Wednesday, August 1, 2012


      In Africa's early European colonization hunting was a popular sport.  The term Big Five comes from the terminology of the hunting safaris.  Leopards, rhinos, lions, elephants, and cape buffalo were considered the most ferocious prey and the most valued as trophies.     On our safari, we saw them all, often at very close range.   Except for a black rhino, all of them are habituated to the 4-wheel drive vehicles which bring modern style "hunters," those with cameras, binoculars and curiosity.   As long as passengers stay in the vehicles, the animals ignore them.   I am used to this phenomenon from Yellowstone.  
      The leopard is a magnificent animal.  We saw several of them in different areas.  Usually it was a solitary leopard but in one instance a younger (but hardly a cub) was working on a carcass under heavy brush.

      There were only two black rhinos in the reserve, a male and female, who were relocated to the area just 8 months ago. They are still skittish and we had only a short view of one of them. The black rhino is endangered and considered to be the more ferocious and the one usually listed as one of the big five. We saw one of the black rhinos but I didn't get a good shot so my readers will have to settle for the white rhino.  The white rhinos are quite common and nothing to be tangled with.  The difference between black and white rhinos has nothing to do with color.   It is a bit like the Black Bears of the North American west who range in color from honey to black.  The major difference in the rhinos is in the shape of the mouth.

The bird flying toward this rhino and the bird on the juvenile rhino above
are red billed oxpeckers who eat bugs from a number of animals.  They will also eat
blood and flesh of wounded animals

   Each bush vehicle had a tracker and ranger.  The ranger was armed with a shot gun in case of emergency.  The tracker sat on a special seat on the front of the vehicle watching for tracks to lead us to animals.  These are fresh lion spore.

A well fed lion one evening.


This lion and his brother were sharing an recent impala kill.   Sharing is not the norm. 
But in this case the brother with the carcass allowed the other, who had been
injured, to take a chunk away.

Elephants are the largest mammals on land.  It is amazing to see one up close and realize how immense they are.   Grazers, they eat in excess of 15 hours a day and they only digest about 40% of what they consume.  It does not seem like a good evolutionary adaptation to me, but they are able to eat thorny plants which look impossible to handle.

      The last of the Big Five are the Cape Buffalo.   They are noted for a nasty temperament, although when not challenged they quietly graze, not unlike cattle or the North American bison.   Bison and buffalo are not related, although the reddish brown calf  shown below looks a lot like a bison calf.    

note the red billed oxpeckers on the back of this female

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing photos, Betty! The kids & I just looked through them and it was so fun. That leopard is gorgeous!!! - Holly Pietrok

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