You may hear of the Big Five before going on Safari, from an old book, or from a nature documentary. Today, they are five of the animals which people most want to see while on Safari. One hundred years ago, amid pith helmets, mosquito boots, and 'darkest Africa', the Big Five were the most sought after animals to hunt. They were the fiercest, the most dangerous animals; the animals that would be hunting the hunter.
Explorers of East Africa went home with stories of lions and leopards in the tall African grass, of rhinos that would charge at the mere smell of a person, of the buffalo hidden in the bushes, and of the terrors of an enraged elephant.
Today, of course, the hunting is done with camera lenses, but that doesn't take away the thrill of seeing your first lion or hearing a leopard walk past your camp at night. These big mammals are each far more interesting than the early explorers knew. With the range of Northern Tanzanian national parks we offer, you have good chances to spot the Big Five, especially in Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
This is Africa's largest carnivore and the only known social cat. It is of low build, but very large and powerful, with a short, tawny coat, white under parts and a black tail tuft; adult males have long manes. Being the most abundant large predator in savanna and plains ecosystem, they prey on big herbivores like antelopes, wildebeest and zebras, but are also known to take carrion. Spending most of the day resting, they become active in the late afternoon, but can be seen hunting any time of day. Immigrant male groups or single males gain custody of a pride range in competition with other males, often killing all cubs.
A leopard is a big long cat with short muscular limbs. It has a tan to reddish-brown coat with spots grouped in rosettes on torso and upper limbs; the under parts are whitish. Leopards show the broadest habitat tolerance of any African carnivore, feeding on animals from beetles to big antelopes three times its own weight, the mainstay formed of medium-sized antelopes. Lying up by day and part of the night in trees or undergrowth, they hunt after dusk, stalking into range to pounce, and carrying bigger prey into trees before eating it.
The elephant is the largest land animal with bulls weighing up to 6 tons. Its nose is prolonged as a trunk with two fingerlike projections on the tip, the upper incisors are formed to continuously growing trunks and the ears are much enlarged to help control body temperature. The eyesight is moderate, but smell and hearing are excellent. Elephants were formerly ubiquitous south of the Sahara, but numbers and range have shrunk due to poaching and human population growth. They feed on grass, herbs and foliage, which is won by tearing off branches or pushing over trees. Being able to abstain several days, elephants drink daily and bathe readily. They live in a matriarchal clan society, with the matriarch setting the herds direction and pace; adolescent bulls form bull herds.
this is the bulkiest and most formidable African bovid, with broad head and wide mouth. It is black to dark brown, old bulls often with a grizzled head, older calves yellow-brown to reddish-brown in color. All adults grow horns, but males have a broad horn base shielding their forehead. Being most abundant in well-watered savanna, floodplains and monotone grassland and forest, it needs reed or thickets for cover. African Buffalo are nocturnal grazers, but may be active by day when protected from hunting. They form herds with one or more dominant bulls.
Diceros bicornis michaeli
A long, low, powerful built dark gray animal with a beaklike upper lip, used as a grasping tool, and two horns, the front horn thinner and usually larger. As Rhinos are browsers, preferring leguminous herbs and shrubs, they drink daily and wallow as often, travelling up to 25 km to water every day. Frequenting habitats from semi desert thorn bush to monotone forest and wetlands, they are now greatly diminished due to poaching. Adult males are solitary and possibly territorial, while females sometimes form small groups with calves and (not necessarily related) sub adults; calves always run alongside or behind their mother. The Northern Black Rhino is most active early and late in day, wallowing during the hottest part.
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