The biggest, the fastest, the tallest and the smallest. What am I talking about? These are the animals you can find on South African soil. And if you don’t know what they are, they are elephants, cheetahs, giraffes and the pygmy shrew (a mere 8cm and 4grams).
We have a big country. We are the 25th largest country in the world. We are twice the size of France, three times the size of Japan, four times the size of Italy and five times the size of the UK and New Zealand. We have the smallest floristic region in the world with a huge variety of plants and approximately 300 mammal species to boast of.
There are several reasons why you should not miss out on visiting South Africa. Today I am going to talk about our animals. But we also have the most wonderful and amazing people (11 official languages speaks volumes about the diversity of our people) and country with magical things to do and the most breathtaking views you will ever see.
We have the big five, thus named, not because they are the biggest mammals, but because it describes the animal’s strength and power. The hunters of the 19th century coined this term, as these animals were the most difficult to hunt on foot.
The big five are: elephants, rhinoceroses, cape buffaloes, leopards and lions. Four of the big five are on the brink of extinction. I am happy to inform you that the elephant’s population is growing, however, the rhino is critically endangered and this is mostly due to poaching.
I will never forget the first time I saw an elephant in the wild. It was magical. They are the real gentle giants of the wild – they move very softly through the brushes, have a tenderness toward their little ones and care for one another. However, they are huge and dangerous, especially if they or their offspring are threatened!
Hearing a lion roar for the first time will also be something you will never forget. Or seeing your first hunt! Jaw dropping! Many people see lions and see cats – but they are not the cute and cuddly kind that rule your household. Even when raised in a human environment, they are still very dangerous and will always be a wild animal.
Rhinos are funny looking animals! They cannot see well, but they have very good hearing! They look ancient and have very thick skin. Their ears are constantly moving around listening to what is going on around them. They may look slow, but they can run up to 55km per hour!
I have only seen a leopard in a zoo – I have never had the privilege of seeing one in the wild. They were once plentiful and roaming free in the Cape Town district. Unfortunately, human encroachment has taken away a lot of their habitation. Besides, a leopard hunts late afternoon or in the evening, they are not very social and definitely not very vocal – they only submit a cough-like call every now and then. Besides the lion, the leopard is the next biggest African cat. Seeing a leopard in the wild is on my bucket list!
The one animal that you will not find on the endangered list and is on the least concerned list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). They are plentiful on the African continent. Their horns are formidable and don’t get on the wrong side of a buffalo! They are know as being very grumpy. They are rumoured to kill more hunters than any other animal on the continent.
It was rumoured that the hippopotamus was the deadliest animal on the planet, but they kill approximately the same amount of people that elephants do. The deadliest living thing on the planet is actually a mosquito.
These are only the big five. We have plenty of other wild animals to see: springbok (our national animal), zebra, kudu, onyx, wild dog, hyena. I can go on and on.
Come to South Africa and you can see the big five. Not only that, but you can also see the small five: elephant shrew, lion ant, rhino beetle, leopard tortoise and the buffalo weaver, the ugly five: hyena, warthog, marabou stork, cape vulture & the wildebeest as well as the shy five: porcupine, bat-eared fox, aardvark, meerkat and the aardwolf.
Why South Africa? Where else will you see a wild dog play dead to escape the jaws of a lioness? Or a wildebeest herd come to the rescue of one of their own?
If you find this interesting – please be on the lookout for our next blog post coming soon.