline after the tiger. With powerful legs, a strong jaw, and 8 cm (3.1 in) long canine teeth, the lion can bring down and kill large prey. Lion coloration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish or dark ochraceous brown. The underparts are generally lighter and the tail tuft is black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes (spots) on their body, rather like those of a leopard. Although these fade as lions reach adulthood, faint spots can still often be seen on the legs and underparts, particularly on lionesses. The white lion is not a distinct subspecies, but a special morph with a genetic condition, leucism, that causes paler colouration akin to that of the white tiger; the condition is similar to melanism, which causes black panthers.
Lions are the only members of the cat family to display obvious sexual dimorphism—that is, males and females look distinctly different, as a consequence of the specialized roles that each play in the pride. For instance, the lioness, as the hunter, lacks the male’s thick mane, which would impede her ability to camouflage when stalking the prey. The colour of the male’s mane varies from blond to black, generally becoming darker as the lion grows older.
The head of the male lion is one of the most widely recognized animal symbols in human culture.
Should they survive the rigors of cubhood, lionesses in secure habitat such as Kruger National Park may frequently reach an age of 12–14 years whereas lions seldom live for longer than 8 years. However, there are records of lionesses living for up to 20 years in the wild. In captivity both male and female lions can live for over 20 years.
Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming and defecating. Intermittent bursts of activity follow through the night hours to dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating.

Elephant

Scientific Name: Loxodonta africana
Family group: Elephantidae
Age: 50 to 70 years
Average shoulder height: 4 m and 7 m long
Average mass: 5,000 kg
Habitat: Found in areas ranging from the arid Kaokoland to dense forest and savannah or forest recording a high rainfall. Clear drinking water, other permanent water, shade and enough food (grass and branches) are essential. Dependent on water.
Diet: Branches, grass, leaves, bark, reed and fruit. May drink water once in four days or even daily. Water for drinking must be clear, may even dig in the sand for water.
Breeding: 22 months, with a single young (rarely two).
Vocalization: Screams and trumpets. Keeps contact by deep rumbling.

The Elephants of the genus Loxodonta, known collectively as African elephants, are currently found in 37 countries in Africa.
African elephants have traditionally been classified as a single species comprising two distinct subspecies, namely the savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana africana) and the forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), but recent DNA analysis suggests that these may actually constitute distinct species.
The largest elephant ever recorded was shot in Angola in 1956. This male weighed about 12,000 kilograms (26,000 lb), with a shoulder height of 4.2 metres (14 ft), a metre (yard) taller than the average male African elephant.
Elephants are colloquially called pachyderms (from their original scientific classification), which means thick-skinned animals. An elephant’s skin is extremely tough around most parts of its body and measures about 2.5 centimetres (1.0 in) thick. However, the skin around the mouth and inside of the ear is paper-thin. The species of elephants are typically greyish in colour, but the Africans very often appear brown or reddish from wallowing in mud holes of coloured soil. Wallowing is an important behaviour in elephant society. Not only is it important for socialization, but the mud acts as a sunscreen, protecting their skin from harsh ultraviolet radiation. Although tough, an elephant’s skin is very sensitive. Without regular mud baths to protect it from burning, as well as from insect bites and moisture loss, an elephant’s skin would suffer serious damage. After bathing, the elephant will usually use its trunk to blow dirt on its body to help dry and bake on its new protective coat.

Elephants live in a structured social order. The social lives of male and female elephants are very different. The females spend their entire lives in tightly knit family groups made up of mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts. These groups are led by the eldest female, or matriarch. Adult males, on the other hand, live mostly solitary lives.

Cape Buffalo

Scientific Name: Syncerus caffer
Family group: Bovidae
Age: 23 years
Average shoulder height: 1.70 m (67”)
Average mass: 785 kg (1725 lb)
Habitat: Enough edible grass, shade and water are important requirements. Preferential grass occurs in mopani and thornveld as well as in other types of woodland and open veld. Avoids floodpalins or grassveld that is far from the shade trees.
Diet: Grass, drinks water regularly (twice a day, early morning and late afternoon if available).
Breeding: 11 months, with a single young.
Vocalization: Bellows like cattle or grunts when in a fight.

The African Buffalo or Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large African bovid. It is up to 1.7 meters high, 3.4 meters long. Savannah type buffaloes weigh 500-900 kg, with only males, normally larger than females, reaching the upper weight range. Forest type buffaloes are only half that size. The African Buffalo is not closely related to the slightly larger Wild Asian Water Buffalo, but its ancestry remains unclear. Owing to its unpredictable nature which makes it highly dangerous to humans, it has not been domesticated, unlike its Asian counterpart, the Domestic Asian Water Buffalo.
Herd size is highly variable. The basic herds consist of related females, and their offspring, in an almost linear dominance hierarchy. The basic herds are surrounded by sub-herds of bachelor males, high-ranking males and females, and old or invalid animals. The young males keep their distance from the dominant bull, who is recognizable by the thickness of his horns.
Adult bulls will spar in play, dominance interactions or actual fights. When sparring the bulls twist their horns from side to side. If the sparring is for play the bulls may rub each other’s faces and bodies during the sparring session. Actual fights are violent but rare and brief. Calves may also spar in play but adult females rarely spar at all.
When chased by predators a herd will stick close together and make it hard for the predators to pick off one member. Calves are gathered in the middle. Buffalo will try to rescue a member who has been caught. A calf’s distress call will get the attention of not only the mother but also the herd. Buffalo will engage in mobbing behavior when fighting off predators. They have been recorded treeing lions for two hours, after the lions have killed a member of their group. Lion cubs can get killed and trampled.
Known as one of the “big five” or “Black Death” in Africa, the African Buffalo is widely regarded as a very dangerous animal, as it gores and kills several people every year. Buffalo are notorious among big game hunters as very dangerous animals, with wounded animals reported to ambush and attack pursuers.
The current status of African cape buffalo is dependent on the existence of the animal’s value to both trophy hunters and tourists, paving the way for conservation efforts through anti-poaching patrols, village crop damage payouts, and CAMPFIRE payback programs to local areas.

White Rhinoceros

Scientific Name: Ceratotherium Simun
Family group: Rhinocerotidae
Age: 45 years
Average shoulder height: 1.70 m (67”)
Average mass: 2,150 kg  (4,730 lb)
Habitat: Grass plains with open marshes and enough water. Important requirements include areas with short grass, availability of water to drink as well as water to bath in, thickets for shelter and fairly flat terrain.
Diet: Grass, especially short grass. Drinks water when available.
Breeding: 16 months, with a single calf.
Vocalization: Pants to keep contact. Blows, snorts, yells and growls.

The White Rhinoceros is one of the five species of rhinoceros that still exist and is one of the few megafauna species left. Behind only the Elephant, it is probably the most massive remaining land animal in the world. It is well known for its wide mouth used for grazing and for being the most social of all rhino species. The White Rhino is the most common of all rhinos and consists of two subspecies, with the northern subspecies being rarer than the southern. The northern subspecies may have as few as 13 remaining world-wide – 9 captive and 4 wild – although the wild population has not been seen since 2006 and may have disappeared entirely.
A popular theory of the origins of the name White Rhinoceros is a mistranslation from Dutch into Afrikaans and English. The Afrikaans word “wit”, meaning “white” in English is said to have been derived by mistranslation of the Dutch word “wijde”, which means “wide” in English and is spelt “wyd” in Afrikaans. The word “wide” refers to the width of the Rhinoceros mouth. So early European settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the “wyd” for “white” and the rhino with the wide mouth ended up being called the White Rhino and the other one, with the narrow pointed mouth, was called the Black Rhinoceros.
It has a massive body and large head, a short neck and broad chest. The head and body length is 3.4 to 4.2 m (11 to 13.75 ft), with the tail adding another 50 to 70 cm (20 to 27.5 in). The shoulder height is 150-185 cm (59-73 inches). Weight typically ranges from 1,440 to 3,600 kg (3,168 to 7,920 lbs), with the male being slightly heavier. The record-sized White Rhinoceros was about 4500 kg (10,000 lb). On its snout it has two horns made of keratin, rather than bone as in deer antlers. The front horn is larger that the other horn. The White Rhinoceros also has a noticeable hump on the back of its neck which supports its large head. Each of the rhino’s four stumpy feet has three toes. The colour of this animal ranges from yellowish brown to slate grey. The only hair on them is on the ear fringes and tail bristles. White Rhinos have the distinctive flat broad mouth which is used for grazing.
Its ears can move independently to pick up more sounds but it depends most of all on smell. The olfactory passages which are responsible for smell are larger than their entire brain.

Black Rhinoceros

Scientific Name: Diceros bicornis
Family group: Rhinocerotidae
Age: 40 years
Average shoulder height: 1.60 m (63”)
Average mass: 1,136 kg  (2,500 lb)
Habitat: Woodland with thickets for shelter and water to drink and bathe in. Shrubs and trees of up to 4 metres are essential for browsing (will even push down trees to reach the leaves). Dependent on water, seldom moves further than 15 km from water.
Diet: Leaves, small branches, sticks and thorns. When available, drinks water daily, usually at night. Sometimes digs in the sand if water has dried up.
Breeding: 15 months, with a single calf.
Vocalization: Snorts, screams and growls. Cows call calves with a ‘mewing’sound.

The Black Rhinoceros is native to the eastern and central areas of Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Although the Rhino is referred to as black, it is actually more of a grey/brown/white colour in appearance. The name of the species was chosen to distinguish it from the White Rhinoceros. This is misleading, as those two species are not really distinguishable by colour.
The horns are used for defense, intimidation, and digging up roots and breaking branches during feeding. Skin colour depends more on local soil conditions and the rhinoceros’ wallowing behavior than anything else, so many black rhinos are typically not truly black in colour. The Black Rhino is much smaller than the White Rhino, and has a long, pointed, and prehensile upper lip, which it uses to grasp leaves and twigs when feeding. It can also be recognized from the White Rhinoceros by its smaller skull and ears. They also do not have a distinguishing shoulder hump like the White Rhinoceros. Their thick layered skin protects the rhino from thorns and sharp grasses. Their skin harbors many external parasites, such as crabs, which are eaten by oxpeckers and egrets that live with the rhino. They have terrible eyesight, relying more on hearing and smell. They have large ears that rotate much like satellite dishes to detect any sound and a large nose that has an excellent sense of smell to detect predators.
Solitary animals with the exception of coming together to mate, mothers and calves will sometimes congregate in small groups for short periods of time. Males are not as sociable as females, although they will sometimes allow the presence of other rhinos. They are not very territorial and often intersect other rhino territories.
The Black Rhino has a reputation for being extremely aggressive. They attack out of fear, confusion and panic. Due to their very poor eyesight they will charge if they sense a threat. They have even been observed to charge tree trunks and termite mounds. Males will fight sometimes by pushing head to head or horn jousting. They usually avoid other males when possible. Females are not aggressive towards each other.  They are very fast and can get up to speeds of 35 miles per hour (56kph) running on their toes.

Leopard

Scientific Name: Panthera pardus
Family group: FelidaeAge: 20 years
Average shoulder height: .71 m (28”)
Average mass: 50 to 80 kg
Habitat: Very adaptable, occurring even in desert areas. Prefers stony hills, riverine forests, broken country, mountains and thickets. Prey and sufficient shelter such as rocks or bushes are essential.
Diet: Carnivore. From mice, dassies and bushpig to small and medium-sized antelope and the calves of larger antelope. By exception big game such as kudu. Independent of water. Breeding: Two to three (occasionally six) cubs are born at any time during the year after a gestation period of +/- 3 months.Vocalization: Most common is a hoarse cough. Growls, grumbles and purrs
The leopard has relatively short legs and a long body, with a large skull. Physically, it most closely resembles the jaguar, although it is usually smaller and of slighter build. Its fur is marked with rosettes which lack internal spots, unlike those of the jaguar. A melanistic morph of the leopard occurs, particularly in mountainous areas and rain forests. The black color is heritable and caused by recessive gene loci. (While they are commonly called black panthers, the term is not exclusive to leopards; it also applies to melanistic jaguars.)The species’ success in the wild owes in part to its opportunistic hunting behaviour, its adaptability to a variety of habitats and its ability to move at up to approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) an hourThe leopard is an agile and stealthy predator. Although smaller than the other members of the Panthera genus, the leopard is still able to take large prey given a massive skull that well utilizes powerful jaw muscles. Its body is comparatively long for a cat and its legs are short.The leopard is known for its ability in climbing, and it has been observed resting on tree branches during the day and descending from trees headfirst. It is a powerful swimmer. The leopard is also very agile, and can run over sixty kilometres an hour, leap over six metres and jump up to three metres vertically. The leopard is primarily a nocturnal creature, and many of its operations are done by night. However, there have been recorded instances of leopards hunting during the light, especially when the sky is overcast. It spends much of its day resting and sleeping, up in the branches of trees, underneath rocks or in the grass. A male may follow a female who catches his attention. Eventually, a fight for reproductive rights may take place.The pregnant females find a cave, crevice among boulders, hollow tree, or thicket to give birth and make a den. Cubs open their eyes after a period of 10 days. The fur of the young tends to be longer and thicker than that of adults. Their pelage is also more gray in color with less defined spots. Around three months the infants begin to follow the mother out on hunts. At one year of age leopard young can probably fend for themselves but they remain with the mother for 18–24 months.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • email
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
Call us:

  Telephone
   +1 802 870 0050

You call us on this US number and we answer your call from South Africa, at no extra cost for you. Below is our South African time, so if we don’t answer, leave a message and we’ll call you back. Thanks!

MAGAZINE
Get Adobe Flash player