Wildlife & The Big 5

‘ The Big 5 ‘


African elephants are one of the Big 5, and are described by wildlife experts as an endangered species. The biggest threat to elephants is the ivory trade and diminishing habitats.

They are herbivorous mammals and have an almost hairless skins, and a long flexible, prehensile trunk. The upper incisors form long carved tusk of ivory. They have large fan- shaped ears and two ‘fingers’ at the tip of its trunk, compared to only one in the Asian spices. They eat all types of vegetation including grasses, leaves, fruit and bark.

African Elephant Herd


Bull Elephant

Despite the large ears an elephant’s hearing is poor, and they are used to aid ventilation. An elephant has small eyes and also has poor eyesight.

The male elephant is referred to as a bull, the female a cow, an a baby elephant is called a calf. The average size of a litter is just one calf usually, and the collection term for a number of elephant together is a herd.

Elephants are the largest of all land mammals, and can live up to 70 years. The walk around 4 miles per hour, and can swim long distances. They spend up to 16 hours a day eating and consume as much as 475 pounds of food a day. They live in sight social units lead by a matriarch. Elephants have the largest brain in the animal kingdom.

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There are two species of African Rhino: the Black Rhino and the White Rhino. They are both an endangered species with the Black rhino at the highest risk of extinction. These animals have been decimated by poaching for their horns.

Black rhinos have a narrow, hooked lip form that helps them in feeding on shrubs and leaves. They are mostly seen in dry, arid areas with lots of trees, where they can also hide. The weight of the male and the female black rhino ranges from 800 to 1,350 kg. They do not have a very strong eyesight, but they have good olfactory perception and sense of hearing. They have two horns, with the outer one being larger and measuring around 50 cm.

Black Rhino

Rhino and Calf

Rhinos Grazing

White rhinos are found in the woodland habitats of Africa and are brownish grey in colour. Its square shaped lips helps it in grazing effectively. They are heavily built with weight ranging from 1,800-2,700 kg. They have two horns, with the outer horn measuring over 89 cm on an average, larger than the inner one. The offspring are protected by the mothers, up to three years.

Egrets and other types of birds are found with rhinos, feeding on external parasites of their kins. The average lifespan of a rhino is 35 – 40 years. Their horns are made of keratin, like fingernails and hair. All rhinos have three toes on each foot – they are ‘three-toed ungulates’.

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The African, or Cape buffalo are large, heavy cow-like animals. They vary greatly not only in size, but in the shapes of their horns and colour. Adults are usually dark grey or black (or even look red or white if they have been wallowing in mud of that colour), and the young are often reddish-brown.

Both male and female buffaloes have heavy, ridged horns that grow straight out from the head or curve downward and then up. The horns are formidable weapons against predators and for jostling for space within the herd; males use the horns in fights for dominance. Sight and hearing are both rather poor, but scent is well developed in buffaloes.

Buffalo 1

Buffalo Herd

Buffalo 2

Grass forms the greatest part of the buffalo’s diet, although at certain times of the year browse plants other than grass is also consumed. Buffaloes spend more time feeding at night than during the day. They seem to have a relatively poor ability to regulate body temperature and remain in the shade for long periods of time in the heat of the day, or wallow in mud.

If attacked, the adults in the herd form a circle around the young and face outward. By lowering their heads and presenting a solid barrier of sharp horns This effective group defence even allows blind and crippled members of the herd to survive. The buffalo is one of the most abundant of Africa’s large herbivores. It depends on water and does not live in regions with less than 10 inches of rain a year.

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The leopard is one of the most adaptable predators in Africa. They are able to survive in many different types of habitats, taking preference to savannah, woodland, riverine vegetation and mountainous regions.

Unlike lions which are usually found in family groups, the leopard lives a more solitary life. Both males and females are territorial. The sizes of the different territories vary quite considerably. The males tend to have larger areas up to 100 km² and sometimes more, with several female territories overlapping within. Leopard mark their territories by spraying urine onto trees and bushes that they periodically return to, to remark.

Leopard 1

Leopard 2

Leopard 3

Their beautiful colouration consists of dark-brown to black spots, which form the shape of rosettes. The edges of their eyes are lined with a white colour which may aid their nocturnal vision by amplifying light that is reflected off its surroundings. Along with its superb camouflage, it is a very silent and stealthy predator with a very high success rate in kills made on hunts. Pound for pound the leopard is the strongest cat in the world, capable of climbing a tree whilst carrying prey that is more than twice its own body weight.

The female gives birth to 2 or 3 cubs which she hides in thick vegetation, rocky outcrops or even in caves. Every 3 or 4 days the female moves the cubs as the smell of their urine and faeces becomes very prominent, often attracting unwanted visitors such as lion and hyena that would almost certainly kill the cubs.

Of all the large predators in Africa it is the second fastest sprinter after the cheetah, reaching speeds of up to 85 km/hour in just 3 seconds!

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The Lion is the second largest living cat after the Tiger. Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming, and defecating. Intermittent bursts of activity follow through the night hours until dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating.

The are the most socially inclined of all the wild cats, living in groups called Prides. The pride usually consists of five or six related females, their cubs of both sexes, and one or two males
Prey species vary from small to medium sized mammals such as hares, monkeys, baboons, impala, gazelles, but larger prides may specialise in hunting large game such as wildebeest, giraffe, hippo, rhino and elephant.

Male Lion

Lion Male


The lionesses do most of the hunting, they are also more successful when stalking prey as they have a better camouflage and are far more patient at hunting than the males are.The males are very capable of hunting and will often join the hunt when it involves large prey such as buffalo, rhino and elephant where the extra weight and power is needed to pull down these animals.

Once a kill is made the males will often take over as they are stronger and larger and therefore take priority in feeding, leaving the females to feed off the scraps or nothing at all.

A mature lion is capable of consuming amounts of meat that are equivalent to 10% of its own body mass, tucking in as much as 25kg on one feeding! Once a lion has eaten as much as it can, it starts to breathe very rapidly, this is as a result of the stomach being so full and putting pressure on the ribcage which makes breathing more difficult. The heavy breathing cools down the lion and slows its metabolism down as well. On a full stomach a lion can go 4 days quite comfortably without having to hunt again.

On average, the females live for 17 years, the males 15 years. From standstill too sprinting, a lion can reach a speed of close on 80km/h in just 3 seconds and can run at this speed for 300 – 400 meters.

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