Profile of the Big 5 safari animals by anamaulida


									Elephant, black rhino, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard: difficult for
hunters to capture and easy for safari tourists to admire      Entry to
the -˜Big Five' game club is not - despite the phrase - granted merely
according to the size of an animal.

  The term -˜Big Five' was phrased during the pioneering years of the
traditional safari when it was used by hunting parties to refer to those
species which were considered the most dangerous to hunt. Today, it
represents the priority viewing of most tourists, and the Masai Mara
National Reserve in Kenya is perhaps the best place to see the -˜Big
Five' at the end of a camera lens.      Safari Consultants can organise a
Masai Mara safari for you - taking you to the place where the Big Five,
plus animals like cheetah, zebra and giraffe, roam the beautiful
grassland plains.      Below are some profiles of the Big Five animals,
detailing just why they are so resilient to being hunted - the last two
animals on the list are considered to be the hardiest of the Big Five.
African elephant      The African elephant attained its Big Five status
thanks to its willingness to charge to defend itself. It is also adept at
hiding amongst vegetation - a surprising quality to have for the world's
largest living terrestrial animal.      In Masai Mara you will find the
African Savannah Elephant, which is bigger and has larger tusks than the
other sub-species of African elephant, the forest elephant.      In adult
life, elephant have no natural predator but the calves can be a target
for lion and crocodile. Opportunist leopard and hyaena have also been
known to attack infants. Elephant are very protective of their young -
the elephant gestation period of 22 months is the longest in the mammal
kingdom and perhaps contributes to the strong bond between mother and
calf.      Nature reserves have helped protect elephant - not against
other animals but against the threat posed by ivory poachers. Scientists
had estimated that if interventionist protective measures weren't taken
then the wild elephant would have become extinct by the mid-1990s. The
IUCN Red List still classifies African elephant as a vulnerable species.
Black rhinoceros,/b>      Black rhino has a canny sense of knowing where
lurking danger might be but it's not their eyes which alert them to risk.
The animal has very weak eyesight but this is more than compensated for
by its excellent sense of smell and hearing.      In the absence of any
genuine natural predator, aside from poaching, one of the black rhino's
biggest threats comes from itself.       Its predisposition to charge at
any perceived threat shows an aggression which scares off other animals
but, according to a 2008 report by Berger and Cunningham, half of all
adult males die as a result of combat-related incidents involving other
rhino.      This self-destructive behaviour is at odds with its natural
survival instincts - it can survive up to five days without water during
times of drought. Despite, or maybe because of its aggressive bent, Black
rhino have an average life expectancy of 35 to 50 years.      Leopard
The saying states that a leopard can't change its spots but in fact this
big cat is extremely adaptable to different environments and found
throughout Africa including on the savannah grasslands of the Masai Mara.
However, when I wrote -˜found' perhaps I should have written -˜located';
leopard are very difficult for humans to find because of their nocturnal
and secretive habits. Unlike the Black Rhino their instinct is more
flight than fight when confronted with danger - they can clamber up trees
when quick shelter is needed.      Their powerful jaws also mean that
they can haul prey weighing as much as three times their bodyweight up
trees with them.        The leopard's stealth means they often get blamed
when a farmer cannot identify who has killed their livestock. Retribution
for livestock loss, together with habitat conversion, means that leopard
is classified as a near-threatened species by the IUCN.       Lion
Male lions rarely live longer than a decade in the wild; injuries
sustained from fighting other males severely reduces the average
lifespan.     Lions are not as well-suited to hunting as lionesses are -
their manes can lead to over-heating during bouts of exertion. However,
their intimidation factor is enough to deter most animals from
encroaching on their territory.       It is thought that, bar the Nile
crocodile, there is no single animal of another species that can threaten
the lion of Masai Mara in a one-to-one encounter.        However, due to
habitat loss and conflict with humans, the lion's status is classified as
vulnerable by the IUCN.       Cape buffalo      This buffalo is said to be
the cause of more hunter deaths than any other animal in the world - no
wonder that in Africa it has acquired the nickname of the -˜widow-maker'.
Buffalo are a vital part of the food chain in Masai Mara - reducing grass
level to the height that is ideal for other grazers.        However, they
are not so accommodating when attacked or when under threat of attack. As
a herd, they are capable of repelling attack from, and killing, lion and
can more than hold its own against cheetah, leopard and hyena. And for
the -˜old boys' who have been ejected from the herd, the hunter had to be
very aware of their grumpy disposition.       Their physical resilience is
honed through play as buffalo bulls often lock horns to -˜spar' -
sessions which only very rarely develop into full-blown acts of
aggression.      Arguably the most-dangerous of the Big Five, the Cape
buffalo is classified as -˜Least Concern' on most conservation guides. As
three-quarters of its population inhabit protected areas such as Masai
Mara, the future looks optimistic for the African -˜widow-maker'.

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