On the doorstep of Chrislin African Lodge, a mere 12km away, is the very special and unique, Addo Elephant National Park – the only home to South Africa’s Big 7.
The Big 5 – lion, black rhino, elephant, buffalo and leopard – was originally termed by trophy hunters who identified these animals as the most difficult and dangerous to hunt on foot. The term has since been picked up by the safari industry making these animals the most sought after to see in Africa.
In 1990, South Africa released new bank notes featuring the Big 5 on each denomination. The R10 was given to the rhinoceros, the R20 to the African elephant, R50 to the lion, the R100 shows off the buffalo and lastly we have the R200 note which features the leopard.
In 2009, discussions were publicized about how two more animals, namely the great white shark and the southern right whale, needed to be added to the list, and so came the birth of the Big 7.
7 Facts about Addo’s Big 7
Here are 7 facts about each of Addo’s Big 7. The Addo Elephant National Park is the only park in South Africa where you can see elephants, lions, rhinos, buffalo, leopards, southern right whales and great white sharks.
Addo’s Big 7: African Elephant
- Watching a video of an elephant playing in water undoubtedly puts a smile on anyone’s face. Did you know that this activity is not only fun and adorable, but also vital to give elephants leg joints the necessary rest they need?
- Elephants have a natural fear of bees. Conservationists are now using this discovery to manage human-wildlife conflict and setting up beehive fences near farms. Not only does this keep elephants away from the farmers fields, but has also resulted in improvements in the crop yields and the beehives produce valuable honey.
- Elephants are very important to our eco-systems. Elephants spread seeds in their dung as they move. A South African study has found that elephants can spread seeds as far as 65km.
- Elephant bulls can grow up to four meters tall at their shoulders and measure up to nine meters from trunk to tail. They also weigh aout 6000kg. Let’s take a moment to be grateful that elephants are the only mammals that cannot jump!
- There are three collective nouns for elephants – a herd, a memory or a parade.
- The gestation period for an African elephant is 22 months. Their lifespan in the wild is between 60 and 70 years.
- African elephants are classified as vulnerable on the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species. Fortunately the population is increasing in South Africa.
Addo’s Big 7: Lion
- Lions have four claws on their back paws and five on their front paws. The dew claw is the fifth claw on their front paws. This acts as a thumb to hold down prey and does not show in their foot prints.
- Being associated with traits such as pride, courage and strength, the lion is the choice for many as their national symbol. These include Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, England, Ethiopia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Singapore.
- The roar of an adult male can be heard up to eight km away.
- A lioness needs five kg of meat per day whereas the male needs seven kg or more.
- A group of lions living with their relatives and their offspring is called a pride. A group of male lions is called a coalition. A baby lion is called a cub, whelp or lionet.
- A lion’s gestation period is 110 days and their lifespan is expected to be up to 14 years.
- African lions are also classified as vulnerable but the population of lions is decreasing. There are less than 20,000 wild lions remaining in Africa. The three major challenges are habitat loss, human-lion conflict and lack of food due to the bush-meat trade.
Addo’s Big 7: Rhinoceros
- Rhinoceros means “nose horn” – an easy name given to a magnificent creature with a giant horn growing from their snouts.
- Rhinos are some of the biggest animals in the world. The white rhino can grow up to 1.8 meters tall and weigh up to 2500kg, making them the second largest mammal on land.
- The rhino’s closest relatives are horses, zebras and tapirs. They all belong to the a group called the “odd-toed ungulates.”
- The gestation period of a rhino is between 15 and 16 months and delivers just one calf. Without human intervention, rhinos can live up to 50 years.
- Rhinos have extremely poor eyesight, which is made up for by their other senses. A rhino will be able to smell you, or hear you, but won’t be able to see you standing 30m away from them.
- A group of rhinos is called a crash.
- With great and appreciated efforts of protection and management, the white rhino is now classified as near threatened. The black rhino is classified as critically endangered with the population increasing. Both species of rhinos found in Africa continue to be killed for their horns which are made of keratin and have not medicinal value.
Addo’s Big 7: Buffalo
- Generally, mating season is between March and May. The gestation period lasts just over 11 months, birthing just one calf. The average life span of a buffalo is estimated to be 20 years.
- There is and old adage that says, “an elephant never forgets, but a buffalo never forgives.” Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters than any other animal, giving them the nickname, the “mafia” of the animal kingdom. It’s been reported that they are able to recognize a person or predator that has tried to hurt them in the past and will not hesitate to attach that memory to their encounter and seek revenge.
- The African buffalo are very capable swimmers and often cross deep and dangerous waters in search of better grazing.
- A lone and old buffalo bull is referred to as a “dagga boy”. Usually solitary, they can also be part of a small bachelor herd. In most cases, these buffaloes have been forced out of the herd by younger, stronger bulls or they have left voluntarily. They spend most of their time lazing around water holes and lathering themselves in mud.
- A group of buffalo is called a herd, gang or obstinacy.
- The Addo Elephant National Park is home to over 400 of the disease free Cape buffalo, being the largest disease-free herd in South Africa. These diseases include the corridor disease, bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis.
- The buffalo is listed as “least concern” but with the population decreasing. This is mostly due to habitat loss.
Addo’s Big 7: Leopard
- Leopards are immensely strong and are the most powerful of the big cats. Their ability to climb trees and carry their heavy prey to the top with ease is proof of this.
- A leopard’s gestation period lasts around three months, birthing a litter of between two to three cubs.
- Leopards are also well known for their deftness. They are very strong swimmers, can run as fast as 58km per hour, can leap an impressive six meters parallel and as high as three meters.
- Although they are seldom seen, they are actually the most widely distributed feline. Their habits include desert, tropical forests, mountains and coastal regions. There have also been sightings of this big cat on the outskirts of large cities.
- Females mate with more than one dominant males around her territory. Scientists think that this prevents the males from killing the cubs if they believe them to be their own.
- A group of leopards is called a leap.
- Leopards are listed as “vulnerable” with an increasing concern of the dwindling numbers. Major threats include habit loss, prey depletion, trophy hunting, poaching and indiscriminate killing.
Addo’s Big 7: Southern Right Whales
- Along with the blue and the humpback whale, this gentle giant is part of the baleen whale group. This means they have no teeth, but can feed on plankton through fronds of baleen tissue hanging from their upper jaw.
- This whale got its name from hunters who considered it to be the “right” whale to hunt.
- The largest testicles of any animal belong to the southern right whale, each weighing around 500kg. The male whale seeks the attention of a female by showing off the size of his testicles!
- Females are generally larger than males and can measuring up to 17m. They can weigh up to 40 tones, which equates to a combined weight of about 10 adult African elephants.
- The gestation period lasts about a year, with intervals of between three and seven years. Calves are normally born between July and November. The life expectancy of a southern right whale can be up to 100 years.
- A group of southern right whales is called a pod.
- Southern right whales are classified as “least concern” with the population increasing slowly by 7% each year, thanks to the restrictions on commercial whaling.
Addo’s Big 7: Great White Shark
- The great white shark has an unfair stigma attached to it. It is not even on the top 10 list of deadliest animals. A single bite can cause serious harm but rarely death. Sharks do not attack humans for food but are curious creatures that use their mouths to explore and investigate.
- Females are larger than males and can reach lengths of over six meters and weigh up to 2000kg.
- Great white sharks have an extremely strong sense of smell. They can detect a drop of blood in 100 litres of water. They can smell their prey a up to three kilometers away.
- These sharks have a sixth sense known as electroreception. This enables them to detect electrical currents which are created by any muscular movement made by a fish or living animal. This gives them a great advantage when it comes to hunting.
- Their gestation period is estimated to be between 12 and 18 months, with the birth of between two and 10 pups, sometimes even more. They are expected to live up to 70 years.
- A group of great white sharks is called a herd, frenzy, school or shiver.
- The great white shark is listed as “vulnerable” with the population decreasing. This is due to excessive hunting and trading of their bones, meat, fins and teeth.
The opportunity to view all of these animals is certainly possible. Contact us to find out how you might be able to tick the Addo’s Big 7 off on your bucket list.