Successfully hunting the Big 5 is considered to be the pinnacle of big game hunting in Africa. Read on to learn all about hunting the Big 5 in Africa.
Named for their size as well as the difficulty and danger involved in hunting them, the African Big 5 includes the cape buffalo, leopard, elephant, lion, and rhinoceros. Successfully hunting the Big 5 in Africa is possible, but extremely difficult.
Hunting the Big 5 in Africa often involves taking many physically demanding hunting safaris to Africa and spending dozens of days in the field. Unfortunately, this can be incredibly expensive and very few hunters have the money necessary to hunt all of the Big 5.
Despite what some people may believe, hunting the Big 5 can still be done in a 100% legal and ethical manner, provided that the hunter secures the necessary tags prior to the hunt and follows established hunting regulations.
While Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Tanzania all offer hunting for leopard, lion, buffalo, and elephant, only Namibia and South Africa currently offer legal hunting for rhino. This makes them the only countries where hunting the Big 5 in one trip is possible.
Click through the slideshow to learn about hunting the Big 5 in Africa.
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Also known as “mbogo” or “nyati,” the Cape buffalo is the most common and widespread member of the Big 5. With a total population estimated to be upwards of a half million, it is currently possible to hunt buffalo in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, and Namibia.
Because it is so numerous and widespread, the buffalo is usually the least expensive member of the Big 5 to hunt. A cape buffalo hunting safari normally costs $10,000-15,000 and goes up from there depending on the specific country and outfitter. Because of this, it is the most commonly hunted member of the Big 5.
The buffalo is also one of the most exciting and most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa. They are very tough and quite aggressive, so charges by wounded buffalo are not uncommon. Make sure you take them seriously if you decide that a cape buffalo hunting safari is in your future.
The leopard is the smallest member of the Big 5. However, don’t let that fool you: the leopard is one of Africa’s deadliest predators and many unwary hunters have learned that the hard way.
They are also very shy and hunt primarily at night, which make them extremely difficult to hunt. The only two ways to reliably hunt leopard are: over bait (which is the most common) or using hounds (which is not legal in every country). Either way, success rates are often below 50% on leopard hunts because they are so wary and elusive.
Fortunately, leopard are relatively widespread and may be hunted in Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Tanzania. Because of this, they are the generally the second least expensive member of the Big 5 to hunt, with prices for a leopard hunt starting around $15,000. As a result, the leopard is also the second most commonly hunted member of the Big 5.
The lion is the largest species of cat in Africa and is the second largest species in the world, with only the tiger being larger. The “King of the Jungle” is an iconic animal that is strongly associated with Africa. There is no experience quite like being in the African bush and hearing a lion roar at night.
Unfortunately, lion populations are on the decline in many parts of Africa due to habitat loss and poaching. Lions and people have a hard time coexisting with each other and many problem lions are killed each year (legally and illegally) because they attacked people or livestock.
Namibia and South Africa offer limited lion hunting. Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique have much larger lion populations and offer better lion hunting opportunities. Due to their declining numbers, lion are becoming more and more difficult and expensive to hunt. A mature, full maned male lion is one of the most difficult trophies to obtain in Africa and a hunt for one is extremely expensive. Prices start out around $25,000 and go up significantly from there.
Contrary to popular belief, Africa elephants are not endangered and may be legally hunted in several different countries. Unfortunately, they are under significant pressure from poachers and their numbers are on the decline in many (but not all) countries.
Elephant may be legally hunted in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Mozambique, but it is not legal to import elephant trophies from those countries into the United States. At this time, only elephant legally hunted in Namibia and South Africa may be imported into the United States.
With big bulls weighing nearly seven tons, elephant are by far the largest member of the Big 5. They are also incredibly intelligent and can cover ground with their long legs at an astounding pace, both of which make them challenging to hunt. If you want to hunt elephant, you not only need a really big gun (hence the name “elephant gun“), but you need to be in good enough shape to walk for many miles in order to get a good shot at an elephant.
Elephant are also pretty expensive to hunt. Trophy bull hunts start out at $20,000-25,000 in Zimbabwe and Mozambique and go up from there. An elephant hunt in South Africa will run $40,000-60,000 (or more).
Traditionally, the black rhinoceros is considered to be the final member of the Big 5. However, the white rhinoceros is now usually considered a member of the group as well. Of all the members of the Big 5, hunting the rhinoceros is probably the most controversial because the black rhinoceros is endangered and the white rhinoceros numbers are declining due to poaching.
Corey Knowlton found this out the hard way when he received hundreds of death threats after buying a black rhinoceros tag from Namibia for $350,000 in 2014.
Black rhino may only be hunted in Namibia and white rhino may only be hunted in South Africa. Only a handful of rhinoceros tags are issued each year and they are all extremely expensive. All of the tags are for specific rhino that are past breeding age and all money generated from these hunts is used to fund future rhino conservation efforts.
For those who want to hunt rhino but not actually kill one, it is possible to go on a “green” white rhino hunt in South Africa. On green hunts, the animal is shot with a tranquilizer dart. While the animal is asleep, a veterinarian will examine the animal and it is possible to take trophy photos of the animal.
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