The Forgotten Five

Hyena at Garonga Safari Camp
Forget the ‘Big Five’, what about the ‘Forgotten Five’

We all know about the famous ‘Big Five’ but have you ever wondered how and why these selected 5 safari animals made it onto the list and why others didn’t? Of course, the reason the elephant, leopard, lion, buffalo and rhino rose to fame was because they were considered the most dangerous animals to hunt. What about those beloved species that just didn’t make the grade …the poor things. We kind of feel sorry for them being shoved out of the limelight like that and constantly being reminded that they are “just a warthog”. It’s got to hurt! So here we bring you some interesting facts about those we have dubbed “The Forgotten Five”

Warthog

Warthog – Makakatana Bay Lodge

With that disproportionately large head, mullet of hair, flat long snouts, alarming tusks and stocky legs these pig family members certainly got the rough end of the deal in the looks department. However, surprisingly, these little beasts can run pretty fast when startled reaching up to 30mph. It is also the only pig member that can survive in areas without water for several months of the year.

Interestingly, before giving birth to a new litter, the female warthog chases away the litter she has been raising and secludes herself. These juveniles may join up with another solitary female for a short time before they go out on their own. Female warthogs only have four teats, so litter sizes are usually confined to four young. Each piglet has its “own” teat and suckles exclusively from it. Amazingly, even if one piglet dies, the others do not suckle from the available teat.

Hyena

Hyena – Garonga Safari Camp

While dog-like in appearance, hyenas bear no formal relation to the dog species. In fact, they are more genetically related to cats. Their eerie, cowardly and ‘just a little bit evil’ reputation usually precedes them. They are, however, considered aggressive competitors in the bush.

Male hyenas have the lowest status in the pack and are forced to leave their family when they reach sexual maturity. Their fight to enter a new pack is often deadly and the dominant female will determine their fate.

Hyena are believed to be even more intelligent than chimpanzees, and studies by Duke University show a large frontal cortex of the brain, with a wily problem-solving ability. The study found that hyena achieved uncanny cooperation, all in eerie silence, without any apparent outward communication.

Wild Dog

Wild Dog – Garonga Safari Camp

Classified as an endangered species, Wild Dogs are becoming harder and harder to spot with only 5,000 remaining in the wild. Their scientific name, Lycaon pictus (which literally means ‘painted wolf’), is referencing their mottled fur with black, brown, yellow and white colourings.

Wild Dogs are nomadic animals and can traverse 50km in a single day. As a result, their territories can range between 400 and 1500 square kilometres. They only remain in one area when denning.

The 80% success rate in hunts (compared to 30% for lions) can be attributed mainly to the coordinated nature of the pack. Communication is key and the dogs constantly let one another know both their location and that of the prey. Their high intelligence and teamwork allows them to adapt to changing scenarios during a hunt.

Meercat

Meerkats (a member of the Mongoose family) with their inquisitive stance, live in all parts of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in much of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa.

A group of meerkats is called a “mob”, “gang” or “clan” which often contains about 20 but some super-families have 50 or more members. All families have an alpha-pair as oppose to one alpha. Extremely social animals and very committed to the clan, they have a unique babysitting system amongst the mob where even females that have never produced offspring of their own often lactate to feed the alpha pair’s young.

Meerkats are primarily insectivores, but also eat other animals including lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, eggs, small mammals, millipedes, centipedes and, more rarely, small birds but also plants and fungi.

Aardvark

Aardvark is the first word in your English dictionary, however the name aardvark is not even English! It comes from the Afrikaans language and means ‘earth pig’ or ‘ground pig’. There is, however, no other animal in the World like the aardvark despite them resembling pigs (nose), rabbits (ears) and kangaroos (tail.) They are also almost impossible to spot because they are nocturnal, coming out after sunset to forage for termites.

Aardvark or Anteater? These two are often mixed up but they are actually completely different species with anteaters being found in Central and South America and Aardvarks from sub-Saharan Africa. With those long snouts and other physical similarities it is easy to understand the confusion, however it is now recognised that this is not a sign of a common ancestor but rather of convergent evolution. Both have developed powerful digging forearms, long tongues, and toothless, tube-like snouts for excellent termite mound raiding.

If you feel for our Forgotten Five safari animals too and want to try and give them back at least some of the limelight they truly deserve then consider a safari stay at any of the following lodges and you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and some of them also have ‘The Big Five’…. just in case you were interested!

Garonga Safari Camp, South Africa (big five)
Selinda Camp, Botswana
Makakatana Bay Lodge, South Africa
Tshwene Lodge, Zambia (big five)
Rhino Sands, South Africa (big five)