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The Big Five

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.

Where can you find the Big Five in Uganda?

Apart from the Northern White Rhino (which can only be seen in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and Entebbe UWEC Zoo), tourists have a good chance of seeing the other members of the Africa Big 5 in any of the four savanna parks.


A savanna safari game drive in Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley, and Lake Mburo will put you in the center of nonchalant herds of cape buffalo, African elephants hunting pride of African lions. For the shy leopard, a relaxed and patient early or late evening savanna drive may lead you to its hunting joints.

African Lion (Panthera leo)

The largest and most imposing African carnivore, and the most sought after member of the Africa big 5, the African lion, is the most sociable of the large cats, living in loosely structured prides of typically five to 15 animals. Lions have special cultural significance in most countries on the continent. In Uganda, they enjoy a reputation as ‘king of the beasts’ and are popular symbols of royalty, strength and bravery.

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

This is the most elusive, and also the smallest, of Africa big 5 animals. Leopards are sneaky and harder to spot. Naturally shy and exclusively nocturnal, leopards spend the daylight hours hidden from view. The solitary big cats haul large kills, such as zebra or antelope, into a tree to eat alone, in peace.

These impressively shy cats can be distinguished from cheetahs by their rosette-shaped spots and more powerful build, as well as by their preference for wooded or rocky habitats. They are found in virtually all habitats which offer adequate cover, and are present in most Ugandan national parks and forest reserves.


African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

African Elephant (Loxodonta africana), the world’s largest of all Africa big five found in Uganda and perhaps the most enduring symbol of nature’s grace and fragility, is also one of the most intelligent and entertaining to watch on a classic Africa safari game drive. A fully-grown male elephant can weigh a whooping 6300 kilos, even the smallest adult male rarely dips below 4000 kilos, which is way more than twice the weight on an average family SUV. Females are usually just over half the weight of the male.

African Buffalo

Africa’s only wild African buffalo ox species is an adaptable and widespread creature that lives in large herds on the savanna and smaller herds in forested areas. The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) or Cape Buffalo, is the most dangerous of all African game species especially if wounded or solitary. Its reputation has placed it on the Africa big 5 animals recognized worldwide.


African buffalo are very large, even-toed ungulates, characterized by their stocky build and heavy horns. Horns are present on both sexes and they are not ridged. The buffalo is easily distinguished from other animals because of its dark black color and its characteristic horns smaller and lighter curving outward, backwards, and upwards. Ears are large fringed with hair and hang below massive horns.


Rhinoceros, or commonly known as, rhino is a large, herbivorous mammal identified by its characteristic horned snouts. The word “rhinoceros” comes from the Greek words “rhino” (nose) and “ceros” (horn).


Rhinoceroses are universally recognized by their massive bodies, stumpy legs and either one or two dermal horns. In some species, the horns may be short or not obvious. They are renowned for having poor eyesight, but their senses of smell and hearing are well developed.

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