Pictures: A look at Zimbabwe’s big five

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Zimbabwe with its diverse landscape is home to some of Africa‘s largest game reserves but reports say several species such as impala, warthog, kudu and wildebeest are at risk from rampant poaching by people struggling with hunger and rising poverty and from cross-border trophy hunters.

Zimbabwe’s state National Parks and Wildlife Authority says most Zimbabwe animals in the larger game reserves have not been affected by massive poaching and remain safe.

With wildlife officials saying the country’s elephant population soaring to more that 100 000 – twice as much as the 45 000 it can sustain.

From our own personal experience into Zimbabwe’s National Parks, there is still abundant game, and evidence of wholesale slaughter is just not apparent.

However poaching does exist of that there is no doubt, but as long as efforts from certain individuals and organisations like the Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit (VFAPU) stay intact, our heritage can be saved. We applaud them for all that they do to save our Zimbabwe animals.

On a safari in Zimbabwe it would not be over expectant to see all of the “Big Five” although the elusive Leopard may prove to be difficult.

Introducing the “Big Five” of Zimbabwe Animals

The phrase Big Five game was coined by big game hunters to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. The term is still used in most tourist and wildlife guides that discuss African wildlife safaris.

The collection consists of the Lion, the African Elephant, the Cape buffalo, the Leopard and the Rhinoceros.

Zimbabwe’s lion
Lion – (family Felidae) – Panthera Leo
Prides consist of a group of four to twelve related females and one to six males, unrelated to the females.
The lion will hunt collectively and individually: one animal sets up the charge and drives the prey toward other members of the pride, which then pull of the ambush. Most hunting is done by the females.
Their favoured prey is wildebeest, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, porcupines and warthogs.
The habitat of a lion is woodland and open savanna.
Zimbabwe’s Rhino
Rhinoceros – (family rhinocerotidae) – White – Ceratotheriumsimum, and Black – Dicerosbicornis
A rhino stands up to 1,8m at the shoulder and weighs up to 2 tons the grey-coloured white rhino is the second-largest land animal after the elephant.
The white rhino is distinguished from the black by its square upper lip, pronounced nuchal hump, heavier build and longer and narrower head.
The white rhino is a grazer and prefers fairly flat terrain with areas of short grass adjacent to dense bush. It drinks and wallows regularly and is usually found close to water.
The black rhinoceros is a browser usually found in savanna woodlands and scrub, forests, riverine woodlands and dense bush, within about 15kms of water. It is generally solitary.
Rhinos are classified under Appendix One of the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species.
Zimbabwe’s leopard
Leopard – (family felidae) – Panthera Pardus
The leopard is pale yellow-gold with dark spots, those on flanks arranged in rosettes. Their legs are strongly built and they have a long tail. Leopards are mainly nocturnal, especially in areas of human development. They are solitary and very territorial. They rest in trees, thick cover or caves. Their prey impala, bushbuck, reedbuck, monkeys, is stalked and rushed from short range and killed by bites to the back or neck, skull or throat. They will then often hoist the carcass into a tree and feed over several days.
A cornered or wounded leopard is one of the most dangerous of all African mammals and will launch a fierce attack which may prove fatal.
The leopard is common, though elusive, throughout much of Zimbabwe, and can be found in most major National Parks but the best-known leopard population, is in the Matobo Hills.
Zimbabwe’s elephants
Elephant – (order Proboscidea) – Loxodonta Africana
The African elephant is the world’s largest living land mammal. Its nose and upper lip elongated into a trunk. Both males and females usually have a pair of tusks growing down and forwards from their upper lip. Their ears are very large. Elephants are almost hairless with rough grey skin, often coloured by dust or mud. They can stand approximately 3,2mhigh and weigh up to 5 metric tons.  they have poor eyesight and hearing but a very keen sense of smell.
Elephants can survive in a wide variety of habitats, their main requirements being a plentiful supply of fodder and access to unpolluted water. They are exclusively herbivorous, requiring up to 300kg of fodder daily.  They may eat more grass in years of good rainfall and are especially partial to the ripe fruits of the vegetable ivory palm, the wild almond and the marula.
Zimbabwe’s buffalo
Buffalo – (family Bovidae) – Syncerus caffer
The buffalo has curved horns on both sexes that rise from heavy bosses, spread out and downwards, then curve up and inwards.  They are brownish-grey, darkening with age. Males are heavier (up to 800kg) than females. The cows are known to be extremely aggressive when threatened or wounded. Some herds of buffalo can go up to thousands – and you will find both females and males in a herd together.
Buffalos are almost exclusively grazers and will graze on most grass species. The herds split up into smaller units and disperse over wide areas during the rainy season and regroup after the end of the rains near permanent water supplies.

Leopard – (family felidae) – Panthera Pardus
Zimbabwe’s big five
Our trip to Hwange National Park recently left us with stunning memories of huge herds of elephants, a group of six cheetahs, lion sighting, two wild dog, herds of sable, impala  and my personal favourite the graceful giraffe  We saw NO signs what so ever of poaching in the  Hwange National Park.”

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