The Big 5 of Africa…And Why You Have To See Them

Anyone who has the privilege of embarking on an African safari will know about Africa’s ‘Big 5.’ These are the five species of animals that are regarded as the ‘Royalty’ of Africa’s wildlife. The five animals that game spotters most want to see when on safari. It is believed that if you have not seen all five of this prestigious group, you have not seen all you need to …and so tourists and locals alike aspire to do so. South Africa and its splendid national parks, like the famous ‘Kruger National Park,’ offer one of the best chances to ‘spot’ them all.

It is not as easy as it may seem to be either. In spite of trained and experienced game rangers who accompany most game viewing drives, one can be unlucky and never see all of the Big 5 roaming free in their natural habitat…and be resigned to possibly seeing them in a zoo, which is certainly defeating the object. It is an accomplishment and a privilege and just like you say “Hey I’ve seen the Rolling Stones or Madonna,” you brag when you have finally seen these ‘legends’ of Africa.

So much for why you have to see them ….now, which animals are the ‘Big 5?’…

The Lion

Commonly known as ‘The king of the jungle’ and not without reason, for this is a feared predator – the largest of the big cats in Africa and the most powerful. The flowing manes of the males are their ‘crown’ adorning their proud heads with their piercing eyes. Sadly, as with many of the ‘Big 5,’ they are also hunted and currently classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN’s Red List, with their population plummeting about 40% since the 1990’s.

The Leopard

Mostly nocturnal, mysterious and very elusive, this is the most difficult of the ‘Big 5’ to spot and the one that deprives many tourists of claiming to have seen them all. Sleek, beautiful and superbly camouflaged, one may be lucky enough to spot one (they mostly travel alone and defy normal park boundaries) in the day if you see a tail dangling from a shady tree. Also classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, their numbers are dwindling due to habitat loss and competition with humans.

The Elephant

Our planet’s largest terrestrial mammal, elephant are the iconic species of the African savannas. Fascinating and family orientated they follow rituals like returning to burial grounds to die. They are capable of human-like emotions such as feeling loss, grieving and even crying. They remember and mourn their loved ones, even many years after their death. Sadly, they are an unfortunate target of the poaching underworld and due to this and habitat destruction, the world´s population of elephants has been drastically decreasing and they too are listed as ‘Vulnerable.’

The Rhino

These ‘dinosaur-like’ creatures are gentle giants whose trusting manner has unfortunately aided those who poach them for their horns to have placed them on the ‘Critically Endangered’ list. There are two species of Rhinoceros in Africa – the Black Rhino and the White (or square lipped) Rhino, with the Black Rhino facing extinction sooner than their counterparts. There are only approximately 4,800 black rhinos and 20,000 white rhinos surviving in the wild. It is deeply distressing to think that this is one of the ‘Big 5’ that may never be sighted again in the future.

The Buffalo

A large and powerful bovine, the African Buffalo reaches a shoulder height of up to 1.5 m and a mass of 750 kg. This is the only one of the ‘Big 5’ who can fall prey to lions, but when the whole herd stands together against a predator, they are infallible and only their young are vulnerable. The Cape buffalo is also considered to be one of the most dangerous animals to be encountered on a hunt as it will often unexpectedly do a full circle and come up behind the hunter! As these animals have such a bad temper, they should be taken seriously if ever encountered on foot!

We hope that this has given some insight into The Big 5 of Africa …and why you have to see them. Watch this space for additional articles on where they can best be seen and contact us at ‘Jewel of Africa’ to learn more and to arrange your tailor-made luxury African safari today.


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