The Big Five Mammals

THE BIG FIVE MAMMALS

This is most term used for any African park housing the big mammals or the forest giants and it’s commonly used marketing slogan in the safari industry. Usually those games or national parks hosting the big five mammal use this fact as the selling product, and the term ‘’big five’ is commonly used to refer mammals such as the African elephants, lions, buffaloes, rhinos (black or white), and the leopards. Many of the charismatic African animals are absent on the Big Five list these include the cheetah, the African wild dog, the giraffe, and the hippo. Let us examine one by one of the big five mammals

African Elephant

Elephants are known as the world’s largest and heaviest land mammal and it’s scientifically known as (Loxodonta Africana) the biggest individual ever recorded one earth weighs over 10 tons or 22,000 pounds. Elephants are known to live in over 37 sub-Saharan countries and they are capable to survive both from lush wetlands to arid deserts.

Elephants are extremely well modified to their environment they have thick skin which protect them from the sharp thorns of the bush as well their huge ears which help to disband heart and control body temperature. Elephants can consume up to 50 gallons of water and over 600 pounds of food a day, so they eat a lot of food to survive every day and to maintain their weight.

Elephants are herbivores, meaning the only feed on plants; they eat grasses leaves, twigs, bark, roots and Fruits they also love to eat human crops other large herbivores tend to specialize as either grazers or browsers but elephants do both. It should be noted that elephants eat more grass during the early wet season then relay more on browse for the rest of the year.  They normally feed for 12 -18 hours a day; this means that the elephant spends most of the day feeding.

Elephants are very social animals; they live in a family called matriarch and the group most of the time is comprised of over 100 individuals and communicate using a variety of low-frequency roar that can travel for many miles. Not like female calves which stays with the herd through their life, young males leave their family and go and form single groups and eventually form their or create herds of their own. The major threat to elephants is human there dramatic decrease in number is due to ivory trade, they are killed for ivory, however a ban on ivory has helped stabilize the population to around 600,000 although poaching is still a major threat most especially in Africa where political instability is still too high hence they are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN.

In Uganda elephants can be seen in Queen Elizabeth national park, Murchison falls national park, Kidepo valley national park, Lake Mburo national park, they can be also found in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, among many other African countries and Europe

AFRICAN LION

Lions are known as the king of the sub-Saharan savannah and it’s known as the second largest cat after the tiger. The African lion scientifically is known as (Panthera leo). Lions are known as the only cat that lives in a group which is known as a pride. The pride includes a few males and dozens of female and their younger ones. Lions most of the time hunt during night and during the day they can be found a sleep that’s why most of the day safaris they  can be found sleeping in sheds, lions sleep up to 20 hours a day in their natural habitat. Lionesses usually do the hard task when it comes to hunting and working together to bring down the big prey. Although most cubs experience a high rate of cub mortality rate, however, most males die while fighting to defend their territory.

Lions can live up to around 14 years of ages in their natural habitat. A female takes about 3-4 months with the pregnancy and when it gets ready to deliver; the female leaves the pride (group) and stay alone in order to find a good nesting spot. Usually lions deliver 2 to 5 cubs, she stays with the cubs for some weeks before returning to the pride and introduce them to the new members, and When she returns to the pride with the new born cubs she is greeted with much cuddle, check-up and celebrating. The female cubs will live with the entre pride throughout their life while the male lions will live with the pride for up to 2 years and then after they will leave the pride and stay a lonely life they will line alone, or band together in small groups of.

Lions are a bit lucky in that they have a few predators, buffaloes most of the time temple cubs and kill them, buffaloes can also kill lions. The man is also another threat to a lion they hunt them and also destroy their habitat living them homeless, all these factors and many others contribute to decline in their population in Africa. Lions are also declared as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

In Uganda, Lions can be seen in national park and game reserves including Queen Elizabeth national park and this park is blessed with a chance to see the tree climbing lions, lions can also be seen in Murchison falls national park, Kidepo valley national park, in Kenya they can be seen Maasai Mara National park whereas in Tanzania they can be viewed in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Lions are mainly carnivorous their best meals are zebra, pigs, elephants, antelopes and wild beast; they can also eat human beings as well.

AFRICAN LEOPARD

Leopard scientifically is known as Panthera Pardus and they are known as the most graceful and elusive and powerful cat related to lions, tigers and jaguars. They are known as very shy animal and exclusively nocturnal. Leopards are mainly live in sub-saharan Africa, north east Africa, central Asia, India and china. In Uganda leopards are mainly spotted in Queen Elizabeth national park, Murchison falls nation, Kidepo valley national park, Lake Mburo national park. These cats live in most of any kind of environment including grassland savannas, coastal scrubs, woodlands, forests, rainforest, mountain habitats, and swampy areas, in other words, leopards live in more places than any other large cat. However, many of their populations are endangered, especially outside of Africa. Leopards are known as excellent climbers and they spend most of the time on tree scan for prey and to store fresh kills away from hunters such as lions and hyena so on any safari keep your eyes up.

Leopards mainly feed on antelopes, cheetah cubs, baboons, snakes, large birds, amphibians, fish, warthog, deer, and pigs by salient movements in the tall grass; they are supremely strong in that they can attack a prey much larger than them. They occasionally attack people and dogs if there settlements are near their habitat their hunting ability relies on their aptitude to run at speeds of over 35 miles/ 56 kilometers per hour. They also have the ability to jump over 10 feet/3 meters into the air and are exceptional swimmers.

They mark their territories by urinating and leaving graze marks and Males always range more widely than their females one. Leopards are known as the smallest members of the large cat category, a mature male can grow to only 3 to 6.5 feet long and if you add its tail adds another 25 to 40 inches to their length. In terms of weight both a male and female vary in weight in that a female normally weigh 46 to 132 pounds that’s about 22 to 62kilograms and a male weighs about 82 to 167 lbs which is about 38 to 79 kg.

Like other big five mammals, the large threat to leopards are the humans who destroy farmland which affect their habitat,  farmers also shoot them to stop them killing their livestock, the IUCN listed them as valuable creature.

Buffaloes

Buffaloes are also known as the big five mammals and they are known as the large member of the Bovidae family. Buffaloes are classified into two group, the cap or African buffaloes and the Asian water buffalo. Buffaloes look like bulls and they are in dark gray or black animals. Cape buffalos are scientifically known as Syncerus caffer and they are mainly found in water-rich game reserves and national parks throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

There are four sub-species of Cape buffalo, the largest of which is the one most commonly seen in East and Southern Africa and the cape are known as the most dangerous animals in Africa, they are known as bad tempered creature especially when threatened. Buffaloes are known as one of the largest creature on earth and the water buffaloes is the largest bovine a male can weigh up to 1500 to 2650 (700 to 1200 kilograms) where the African/cape buffalo  is small however it can weigh up to 935 to 1910lbs (425 to 870kilograms). Water buffaloes mainly spend most of the time in water and they have hooves which are extra wide and they prevent them from sinking into water at the bottom of the pond, river or swamps, however and they mainly live in the tropical and subtropical forests of Asia.

The African buffaloes are also not far away from the water source, they can live in grasslands, savannas, swamp, lowland, floodplains, mixed forest and they never stay farther than 12 miles from a body of water. Buffaloes are known as social animals and they live in a group called herd and they live a peaceful life with each other. They are caring of their weaker members, often forming a protective circle around sick or young animals when under attack from prowling lions. Buffaloes mainly feed on tall grass, coarse grass and bushes, that’s why they not live in the desert

Cape buffalo need to drink every day and are often found close to water. They eat tall, coarse grass and bushes, and as such cannot live in the desert. Buffaloes offer a great meal to many big hunters and they are exceptionally vulnerable to domestic cattle diseases like rinderpest and bovine tuberculosis. Places to see buffaloes in Uganda including national parks and game reserves  like Queen Elizabeth national park, Murchison falls national park, lake Mburo national park, Kidepo valley national park, and many game reserves and zoos. They can also be seen in Kruger National Park, South Africa; Chobe National Park, Botswana; , Tanzania; Lower Zambezi National Park, among others

White and Black Rhino

Rhinos are among the big five mammals in Africa and there are two species of rhinos in Africa including the black scientifically known as the Diceros bicornis and white rhinos known as Ceratotherinm simum. Rhinos are known as endangered and they are at risk of extinction due to the poaching epidemic caused by demand for rhino horn in Asian cultures who believe they are medicine, an estimate shows that there are about 4800 black rhino and 20 000 white rhino surviving in the wild. The easiest way to distinguish a black from a white rhino is that when you look at their lips- the black rhinos are sharp and prehensile whereas the white rhinos are flat and wide.

The black rhinos are also known as browsers using their pointed upper lips to twist off low-growing branches of trees and shrubs. They are also known to be bad tempered but this normally due to their shyness and they can run away in case they smell something unusual in their natural habitat and they can usually run away if they smell human, in case you meet a black rhino hide in a tree or climb and let the animal pass a female male rhino may charge at anytime especially if with a calf and it can charge to anything she considers threat compared to their counterpart. Rhinos have a good sense of smell although they have poor eyesight. Black rhino can grow to up to1.6m tall, and a mature male can weigh up to 1400kg and they have two horns. They mainly feed on woody trees, shrubs and herb.

The white rhinos are known as grazers and normally live in a social group; they feed on grass and are the most plentiful rhino species in the world. They are tall than the black they grow up to 1.8m and weighs up to 2 tons. It is believed that rhinos have wandered the African plains for over 50 million years. In Uganda rhinos can be seen in Ziwa Rhion sanctuary, it’s a home to the white rhinos, in other parts of the world, rhinos can be seen in Etosha National park Namibia, Mkomazi National park Tanzania, Lwa Wildlife conservancy Kenya, in South Africa Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park and in Rwanda they can be seen in Akagera National park.