Visit South Africa To See The Big Five

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With the arrival of the Dutch in the Cape in 1652 the demise of the wild animals that roamed South Africa began.

At first the Europeans hunters killed for food but later when they found their way into the interior of the country and came across large herds of wild animals they killed for the sport of hunting.

The magnificent Cape lion was one of the first animals that was hunted into extinction along with other species such as the Cape Kwagga, a family member of the zebra.

In the Knysna area there were once great herds of elephant and these are no longer in existence today as they were killed
for their ivory or as Sunday afternoon entertainment for guests of the gentry of that time.

If it were not for the foresight of a number of politicians and animal lovers South Africa would not have a single wild animal left today.

To give future generations the opportunity of seeing wild animals roam the plains a number of parks were established around South Africa to protect our wildlife heritage.

The most well known park in South Africa being the Kruger National Park.

Animals living in the parks are given an opportunity to breed and this has allowed many endangered animals to once again establish themselves.

Tourism has placed an even greater pressure on the parks to preserve our wildlife as it brings in much needed capital to improve the parks and create jobs for the locals.

Most people visiting South Africa have heard of our Big Five but for those who don't know which animals are included I will discuss them below.

Lions are the first of the Big Five animals to be mentioned.

To see them in the Cape Town vistors will have to visit a game farm or a zoo as there are no free roaming lions in the wild anymore.

If lions were to be allowed to roam free people would not be allowed to wonder about in the veld as they might become prey to a hungry lion looking for non existent game.

Keeping the lions in protective custody also limits their chances of being killed by humans who would shoot them on sight.

In places such as the Kruger National Park lions roam free as there is an abundance of game for them and large fences to keep them within a specific area where they can be protected.

Buffaloes which are extremely dangerous animals are the next on our list of Big Five animals. A buffalo is so powerful that it takes a whole pride of lions to bring one down.

In the wild buffaloes carry diseases so game farmers together with the National Parks Board have started a breeding programme to breed disease free animals which are used to restock areas where the buffalo has died out.

There are a number of parks in and around Cape Town where one can see buffalo roaming free..

The leopard is the third of the Big Five animals and the only big cat that can still be found roaming free in the the mountains that surround the Cape.

They are extremely shy so are not often seen. To feed themselves they hunt small antelope and hyrax which they find high up in the mountains.

Occasionally they venture down from the mountains and prey on cows and sheep belonging to farmers. This of course brings them into conflict with the farmers who sometimes shoot and kill them.

Killing of a wild leopard is frowned upon by the authorities so
arrangements have been made with farmers that where a leopard becomes a problem, a trap will be set for it, and when it is captured the authorities will have it moved to another area where it will be released back into the wild.

In extreme cases where an animal cannot be caught the farmer will be given permission to shoot the leopard. When this happens the farmer is allowed to keep the skin which will be registered in his name.

As the sale of leopard skins is prohibited farmers are not allowed to sell any skins they might have in their possession.

The elephant is the fourth of the Big Five animals.

In days gone by elephants roamed free in the Western Cape but these days there are none left as the veld is no longer suitable for them. The indigenous forests where the elephants once lived were destroyed by the early settlers and the elephants were hunted and killed for their ivory and for sport.

As elephants are destructive animals and are extremely dangerous most of them are now kept in our national parks in places such as the Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth or the Kruger National park in the north east corner of South Africa where they are protected from poachers and where they can be controlled by strong fences.

There are a still some wild elephants living in the deserts of Namibia.

The last of the Big Five animals is the rhino.

They are well suited to the Cape area and although they do not roam free in the wild a number of game farms have them on display.

There are two types named the white and the black rhino. If you put these two rhino species together you could not tell the difference in species if you were looking at their colour.

The black rhino probably derives its name from the dark-coloured local soil covering its skin from wallowing.

The main difference however, between the two species is their mouths. The black rhino's upper lip is adapted to feed from trees and shrubs while the white rhino has a wide square upper lip which is adapted for grazing.

Unfortunately the black rhino is under serious threat at present as poachers hunt and kill them for their horns which are considered to be an aphrodisiac in the east.

When visiting Cape Town you are likely to see three of the big five animals in the reserves and game farms within an hour or two of the city.

The two Big Five animals that are missing in the Cape area are the elephants and the leopards but not to worry, even a visit to the Kruger National Park will not guarantee that you will see all of the Big Five.

The Cape Town area however has so much other game within its borders that you won't even miss them.

We hope you enjoy your visit.
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