The Big 5 Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before

Whether you live in South Africa, or you’re here for travel, seeing the Big 5 should definitely be on your bucket list!

 

Elephant

 

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by Wim van den Heever

Photo by Wim van den Heever – tuskphoto.com

Elephants are the largest land animals in the world.

 

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by Wim van den Heever

Photo by Wim van den Heever – tuskphoto.com

 

Only one mammal can’t jump — the elephant.

 

Photo by Kobus Saayman

Photo by Kobus Saayman

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

 

At the age of 16, an elephant can reproduce, but rarely has more than four children throughout her lifetime. At birth, an elephant calf weighs about 90kg!

 

Darryl Dell 4

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Wim van den Heever

Photo by Wim van den Heever – tuskphoto.com

 

Elephants have the longest pregnancy of all the animals. It takes a female 22 months from conception to give birth.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

 

Elephants purr like cats do, as a means of communication.

 

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

 

The elephant trunk has more than 40,000 muscles in it.

 

Photo by Nick Brandt

Photo by Nick Brandt

 

Elephant feet are covered in a soft padding that help uphold their weight, prevent them from slipping, and dull any sound. Therefore elephants can walk almost silently!

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

 

Elephants use their feet to listen, they can pick up sub-sonic rumblings made by other elephants, through vibrations in the ground. Elephants are observed listening by putting trunks on the ground and carefully positioning their feet.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Elephants are highly sensitive and caring animals. If a baby elephant complains, the entire family will rumble and go over to touch and caress it. Elephants express grief, compassion, self-awareness, altruism and play. They cry, play, have incredible memories, and laugh.

 

Photo by Nick Brandt

Photo by Nick Brandt

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

 

Elephants have greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the group.

 

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

 

Elephants pay homage to the bones of their dead, gently touching the skulls and tusks with their trunks and feet. when an elephant walks past a place that a loved one has died, he/she will stop dead still; a silent and empty pause that can last several minutes.

 

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

 

Lion

 

Photo by Wim van den Heever

Photo by Wim van den Heever – tuskphoto.com

Photo by David Yarrow

Photo by David Yarrow

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by Alistair Swartz

 

Lions are the only big cats to live in groups, called prides. Prides are close family groups. They work together to defend territory and hunt.

 

Photo by Wim van den Heever

Photo by Wim van den Heever – tuskphoto.com

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by Alistair Swartz

 

The females in the pride tend to do the majority of the hunting. They work as a group and use intelligent hunting tactics to catch prey which they would not be able to catch alone as they are faster than them.

 

Photo by Tom Way

Photo by Tom Way

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Lions enjoy relaxing and lazing around. They spend between 16 and 20 hours each day resting and sleeping. They have few sweat glands so they wisely tend to conserve their energy by resting during the day and become more active at night when it is cooler.

 

Photo by Nick Brandt

Photo by Nick Brandt

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by Alistair Swartz

 

Lionesses are caring mothers who will even take care of a neglected cub, allowing him/her to suckle and giving them a chance to survive. Two or more lionesses in a group tend to give birth around the same time, and the cubs are raised together. Cubs are extremely playful.

 

Photo by Nick Brandt

Photo by Nick Brandt

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Lions roar to communicate their position to other prides. A lion’s roar is the loudest of any big cat and can be heard up to 8 km away.

 

Photo by Wim van den Heever

Photo by Wim van den Heever – tuskphoto.com

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Lions have terrific night vision. They are 6 times more sensitive to light than humans. This gives them a distinct advantage over some prey species when hunting at night.

 

Photo by Wim van den Heever

Photo by Wim van den Heever – tuskphoto.com

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

 

The mane of the male lion is a distinctive characteristic of lions as no other big cats have them. It makes male lions appear larger, thus allowing them to be more intimidating. It also signals sexual maturity and health status; lionesses tend to favour denser and darker manes.

 

Photo by Kobus Saayman

Photo by Kobus Saayman

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Leopard

 

Photo by Wim van den Heever

Photo by Wim van den Heever – tuskphoto.com

Photo by Nick Brandt

Photo by Nick Brandt

 

Leopards are astoundingly strong. They are pound for pound the strongest of the big cats. They are able to climb trees, even when carrying heavy prey, and often choose to rest on tree branches during the day. One reason why leopards sometimes take their prey up in the trees is to ensure lions or hyenas can’t steal them.

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Leopards are renowned for their agility. They run up to 58km/h and can leap 6m horizontally and 3m vertically. They are also very strong swimmers.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

The leopard is the most elusive and secretive of the large felids. They are extremely difficult to trace and locate in the wild.

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by Alistair Swartz

 

Leopards are predominantly solitary animals that have large territories. While male territories are larger than females and tend to overlap, individuals usually only tolerate intrusion into ranges for mating. They mark their ranges with urine and leave claw marks on trees to warn others to stay away.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Like cats kept as companions, leopards will growl when angry and purr when content. They have various vocalisations such as a rasping cough which they perform to announce their presence to other leopards.

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

 

Leopards tend to have two or three cubs per gestation. Mothers refrain from wandering their territories after giving birth until their young are capable to come with them. Cubs suckle for around 3 months and are kept hidden for about the first 8 weeks to protect them from predators.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Leopards tend to have distinctive dark spots called rosettes, which create beautiful patterns against their otherwise light fur. Black leopards however have dark fur which makes it difficult to see the spots. They appear almost solid black and are often called black panthers.

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

During the National Geographic programme ‘Eye of the Leopard’, a wild leopard killed a baboon in order to feed herself. However upon noticing an infant baboon clinging to the dead baboon, the leopard amazingly carried the infant up to the safety of the tree to guard her from hyenas. She groomed and cuddled the baby throughout the night, caring for him/her as she would her own cub.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Rhino

 

Photo by Tom Way

Photo by Tom Way

Rhinos are lovable lummoxes, herbivores who roam grasslands and forests nibbling on foliage, fruit and grasses. When left alone, they can live for over 40 years in the wild. Able to reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, they are still not fast enough to outrun, or small enough to hide from, human hunters. As such, today there are just five remaining species of rhinoceroses: three Asian and two African.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

A Rhino’s horn’s structure resembles a horse’s hooves. The outside is composed of soft keratin, not unlike hair and fingernails, while at its centre there are dense deposits of melanin and calcium. If the horn breaks off, the rhino can grow a new one.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

An adult rhino’s skin can be as much as 5 cm thick. Rhino skin maybe thick but it can be quite sensitive to sunburns and insect bites which is why they like wallow so much – when the mud dries it acts as protection from the sunburns and insects.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

White rhinoceros are the second largest land mammal. The white rhino is the largest rhino species and can weigh over 3500 kg and is the largest land mammal after the elephant. Elephants can grow to be 7,000 kg.

 

Photo by David Yarrow

Photo by David Yarrow

 

A group of rhinoceros is called a ‘herd’ or a ‘crash’.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Rhino pregnancies last forever! Or at least it might fee like it, they are pregnant for 15-16 months! Mother rhinos are very nurturing. The young stay with them until they are approximately 3 years old.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

Buffalo

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

 

Twins are very rare — the only recorded twin birth where both calves survived occurred at Hunt Africa.

 

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by Alistair Swartz

Photo by Alistair Swartz

 

Buffalo are reported to kill more hunters in Africa than any other animal. They are known to ambush hunters that have wounded or injured them.

 

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

 

Buffalo are capable swimmers and often cross deep water in search of better grazing.

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

 

The hide on a bull buffalo’s neck is as thick as 2 inches in places, which protects it during battles with other bulls for dominance.

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

 

Buffalo have smooth tongues — the old lore that their tongues can lick the skin off a man is nonsense.

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

 

The adage an elephant never forgets would be matched by a buffalo never forgives. They have been known to attack people that have harmed them even years after the event.

 

Photo by Daryl Dell

Photo by Daryl Dell

 

A buffalo has four times the strength of an ox, according to research by Dr. John Conde — he tested their pulling strength. This explains why they are able to tip a motorcar.

 

Photo by John Vosloo

Photo by John Vosloo

 

Cape buffalo are known to kill lions, and can seek out and kill lion cubs — preventative punishment.

 

Photo by David Lloyd

Photo by David Lloyd

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