The Ugly Five

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Many of you would have heard of the famous Big Five which includes the Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino and Leopard. You may have even heard of the Little Five consisting of the Rhinoceros Beetle, Leopard Tortoise, Elephant Shrew, Antlion and the Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver.

Unlike the magnificent looking Big Five, the members of the Ugly Five truly suit their place in this hideous club!

This notorious group of five are said to be the ugliest animals to be found in Africa, when you see them you can understand why!. Although they may not have the good looks of the Big Five, this lot still play a very important part in the ecological cycle of African animals.

They are also featured in a number of wildlife documentaries, you may have seen Hyenas clash against Lions in ‘Eternal Enemies’ by Dereck and Beverly Joubert (a must see film/documentary if you haven’t seen it already).

Without further ado let us introduce you to the Ugly Five

1. Hyena


If you have been to the Kruger National Park, you would have noticed that there is only one species of Hyena in the area, the Spotted Hyena. Although these are the most common of the species, there are in fact two others. The Striped Hyena and the Brown Hyena.

Hyenas live in a female dominated society. The females are bigger and more aggressive than the males and push as much testosterone as any of them. Although these animals are portrayed as mere scavengers, they are surprisingly very good hunters and kill as much as 95% of what they eat. The Hyena is in fact one of the Super Predators.

2. Warthog


Warthogs are a wild member of the pig family, these often cute animals are known for their ugliness and also earn their naming by the four, large wart-like protrusions on their heads. These are often used in defense when male Warthogs fight and are also there to serve as a fat reserve.

Mother warthogs can be fantastically protective of their young and have been known to charge lions in order to protect their piglets. Warthogs aerial like tails go up in reflex as soon as they reach trotting speed, this serves as a guide to help piglets follow their mother through the long grass.

3. Marabou Stork


The Marabou Stork is without a doubt the ugliest bird in the world. This creepy, vampire looking bird is often nicknamed “the undertaker bird” because of its cloak shaped wings from behind. Dracula has got nothing on this guy.. These birds prefer drier grasslands within flying distance with lakes or rivers and are often found close to human habitation especially where garbage tips are near.

Marabou Storks feed on carrion and scraps, this is very important for the ecosystem of African animals, because by removing carcasses and rotting flesh, the stork helps to stop the spread of harmful pathogens

4. Wildebeest


The Wildebeest, meaning ‘Wild Cattle’ in Afrikaans is one of the most abundant of mammals in the African bush. Unfortunately for these guys that makes them one of the most primary sources of prey for the larger African mammals, such as the Lion. When baby Wildebeest are born, they are able to stand within only a few moments and can run with the rest of the herd in minutes.

Every year the Tanzanian Wildebeest migration famously gathers for the Mara River crossing. Hundreds drown and hundreds more are caught by some of the biggest crocodiles in Africa, but still this barely impacts the number and thousands upon thousands continue crossing for several days.

5. Vulture


The Vulture can be found on every continent except for Australia and Antarctica. These ugly looking birds are one of the primary scavengers that form part of the natural ecosystem. One of the main characteristics of vultures are their bald heads, which with no feathers, allow the vulture to burry its head deep inside a carcass to feed without getting too dirty. A group of vultures is called a committee, in flight, a flock of vultures is called a kettle and when the birds are feeding together at a carcass, the group is called a wake.

Next time your'e in the bush ticking off the list when spotting all of the Big Five, remember to look out for the Ugly Five and be thankful for the part that each of these animals play in the natural world.

Also be thankful that none of them own mirrors...

© Chene Wales-Baillie

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