African Animal 5 Letters
African Animal 5 Letters –
A black rhino stands in the savannah at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. There are fewer than 6,000 black rhinos left in the wild, although the population is growing.
A black rhino stands in the savanna at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. There are fewer than 6,000 black rhinos left in the wild, although the population is growing.
African Animal 5 Letters
If you’ve gone on an African safari, chances are you’ve heard of the Big Five, a must-see list of great megafauna.
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Lions, leopards, elephants, African buffalo, and rhinos are “what people think of when they think of Africa and wildlife,” says Natalia Borrego, a researcher at the University of Minnesota’s Lion Center.
The term, coined in the late 1800s during colonial Africa, refers to what trophy hunters considered the most challenging and dangerous animals to hunt on foot.
These animals are still hunted today, but the shift to tourism has also made the Big Five an “amazing” destination for safari goers, Borrego said.
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This is especially true as all these species are declining in population – lions in particular are struggling, losing 94 percent of their original habitat. There are only about 20,000 big cats left in the wild.
This is the most elusive, and also the smallest, of the five. “I call them ninja cats because they’re just sneakier and harder to spot,” Borrego said.
Speaking of spots, most leopards are light in color, with distinctive dark spots called rosettes. The black leopard, which appears almost solid in color because its spots are difficult to distinguish, is usually called the black panther.
Big cats alone bring large kills, such as zebras or antelopes, to trees to eat alone, in peace.
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There’s another reason for leopards to stay aloft: They don’t get along well with the Big Fiver, the African lion. If a lion has a chance to kill a leopard, it will. (Related: “The lioness who killed the leopard made this movie.”)
These big cats “were not born into the ranks,” Borrego said. “They are egalitarian, meaning they have no permanent social hierarchy.”
The lion society is also matrilineal, “so the woman holds the territory,” and remains proud of where she was born. (Related story: “In real life, Simba’s mother would be proud.”)
These large cattle-like animals often congregate in their thousands in the Serengeti; forming large groups is one defense against predators.
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Both male and female buffalo have horns, but the male curves up and joins together in the middle, forming a solid bony plate called a boss. This is a useful defense – as it is three times heavier than the lion’s enemy.
That’s why a lion that attacks a buffalo takes a huge risk of dying. Buffaloes can be aggressive, and often come into conflict with humans outside their protected areas.
The largest of the Big Five is the African savannah elephant, which can weigh up to seven tons. African forest elephants, which are about three feet shorter and live in the forests of the Congo Basin, were declared a separate species after genetic tests in 2010 showed major differences between the forest and savannah dwellers.
Savannah elephants are large enough to change the landscape, pulling down trees to create grasslands, spreading seeds, and increasing biodiversity.
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There are two species – the black rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros – and five subspecies remaining in Africa. That includes northern white rhinoceros, southern white rhinoceros, eastern black rhinoceros, southern central black rhinoceros, and southwestern black rhinoceros.
All are huge, with a maximum weight of 5,000 pounds and horns that can grow up to five feet.
Due largely to poaching for their horns, the western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011. The last male northern white rhino died in 2018, and only two females remain – making the subspecies functionally extinct. (Learn about the different types of extinction.)
About 20,000 southern white rhinos remain, mostly in southern Africa. Conservation efforts have helped increase the population of the smaller, endangered black rhinoceros, particularly in eastern and southern Africa.
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Africa is very rich in wildlife, which is why several other “fives” have appeared over the years, such as Five Fives – including leopard tortoises and elephant shrews – Five Shameful, and Five Ugly, so to speak. At least, it’s a bit subjective. (Read why people find animals “ugly”.)
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In the 17th century, Dahomey flourished under the protection of an all-female military regiment that inspired Viola Davis’ acclaimed film The Woman King. It is characterized by a broad head, large eyes, a pointed snout, long legs, a thin tail, and a brindled coat pattern. Their head and body are around 24–35 cm (9.4–13.8 in), and they typically weigh between 0.62 and 0.97 kg (1.4 and 2.1 lb). The coat is light gray to brown-yellow with alternating light and dark stripes on the back. Meerkats have foreclaws adapted for digging and have the ability to thermoregulate to survive in harsh, dry habitats. Three subspecies are recognized.
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Meerkats are highly social, and form packs of two to 30 individuals each occupying a distance of about 5 km
(1.9 sq mi) in area. There is a social hierarchy—dominant individuals in a pack breed and produce offspring, and subordinate members who do not have offspring provide altruistic care for their pups. Breeding occurs throughout the year, with a peak during heavy rains; after gestation 60 to 70 days, a litter of three to sev pups are born.
They live in rock crevices in rocky, often calcareous areas, and in large burrow systems on the plains. A burrow system, usually 5 m (16 ft) in diameter with about 15 opings, is a large underground network consisting of two or three levels of tunnels. The tunnel is about 7.5 cm (3.0 in) high at the top and wider at the bottom, and extends 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) into the ground. Burrows have a moderate internal temperature and provide a comfortable microclimate that protects the meerkat in harsh weather and in extreme temperatures.
Meerkats are active during the day, usually in the morning and evening; they remained alert and retreated to the dangerous grave. They use different calls to communicate with each other for different purposes, for example to raise an alarm when they see a predator. Primarily insectivorous, meerkats eat a lot of beetles and lepidopterans, arthropods, amphibians, small birds, reptiles, and plant material in their diet.
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Generally living in arid, op habitat with little woody vegetation, meerkats occur in southwestern Botswana, western and southern Namibia, northern and western South Africa; some hardly extds into southwestern Angola. With no significant threat to the population, the meerkat is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Meerkats are widely depicted in television, movies and other media.
The word ‘meerkat’ comes from the Dutch name for a type of monkey, derived from the Old High German mericazza, possibly a combination of meer (‘lake’) and kat (‘cat’). It may be related to the Hindi equivalent: मरकत (markat, or monkey), which is of Sanskrit origin, although it comes from a Germanic word before it is associated with India. This name has been used for small mammals in South Africa since 1801, possibly because Dutch colonialists used the name as a reference to many burrowing animals.
The original South African name for the meerkat is ‘suricate’, possibly from Frch: suricate, which is also of Dutch origin. In Afrikaans the meerkat is called graatjiemeerkat or stokstertmeerkat; the term mierkatte or meerkatte can refer to meerkats and yellow mongooses (Afrikaans: rooimeerkat). In Afrikaans mier means ‘ant’ and kat means ‘cat’, so the name probably refers to the meerkat’s association with termite mounds.
In 1776, Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber described the meerkat from the Cape of Good Hope, giving it the scientific name Viverra suricatta.
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The name Suricata geric was proposed by Anselme Gaëtan Desmarest in 1804, who also described a zoological specimen from the Cape of Good Hope.
The perst scitific name Suricata suricatta was first used by Oldfield Thomas and Harold Schwann in 1905 when they described specimens collected in Wakkerstroom. He proposed that there are four local meerkat races in the Cape and Deelfontein, Grahamstown, Orange River Colony and southern Transvaal, and Klipfontein.
Several zoological specimens were described between the late 18th and 20th centuries, of which three are recognized as valid subspecies:
Meerkat fossils dating from 2.59 to 0.01 million years ago have been excavated in various locations in South Africa.
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A 2009 phylogenetic study of the family Herpestidae split into two lineages around the Early Miocene (25.4–18.2).