top of page

Africa's Big Five

You have likely heard about Africa's "Big Five", a term becoming synonymous with African Safari's, but, what does it mean? Historically, this term actually came about during Africa's colonial period with these five animals - lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard - deemed the most dangerous and challenging to hunt on foot. Nowadays, spotting the Big Five remains an exciting milestone for travellers seeking a wildlife experience.

Lion Scientific Name: Panthera leo Weight: ♂ 150-250kg ♀110-180kg Lifespan in Wild: ♂ 10-11 yrs ♀ 14-16 yrs Gestation Period: 110-115 days IUCN Status: Vulnerable

This is one of the most iconic big cats in the world, and the top predator in the African bush. Predominantly lazy during the heat of the day these social cats come alive as the sun starts to set, their roaring calls can being heard from 5 miles / 8 km away as a way to mark their territory and communicate with other pride members. Threats to Population Unfortunately, lion populations have declined by over 40% in the last 20 years, with the main threats including a decrease in habitat and natural prey combined with negative results of human animal conflict. Additionally, in recent years, they are becoming a victim of the illegal wildlife trade with lion bones becoming a more easily attainable substitute for tiger bone in traditional Asian medicines.

African Savanna Elephant Scientific Name: Loxodonta africana Weight: ♂ 6000kg ♀3-4000kg Lifespan in Wild: 60 - 70 years Gestation Period: 22 months IUCN Status: Endangered The African Savanna Elephant (also knows as the African Bush Elephant) is the largest land mammal in the world and is much larger than the African Forest Elephant or Asian Elephant. Herds consist of (usually) a group of related females and their offspring, led by an older and in charge female - the matriarch. Bulls will often start leaving the herd at around 13-15 years of age as puberty starts to kick in, maybe forming small groups called "Askari's". However, it will be a long time before they will be able to compete for mating rights against larger, more dominant bulls. Threats to Population The biggest threat to the wild elephant population is poaching to facilitate the movement of ivory in the illegal wildlife trade, with an average of 55 individuals illegally killed every day. Habitat loss has also proved detrimental to population numbers, as the human footprint grows the areas these huge mammals used to roam is now being reduced to smaller, protected areas.

White and Black Rhinoceros

Scientific Name: White: Ceratotherium simum Black: Diceros bicornis Weight: White: 1700-2300kg Black: 800-1400kg Lifespan in Wild: 45 years Gestation Period: 15-16 months IUCN Status: White: Near Threatened Black: Critically Endangered The names of these African rhino is misleading, as they are in fact both grey! The white rhino is said to have gotten its name from the Dutch word "wyd" for wide, referring to the animals square lip. Early English colonisers mistook this word for White and called the hook-lipped counterpart the Black Rhino to help differentiate. How to tell these two species apart?

White Rhino

Black Rhino

Larger, long body. Barrel shaped with two "humps" behind the head.

Shorter, compact body with a deep arch in its back, missing the second "humph" behind its head.

Holds its head very low to the ground and uses large square lips to help facilitate its grazing (grass eating) lifestyle.

Holds head quite high, using its prehensile hooked lip to browse on trees, branches and shrubs.

Pointier, long ears.

Smaller, rounded ears.

More often found in grasslands and open areas

Commonly found in thick bush.

Threats to Population Poaching for their horns and habitat loss remains the biggest threat to these two rhino species - in Namibia rhino poaching surged 93% in 2022 alone. Global awareness, breaking the consumer demand and disrupting the supply chain are the main ways to try and combat this problem. We are privileged to support the Rhino Protection Trust, who are helping raise funds to facilitate anti-poaching methods in Private Game Reserves in the Greater Kruger area.


Scientific Name: Panthera pardus Weight: ♂ 60kg ♀ 35-40kg Lifespan in Wild: 10-12 years Gestation Period: 90-106 days IUCN Status: Vulnerable A beautiful yet secretive big cat, a leopard is a sought after sight whilst on Safari. Although most photographers share photos of them in a tree, they actually spend most of their time on the ground. Their use of trees help protect them from predators, have a good vantage point of their surroundings and to keep their kills away from unwanted scavengers. Predominantly solitary, you will rarely find a male and female together unless the female is looking to mate. After giving birth to her cubs, she will keep them hidden for 8 weeks until they start becoming large enough to follow her. They will continue to live with her until they reach around 2 years old and become efficient enough at hunting on their own. Threats to Population Human-wildlife conflict and persecution, fragmented habitat and a reduced prey base has reduced this species' population through much of their range.

Cape Buffalo

Scientific Name: Syncerus caffer Weight: ♂ 650-800kg ♀ 550-700kg Lifespan in Wild: 18 - 22 years Gestation Period: 11 months IUCN Status: Least Concern The African Buffalo may look similar to a domestic cow, but don't be fooled! Considered to be one of the most dangerous animals to be with on foot, their size, moody behaviour and ability to charge without warning make them a force to be reckoned with. Herds can reach huge numbers, up to 500 in a single group, and are a sight to behold during periods of local migrations. Members of the herd are all ranked, with cows with calves outranking all cows without calves, and often these higher ranking indivudals will be seen towards the front of the herd where the feeding is freshest and the threat from predators is lowest. Lion are often seen following large herds to hopefully find a young or weak individual to become their next prey. Threats to Population The largest threat to African Buffalo is habitat loss due to the expansion of human settlements, fragmentation and agriculture.

Seeing these iconic mammals, where they belong in the wild, is something you will never forget and its important we all do our part to ensure these animals will be around for future generations to see in their natural habitat. Contact us to learn more!


bottom of page