Africa the world's second largest continent is house to the largest diversity of the members of Kingdom Animalia. The northern part of the continent is an arid desert while the central and southern regions consist of rainforests and savanna plains. A large variety of African animals occupy the desert as well as the thick jungles of the continent. The region is particularly famous for five fascinating creatures, referred to as the "Big Five": elephant, lion, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. These five wonders of Nature dominate the land. Their popularity is worldwide with zoos all around the world housing all of them. You must have paid a visit to them in a zoo nearby or seen them in pictures of African animals.
Here are some spellbinding African animals facts.
The elephants are the largest of all land mammals. Being larger than their Asian counterparts, they can attain a height of up to 4 meters. They are also heavier than the latter with a weight ranging from 4,000 to 7,500 kg. Interestingly, their large ears are shaped like the continent of Africa on the map of the world. These ears are also one of the most prominent and distinguishing features which set them apart from Asian elephants.
Their long trunks are not only their smelling organ, but also help them in grabbing objects. The edge of the trunk has two finger-like projections which are used for picking up and holding things. Both the male and female elephants of Africa possess beautiful tusks while only male Asian elephants are blessed with them. These tusks are a fascinating as well as valuable part of their body. They are used for fighting or for removing small obstacles from their path.
Elephants are herbivores and feed on a variety of African flora. Grasses and leaves of plants are the major portion of their diet.
These intimidating beasts belong to the cat family. They are the only feline creatures to exist in the form of prides. Lions are not only the largest members of their own cat family, but also the largest carnivores to be found in Africa. An average pride of Africa's lions consists of thirteen members. However, a large pride may consist of up to forty lions.
Interestingly, lions are nocturnal creatures. They spend approximately twenty hours of a day sleeping. A typical lion can often be spotted lazing under the shade of tree or bush during the day.
These formidable carnivores contain a set of thirty teeth. Their canines are particularly large and sharp for grabbing and killing an unfortunate victim. Their scissor-like molar teeth are used for tearing the meat apart while the incisors are used for removing flesh from bones. Although the average nutritional requirement of a lion is 5 Kg per day, it can fill its belly with 36 kg at a time and can go on without consuming any food for the next few days. The average life span of Africa's lions is twelve to sixteen years. However, they live longer in captivity, reaching an age of up to twenty-five years.
Among all the African Animal names, Buffalo cannot be missed. The specie lives usually in the wild and is also domesticated. These cattle exist in blackish grey or dark brown color with upturned horns. They are strong as well as aggressive creatures.
Buffaloes are herbivores and feed on different types of grasses. They can be seen grazing around in the early morning or at dusk when the temperature of the region is bearable. During the day, they seek the shade of trees in the forest to avoid the heat. Therefore, if you want to spot buffalos in Africa, morning and dusk are the best times. Moreover, you will find them near a water source as they need to drink at least once in the entire day. That’s why buffaloes always stay close to a water body.
Buffaloes have long life spans ranging from fifteen to twenty-five years. They are mostly found spread around the Eastern and Southern parts of the continent. Savannahs, swamps, grasslands, floodplains and the edges of forests are the places where wild buffaloes are found in large numbers.
Africa's leopards are one of the most beautiful creatures of the continent. Their fascinating coat varies in color according to the region the leopard is found in. They have dark spots on their face and pale, yellowish or tawny brown rosettes on the flanks, tail and the back.
Just like lions, leopards also belong to the feline family. These huge cats are the most common of the members of their family in the continent. Yet, it is difficult to spot a leopard in Africa as they are reclusive creatures. Moreover, their particular coat color blends them with their surroundings.
Leopards are nocturnal cats, being more active during the morning and dusk. Late evenings and early mornings are their common hunting time. This is another reason why it is hard to find a leopard during the day time. The most common prey of leopards consists of antelopes, monkeys, warthogs, small reptiles and birds. This ferocious predator can live for as long as fifteen to twenty years.
Two types of rhinoceros exist in Africa: the white rhino and, a rarer, black rhino. Both the species are identified by their unique horns which are actually projections of the skin. These intriguing horns are made up of keratin protein which is also found in the hair, nails and hooves of the animals. They have been a curse for these poor creatures, leading to their overhunting. These valuable horns were particularly high in demand during 1970s in Asia for their use in medicine and as ornaments.
A rhino poses no threat to other animals as it feeds on plants. Its diet is made up of the shoots, buds and leaves of bushes, trees and other plants. Therefore, their habitats comprise of regions with a diversity of vegetation.
Rhinos have very long life spans. A white rhino lives up to fifty years while a black rhino for thirty to thirty-five years.
If you get a chance to visit Africa, do not miss these Big Five. Also see the pictures of other big five animals given below.