The African Big Five

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African Lions in Masai Mara National Park
Pride of Lions, Masai Mara, Kenya

The Africa’s big five game are iconic wildlife species and remarkably the most sought-after creatures by visitors on African safari. A big five safari in Africa involves an in-depth exploration about buffaloes, rhinos, elephants, leopards and lions. A glimpse at these wildlife species while in the wild is by far the most captivating experience not to be missed on African safari.

Originally, the concept of the big five came from the early European settlers who regarded elephants, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and lions as the best game hunt down. Unlike in the past, today, the big five safari tour involves exploring these unique creatures in the wild. The African big five exist in about 37 countries-that is in East and Southern Africa. You can easily see the big five on a safari in East Africa and one of the recommended trip is the luxury Tanzania and Rwanda Safari offered by Nature Adventure Africa.

The African lion (Panthera Leo)

Lions are considered as Kings of the Jungle for many reasons. In the cat family, lions are massive predators, muscular with rounded heads, long tails, round ears and short fur. Unlike females, males grow luxurious collar of long hair known as a mane on their necks. While they are considered to be social, not to other wildlife because they only prey on them and their unique behavior and adaptations aid their survival in the harsh African wilderness.

A group of lions is called a pride and each pride can comprise of some males and several lionesses and cubs. Females can live within the pride throughout but males can look for his pride especially at maturity stage. Lions thrive mostly in savanna grassland areas near water sources to aid their hunting.

In Africa, African lions can be spotted in East-Central and Southern Africa. On safari in Africa, lions can be viewed in Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, South Africa, Northern Botswana, Northern Namibia, Luangwa Valley in Zambia especially South Luangwa National Park, in Uganda visit Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and in Rwanda, visit Akagera National Park; Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

Female lions can mate with any dominant male in the pride. They have a gestation period of about 110 days and they give birth to about 1 to 4 cubs. Cubs can be weaned between 6 and 7 months and males can depart from the pride at 2 or 3 years. 70 percent of lions’ diet is meat and they prefer preys with weight of about 400 and 1200ibs. They usually hunt for zebras, buffaloes, warthogs, wildebeest and many others. In terms of weight, female lions weigh about 119.5kgs and females about 174.9kgs.

African leopards (Panthera Pardus)

Compared to most African big five game, leopards among the strongest tree climbers. They are capable of climbing and jumping regardless of whether they are carrying the heaviest prey or light. A group of leopards is called a leap. Leopards are good swimmers and they run at a speed of 36 miles per hours.

Leopards depend on baboons, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, wild boars and antelopes. They are active between sundown and sunrise. They can live up to 20 and 23 years in captivity. Females give birth within few months and usually about 2 and 4 cubs can exist per litter. Cubs can live with their mothers for about 1 and half to 2 years.

Leopards live mostly in Western Africa mostly in Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Ghana; Eastern Africa-Kenya in Meru National Park, Nairobi National Park; Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda in Lake Mburo National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Semuliki National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park; Tanzania in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park; Ethiopia; Southern Africa in Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi and Central Africa in Gabon, Chad and Cameroon.

Rhinos

Rhinos are feature second after elephants as biggest mammals in African big five game. African comprises of both black and white rhinos. Rhinos have a slow reproduction rate giving birth to one calf at a time. Females have a gestation period of 15-18 months and after three years, the calf remains under the care of the mother. They become sexually mature at 6-7 years and males at 9-10 years.

Rhinos weigh about 1800 and 2500kgs. They have good sense of smell and hearing although with poor eyesight. They exist in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda, Nairobi National Park, Tsavo National Park, Meru National Park in Kenya; Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland, Cameroon and many others.

African elephants (Loxodonta Africana)

Elephants are the largest mammals among the big five African game and also considered the largest land mammals in the world. They weigh between 6000 and 7500kgs. Elephants feature longnose/trunks, ivory tusks, large wide ears, thick legs among other incredible features. They mainly depend on leaves, twigs, grass and other vegetation. They can consume about 600 pounds of food.

In Africa, elephants exist in Chyulu Hills, Amboseli National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya; Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda; Tarangire National Park in Tanzania, Kruger Area in South Africa, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, Chobe National Park in Botswana.

African Buffaloes (Syncerus caffer)

Buffaloes confine in large groups. They live in herds and both females and males have horns. They are known to be aggressive and often conflict with humans outside protected areas. Buffaloes weight between 300 and 850kgs. They have lifespan of about 11-22 years in the wild. They have a gestation of 11-12 months. Africa is comprised of 3 different types of savanna buffaloes-the Central African savanna buffaloes also known as Nile buffaloes, Southern savanna buffaloes (cape buffaloes) and West African savanna buffaloes.

The best places to see buffaloes in Africa include South Luangwa National Park, Kafue National Park in Zambia, South Africa, Katavi National Park in Tanzania, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda; Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

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