Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The BIG 5

Today I want to share my photos of the "Big Five" with you.

Trivia: If you have a collection of all 5 of our bank-notes, you have the BIG 5 in "your hand".

R10- Note: The Rhino

Featured on this banknote is the White Rhino, but there's the other, more "secretive" rhinoceros or so-called Black Rhino. The difference between the two? They share the same colour (greyish), so why is one called black and the other white? Apparently (or so the story goes), the first European hunters in Africa spoke about this animal with a "wide" mouth, which was translated to "white" - and the name stuck. Once the other species was discovered, it was simply named "black". In actual fact, we should speak of the black rhino as the hook-lipped rhino, which uses its prehensile upper lip to pull leaves and twigs into its mouth. It's therefore a browser - in contrast to the white or square-lipped rhino (below) which is a grazer, and holds its head much lower (closer to the ground).

Fact: a young white rhino has a better chance of survival, because on the open and grassy plains of Africa (its habitat), the youngster is always at its mother's side or even in front of her, especially when they feel threatened. In contrast, a young black rhino follows its mother,
who has to clear a way for them through thick bushes (the black rhino's habitat) when feeling threatened. So the female white rhino always has "her eye" on her youngster and can defend it against an attacker at all times.

R20-Note: The Elephant

Need I say much about this huge and intelligent animal?

Instead, I'll share more elephant photos with you - a playful young elephant whilst crossing the Chobe River.

Also in the Chobe National Park, I captured this photo (left) - we arrived in an open vehicle during a game drive just after the baby elephant (left in the picture) was born. There still was blood visible on the female's hind legs. In the heat of the day, this female battled to get her baby out of the sun. The new-born weakly collapsed and time and again, the female tried to keep it upright with her slurp. But only when another female and her youngster moved closer, did the weak new-born make a visible attempt to move on. To watch how a baby elephant came to "lend support" to another one, was a very moving experience.

R50- Note: The Lion

King of the jungle? I rather think of the elephant in this role, but whatever, catching sight of a lion in the wild is always an exciting occurrence. This male was lying so close to the road (in the Kruger National Park) that nobody could miss him.

We found this female (another one of my favourite photos) on our way out of the Hluhluwe Park (KwaZulu-Natal Province), well- camouflaged and on the hunt. We could hardly drive passed without first taking photos, even though we were running late after a successful game drive (the gates of our national game parks open and close at specific times, when no more private vehicles are allowed on the roads in the parks).

The 3rd lion-photo always reminds me of the famous song, "The Lion sleeps Tonight" (the most famous melody that ever emerged from Africa). Composed/sung by Solomon Linda, a Zulu, in 1939, it turned out to be hit world-wide for the FIRST time in 1952). I found the two sleeping lions in a game reserve in the Cradle of Humankind district just outside Jo'burg (very close to where we live).

R100- Note: The Buffalo

The African Buffalo is known to be the most dangerous animal to encounter - when wounded. Otherwise, buffalo are placid creatures one can't help comparing with cattle. They move about in big herds, and only the older male buffalo become "loners" simply because they can no longer keep up the pace.

R200- Note: The leopard

Since I still don't have the "ideal" photo of a leopard, I present its cousin, the cheetah, instead. This magnificent-looking animal was calmly staying "put" whilst we "clicked away" (in the Shamwari Game Reserve).

A question (somewhat controversial): Why are specifically these 5 animals called the BIG FIVE?

I have it on good authority that the phrase was coined because of the danger they represented to (the first) big-game hunters, who hunted them on foot. The Big Five are known to be extremely dangerous when cornered, but then - what about the hippo, known to cause more deaths on the African continent than any of these five? I guess the hippo lost its "spot" because it isn't a "trophy" animal!!??

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