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The UGLY 5 – A Series on Africa’s Famous 5

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
The UGLY 5 – Vulture, warthog, hyena, wildebeest & marabou stork

Now that we’ve covered the BIG 5 and the SMALL 5 – it’s time to delve into the ugly 5 in part 3 of this series on Africa’s famous 5!

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Hyena and vultures – 2 of the ugly 5

The UGLY 5 are the hyena, vulture, marabou stork, wildebeest and warthog. This conclusion came down purely to these animals’ looks. But of course every single creature has a role in the eco-system – whether, they are big, small or even ugly.

The Hyena

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Spotted hyenas fighting over carcass in Kruger National Park – tinged by Hanno

In Southern Africa, there are 3 different species of hyena – the brown hyena, spotted hyena and aardwolf. But generally when referring to the Ugly 5, they spotted hyena is the one dubbed the ugliest. These animals are famous for their “laughs” and scavenging mannerisms, as they love to grab the left overs of other predators. What many do not know, is that they are actually highly adaptable and intelligent hunters as they can run for long distances, thus exhausting their prey.

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Spotted hyenas in Kruger National Park tinged by Mikayla and David

Their massive jaws can break into large bones and they have one of the most-powerful bites in the African bush. These animals are utterly crucial to nature – as they can feed on decaying flesh, with an immaculate digestive system which can digest rotten flesh. This prevents diseases from spreading amongst animals in the wild. Hyenas live in clans with females dominating theses groups. A female hyena will carry her young for 4 months and give birth to 1 or 2 cubs. Should there be two, one cub may kill the other to eliminate competition.

Spotted hyena cub and mother at den

Have you checked out our brand-new Latest Sightings App? Let us know which of Africa’s famous Ugly 5 and other animals you see in the parks and reserves!

The Vulture

White-backed vulture

Various species can be found in Africa such as White-backed, Lappet-faced, Hooded vultures – to name a few. Vultures are predominantly scavengers of carrion. Like hyenas, they play an enormous role in the eco-system by cleaning up the environment for other animals.

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Flock of vultures perched in Greater Kruger

They are well-known for pointing out carcasses – as they soar from high-up above. And with their incredible eyesight – are able to spot carcasses, whether it be fresh or old. Of course, when a predator is still with its kill (for example a pride of lions with a zebra kill), vultures will perch in a tree and wait to take their chance to get a piece. Some are brave and will even push their luck with a predator still eating the kill.

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Vultures pushing their luck with a lion at it’s giraffe kill

The Warthog

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Warthog tinged in the Greater Kruger

Most people refer to these guys as “Pumba – aka Simba’s friend”. Their names come from the warts they have on their faces. Bores (males) will have 2 sets of warts, whereas sows (females) will just have 1 set. Both have a set of tusks though and use this to defend their young and themselves. Males will especially use this when establishing dominance, by pushing each other, using their heads as well.

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Warthog mom and babies

Many underestimate these animals – as they may seem innocent. But they have been known to severely injure predators, and in some cases even kill animals such as leopards. By using their tusks they can puncture or slit the throat of the enemy. They are very feisty by nature and predated on quite regularly. Especially in the summer months (October to January) as this is their prime time for giving birth to up to 6 piglets, but of course very rarely will all of them make it to adulthood.

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Warthog family foraging

Their diet largely includes greens – such as grass, roots, bulbs and they are often seen on their knees when feeding, as they also use their tusks for digging up food.

The Wildebeest

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Blue wildebeest

The (blue) wildebeests are popular for the great migration in Africa, as they can be witnessed moving in groups of thousands of individuals. They are herbivores and thus in the drier months, like any other animal has to go there where food and water can be provided in abundance.

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Blue wildebeest herd in Kruger National Park

One of the most incredible things about these animals are the mere fact that a calf is able to run within 20 minutes of birth. As always, Mother Nature has though of everything and these animals have to be able to get away from predators, but are frequently predated on by lions, leopard, crocodiles and even the young can be hunted by jackals.

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Blue wildebeests vs black-backed jackals

Both males and females have a set of horns, and they use this as a defense mechanism, but are not always that successful as their horns grow to the side of their heads. Another very interesting about wildebeests is that they have a set of pre-orbital glands on their faces. And can be seen rubbing their faces in dirt patches, thus marking their territory, but also advertise themselves to females.

The Marabou Stork

The UGLY 5 - A Series on Africa's Famous 5
Marabou stork perched in Greater Kruger

These large birds are commonly found in the Lowveld and also a very crucial specie when it comes to cleaning up the environment. Like hyenas and vultures, they feed on carrion (decaying flesh) and thus provide a huge service to other animals, with regards to diseases spreading. They are also opportunistic fishers often seen on the edges of waterholes, but will also feed on anything from termites to smaller birds.

Marabou storks in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi tinged by Marcel

They can live up to an impressive 25 years in the wild! Being scavengers, they are also often seen with hyenas and vultures at carcasses and will compete for a piece by trying to use their size as an advantage over vultures.

“There’s always more to learn when it comes to nature and we will never truly know everything and even begin to fathom all the intricate details…but as humanity it is our duty to always explore, discover, protect and preserve Mother Nature. For without her, we are nothing and will cease to exist…”

Written by admin

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