Jan 14
Share 'Africa: ‘The Big Five’ and ‘the Little Five’' on Delicious Share 'Africa: ‘The Big Five’ and ‘the Little Five’' on Digg Share 'Africa: ‘The Big Five’ and ‘the Little Five’' on Facebook Share 'Africa: ‘The Big Five’ and ‘the Little Five’' on reddit Share 'Africa: ‘The Big Five’ and ‘the Little Five’' on StumbleUpon Share 'Africa: ‘The Big Five’ and ‘the Little Five’' on Email Share 'Africa: ‘The Big Five’ and ‘the Little Five’' on Print Friendly

Africa: ‘The Big Five’ and ‘the Little Five’

Although the term ‘The Big Five’ is commonly used today by African Safari Tour operators for marketing purposes, it actually has a much darker origin. The phrase was first coined by hunters, who considered these five large African mammals to be the most difficult to hunt, due to their ferocity and the danger involved in tracking and killing them. Today however, ‘The Big Five’ are among the most popular and well studied of all African animals.

African elephant

As the largest terrestrial mammal in the world, the African elephant is also one of the most charismatic. This emotive creature has a highly complex social structure that is perhaps what makes the elephant such a favourite among us. Each closely related family group of females and calves is led by an old ‘matriarch’ female, and male elephants leave the group at puberty, forming less tight-knit alliances with other males. Interestingly, there seems to be some scientific truth behind the expression ‘elephants never forget’. Studies have revealed that the dominant female is able to build a ‘social memory’, enabling her to recognise ‘friends’. Despite their seemingly gentle nature, elephants can be extremely aggressive and dangerous when threatened.

African elephant photo

African elephants fighting

Black rhinoceros

The Critically Endangered black rhinoceros is distinguished from the African white rhinoceros by its characteristic pointed, prehensile upper lip. It is known for its inquisitive yet aggressive nature towards humans and other animals. Twice as heavy as an African buffalo, the black rhinoceros should not be mistaken as a slow animal. It is surprisingly fast on its feet, reaching speeds of up to 31 miles per hour, and is able to make sharp turns whilst running full pelt. In spite of all this, new camera technology has revealed a softer side to the black rhinoceros, which appears to show that they meet at night in order to ‘socialise’.

Photo of male black rhinoceros charging

Male black rhinoceros charging

African buffalo

The iconic African or Cape buffalo has a menacing appearance, with its brownish black coat and magnificently curved horns that can be used defensively to great effect. Alongside the hippopotamus, the African buffalo is considered to be Africa’s most dangerous animal, known to attack and even kill humans and other animals without provocation. Given their vegetarian status, this inclination highlights their extremely aggressive nature. Female bonds are strong within a buffalo herd, and if one is attacked by a predator, it will be staunchly defended by the rest of the herd. Having seen a lioness held hostage up a tree for hours by a herd of buffalo, I can vouch for the loyalty of herds!

Buffalo standing guard over a lioness in a tree © Kaz Armour

Buffalo standing guard over a lioness in a tree © Kaz Armour

Lion

Lions are the most social of all cats, living in groups of related females who often reproduce at the same time and suckle each others cubs. In many cultures the lion has become known as the ‘King of the Beasts’ due to its ferocious temperament and regal presence. Also one of the largest of the ‘big cats’, the muscular lion has powerful jaws and is able to hunt animals that are many times its own size. Male lions compete for access to females, and will commonly kill any cubs already present after taking over a pride. This behaviour is exhibited to increase the reproductive potential of the male in a short period of time.

African lions attacking a hippopotamus

African lions attacking a hippopotamus

Leopard

The graceful leopard is both majestic and elusive, its spots providing extremely effective camouflage in African habitats. Being skilled climbers, leopards will often drag their kill up into the trees to prevent it from being poached by scavengers. Leopards are powerful predators, with formidable jaws that dispatch and dismember prey with ease. They are equally able to hunt at night, with their long, sensitive whiskers enabling them to ‘feel’ their way in the darkness.

African leopard hunting

African leopard hunting

Africa’s ‘Little Five’

Whilst we talk about Africa’s most well known and ferocious animals, we mustn’t forget those smaller, but no less important. Did you know that for each of ‘the Big Five’ African animals, there is a ‘Little Five’ equivalent? These somewhat smaller, but equally impressive creatures include:

  • The rhinoceros beetle. The male has an impressive backward-curved horn on its head, hence its common name.
  • The rufous elephant shrew. These bouncing critters have kangaroo-like hind legs, allowing them to hop bipedally when moving fast.
  • The leopard tortoise. Named after its gold and black mottled shell, the leopard tortoise can live up to 50 years in captivity!
  • The buffalo weaver. These striking birds are most easily identified by their bright red rump and white head.
  • The ant lion. A winged larval insect, which digs conical shaped sand traps to catch small ants to feed on.
Rufous elephant shrew photo

Rufous elephant shrew

Watch out for our next Africa themed blog, which will explore the fascinating lesser-known African species the continent has to offer.

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

Jun 29
Share 'In the News: Good news for orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo' on Delicious Share 'In the News: Good news for orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo' on Digg Share 'In the News: Good news for orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo' on Facebook Share 'In the News: Good news for orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo' on reddit Share 'In the News: Good news for orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo' on StumbleUpon Share 'In the News: Good news for orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo' on Email Share 'In the News: Good news for orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo' on Print Friendly

In the News: Good news for orangutans and pygmy elephants in Borneo

The survival of orangutans and pygmy elephants has received a major boost in the Heart of Borneo, an area of highland forests at the core of the island, according to WWF.

Photo of Bornean orangutan juvenile biting tree

The Bornean orangutan is under threat from hunting and habitat loss, and is considered Endangered by the IUCN.

WWF reports that nearly 300,000 hectares of important habitat has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in the forest reserves of Ulu Segama-Malua and Tangkulap-Pinangah, in the Malaysian state of Sabah, Borneo. These newly certified sites are believed to harbour the world’s highest density of north-eastern Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio), and Borneo pygmy elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis), a subspecies of the Asian elephant.

FSC certification is considered to be the most credible global standard for responsible and sustainable forest management.

Photo of Bornean elephant female with young

The Borneo pygmy elephant, or Bornean elephant, is genetically distinct from other Asian elephants.

The area also includes the Malua BioBank, a partnership involving the Sabah Government which seeks to preserve and restore 34,000 hectares of critical orangutan habitat by bringing business investment into conservation management.

All Sabah’s forestry concessions to be certified

Sabah’s Forestry Department (SFD) has imposed a deadline of 2014 for certification of all the forestry concessions in the state of Sabah. According to SFD’s Director, Datuk Sam Mannan, the announcement of the latest certification has quadrupled the area of land under FSC certification in the state, and he hopes it will encourage other concession holders to pursue certification before the 2014 deadline.

Photo of illegal gold mine inside Tanjung Puting National Park, Borneo

Illegal gold mine inside Tanjung Puting National Park. Borneo’s forests are also under threat from logging, fire, and conversion to agriculture and oil palm plantations.

FSC certification is a crucial part of independent third party verification of sustainable forest management and its critical role in sustaining viable populations of some of the world’s most endangered wildlife here in the Heart of Borneo, one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet,” said CEO of WWF Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma.

Leap forward for Asia’s forests

Head of WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), George White, said that to date there has been very little certification of Asia’s tropical forests. He added that, “This announcement represents a significant leap forward for sustainable management of tropical forests in Asia and evidences the long lasting relationship between SFD and WWF.”

Photo of Bornean orangutan baby and adult interacting

Bornean orangutan and infant.

The announcement is good news for Borneo’s endangered orangutans and elephants, which currently face serious threats from hunting and from the large-scale loss of their forest habitat through logging and fires.

Adam Tomasek, leader of WWF’s Heart of Borneo initiative, also stressed the global importance of the announcement, saying, “This is a living example of how government, business and WWF can work together to make forests worth more standing than cut down. It is also one of the key foundations in the development of a Green Economy for the [Heart of Borneo] – a concept which is gaining increasing relevance and support internationally.”

Read the full story: WWF – Good news for orangutan and pygmy elephants in the Heart of Borneo.

View photos and videos of Bornean orangutans on ARKive.

View photos and videos of Asian elephants on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

About

RSS feedARKive.org is the place for films, photos and facts about endangered species. Subscribe to our blog today to keep up to date!

Email updates

Sign up to receive a regular email digest of ARKive blog posts.
Preferred frequency:

ARKive twitter

Twitter: ARKive