The Big Five of South Africa
BIG FIVE OF SOUTH AFRICA
The phrase Big Five game was coined by white hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot.The term is still used in most tourist and wildlife guides that discuss African wildlife safaris. The collection consists of the lion, African elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros.The members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size.
African Big Five Game Species
The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is a very large herbivore having thick, almost hairless skin, a long, flexible, prehensile trunk, upper incisors forming long curved tusks of ivory, and large, fan-shaped ears. There are two distinct species of African elephant: African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana). The elephants are difficult because despite their large size, they are able to hide in tall grass and are more likely to charge than the other species.
African elephants (also known as savanna elephants) are the species of elephants in the genus Loxodonta (Greek for 'oblique-sided tooth), one of the two existing genera in Elephantidae. Although it is commonly believed that the genus was named by Georges Cuvier in 1825, Cuvier spelled it Loxodonte. An anonymous author romanized the spelling to Loxodonta and the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) recognizes this as the proper authority.
Fossil members of Loxodonta have only been found in Africa, where they developed in the middle Pliocene.
The African elephant is the largest living terrestrial animal. Its thickset body rests on stocky legs and it has a concave back.Its large ears enable heat loss.Its upper lip and nose forms a trunk. The trunk acts as a fifth limb, a sound amplifier and an important method of touch. The African elephant's trunk ends in two opposing lips,whereas the Asian elephant trunk ends in a single lip. African elephants are bigger than Asian elephants. Males stand 3.2–4.0 m (10–13 ft) tall at the shoulder and weigh 4,700–6,048 kg (10,000–13,330 lb), while females stand 2.2–2.6 m (7.2–8.5 ft) tall and weigh 2,160–3,232 kg (4,800–7,130 lb).
The largest individual recorded stood four metres to the shoulders and weighed ten tonnes.
Elephants have four molars; each weighs about 5 kg (11 lb) and measures about 30 cm (12 in) long. As the front pair wears down and drops out in pieces, the back pair shifts forward, and two new molars emerge in the back of the mouth. Elephants replace their teeth six times. At about 40 to 60 years of age, the elephant no longer has teeth and will likely die of starvation, a common cause of death.
Their tusks are firm teeth; the second set of incisors become the tusks. They are used for digging for roots and stripping the bark off trees for food, for fighting each other during mating season, and for defending themselves against predators. The tusks weigh from 23–45 kg (51–99 lb) and can be from 1.5–2.4 m (5–8 ft) long. Unlike Asian elephants, both male and female African elephants have tusks.They are curved forward and continue to grow throughout the elephant's lifetime. The enamel plates of the molars are fewer in number than in Asian elephants.
The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is a large, thick-skinned herbivore having one or two upright horns on the nasal bridge. Rhinoceros may refer to either black or white rhinoceros. Among Big Five game hunters, the black rhinoceros is preferred, although it is now critically endangered.
The Black Rhinoceros or Hook-lipped Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), is a species of rhinoceros, native to the eastern and central areas of Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Angola. Although the Rhino was referred to as black, it is actually more of a grey/brown/white color in appearance.
The other African rhinoceros is the White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). These common names are misleading, as those two species are not really distinguishable by color. The word white in the name "White Rhinoceros" is a mistranslation of the Dutch word wijd for wide, referring to its square upper lip, as opposed to the pointed or hooked lip of the Black Rhinoceros. These species are now sometimes referred to as the Square-lipped (for White) or Hook-lipped (for Black) Rhinoceros.
An adult Black Rhinoceros stands 132–180 cm (52–71 in) high at the shoulder and is 2.8–3.8 m (9.2–12 ft) in length, plus a tail of about 60 cm (24 in) in length.An adult typically weighs from 800 to 1,400 kg (1,800 to 3,100 lb), however unusually large male specimens have been reported at up to 2,199–2,896 kg (4,850–6,380 lb).The females are smaller than the males. Two horns on the skull are made of keratin with the larger front horn typically 50 cm (20 in) long, exceptionally up to 140 cm (55 in).
The longest known horn measured nearly 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in length.Sometimes, a third smaller horn may develop. These horns are used for defense, intimidation, and digging up roots and breaking branches during feeding. Skin color depends more on local soil conditions and the rhinoceros' wallowing behavior than anything else, so many black rhinos are typically not truly black in color. The Black Rhino is smaller than the White Rhino, and has a long, pointed, and prehensile upper lip, which it uses to grasp leaves and twigs when feeding.White Rhinoceros have square lips used for eating grass.The Black Rhinoceros can also be distinguished from the White Rhinoceros by its smaller skull and ears.
Their thick layered skin protects the rhino from thorns and sharp grasses. Their skin harbors external parasites, such as mites and ticks, which are eaten by oxpeckers and egrets that live with the rhino. Such behaviour was originally thought to be an example of mutualism, but recent evidence suggests that oxpeckers may be parasites instead, feeding on rhino blood.Black rhinos have poor eyesight, relying more on hearing and smell. Their ears possess a relatively wide rotational range to detect sounds. An excellent sense of smell alerts rhinos to the presence of predators.
The African or cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large horned bovid. Buffalo are sometimes reported to kill more people in Africa than any other animal, although the same claim is also made of hippos and crocodiles.It is considered the most dangerous of the Big Five, reportedly causing the most hunter deaths,with wounded animals reported to ambush and attack pursuers.
The lion (Panthera leo) is a large carnivorous feline of Africa and northwest India, having a short, tawny coat, a tufted tail, and, in the male, a heavy mane around the neck and shoulders. Lions are desirable to hunters because of the very real danger involved. A lion may attack without provocation, and is considered by many to be the best of the Big Five.
Lion hunting is challenging because of the habitat and temperament of the lion. Lions live in the savanna where tall grasses, shrubs and bushes obscure and provide them cover and camouflage. This thick undergrowth is commonly referred to as jess. As lions are ambush hunters, they use this natural cover to stalk close as possible before making a final charge to catch their prey. Lions do not generally avoid confrontation, but will usually face the challenger. Lions are unpredictable and may charge when sufficiently annoyed or confronted by danger. These factors together make lion hunting a challenge to hunters.
Lions are hunted by three methods: baiting, stalking and hounding. The hunting method is dependent on firstly the law, then the number of lions in a given area, terrain, the professional hunter or concession owner or the hunting outfitter, their expertise and the client.
Baiting involves the hunter lying in wait in a natural or constructed blind. Prior to the lion hunt, a prey species is hunted beforehand for use as bait. The bait is then secured to a tree or secure structure in an area which is known to be frequented by lions; usually this will be close to a watering hole. The bait is checked regularly until there are signs the carcass has been visited by a lion. Then a blind is constructed, usually 30–50 yd (27–46 m) from the bait where the hunting party can remain concealed, usually from early evening until early morning the next day.
Stalking involves driving along trails in areas where lions are known to inhabit. Once fresh faeces are sighted, the hunting party (which includes trackers) dismounts. The trackers follow tracks and spoor signs while scanning for the lion. When the lion is spotted, the professional hunter and the client will stalk in close until they reach a good shooting position. Hunting lions by stalking is conducted in daylight hours when there is sufficient light to spot the lion, which would usually be resting. Night stalking using electric light sources is banned in most countries. Lions hunted with lights may not be listed as trophies by Safari Club International.
Hounding, the least used method today, uses dogs, and may include a fighting pack and a tracking pack. The hunting party will drive in known lion territory until fresh spoor is spotted, at which time the dogs are released. The pack follows the scent trail of the lion. Once the lion is encountered, the pack attempts to hold the lion at bay until the hunting party arrives to dispatch the lion. Like stalking, hounding is usually conducted during daylight hours. The lion will usually stand and fight rather than flee.
Many concessions in Africa have been known to release captive lions into enclosed areas where they may be hunted with or without the client's approval and/or knowledge. Sometimes the lion is drugged to slow it down, making it an easier target. Many hunters and hunting organizations consider this unethical and an affront to fair chase practices of the hunt.
The lion has thin skin and does not require the use of a big bore rifle. Furthermore, lions are evidently susceptible to hydrostatic shock when impact velocities are above 3,000 ft/s (910 m/s). Lion require at a minimum a .300 Winchester Magnum. However, certain jurisdictions require a minimum a .375 H&H Magnum or a 9.3x62mm Mauser as a minimum caliber. A few professional hunters are known to carry 12-gauge semiautomatic shotguns loaded with buckshot as a back-up weapon when hunting lion.
The leopard (Panthera pardus) is a large, carnivorous feline having either tawny fur with dark rosette-like markings or black fur. Of the Big Five, it is most difficult to acquire hunting licenses for leopards. The leopard is sometimes considered the most difficult of the Big Five to hunt because of their nocturnal and secretive nature. They are wary of humans and will take flight in the face of danger. The leopard is solitary by nature, and is most active between sunset and sunrise, although it may hunt during the day in some areas. Leopards can be found in the savanna grasslands, brush land and forested areas in Africa.
Leopard hunting uses the same methods as hunting for lions. Baiting, hounding and stalking are the most common methods used today to hunt the cat.
Baiting is the method most often used to hunt leopard. This requires the finding and then following of spoor in an area known to be frequented by a leopard. Once a suitable area is located, a prey species is hunted and used as bait. Because of the nocturnal nature of the cat, the blind needs to be constructed close to the bait, as shooting will more than likely be during the night. The client and the professional hunter will spend the night in the blind waiting for the leopard to come to the carcass.
Hounding with dogs to hunt leopard requires the hunting party to locate an area where a leopard has been recently active, as in the baiting method. Once such an area is located, the dogs (usually bloodhounds or ridgebacks) are released. The dogs attempt to pick up the scent and follow it to the leopard. The leopard will usually flee from the loudly baying dogs and take refuge in a tree or in an area out of their reach. The dogs will hold the leopard at bay in this manner until the hunting party arrives to dispatch the leopard.
Stalking is rarely used to hunt leopard, as it is extremely time-consuming, tedious and has a very low success rate. A month-long hunt using the spot and stalk method may not be successful at even sighting a leopard.
The male leopard is less than half the size of a male lion. The leopard is the smallest of the big cats, and rarely exceeds 200 lb (91 kg).
There is a concerted effort to stop the hunting of the leopard due to the rarity of it and any subsequent big cat.
History of the Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west.
To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
The park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, an area designated by the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve (the "Biosphere").
Sabi Game Reserve (1898 - 1926)
In 1895, Jakob Louis van Wyk introduced in the Volksraad of the old South African Republic, a motion to create the game reserve which would become the Kruger National Park. That motion, introduced together with another Volksraad member by the name of R. K. Loveday, and accepted for discussion in September 1895 by a majority of one vote, resulted in the proclamation by Paul Kruger president of the Transvaal Republic, on March 26, 1898, of a “Government Wildlife Park.” This park would later be known as the Sabi Game Reserve and was expanded into the Kruger National Park in 1926.
The park was initially created to control hunting.and protect the diminished number of animals in the park.
James Stevenson Hamilton became the first warden of the reserve in 1902. The reserve was located in the southern one-third of the modern park.Shingwedzi Reserve, now in northern Kruger National Park, was proclaimed in 1903.In 1926, Sabie Game Reserve, the adjacent Shingwedzi Game Reserve, and farms were combined to create Kruger National Park.
During 1923, the first large groups of tourists started visiting the Sabie Game Reserve, but only as part of the South African Railways' popular "Round in Nine" tours. The tourist trains used the Selati railway line between Komatipoort on the Mozambican border and Tzaneen in Limpopo Province. The tour included an overnight stop at Sabie Bridge (now Skukuza) and a short walk, escorted by armed rangers, into the bush. It soon became a highlight of the tour and it gave valuable support for the campaign to proclaim the Sabie Game Reserve as a national park.
1926 - 1946
After the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the first three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929.
Warden James Stevenson-Hamilton retired on the 30th April 1946, after 44 years as warden of the Kruger Park and its predecessor, the Sabi Game Reserve.
1946 - 1994
He was replaced by Colonel J. A. B. Sandenburg of the South African Air Force.During 1959, work commenced to completely fence the park boundaries. Work started on the southern boundary along the Crocodile River and in 1960 the western and northern boundaries were fenced, followed by the eastern boundary with Mozambique. The purpose of the fence was to curb the spread of diseases, facilitate border patrolling and inhibit the movement of poachers.
The Makuleke area in the northern part of the park was forcibly taken from the Makuleke people by the government in 1969 and about 1500 of them were relocated to land to the South so that their original tribal areas could be integrated into the greater Kruger National Park.
In 1996 the Makuleke tribe submitted a land claim for 19,842 hectares (198.42 km) in the northern park of the Kruger National Park.The land was given back to the Makuleke people, however, they chose not to resettle on the land but to engage with the private sector to invest in tourism, thus resulting in the building of several game lodges.
Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique were incorporated into the a peace park, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The park lies in the north-east of South Africa,in the eastern parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. Phalaborwa, Limpopo is the only town in South Africa that borders the Kruger National Park. It is one of the largest national parks in the world, with an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) The park is approximately 360 kilometres (220 mi) long,and has an average width of 65 kilometres (40 mi).At its widest point, the park is 90 kilometres (56 mi) wide from east to west.To the north and south of the park two rivers, the Limpopo and the Crocodile respectively, act as its natural boundaries. To the east the Lebombo Mountains separate it from Mozambique. Its western boundary runs parallel with this range, roughly 65 km distant. The park varies in altitude between 200 m in the east and 840 m in the south-west near Berg-en-Dal. The highest point in the park is here, a hill called Khandzalive. Several rivers run through the park from west to east, including the Sabie, Olifants, Crocodile, Letaba, Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers.
The climate of the Kruger National Park and Lowveld is subtropical. Summer days are humid and hot with temperatures often soaring to above 38 °C (100 °F). The rainy season is from September until May. The dry winter season is the ideal time to visit this region for various reasons. There is less chance of contracting malaria and the days are milder. Viewing wildlife is more rewarding as the vegetation is more sparse and animals are drawn to the waterholes to drink every morning and evening.
Flora and fauna
Plant life in the park consists of four main areas:
Thorn Trees and Red Bush-willow veld,This area lies between the western boundary and roughly the centre of the park south of the Olifants River. Combretums, such as the red bush-willow (Combretum apiculatum), and Acacia species predominate while there are a great number of marula trees (Sclerocarya caffra). The Acacias are dominant along the rivers and streams, the very dense Nwatimhiri bush along the Sabie River between Skukuza and Lower Sabie being a very good example.
Knob-thorn and Marula Veld,South of the Olifants River in the eastern half of the park, this area provides the most important grazing-land. Species such as red grass (Themeda triandra) and buffalo grass (Panicum maximum) predominate while the knob-thorn (Acacia nigrescens), leadwood (Combretum imberbe) and marula (Sclerocarya caffra) are the main tree species.
Red Bush-willow and Mopane Veld
This area lies in the western half of the park, north of the Olifants River. The two most prominent species here are the red bush-willow (Combretum apiculatum) and the mopane tree (Colophospernum mopane)Shrub Mopane Veld
Shrub mopane covers almost the entire north-eastern part of the park.
There are a number of smaller areas in the park which carry distinctive vegetation such as Pretoriuskop where the sickle bush and the silver cluster-leaf (Terminalia sericae) are prominent. The sandveld communities near Punda Maria are equally definitive, with a wide variety of unique species.
Out of the 517 species of birds found at Kruger, 253 are residents, 117 non-breeding migrants, and 147 nomads.
All the Big Five game animals are found at Kruger National Park, which has more species of large mammals than any other African Game Reserve (at 147 species). There are webcams set up to observe the wildlife.
The park stopped culling elephants in 1989 and tried translocating them, but by 2004 the population had increased to 11,670 elephants, by 2006 to approximately 13,500 and by 2009 to 11,672. The park's habitats can only sustain about 8,000 elephants. The park started using annual contraception in 1995, but has stopped that due to problems with delivering the contraceptives and upsetting the herds.
Kruger supports packs of the endangeredAfrican Wild Dog, of which there are thought to be only about 400 in the whole of South Africa.
Kruger National Park holds over 48 tons of ivory in storage. According to Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), it is allowed to sell 30 tons.
Following approval by CITES, 47 metric tons of stockpiled ivory from Kruger were auctioned on November 6, 2008. The sale fetched approximately US$6.7 million which will be used towards increasing anti-poaching activity. The average price for the 63 lots on auction was US$142/kg.
In 2002, Kruger National Park,
The park is the site of the popular eyewitness viral video Battle at Kruger.
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