The Uganda Big Five
The Uganda Big Five: Uganda is proud to have the African big five. These are two categories, the carnivores and herbivores. Among the Carnivores we have the African Lions and Leopards. For herbivores we have elephants, Buffaloes and Rhinoceros. The big five doesn’t imply the body sizes but the impact an animal has on nature. If we talk about lions and leopard, they are on top of the food chain. Their presence can reduce animal population and their absence can lead to wild animal numbers to increase. In other words, they help to regulate animal populations.
If there was no predation, there is inbreeding and over multiplying of animals leading to over capacity of animals and may die of excavation. Predation also helps in matainance strong genes for example the laziest are eaten and the strongest survive. This means you find having strongest generations only.
Uganda has a modified equatorial type of climate with two rainy seasons. But it’s better to target the drier season as your best time to visit the big five. This is because when it’s raining, it becomes hard to drive through the park for wildlife viewing. furthermore, heavy rains make the trails to slippery. The best time for big five viewing in Uganda is during the months of December to February. More so, June to October.
What exactly are they?
The lion is one of the most sought-after safari species and one of the most impressive to observe. Living in pride of around 15 individuals, lions adhere to strict social structures. Groups consist of related females and their cubs. Furthermore, these are born around the same time and raised communally. New mothers, however, live in dens with their cubs for the first few weeks. Meanwhile, they start moving them one by one to a new den every few days. This is to avoid building up a scent that attract predators. A new male taking over a pride will often kill all cubs, and mate with each of the females.
The male’s distinctive mane plays a role in making it look much larger. More so, looking intimidating to other lions and spotted hyenas. – the lion’s main rivals. It is the lionesses, however, who are responsible for around 90% of the hunting. By doing so in coordinated groups which allow them to pursue larger species. These include buffaloes and giraffes as well as smaller antelope. The kill is not shared evenly, however, and only the larger prey is brought back to the pride. More so, making survival difficult for cubs during times of hardship.
Places to find lions in Uganda
Here in Uganda lions are mainly found in the three largest savannah parks. Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP), Kidepo Valley National Park (KVNP) and Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). In QENP, the Ishasha lions are known for their unique behaviour of climbing trees. They are branded the “Ishasha tree-climbing lions” by tourists. Lions, after mountain gorillas, are the most sought-after species by tourists visiting Uganda.
An influencing factor on tree climbing lions is that tourists are willing to stay longer just to see lions climbing trees. Ecologically, lions play an important role in maintaining ecosystem health and balance by predating on herbivores. They often targeting sick individuals and thereby keeping disease down, and disposing of carcasses. This makes lions important to Uganda’s economy and ecology.
The Uganda savanna elephants are intelligent, sociable, affectionate animals. They portray behaviors similar to humans such as caring for weaker individuals. More so, adoption of orphaned calves and grieving over dead companions. Living in family groups of varying sizes and led by matriarchs. Elephants traverse vast landscapes in search of food and water, paying no attention to political borders.
With a single mature individual consuming between 250 and 350 kg of vegetation. Again requiring 110 to 190 litres of water per day, the home ranges of these elephants can span several hundred square kilometres. As a result, elephants play an important role in the modification of ecosystems and creation of conditions suitable for the survival of some plants and animals. They maintain grasslands by reducing tree cover and create water ponds/ wallows for other wildlife as they dig for water using their trunks and tusks. They help with the dispersal and germination of tree species such as Borassus palms and Balanitis aegyptiaca trees, which are native to much of Africa.
Elephants are herbivores
Elephants are strict vegetarians and eat grass, leaves, fruits and even branches or twigs. In any 24-hour period, elephants spend up to 19 hours eating a massive 340 kilos (5% of their body weight), and that’s about 50 tonnes of food every year.
They will drink between 100 and 200 liters of water per day. This compensates for the fact that as much as five liters is lost every hour through the process of transepidermal water loss (through the skin), and that they urinate up to 50 litres each day. Perhaps the more reason to take that boat safari on Kazinga Channel and the Nile to catch them filling up their massive water tanks.
There are around 5000 elephants in Uganda today. They are mostly found in the landscapes of Kidepo Valley National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Kibale National Park and Bwindi impenetrable National Park. With a very low reproduction rate (one calf every 8.6years), Elephant populations cover more slowly than many other animals, with a maximum annual growth of about 6%
Buffaloes are so very easy to track in case you put it on your wish for sightings during the your safari. In Uganda the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is found in all the national parks with savanna like Queen Elizabeth national park, Murchison Falls national park and Kidepo Valley national park. The Cape buffalo qualifies as one of the famous “big 5” together with lion, elephant, leopard, and rhinoceros.
Being commonly seen during game-drives it is one of those animals we can pretty much promise you to see while on safari in Uganda. During daytime they are usually seen resting in water or mud to help regulating the body temperature. But don’t be fooled by the docile look of buffaloes resting, African buffalo is actually one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. With their defensive and changeable moods as well as weight of around 600-900 kg they deserve to be treated with respect.
Buffaloes are fearless and warriors
Hardly looking like warriors and fearless fighters, buffaloes are often overlooked in favor of finding dangerous predators. Do not be fooled by the above. And do not think that the buffalo is placid. They play a dangerous game, one that ensured their place in Africa’s big five, a term coined years ago to categories the most dangerous game to hunt on foot. Nowadays the big five is simply a marketing descriptor for the big game and elusive cats that safari-goers eagerly seek to find.
They never forget, when wounded, they become aggressive and angry. They seek revenge on the hunter and even remember the encounter the following day. If wounded they circle around their enemy and counter-attack, instead of fleeing. Do not anger a buffalo if you cross their path, they will charge instead of fleeing! A mother protecting her calf can be dangerous, a wounded buffalo can be lethal and an old bull past its prime is nothing short of insecure and grumpy.
Buffaloes give no indication of emotion in case if angry, unlike the other big five which give a sign of emotion while angry like lions will give a warning roar and will stalk their prey. The pride might begin to circle prior to the ambush. An elephant mock charges, flays its ears, and makes a noise. Even rhino will give an indication of charging, with black rhino being particularly territorial and aggressive. With buffalo, they remain statue like before suddenly charging and trampling everything in its wake. There is simply no indication or behavioral changes before a buffalo charges.
Buffaloes have poor sight and hearing
Their sight and hearing are both rather poor, but their scent is well-developed in African buffaloes. They also seem to have a relatively difficult time regulating body temperature—the reason why they feed mostly at night. Although they are quiet for the most part, the animals do communicate. In mating seasons, they grunt and emit hoarse bellows, and a calf in danger will bellow mournfully, bringing herd members running at a gallop to defend it
Conclusively Buffaloes devote a large portion of their time to grazing and feeding. After grazing on grass, just like cow, they spend time chewing their cud (or bolus) to extract even more nutrients from their food.
The striking leopard is one of the hardest large species to observe in Uganda, thanks to its nocturnal, solitary behavior and well-camouflaged coat.
Their survival is partly due to their adaptability to warm and cold climates and ability to climb trees while carrying heavy prey – keeping it safe from other predators such as lions and hyenas. They can run at incredible speeds of up to 58 km (36 miles) per hour, and hunt antelopes and monkeys as well as fish, birds, insects, and reptiles.
If you get to see one in the African wild of Uganda, count yourself blessed. Leopards are solitary creatures and are quite elusive. They often spend their days hidden in trees or caves so they are hard to find and much less to photograph. Uganda is blessed that almost all its National Parks do have these endangered leopards.
Amazing facts about leopard
Leopards are astoundingly strong. They are pound for pound the strongest of the big cats. They are able to climb trees, even when carrying heavy prey, and often choose to rest on tree branches during the day. One reason why leopards sometimes take their prey up in the trees is to ensure lions or hyenas can’t steal them.
Leopards are renowned for their agility. They run up to 58km/h and can leap 6m horizontally and 3m vertically. They are also very strong swimmers.
The leopard is the most elusive and secretive of the large felids. They are extremely difficult to trace and locate in the wild.
Female and male leopards
Leopards are predominantly solitary animals that have large territories. While male territories are larger than females and tend to overlap, individuals usually only tolerate intrusion into ranges for mating. They mark their ranges with urine and leave claw marks on trees to warn others to stay away.
Like cats kept as companions, leopards will growl when angry and purr when content. They have various vocalisations such as a rasping cough which they perform to announce their presence to other leopards.
Leopards tend to have two or three cubs per gestation. Mothers refrain from wandering their territories after giving birth until their young are capable to come with them. Cubs suckle for around 3 months and are kept hidden for about the first 8 weeks to protect them from predators.
Leopards tend to have distinctive dark spots called rosettes, which create beautiful patterns against their otherwise light fur. Black leopards however have dark fur which makes it difficult to see the spots. They appear almost solid black and are often called black panthers.
Eye of the leopard
During the National Geographic programme ‘Eye of the Leopard’, a wild leopard killed a baboon in order to feed herself. However, upon noticing an infant baboon clinging to the dead baboon, the leopard amazingly carried the infant up to the safety of the tree to guard her from hyenas. She groomed and cuddled the baby throughout the night, caring for him/her as she would her own cub.
Leopards have the widest range of habitats of all the big cats. This adaptability has allowed them to survive in various different geographic areas. Perhaps the most extreme example is the amazing snow leopard which lives in the Himalayas.
Throughout history, leopards have been depicted in artwork, mythology and folklore in numerous countries. They are also now commonly used as an emblem in sports in much of Africa.
In Uganda this big five member can be spotted in national parks like Queen Elizabeth National Parkaround Kyambura Gorge in the Ishasha area, the southern sector of this park, Murchison falls national pak, Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Rhinoceroses are large, herbivorous mammals identified by their characteristic horned snouts. The word “rhinoceros” comes from the Greek “rhino” (nose) and “ceros” (horn).Because the animals’ horns are used in folk medicine for their supposed healing properties, rhinos have been hunted nearly to extinction. Their horns are sometimes sold as trophies or decorations
Rhinoceroses have poor eyesight but cute senses of hearing and smell. Most prefer to avoid humans, but males, and females with calves, may charge with little provocation. The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is normally ill-tempered and unpredictable and may charge any unfamiliar sound or smell. Despite their bulk, rhinoceroses are remarkably agile; the black rhinoceros can attain a speed of about 45 km (30 miles) per hour, even in thick brush, and can turn around rapidly after missing a charge. Like elephants, rhinoceroses communicate using infrasonic frequencies that are below the threshold of human hearing. The use of infrasonic frequencies is likely an adaption for rhinoceroses to keep in touch with each other where they inhabit dense vegetation and probably for females to advertise to males when females are receptive to breeding.
Facts about rhinoceros
- Rhinos can weigh over 3 tonnes
Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of all rhinos, but they can still weigh 600kg (that’s almost 95 stone). On the other hand, white rhinos are the largest of the rhino species, weighing up to 3,500 kg. That is more than 550 stones, or well over 3 tonnes, which is mighty impressive considering they mainly eat grass and leaves.
They’re called bulls and cows
Male rhinos are called ‘bulls’ and females are called ‘cows’. Their young are ‘calves’. Females tend to be more sociable than the more solitary, territorial males. Together, a group of rhinos is called a ‘crash’.
Rhinos have poor vision
Rhinos’ eyesight isn’t great – they’re unable to see a motionless person at a distance of 30m – they mainly rely on their strong sense of smell.
They communicate through honks, sneezes…and poo
Rhinos make an array of funny noises when they’re communicating. During confrontations, they growl and make ‘trumpet calls’. Black rhinos snort when they’re angry, make sneeze-like calls as alarms, scream if they’re scared and ‘mmwonk’ when relaxed. Rhinos also communicate through their poo and urine. When rhino poo in the same place as other rhinos – an area known as a latrine – they can smell the poo and urine of other individuals, and know who’s in the area.
They love mud
Rhinos can often be seen rolling around in mud, giving themselves a protective ‘mud coat’ to keep them cool, stop insects biting and get rid of any parasites. Asian rhinos are also excellent swimmers, crossing rivers with ease. But their African relatives are very poor swimmers and can drown in deep water – so they stick to wallowing in mud for a cool-down.
Rhinos are under threat
Over 7,100 African rhinos have been killed by poaching in the last 10 years – that’s around 2 every day. Poaching gangs are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In some cases, using helicopters to track the rhinos, and once the animals are shot with guns or tranquilising darts, their horns are removed using chainsaws, and quickly airlifted away. The whole operation can take as little as 10 minutes, and if the rhino isn’t already dead, it will often bleed to death. Ground rhino horn is used in traditional Asian medicine to ‘cure’ a range of ailments, from cancer to hangovers. And the horn is seen as a status symbol, particularly in Vietnam. Habitat loss and fragmentation are an increasing threat to rhinos, as human populations and infrastructure grows, encroaching on rhino habitat
Where can one track Rhinoceros in Uganda
Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch located in Nakasongola district is the proud home of the only wild rhinos in Uganda. The Rhino re-introduction project was a project of Rhino Fund Uganda and Uganda Wildlife Authority. We are conveniently located 176km (100 miles) north of Kampala on the Gulu highway towards Murchison Falls (branch off at Nakitoma Trading centre).
Ziwa is the only place where you will be able to see rhinos in the wild. Presently the sanctuary is home to thirty-two (32) southern white rhinos. The sanctuary has become increasingly popular with tourists; for Rhino Trekking, Shoebill Trek and Canoe Ride, Bird Watching, Night Walk, Nature Walk and Relaxation
Africa Big 5 animals is a term coined back in the 1800s by trophy hunters, referring to what they considered the most challenging and dangerous animals to hunt on foot, these were the above elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes and the rhinoceros and currently Mountain Gorillas are now among the bigfive of Uganda
We tailor safaris of the above jungle rulers that will give you unforgettable experience in Uganda. Inquire from Umarella Voyage Safaris in case of any inquiry.