Africa is home to some of the world’s most popular wildlife, including the famous “big five”. Since wildlife safaris are among the top Africa holiday activities, you may find it helpful to know some fun facts about these big five animals.
The big five consist of buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhinoceros. They were given this name, not because of their massive sizes, but because of how difficult and dangerous it was to hunt them down. In the earlier days when there were less restrictions on hunting, big game hunters considered it a great achievement to capture or kill one of these animals.
The African cape buffalo is a big and very intimidating cow-like animal with a dark-skin almost black in color. These ill-tempered animals are reputed to have killed so many trophy hunters, more than other animals did, hence their inclusion in the big five. During your safari in Africa, you will see large herds of buffaloes (as many as 2000 members) in the top game reserves in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Occasionally however, you may spot a solitary buffalo bull, an extremely dangerous and ill-tempered animal, especially if it is wounded.
Older buffalo bulls have a darker skin than the females and the younger males. The older males also have a hard shielding protecting the base of their skulls.
You can find more facts about the cape buffalo at the Animal files website and this animals facts website.
No other animal on land rivals the African elephant in size. Yet, despite its huge size, the elephant is a peaceful animal when it is not threatened. Unfortunately however, in many places in Africa, human beings have encroached into lands that were previously the habitats for elephants and other wild animals. Inevitably, this has led to conflicts between man and elephants e.g. when man seeks to protect his farm, and the elephants are looking for pasture in their traditional grazing fields. This human-wildlife conflict has often resulted to cases of elephants killing people.
Some fun facts about the African elephant
- Like human beings, elephants show great respect for their dead. They bury them under tree branches and mourn for them. I have also heard of reports that when elephants come across the bones of a dead elephant, they stop briefly to pay respect (see this information in the Animal planet website for example).
- They have very good memory. Elephants remember and can retrace their grazing routes even if they revisit them after several years.
- Male and female elephants stay and graze in different herds, only getting together during the breeding season.
You can find more information about African elephants in the pbs.org nature website.
If you have read the book The Man-eaters of Tsavo or perhaps watched the movie by the same title, then you know that African lions are very ferocious hunters. Like many other animals however, lions do not normally attack men unless cornered or injured. That does not mean you should attempt to get any close to a lion in the jungle. In your safaris, it is only wise to stay in your vehicle at all times.
Some fun facts about the African lions:
- Unlike all the other African big cats, lions are social animals, living in prides consisting of up to three males, several more females and their cubs.
- Though they are the reputed “king of the jungle”, lions are actually quite lazy. Their renowned hunting prowess is mostly because they hunt in groups. A lion can not chase their prey for very long distances.
- The female lions (lionesses) do most of the hunting, while the males defend their pride’s territory.
- Only the males have manes, the long bushy hair around their necks and heads. However, some maneless male lions are found in Tsavo national park in Kenya, and in Senegal in West Africa.
You can find more interesting information about the African lion at the national geographic website and in the lion lovers web site.
In my opinion, the leopard is the most beautiful of the African wild animals. Sadly, it is also a very elusive cat, not easily spotted during the day. Among all the big cats of Africa, leopards are the most adaptable, and can be found living in greatly varied environments. If you are not very familiar with African animals, you can easily confuse between a leopard and a cheetah. But if you have a keen eye, you will notice that they are remarkably different from their body-build to the shape of their skin spots. This newsletter article by go2africa.com can help you distinguish between many of Africa’s similar looking animals.
Some fun facts about Leopards:
- They are nocturnal, hunting mostly at night and spending the day resting on tree branches.
- After a successful kill, leopards prefer to drag the bodies of their prey up the tree branches, away from other stronger predators like the spotted hyenas and lions.
- Despite their relatively small size, leopards are very strong and bring down much larger animals. Some unbelievable incidences concerning leopards have been recorded, like a leopard killing a crocodile in Kruger national park in South Africa.
Perhaps no other animal has caught the attention of animal conservationists than the African rhino. There are two rhino species found in Africa: the white rhino and the black rhino. The main distinguishing feature between the two species is the shape of their mouths. The white rhino has a broad square-lipped mouth while the black rhino’s mouth is more pointed, almost triangular. Both species are endangered species, having been almost wiped out by poachers. Due to their size, rhinoceros have no other natural predators apart from man.
Some interesting facts about African rhinos
- They have a very poor eyesight, but very good sense of smell and hearing.
- Due to the poor eyesight, rhinos tend to charge very easily at offending objects.
- The white rhino is primarily a grazer, feeding mostly on grass, while the black rhino is a browser, feeding on leaves, bushes, plant shoots, etc.
- Despite the color reference, the two species have no remarkable difference in skin color.
Africa Big Five Safaris Booking
Go African Safaris offers a great array of African safari packages, including big cat safaris to such destinations as Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. Click here to see some of these packages.