Historically, hunters came to Africa seeking the ultimate prize. They sought a collection of animals which could not be found, together, anywhere else on earth. They called this collection “the big five”. Fortunately, times have changed. Cameras have replaced rifles. Tourists now talk about conservation instead of taxidermy. But the animals remain as magnificent as ever. Here are the African Big Five.
Weighing 6 tons on average and standing eleven feet tall, a male African Elephant is the largest terrestrial animal on the planet. The African elephant is distinguishable from its Indian cousin by its large ears and greater size. This animal’s habitat is primarily grasslands and woodlands.
Huge animals with two menacing horns, rhinos naturally draw hunters wanting to claim a truly dangerous prize. Rhinos have extremely poor vision, sometimes resulting in violent attacks on unsuspecting rocks and trees. Black Rhinos are the rarest on the list, with world populations reduced to numbers as low as 5000 by poaching and loss of habitat.
Famous for being the king of the jungle, African Lions live in grasslands and plains. Nonetheless, this great cat invokes fear and respect for its athleticism, size, and menacing presence. Lions maintain a highly developed social structure in large groups or prides.
Moving with speed and grace, this stealthy hunting machine might be nature’s perfect predator. Leopards can climb trees, swim rivers and race across the plains. Once they locate their prey, they are dogged stalkers, sometimes following a meal for days before striking. Leopards are nocturnal and hide during the day. This makes them clearly less visible than other animals.
Despite its appearance, the Cape Buffalo is not closely related to the far more gentle domesticated cow. In fact, it is the volatile and unpredictable nature of this animal which most likely causes it to appear on this list. Wounded buffalo are especially dangerous as they are known to ambush and attack their pursuers.
The Big Five
With declining populations and changes in views on hunting, the five different species mentioned above are more protected than ever. Today, this group of Africa’s finest animals is prized by ecotourists and photojournalists definitely more than hunters. This change has been positive for Africa and its animals alike, resulting in, for example, new revenues for continued conservation and development efforts etc.