City of Joburg

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

 

Johannesburg Zoo

 

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The phrase "Big 5" conjures visions of steamy jungles, rolling savannahs and big-game hunters stalking Africa's most feared animals; fittingly so as it was the game hunters who coined the phrase to describe the creatures - lion, leopard, rhino, African elephant and African buffalo - they found most dangerous to hunt.

Now, the Johannesburg Zoo invites visitors to see these creatures close to home.

Forest the Leopard

Fifteen-month-old Forest recently joined the Zoo, arriving from Lory Park Zoo in Midrand.

In the wild leopards are solitary, in fact being one of the most secretive of the Big 5, but Forest, it seems, doesn't mind company. He happily explored his new enclosure - on Baboon Bend - under the watchful eyes of visitors.

Leopards are nocturnal creatures, preying on animals ranging from dung beetles to eland, and are, as a result of habitat destruction and hunting, increasingly endangered.

The African Buffalo

Often referred to as The Black Death, the buffalo is a deceptively dangerous animal, and responsible for some 200 deaths a year. They are herbivores, grazing on grasses, and live in herds dominated by females. Standing almost 2m tall, and weighing up to 1000kg, the African buffalo has few predators and can even fend off lions hunting it.

The Zoo's African buffalo enclosure is near the Giraffe Run.

Rhino

Three of the five species of rhino on Earth are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List. They have been hunted to almost extinction as many Chinese medicine practitioners believe their horns have curative properties, however there is no evidence for this belief. To curb rhino poaching, in 1993, the UK and Chinese bodies governing Chinese medicine practitioners have spoken out against the use of rhino horn in the discipline.

Meet rhinos Zimbi (15) and Peter (8) on Memorial Boulevard route.

African Elephants Lammie and Kinkel

Elephants are revered across Africa and Asia; the smaller more docile elephants in Asia have long been domesticated, but the African elephant, or iNdlovu in Zulu and Xhosa, is a dangerous beast when aroused and is renowned for its temper. Despite this reputation for ferociousness though, these herbivores are endangered, hunted for their ivory tusks. The Zoo elephants, Lammie (34) and Kinkel (30), are a popular pair, and visitors can catch them sunning themselves, playing, and eating in their enclosure on the Memorial Boulevard route.

Lions

The Zoo lions -Triton, Dharma, Sabre, Kira, Numzaan, Shumba and Zidor - can be seen sunning themselves along Sunset Stroll any day of the week; the tawny Kings of the Beasts are often found lolling in the wild, especially after a big kill. Once, lions were the most numerous mammals on Earth next to humans, but habitat loss and conflict with humans have seen their numbers decline drastically. The carnivores are social animals, unusual among felines, and are mostly nocturnal, hunting at night or at dusk. They hunt in groups of mostly females but are also known to scavenge.

A trip to the Zoo to see the Big 5 may be the last chance to see these animals, as they are rapidly dying out in the wild.

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