The “Big 5″…there is more than one list…


Why is it that the Big 5 have become so popular with tourists both local and international alike?
Originally the 5 were meant to represent the most dangerous animals to hunt while on safari in Africa.
For those who do not know what they are, here is the list in no particular order.
1] Buffalo
2] Lion
3] Rhino…white or black
4] Leopard
…and finally
5] Elephant
Why the Hippo did not make it onto a list is anyone’s guess, as it is responsible for more human deaths than all other predator species put together

But in today’s modern politically correct world people will only admit to “shooting” any of these with a camera!
It is interesting that the debate about canned hunting only seems to focus on lions and none of the other species on the list…I wonder why? Is it perhaps that Lions are seen as the epitome of wildlife here in South Africa? Or is it the fact that in the case of the Elephant it has the “Oh shame” cuteness factor?

Buffalo that are disease free have become a sought after investment commodity and therefore have some built in protection.

Rhino are being poached faster than legal hunters can shoot them and the Leopard has to fend for itself as it is seen as vermin by cattle farmers

But guests (myself included) do want to see these animals when we venture out on game drive vehicles.
Game viewing is a bit of a gamble and unless you are on a property where every animal is “known” and can therefore be tracked, your bush experience is in the hands of your ranger.
Some properties have added Cheetah and Wild dog to their “Big 5” lists, with the former seemingly the more elusive.

However, for those of us who don’t care about the Big 5 or 7 for that matter, there are the Little 5 (this is a good pop quiz for you to ask your guide as you leave on a game drive)
They are:
1] Buffalo weaver (bird)
2] Ant-lion (insect)
3] Rhino beetle (another insect species)
4] Leopard tortoise
5] Elephant shrew (a nocturnal mouse-like creature)
On a recent visit to a couple of game lodges the rangers have come up with a  “Secret 7” list.  I am not sure I can mention them as they are a secret…but then it would just be an empty list which would be boring for both you and I.

1] Porcupine
3] African wild cat
4] Honey badger
5] Spotted genet
6] White-tailed mongoose
7] Lesser Bush baby

I have been lucky in my travels in that I have been able to tick off all the creatures on the Big 5,7 and small 5 lists.
But when it comes to the Secret 7 list my “bucket list” still lacks the pangolin and the bush baby (I was told that seeing one in a zoo does not count!)