The Big Five

La Terre des Origines

The Big Five

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Lion

When it fixes you with its golden eyes, exuding power and majesty, one understands why it has been regarded as the King of the Animals.

 

It is the largest of the felines, a large male being able to weigh up to 250 kg. The lioness is smaller but livelier, capable of running very quickly, and therefore it is above all she which hunts in order to feed the family.

 

Only the male carries a mane ; he reigns over a few lionesses which do not have one.

 

After 110 days of gestation, the lioness gives birth to a litter of 1 to 4 lion cubs, which she initially raises away from the group in order to protect them, particularly from their father! Then she gradually integrates them into the pride when they reach the age of two months.

 

Formerly very widespread throughout the world, even in Europe, the lion now only lives in Africa, except for a small population of the last Lions of Asia, in the National Park of Gir, in the North-West of India.

African Elephant

This is the largest and the fattest land animal in the world, bigger even the Asian Elephant : it weighs between 6 and 9 tons, the record being a huge male of 12,274 kg!

 

It has large ears which it in particular uses to get rid of its surplus body heat, a bit like a car radiator. The end of its trunk has two “fingers”, with which it can delicately take hold of things. Unlike its Asian cousin, both male and female have big tusks.

 

The African Elephant has four large molars thanks to which it can chew and crush branches and other plants on which it exclusively feeds, consuming up to 250 kg of food per day. For drinking, it uses its trunk as a tool : it sucks up a quantity of water and then rejects it with its trunk folded back into its mouth.

 

The elephant calf is born after 24 months of gestation and remains close to its mother, in the middle of the family group.

 

Elephants can live up to the age of 70. Although elephant cemeteries remain a myth, it has been seen that elephants have recognised the bones of a fellow and that they have softly stroked them with the end of their trunk, like an ultimate homage.

White Rhino

This is the second largest land mammal after the elephant: it can weigh up to 3 tons and be 4 metres long. It lives mainly on the savannas of Southern Africa because the Central African subspecies has virtually disappeared.

 

Its hide is grey but if it is called “white”, it is because of wrong translation! The lips of this animal are “wide’, called “wijd” in Dutch-Afrikaans : the adjective has been confused with “white” or “wit”, that is to say “white”!

 

Baby rhinos are born after a long 18-month gestation period and already weigh 30 kg!

 

The two horns of the African White Rhinoceros grow by approximately half a centimetre per month and they above all use them to clear brushwood from the vegetation so that they can browse.

 

These horns are made of keratin, like our nails and our hair, and while they have no curative properties, we ascribe them, wrongly, as traditional Asian medicine, which is why they are frantically poached (hundreds of animals per annum…).

 

This is why our rhinos, coming from a South African ranch, have had, over there, their horns sawn off in to save their lives : over here, they slowly grow back…

African Buffalo

With 300,000 individuals spread across the south and the east of Africa, this species is not threatened.

 

The African Buffalo can weigh up to a ton! It is a very fearsome wild animal (it is even said to be the most dangerous), famous for having a “foul temper” and for being aggressive. It can suddenly charge with great power and speed. Its terrifying horns can have a span of up to 1m50.

 

It thus kills hundreds of people each year and has some eloquent nicknames: “Black Death” or “Widow Maker”.

 

Living on the savannah in order to browse its grass, buffalo herds are compact and hardly ever let themselves be intimidated, even by lions.

 

They help each other in the event of attack and buffaloes have even been seen charging lions and making them climb trees and remain there for ages, while waiting for them on the ground to make them pay for a mortal attack on one of their number.

Leopard

This powerful feline can have a coat which changes colour according to its habitat : mottled but on a pale yellow, golden or almost brown background. There is also a melanic form : the famous Black Panther.

The leopards of Pairi Daiza come from Africa but there are also some subspecies of leopard in Asia and in some small areas of the Middle East.

 

The male weighs on average 60 kg while the female only between 35 and 40 kg.

 

An excellent climber and jumper (capable of leaps of 3 metres high and 6 metres long) and also a good swimmer, the leopard has an essentially carnivorous diet, but if it has to, it will also eat insects.

As it lives on its own, unlike lions and hyenas, it often keeps its prey safe from those competitors by hoisting it up on to high branches of trees.

To do this, it shows extraordinary strength! It has been seen climbing in a tree up to a height of 6 metres with, in its jaws, a young giraffe of 125 kg, i.e. twice or thrice its weight. 

The Big Five in image

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