The rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and the lion are some of South Africa’s most magnificent mammalian creatures with one big thing in common; they are part of the famous “Big Five”. Despite what most people would be led to believe, the Big Five do not garner their name from their sizes; in fact, this would make no sense given the myriad of South African mammals that grow much larger than some of the ones featured in the list.
The name actually comes from the glory days of hunting in South Africa. The term was given to this particular set of animals as a means to illustrate that they were the most dangerous creatures a hunter could come across while out in the bush.
Rhinos are a special kind of mammal whose appearance is reminiscent of the prehistoric fauna era. Much like their Jurassic ancestors, rhinos sport powerful horns made of dense keratin on their foreheads. Thanks to the tireless efforts of national park rangers, South Africa is currently home to over 16 000 rhinos despite the damaging toll on population numbers caused by poaching. Over the last several years, white rhinos have even been reintroduced to areas outside of South Africa like Botswana where original numbers dropped to zero as a result of poaching.
While South Africa has been trying to prevent the extinction of its rhinos, the country is currently experiencing the opposite issue with elephants in that their population sizes are growing too fast. There are over 24 elephants in South Africa, 17 000 of which are located within the famous Kruger National park. Since the park was designed to accommodate a maximum of 7 500 elephants, it is easy to imagine that rangers have their hands full!
The Cape Buffalo is the only species of cattle in South Africa that remains undomesticated. Truly wild and free, these shaggy-haired bovines cover the rural areas of Africa’s southern and eastern regions. Cape buffalos can be found in a variety of different ecosystems; they are not very picky as long as they have a water source nearby. This means that Cape buffalos can be found in the bush, the forest, or in grasslands.
Covered in a distinctive coat of golden yellow marked with rosette-patterned black spots, the leopard is the second biggest cat found naturally in South Africa. Nocturnal and capable of immense speeds, the leopard is one of the country’s most formidable predators. Leopards can live comfortably in several different habits, whether it be on the top of mountains or at sea level
The king of the jungle can only be found naturally in South Africa’s north-eastern regions. Otherwise, a brutal poaching campaign targeting lions has led to them predominantly occupying protected game reserves where protection from hunters is afforded to them by park rangers.
Visit These Mighty Beasts
Seeing the Big Five with your own eyes is an absolute must if you are travelling through South Africa and have sone time when not playing at a no deposit casino. Fortunately, it can be easy to do so in one place by visiting the Kruger National Park. The Samara Private Game Reserve also hosts all five species and was in fact the first South African reserve to do so.