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Big Five to See on Kenyan Safari

The Big Five

The big five are recognized as the most dangerous animals on the planet.  The term was originally invented by big game hunters based on how difficult each animal was to hunt. Today, Kenya’s Big Five are protected by conservation laws and other anti-poaching efforts are in place, but for visitors to Kenya, catching a glimpse is still a challenge.

Africa Elephant

African Elephant
African Elephant

Elephants are the world’s largest and heaviest land animals, with the biggest individual on record weighing in at over 10 tons/22,000 pounds. They are supremely well adapted to their environment, from their inch-thick skin (which protects them from the sharp thorns of the bush) to their enormous ears (which help to disperse heat and regulate body temperature) and are capable of surviving in a wide range of different habitats, from lush wetlands to arid deserts. Despite their size, elephants are able to walk silently through the bush because they walk on the tips of their toes – which is actually a thick cushion made up of elastic tissue.

Elephants are very social animals. They live in matriarch-led groups that often number more than 100 individuals and communicate using a variety of low-frequency rumbles that can travel for many miles. Female calves usually stay with the herd throughout their life, while young males leave to form bachelor groups and to eventually create herds of their own.

Big Five: African Rhino

Kenya Black Rhino
Kenya Black Rhino

There are two species which are white and the black rhino. The animal is among the hardest animals to spot because they’re so few in numbers compared to other wildlife. In recent years, they have been hunted but the efforts of conserving them have yielded fruits. The animal is dangerous when someone gets too close to them. Their bad sight may work as an advantage if attacked.

They are found in Amboseli quite often, and also in Masai Mara, Tsavo East (rarely), Nairobi National Park and Nakuru. Rhino usually feeds in the very early morning or late afternoon; at other times they tend to keep out of sight.

Big Five: African Lion

Kenyan Lion
Kenyan Lion

It’s often referred to as the “King of Beasts” or the “King of the Jungle”, the lion is the powerful creatures in the animal kingdom. The lion is also thought to be the most social of all the big cats. They can be found roaming around together in groups called ‘prides’. Each pride usually consists of a herd of about 15 lions which includes only one or two males (with one being the dominant male). The rest of the members include females and cubs of different ages.  With an average lifespan of up to 15 years old. You can generally tell how old a lion is by looking at its mane – the darker it is, the older he or she is.

The female lions are the hunters of the pride – usually on the prowl at night, in the afternoon or early morning. Their prey includes Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe, Buffalo – and even young elephants. You can usually spot lions hanging around in open plains, where their ‘victims’ often congregate thanks to plenty of grazing and permanent water sources in these areas.

Big Five: African Leopard

Kenyan Leopard
Kenyan Leopard

Leopards are difficult to spot as they like to rest and stay hidden during the day. Because of this, they tend to be the most elusive and less seen out of the Big Five animals when you go on a safari.

Leopards have a preference for rocky landscapes with dense bush and riverine forests. They are known to adapt quickly, seldom staying in an area more than two or three days at a time. They are able to survive the loss of their previous habitat due to increasing human settlement.

Excellent climbers, the leopard’s spotted coat provides almost perfect camouflage which comes in handy when they hunt.  A stealthy hunter, they often safeguard their prey by taking it up to the trees. To prevent other animals such as lions or hyenas from stealing their food.

What you may not know about this beautiful creature is that they are also strong swimmers. Occasionally they consume fish or shellfish like crabs

Big Five: African Buffalo

African Bufallo
African Buffalo

Buffalo look docile, peaceful and resembles a cow but are believed to be the most dangerous of the Big Five when agitated. They are also vengeful and are known to attack someone who injured them, even years after the fact. They are equipped with a particularly dangerous set of curling horns. Which are responsible for killing more people than virtually any other creature.

They may be active throughout the day and night. On average, they spend 18 hours a day foraging and moving around in herds of up to 500 buffalos. They are often hunted by the lion. They are extremely loyal to its herd and would often try to rescue another member if they are caught by attacking the predator.

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