Panthera leo leo
(male) Length, including tail, 8-1/2 to 10 feet (260-305 cm), occasionally more. Shoulder height 40-48 inches (100-120 cm). Weight 350-500 pounds (160-225 kg), sometimes more. (female) Head and body length, including tail, 7-9 feet (215-275 cm). Shoulder height 38-42 inches (97-107 cm). Weight 265-375 pounds (120-170 kg). The female normally has two pairs of teats, but some individuals have been recorded with three pairs.
The lion is the largest cat in Africa and, among the world's cats, is second in size only to the tiger. The smooth short coat is usually tawny beige in color, but can vary from light gray to dark reddish brown. The end of the tail has a black tuft, and there are black markings on the backs of the ears. There are five toes (including dewclaws) on the front feet, four on the hind feet, all with sharp, curved, retractile claws. The male usually has a mane of long hairs on its head, shoulders and chest, but there is much variation, with some individuals having magnificent manes and others being nearly bald, and the color varying from blond to black. Besides being considerably smaller than males, females are more lightly built and lack a mane.
Lions are the most social of all cats and usually are found in family groups, or prides, consisting of related females and their young plus one or more adult males. Adult males often form small bachelor groups. Seldom solitary. Each group has a large home range. Not territorial. Breeding takes place throughout the year, although in any one pride the females tend to deliver offspring at about the same time. A female normally gives birth every 18-26 months, with 3-4 cubs the usual number (the range is 1-6). Cubs are sexually mature at 3-4 years, but continue to grow until about age six. Longevity in the wild: males about 12 years, but up to 16 years, females 15-16 years, but up to 18 years; in captivity average 13 years, but as much as 25-30 years.
Lions spend most of the time resting and sleeping, averaging 20 or more hours of inactivity a day. Activity may occur at any hour, but their hunts take place mainly at twilight and night. Lions are entirely carnivorous, their usual prey consisting of warthogs, antelopes and zebras in the 100-650-pound range (45-300 kg), though larger species such as buffalo and giraffe are also taken. Will eat carrion. An individual lion can eat as much as 80-90 pounds (36-41 kg) of meat at one meal, and is estimated to require 10-20 large prey animals per year. May prey on cattle and other livestock, and some lions become man-eaters, creating havoc when they do. Drinks daily when water is available, but can subsist without water for long periods by obtaining moisture from its prey.
Sense of smell is good, hearing and eyesight are excellent. Its voice is the well-known roar, which is heard mainly at night and is audible for miles. Able to run 40 mph (65 km/h) for a short distance. A poor tree-climber.
Grassland, bush and savanna woodland. Rarely in dense forest. Never in rain forest.
Widespread throughout Africa from south of the Sahara to northern Namibia, Botswana and parts of South Africa.
A lion is a highly esteemed hunting trophy and taking a good one is a major event for both client and safari staff. The usual hunting methods are by baiting or tracking; however, many lions are taken by chance encounter. Lions can be extremely dangerous when wounded or provoked, especially if other members of the pride become involved.
Trophy quality is determined largely by the mane, although size of body and skull are also important. Because a lion's Record Book score is the sum of its skull measurements, skull size is of primary importance to anyone seeking a high ranking. Unfortunately, a large-bodied, large-skulled lion can have a poor mane, and vice versa. The ideal combination of a full mane of whatever color the hunter prefers, a large body and a large skull is difficult to find and often necessitates a number of safaris.
An unfortunate consequence is the setup or "canned" lion hunt, in which a captive lion is presented to an unsuspecting client. Such a "hunt" can be impossible for the client to detect if well-orchestrated. Since the beginning, SCI has had a policy against accepting setup lions for the Record Book, and has never knowingly done so.
Panthera pardus pardus
Length, including tail, 5-1/2 to 7-1/2 feet (170-230 cm), occasionally more. Shoulder height 20-30 inches (51-76 cm). Weight (male) 80-160 pounds (36-73 kg), sometimes considerably more; (female) 60-130 pounds (27-59 kg). The female normally has four pairs of teats.
A large cat with a long body and comparatively short legs. Its dense yellowish coat is marked with numerous black spots grouped in rosettes. The tail is long and spotted, with black bands near the tip. There are five toes (including dewclaws) on the front feet, four on the hind feet, all with sharp, curved, retractile claws. Melanistic (black) individuals can occur in otherwise normal litters, especially in moist, dense forests; however, they are rare. Females are smaller and more lightly built than males, but are otherwise similar.
Leopards are normally solitary except when mating. They are territorial, with the range of the male including the range of one or two females. Territories are marked and defended against other leopards of the same sex. Breeding takes place throughout the year, with the female giving birth every year or two. The usual litter is 2-3 cubs (range is 1-6) who remain with the mother for 18-24 months and reach sexual maturity and full size at about three years. Longevity in the wild 10-15 years, in captivity usually 12-15 years. but sometimes as much as 20 years.
Usually nocturnal, resting by day on a tree branch or in cover. Entirely carnivorous, preying on small to medium-sized animals such as gazelles, impala, duikers, pigs, baboons, monkeys and domestic livestock. Also takes birds, rodents and rabbits, and will eat carrion. A very small percentage of leopards become man-eaters. Drinks daily when water is available, but can subsist for long periods on moisture obtained from prey animals.
Wary and secretive, with exceptional hearing, very good eyesight and a good sense of smell. Normally moves about in a slow, silent walk, but can run briefly at more than 37 mph (60 km/h). Reportedly able to leap 20 feet (6m) horizontally and 10 feet (3m) vertically. A very agile tree-climber, able to descend head first, and a good swimmer.
Nearly all types from rain forest to subdesert, and from low plains to high mountains.
Almost everywhere in Africa except the driest deserts.
Any adult male leopard is a fine hunting trophy; consequently, it is far easier to find a good leopard than a good lion. The classic hunting method is by baiting, with the hunter waiting in a blind at twilight, and this provides the maximum in drama and suspense. Sometimes leopards can be tracked or called, and they are often encountered by chance. Usually not aggressive toward man, but very dangerous when wounded.
Smithers lists 12 subspecies of leopards in Africa: adersi, adusta, chui, iturensis, leopardus, melanotica, nanopardus, panthera, pardus, reichenowi, shortridgeiand suahelica. We combine them, with pardus Linnaeus, 1758 having priority.
All leopards are on Appendix I of CITES. Leopards generally are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, with the subspecies panthera (northwestern Africa) classified as endangered. All leopards are regarded as endangered by the USF&WS, except those in Africa south of the southern borders of Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. South of this line they are listed as threatened, and sport-hunted trophies may be imported into the United States under the provisions of CITES.
Experienced observers of African fauna cannot help but wonder why the status of the leopard is regarded so negatively, for it is obvious that populations are healthy in many parts of the continent. Eaton (1977b) alluded to the leopard as the "coyote of Africa," predicting it would be one of the last major species to survive on that continent.
Syncerus caffer caffer
Bufalo del Cabo (Sp), Kaffernbüffel, Schwarzbüffel (G), Buffle du Cap, Buffle noir(F). The common name "Cape buffalo" is misleading, because this subspecies is native to many parts of Africa besides the Cape of Good Hope region (where it is extinct); however, that is what most people call it.
Shoulder height 60-65 inches (150-165 cm). Weight 1,400-1,800 lbs (650-800 kg).
The Cape buffalo is the largest and darkest (black, or nearly so) of the African buffaloes. Its heavy horns curve outward and downward from massive bosses to well below skull level, then circle upward, inward and slightly backward.
Savanna areas in Kenya, southern Somalia, Uganda except in the northwest, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania; all of Angola except for the far northwest; Katanga Province in southeastern Congo (K); Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, and northeastern Transvaal in South Africa. Has been reintroduced on private ranches in other parts of South Africa.
Elefante Africano (Sp), Afrikanischer Elefant (G), Eléphant d'Afrique (F), Afrikaans olifant (Af). "Elephant" is from the Greek elaphus, the Latin elephantus, for this animal.
DESCRIPTION Bush elephant:
(male) Shoulder height 10-13 feet (300-400 cm). Weight 9,000-13,000 pounds (4,000-6,000 kg). (female) Shoulder height 8-11 feet (240-340 cm). Weight 5,000-8,000 pounds (2,200-3,500 kg). Forest elephant: (male) Shoulder height 5-1/2 to 9 feet (170-280 cm). Weight 2,600-8,000 pounds (1,200-3,500 kg). (female) Shoulder height 5-8 feet (160-240 cm). Weight 2,000-6,500 pounds (900-3,000 kg).
The African elephant is larger than the Asian elephant (the one normally found in zoos and circuses), with much larger ears, a more convex forehead, a more sloping back so that the shoulders are the highest point of the animal, 21 pairs of ribs (instead of 19), a maximum of 26 vertebrae in the tail (instead of 33), and two prehensile projections at the tip of the trunk (instead of one).
There are two recognizable types of African elephants, the bush elephant and the forest elephant. They are so unlike that they would be considered separate species if they did not hybridize where their ranges overlap. The bush, or savanna, elephant is the larger, with larger ears that are triangular in shape, a larger skull, and thick tusks that curve forward. The forest elephant is smaller, with smaller, more oval ears, a smaller skull, and thinner, straighter tusks that are directed downward. In overlap areas, many degrees of hybridization can be observed.
The African elephant is a ponderous creature with pillar-like limbs and a huge head and ears. The trunk is the greatly lengthened nose, which is flexible and powerfully muscled, with two prehensile projections at the tip. The trunk is used as a tool and weapon in addition to its breathing and smelling functions. The upper incisor teeth protrude from the head as tusks in both sexes, although some individuals are tuskless. The tusks vary greatly in length and weight, and are used for fighting, in digging for water and as an aid in feeding. Elephants use one tusk (usually the right tusk) more than the other, thereby wearing it down to a shorter length. Occasionally, an abnormal elephant will have two or more tusks growing from one socket. The skin is thick and wrinkled, medium gray in color, and sparsely covered with coarse hair. The tail is fairly long and has stiff hairs at the tip. There are five nails on the front feet and four on the hind feet, although some are usually missing from injury or wear. Females are about two-thirds the size of males and have thinner, lighter tusks; otherwise they are similar.
Gregarious, with cows and calves always in family herds consisting of mothers, daughters and sisters. Bulls are often in bachelor groups, and old bulls are sometimes solitary. Most breeding seems to take place during the rainy season, though it may occur year-round. There is normally a single calf born after a gestation period of about 22 months. Newborn calves can stand in a half-hour, and travel with the herd in two days. Females are sexually mature at 14, and may bear 4-5 calves in a lifetime. Life expectancy is 50-70 years.
Elephants feed during evening, night and morning. They rest during midday, and normally sleep standing up. An adult male will consume about 375 pounds (170 kg) of leaves, twigs, bark, roots, fruit, grass and crops each day; a female about 330 pounds (150 kg). They are voracious, destructive feeders and can be very detrimental to their habitat. They must drink water daily and are constantly on the move in search of food and water. Senses of smell and hearing are very good, but eyesight is poor. Their normal pace is a fast walk, but they can run swiftly for a short distance and are capable of moving silently through the thickest cover. Not able to jump, but can negotiate steep slopes. They are good swimmers. African elephants are intelligent, and not difficult to tame.
From subdesert to rain forest, at altitudes from sea level to 12,000 feet (3,650 m), and sometimes even to 15,000 feet (4,570 m). Seldom found very far from water.
Widespread throughout Africa from south of the Sahara to northern Namibia, northern Botswana and northeastern Transvaal in South Africa. The forest elephant lives in the rain forest of western and central Africa; the bush elephant is found in the rest of the range.
An elephant with really good ivory (100 pounds, or 45 kg, per tusk used to be the magic number, though these days 70 pounds, or 32 kg, is considered very good) is generally considered Africa's top hunting trophy. Trophy quality is determined by the weight and beauty of the tusks. Finding good, heavy ivory is much more difficult today than it was a few years ago, and many sportsmen spend a great deal of time and money in unsuccessful pursuit. The classic hunting method is by tracking on foot: a large fresh track is found early in the morning, normally near water, and is followed until the elephant is encountered, which is likely to be at midday in the midst of a herd. To penetrate a herd and identify and take a good bull-or to withdraw undetected and unscathed if no shootable bull is found-can be the finest sport in Africa or, for that matter, in the world.
Elephants can be very dangerous when wounded or-especially the female-when provoked. Hunting them today is a serious undertaking, for widespread commercial poaching has driven them into the thickest cover and has left many with festering wounds from inadequate weapons. Short-tempered animals are common, and unprovoked charges an ever-present possibility. Today's elephant hunter should be fit enough to walk long hours, day after day, in humidity and heat, and his feet should be tough enough to resist blistering. He should be psychologically able to withstand the stress of close proximity to these huge, dangerous beasts, and his weapon and shooting ability should be capable of dealing with them at point-blank range.
The African elephant has many estimable qualities, and is respected and admired by those who hunt it. Many professional hunters would rather hunt elephants than anythingelse, and frequently do so when hunting for their own pleasure.
As many as 25 subspecies of African elephants have been proposed; however, most authorities accept only two: bush elephant (L. a. africana) and forest elephant (L. a. cyclotis<'em>). At one time they were considered separate species; however, they interbreed where their ranges overlap, and many degrees of hybridization can be observed in these areas.
The so-called pygmy elephant (pumilio) of the equatorial rain forest, which was once believed to be a separate species by several taxonomists, it now regarded as either a subspecies of forest elephant that has adapted to an unfavorable habitat, or as merely an immature forest elephant. It is said to stand 5 to 6-1/2 feet (150-200 cm) at the shoulder, weigh 2,000-3,300 pounds (900-1,500 kg), grow very small tusks (that some say are pink), and live in small groups in swampy forests, keeping apart from the larger forest elephants. Little is actually known about this animal.
For record-keeping, we combine all African elephants in one list.
Ceratotherium simum simum
Reserves and private ranches in South Africa and Namibia; reintroduced in parts of Zimbabwe; now being introduced in other countries.
This subspecies is listed on Appendix II of CITES (1975). Nearly exterminated by the early part of this century, it has been brought back to healthy population levels in what is a classic example of good game conservation and management. Its numbers are increasing and it is considered safe.
Surplus animals may be hunted by permit in South Africa and Namibia. The usual methods are by encounter or tracking. As the black rhino is no longer huntable, the southern white rhino has taken its place as one of the "big five" of dangerous African game. On properties where it is free-ranging and regularly hunted, it is a wary and elusive game animal that can be a challenge for a hunter on foot.
Recently, SCI has been accepting entries of darted (tranquilized and revived) southern white rhinos. These are animals that needed to be immobilized in order to be relocated, or as part of a scientific study. It is more difficult and demanding to dart a rhino than it is to shoot it with a rifle. Great care must be taken to assure that the rhino is not harmed, and that no member of the darting team is injured or killed by this potentially dangerous animal. For a fee (which covers the cost of the procedure, the presence of a veterinarian, and a hefty insurance premium on the rhino's life), sportsmen are allowed to take part in these non-lethal hunts and to fire the dart gun. All darting hunts to date have taken place in South Africa.
Rinoceronte negro (Sp), Spitzmaulnashorn (G), Rhinocéros noir (F), Swartrenoster (Af). Also called hook-lipped rhinoceros or browse rhinoceros.
Shoulder height 55-65 inches (140-165 cm). Weight 1,800-3,000 pounds (800-1,350 kg).
The black rhinoceros is a very large, heavily built animal with a concave back, a relatively short head, a narrow muzzle, small, rounded ears and a short tail. The upper lip protrudes slightly in the middle and has a prehensile tip. The skin is dark gray (not really black), and is usually covered with dirt or mud from dusting or wallowing. There are two horns, with the front horn normally longer than the rear horn. Females are similar to males and about the same size, but their horns are thinner, and often are longer.
Usually solitary except for mother and young. Active early morning and evening, also at night, rests during middle of day. Sedentary. Browses on leaves and twigs, occasionally eats grass. Drinks daily when water is available. Sense of smell is excellent, hearing is very good, eyesight is poor. Can run quite fast for a short distance and is surprisingly agile.
Dry bush country, particularly thorn bush; also mountain forests in Kenya to 11,000 feet (3,350 m) elevation.
Remnant populations exist in Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, northern Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, the Okavango region of Botswana, South Africa, and Swaziland. Possibly a few survive in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Malawi.
One must exercise care when in a black rhino area, for these animals tend to be ill-tempered and may charge for no apparent reason. To kill or wound one-even in self-defense-is a serious offense these days.
Seven subspecies are listed, one of which (bicornis) is extinct. We do not separate them.
Listed on Appendix I of CITES (1975), as endangered by the USF&WS (1980) and critically endangered by the IUCN. Despite being protected by law in all countries where it occurs, the black rhino has been nearly exterminated over most of its former range from commercial poaching for its horns. Rhinoceros horn is in great demand in the Yemen Arab Republic for traditional dagger handles, and in eastern Asia where it is considered to have aphrodisiacal and medicinal properties.
Hipopotamo (Sp), Nilpferd, Grossflusspferd (G), Hippopotame (F), Seekoei (Af). Also called river hippopotamus. "Hippopotamus" is from the Greek hippos (horse) and potamos (river), or river-horse.
Shoulder height 55-60 inches (140-152 cm). Weight 3,000-6,000 pounds (1,350-2,700 kg).
The common hippopotamus is an enormous, barrel-shaped, semi-aquatic animal, with short legs and almost hairless skin. The head is huge with a mouth that can open to more than 90 degrees. The canine teeth are well developed, forming tusks that are formidable weapons. The nostrils and eyes are on top of the head so that when the animal is in the water only the muzzle, eyes and ears need be visible. The skin is thick, dark and glandular, and sometimes exudes drops of moisture than contain red pigment, from which arose the supposition that hippos sweat blood. Females are similar to males, though somewhat smaller.
Highly gregarious, living in herds of up to 30, though sometimes in much larger herds. Males may be alone. Larger herds consist mainly of females and young. Adult males compete for control of herds and territories, engaging in lengthy, vicious fights-the principal weapons being their teeth-that often result in serious injury or death. Breeding occurs year-round, but with seasonal peaks in some areas. Usually one calf (rarely twins) is born 7-1/2 to 8 months later. The female will mate again two weeks after weaning the previous calf. Sexually mature at 3-4 years, but does not breed until 6-7 years. Longevity in the wild may be 40 years, in captivity as much as 54 years.
Amphibious and well adapted to living in water. A good swimmer and diver, with webbed toes to aid in swimming, and the ability to close its nostrils and ears to prevent the entry of water. Able to walk on the bottom because its specific gravity is higher than that of water. Spends the day sleeping or resting in or near water, sometimes with its head above the surface, at other times entirely submerged but coming up to breathe every few minutes. Normally stays underwater 3-5 minutes, but can remain under longer. Leaves the water at night to graze, using established paths and sometimes traveling for several miles. Will raid crops if nearby, and can cause great damage to agriculture. Entirely herbivorous, it eats as much as 130 pounds (60 kg) in a night. Senses of smell and hearing are good, eyesight is adequate. Can run surprisingly fast, and can be dangerous to man.
Permanent deep water with low banks and nearby reed beds and grassland.
Once found in nearly all lakes and watercourses south of the Sahara. Has been exterminated in many areas by local hunters, although still abundant in others.
The common hippo has been extensively hunted by local people for the delicious meat, the fat (as much as 200 pounds or 90 kg per animal), the skin and the high-quality ivory of the teeth. It is not very difficult to hunt, although it certainly can be dangerous, with a history of pursuing and upsetting canoes in areas where it is hunted, and sometimes killing the occupants by biting them. A wounded hippo will often charge the boat from which the shot was fired. Hippos have been known to leave the water and charge hunters on the banks. Many natives have been killed or injured at night when they have gotten between a grass-eating hippo on land and its watery shelter. Most hippos taken by sportsmen are for lion bait (for which purpose they are unexcelled) or to fill out a collection. The trophy is the lower canine teeth, which, unfortunately, can seldom be judged in advance. Sometimes hippos are found asleep on land and are easy to collect, but most are probably shot in the water. Depending on the water temperature, a hippo that is brain-shot in deep water will rise to the surface in three to six hours.
The Nile crocodile is by far the largest in Africa, averaging 11-1/2 feet (3.5 m) in length, very occasionally to around 16-1/2 feet (5 m), and sometimes even more.
Spends much of the day basking in the sun at water's edge in order to maintain its preferred body temperature of 75 degrees F. (25 degrees C.). When overheated, it seeks shade or partly submerges. Returns to the water at dusk, for early evening is its most active period. Eats mainly fish, though large adults routinely capture antelopes and domestic animals that come to drink, even animals as large as Cape buffalo. Birds are frequently eaten, as are snails, small mammals and sometimes humans. Does not require large quantities of food. The Nile crocodile is a hole-nesting species, in which the female lays its eggs in holes excavated by its hind legs, and tends to return to the same hole each year. The male and female cooperate in protecting their young for six to eight weeks after hatching.
Most of Africa south of the Sahara where there is permanent water, except where it has been eliminated by commercial hide hunting or human settlement. In northeastern Africa it is absent from the Red Sea coast, from Djibouti, and from much of Ethiopia and Somalia. In southern Africa it is absent from Namibia except for the Cunene River, from most of Botswana except for the Okavango and Kwando-Chobe swamps, and from much of South Africa except for Zululand and parts of the Transvaal.
A large crocodile is a worthy quarry and has long been regarded as a big game trophy by sportsmen. When hunted by sporting methods (as contrasted with commercial hunting, which is normally conducted at night with boats and spotlights) it can be a challenging game animal, for its senses are good and it has learned to be wary. It requires a careful stalk and a precise brain shot-often at rather long range-in order to anchor it so that it will not slide into deep water and be lost.
Listed as threatened by the USF&WS. Listed on Appendix I of CITES, except for the populations in Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia; and in Zimbabwe, subject to ranching provisions; and in Tanzania, subject to ranching provisions and annual quotas; and in Uganda and Madagascar, subject to export quotas.