term 'Big Five' was historically used to denote the five most
dangerous animals to hunt in South Africa.
Fortunately the term is now used to describe South
Africa's the most popular and exciting animals to view
whilst on a safari in both the Kruger Park and Sabi Sands.
Height: 3m Mass: Up to 6000 kg, at birth the calf is 90 cm
tall and weighs approx. 120 kg. Suckled until about 2 years
old. Gestation: 22 months, single calf. Twins have been recorded
but this is extremely rare. They breed throughout the year,
one calf every 5 years or so. An elephant can eat up to 250
kg's of food a day and considering it's bulk, can reach a
speed of up to 40 km/hr. Due to it's size however, it is incapable
of jumping even a small ditch. It can swim and sometimes uses
it's large trunk as a snorkel. The average lifespan is 60
yrs, this is due to the fact that during it's life cycle it
goes through 6 sets of teeth (each lasting 10 years). Once
the last set has gone the elephant cannot eat and therefore
dies. The cow's forehead is angular whereas the bull's is
more rounded. One should always approach elephants with great
caution even though they have poor eyesight and hearing.
Height: 1,6m Mass: 900-1000 kg Gestation:
15-16 months, single calf Speed: Maximum of 45 km/hr. A
crusty, unpredictable and anti-social creature. Even the
male and female adult have only a fleetingly passionate
relationship before going their separate ways. It's smaller
than it's white relative. Distinguished from the white rhino
by a prehensile upper lip, which is pointed or hooked. The
head is held high when the animal walks. It is a browser
unlike it's white relative. Lifespan approx 30 yrs. Calf
always walks/runs behind or alongside it's mother. It has
a different colour dung to that of it's relative. It's eyesight
is poor but it possesses exceptional hearing and a good
sense of smell. It is normally shy and solitary.
Height: 1,8 m Mass: Up to 2000 kg Gestation:
18 months, single calf at intervals of 3 years. Also known
as the square-lipped rhino, is the second largest animal
living on land after the elephant. It is basically a placid
creature and less irritable than it's cousin, the black
rhino. There is no colour difference between the two and
is distinguished from its cousin by a wide (where the name
white originates from) square lip and pronounced neck hump.
The calf always walks/runs in front or alongside it's mother.
Height: 70cm Mass: 60-80 kg Gestation: 105 days. Although
smaller than the lion, the leopard is fiercer, braver and
very intelligent. It has exceptional hearing, good eyesight
and sensitive, extra-long whiskers which help it avoid obstacles
in the dark. A leopard is capable of leaping onto rocks up
to 3m high, carrying prey 3 times it's own weight. The coat
is covered in black rosettes and spots that are unique for
each individual. The upper parts are light and tawny whilst
the under parts are whitish. A leopard can run at speeds of
60 km/hr. They are also good swimmers and climbers and often
spend time in trees. The call is a coughing, rasping sound.
Leopards are solitary, secretive and mainly nocturnal animals.
Height: 91-120 cm Mass: males 181-227 kg females 113-152
kg Gestation: About 120 days, they breed throughout the
year. The "King of the beasts", is the largest
carnivore on the continent and it's roar can be heard through
the African night for up to 8km. Lions are very lazy and
spend 15-20 hrs of the day inactive, resting on their sides
or lying like domestic kittens on their backs with all four
paws in the air. Lions are both diurnal and nocturnal. They
are highly social animals and are found in prides and groups
of up to 20 individuals. They prey on a wide range of species,
including small rodents, and have excellent sight, hearing
and sense of smell. Both males and females roar as a means
of communication and territorial demarcation. When lions
have consumed a fair amount of blood, the dung is usually
very black and strong smelling. It turns white if there
is a high calcium content.
Height: 1,5 m Mass: 600kg Gestation: 330 days, single calf.
It breeds throughout the year with peaks in August and September.
The buffalo is one of the world's most dangerous animals when
wounded but unprovoked, it is an inquisitive and placid animal.
They are intelligent and cunning and when threatened, have
been seen to go into a defensive semi-circular formation with
males facing outward on the perimeter, protecting the females
and calves within. They are good swimmers and are fond of
wallowing. They are preyed upon by lion which are invariably
found trailing large herds. They are grazers but occasionally
browse on shoots, twigs and bushes.