Whether you live in South Africa, or you’re here for travel, seeing the Big 5 should definitely be on your bucket list!
Elephants are the largest land animals in the world.
Only one mammal can’t jump — the elephant.
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!
Elephants have the longest pregnancy of all the animals. It takes a female 22 months from conception to give birth.
Elephants purr like cats do, as a means of communication.
The elephant trunk has more than 40,000 muscles in it.
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!
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.
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.
Elephants have greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the group.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The leopard is the most elusive and secretive of the large felids. They are extremely difficult to trace and locate in the wild.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A group of rhinoceros is called a ‘herd’ or a ‘crash’.
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.
Twins are very rare — the only recorded twin birth where both calves survived occurred at Hunt Africa.
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.
Buffalo are capable swimmers and often cross deep water in search of better grazing.
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.
Buffalo have smooth tongues — the old lore that their tongues can lick the skin off a man is nonsense.
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.
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.
Cape buffalo are known to kill lions, and can seek out and kill lion cubs — preventative punishment.