Legend of the Big Five | Clearing Up the Misperceptions

Buffalo and heron. Michael English

The Big Five. Originally the most difficult, or most dangerous, animals to hunt, are now the gauge of a successful African safari. And the biggest "marketing" tool of any safari provider.
A visit to any of the wildlife reserves in Africa, magnificent in their diversity, is based on five animals that are not even necessarily the most interesting animals to see."

Leigh Kemp. Travel Professional

Let's be realistic here - the rhino is usually standing around not doing much.
The buffalo don't seem to care less and most lion sightings are of them sleeping. And yet, as a group together with elephants and leopards, they are marketed as a must-see commodity. So how did this all come about?

Leopard cub. Michael Poliza

In the years prior to photographic safaris becoming the norm, big game hunting was the standard of an African safari, glamorised by Earnest Hemingway and Hollywood, and it was these hunters who coined the "Big Five concept" - apparently the most difficult, or most dangerous, animals to hunt.

With the rise of photographic safaris over the past three decades the private reserves on the boundary of Kruger Park in South Africa came up with the idea that this hunting term could be used as a major drawcard and was viciously promoted - with the result that today all resistance has crumbled and even the most principled safari providers have embraced it.

Black rhino. Michael Poliza

So let's forget about the endangered African Wild Dogs and sleek Cheetah, or even Hyenas, Hippo and Giraffe for they are not worthy.

Big Five and Luxury - how very sad!
But I do realise I am fighting a losing battle by not embracing the concept. As it is with capitalism in general the ideals of conservation and safaris to Africa are now controlled by the wealthy - and not necessarily the most principled.

And for Added Irony:
Also let it not be told that the Black Rhino is the true member of the big five - unlike the majority of places that have taken the white rhino as a substitute.

by Leigh Kemp

African Safaris Guide to South and East Africa
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