Big 5, Kruger National Park
South Africa has got the largest Rhino population in Africa. Two sorts of Rhino's are at home here the Black and White Rhino, the Black Rhino normally being at home in densce bushes since it generally eats branches and leaves, where as the White Rhino stays mostly in open plains since it is a grazer.
This is probably the most impressive animal one can encounter in the African Bush. In the park you will see herds or single animals, single animals normally being bulls that have been chased out of the herd.
If you come close to them make sure that you have an escape route. I have seen many times that visitors come far too close and when an animal charges there is no way out.
More than 15,000 buffaloes live in the Kruger National Park and often large herds of a hundred animals can be observed. To avoid the heat, they prefer to graze in the cool hours of the morning or evening and even at night. They very much like to wallow in the mud and so build up a protective layer against mosquitoes and other insects on their skin.
Kruger National Park and South Africa in general, have spent a considerable amount of money on anti-poaching activities, with a special army-trained squad going after ivory and rhino poachers.
Having said this, South Africa has been pushing hard for a lifting of the ivory ban. This is mostly so they can unload the huge stocks of ivory that the National Parks hold, and use the revenue for the parks.
The big five got their name from the era when we were killing animals for "sport" (fun) and paying big bucks for the experience. The "big 5" were the 5 most sought after trophies by these hunters.
Personally I do not agree with this and I feel the name that these magnificent creatures are refered to should be changed to reflect a tourism view point.
The "Big Five" animals (lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and buffalo,) are all very well represented within this park.
Anne and I experienced excellent viewing of all of the big 5, except for the leopard which is referred to as "notoriously difficult to find."
There is an estimated 1500 lion in the Kruger Park. Lion can be found all over the park, however the highest density are around Satara which is flat basalt plains with very shallow soils that grows knob thorn savannah with some mixed bush willow and woodlands.
Lions have a wide range and are very social maintaining large prides up to 40 animals. Although they have a reputation for being boring to watch as they sleep all day, it is interesting to watch the lions interact with each other. Members of prides or relations rub their heads and sides together when greeting. They raise their tails high and make low groaning sounds.
Mothers tend to stay on the same territory their whole lives where males will have to leave as they mature to find their own territories.
It is very difficult for males to maintain a territory independently and therefore are forced to make coalitions with other male lions. These coalitions tend to be brothers up to three or four but are occasionally other nomadic lions that are unrelated.
Lions eat everything but tend to hunt zebra, wildebeest and giraffe. Some lions and prides specialize in hunting large animals like buffalo or elephant.
If you are lucky you may find these lions mating as I did in Kruger and Kgalagadi many times. They mate about every 20 to 30 minutes all day. It is quite a fascinating ritual.
A very common small primate of the African bush, especially along river banks that lives in family groups, with a varied diet including things like fruit, berries, nuts and the occasional small bird or insect...
...let's rephrase that.
A very common small primate that lives around African National Park campsites and lives in family groups, with a varied diet including the contents of rubbish bins and whatever they can scrounge from humans. Although very cute looking, they are great opportunists and quick thinking. They've learnt like macaque monkeys in Asia (which I observed gate crashing the Orang-Utan feeding in Borneo), that where there are humans there are easy pickings. People are discouraged from feeding them so as to discourage behaviour that has even extended to thieving food and biting to get what they want - they can become a pest rather a cute little primate. Still, everybody say "Ahhhh" (but please don't feed them).
The most common primate of the African savannah and what has to be considered the most intelligent mammal there. These animals live in quite sizeable troupes, which makes the average predator (including lions) think twice about tackling thirty of them at once.
The Impala are a different matter - little changed over millions of years, it's their numbers which make them successful. The markings on their backside look like a big 'M'. Yes, as the 'M' might suggest, they are the McDonalds of the bush and just about every predator eats them.
The temperamental teenager is not just a human problem and this elephant (top) thought it was a fun idea to keep charging a range rover / jeep full of tourists, then stopping just short before repeating again and again. I was a little concerned when I first saw it, however, the guides said (as with many teenage tantrums) "Just ignore him, that's what we do."
To cut a long story short, he'll eventually get bored when he realises it has no effect and will stop playing his little game. One comment about it was "If you react, you'll just encourage him - he'll do it all the more and then we might have to destroy him before him or someone else gets hurt."
It was pure luck that the Greater Kudu at least momentarily posed for the second photo - they're fairly nervous about anything out of the ordinary (due to their very understandable fear of predators) as was proved later around the watering holes in Mkuzi.
These lads and lasses eat anything that move, even elephants, rhinoceros and hippopotami if they are in big enough prides.
The males are also the ultimate posers, leaving most of the work (including the hunting) to the females (though they will take prey by themselves if they get the chance) and just strolling around their territories, marking their patch and announcing their presence to the females and challengers VERY LOUDLY (boy they roar). All you need are a few beers and you've Newcastle-upon-Tyne on a weekend.
In the top picture, the lionesses were getting very touchy due to the nearby presence of a pair of jackal (tried to photo but pictures didn't come out), which given the opportunity would snatch at least some of the meal from the lions.
Did you know that a lion is actually a type of panther (Panthera Leo) along with the leopard - surprising considering that lions are pack hunters and leopards are largely solitary. Cats are classified into three separate groups - along with the Panther family (Panthera), there's Felis (into which the domestic cat, the caracal and the African Wildcat go) and Acinonyx (of which the cheetah is a member). Lions and Cheetahs used to be far more widespread and until man played his as normal negative part, they were common not only in Africa, but also over large parts of India and Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and surrounding countries). Outside Africa, only a small population of Asiatic Lions remain in the Gir Forest in southern India and 60 or so cheetah remain in part of Iran. The fossil record shows that they also lived in North America up until the end of the last Ice Age.
Another surprising fact is that despite their more dog-like appearance and behaviour, hyenas are actually more closely related to cats than any other type of carnivore. I as well as the guides had opted for dogs being the nearest relative - just goes to show you that appearances can be deceptive.
I didn't see any leopards, cheetahs or hyenas - they wouldn't come out to pose for photos.
The big guns of the African plains, with a lifespan to match most humans. The matriarch (top female) here is being very protective of the elephant calves. Easily understandable when you consider than contrary to popular belief, lions DO tackle, kill and eat elephants. In Namibia, prides of up to forty lions have been observed to bring down elephants not part of a herd.
I'd say the most elegant creatures of Africa and a very close relative of the camel (their mannerisms are the big giveaway). Witnessed two male giraffes having a punch up - not as entertaining as it sounds considering it's a head swinging session. Actually a sizing up of relative strengths, it's a way of avoiding serous injury between animals - if one animal realises it's bitten off more than it can chew, it soon backs off.
If there's any Americans out there, contrary to popular American opinion (in some parts), giraffes don't lay eggs in nests in trees...
...you Americans can blame a woman Maths teacher for that observation (and bringing shame on your nation), who in the words of the local guides asked the dumbest question they were ever asked (credit to Pieter for that one). The Americans (in general) are credited with asking guides the dumbest questions of any nationality. The Germans apparently do their fair share too...
Welcome to the biggest killer of Homo Sapiens (humans) in Africa. No, not lions, not leopards, not elephants, not rhinos, not wildebeest (i.e. none of the Big Five), but hippos. Regarded as benign water dwellers or grazers, getting in their way is not a good idea. Even most lions think twice about tackling these lads (and lasses) - that said lions do get the odd one of even these.
Before you ask (especially for Americans - you'll realise why I say this if you read the little bit about giraffes blow), the plural of 'hippopotamus' is 'hippopotami' and not 'hippopotamuses'. ;-)
Average mass 600 kg
Shoulder height 1,5 m
Their massive horns rarely intact, can reach 1,2 m.
Gestation 330 days bearing 1 calf.
It is estimated there are ........ in the Kruger Park.
Notes of Interest
A grazer preferably, but also browses on shoots, twigs and bushes.
They carry their heads lower than the top of their shoulders. Their horns are very thick at the base with close ridges, almost meeting in the middle.
These massive animals are nonetheless shy creatures and congregate in herds which can number up to 3000. If disturbed they will race to rejoin their herd which can stampede easily in unexpected directions.
Buffalo prefer their haunts to be in the vicinity of water with a profusion of red and ample grass-covered grazing and like to have trees and bush nearby to rest in shade and chew the cud.
They are fond of taking mud-baths and in hot weather drink water twice a day
They are inquisitive but with fair sight and medium hearing, individuals may break away from the herd to examine vehicles more closely.
They have the reputation of being the most dangerous animal to hunt. When wounded they circle and stalk their hunters. A charge head-on is almost impossible to stop at short range.
Within a herd there is a linear hierarchy amongst the bulls. Bulls rarely fight to establish dominance but adopt a threatening stance lifting his head high and expecting submission from other bulls demonstrated by lowering their heads.
The great herds of buffalo were decimated by the rinderpest in 1896 and only about a dozen were left over in the area of the present Kruger Park.