East African Safari – The Amazing Big Cats Of East Africa
Few animals are as mysterious and fascinating as the big cats of Africa, all of which are very different. Africa’s three big cats include the “fastest land animal”, the cheetah, the magnificent King of the Jungle, the lion, and the mysterious and secretive leopard.
We’re going to look in more detail at these glorious wild cats of East Africa, for those who are interested in going on an African safari.
Known as “King of the Jungle” for its predatory nature, the Lion, which inhabits the plains of East Africa, is the second largest big cat in the world, smaller only than the Tiger. It’s been estimated that the largest male lion is about 250kg, with the largest female about 168kg; both male and female have the strength to bring down a huge buffalo up to four times their own size.
The lion characteristics include a short ocher coat, a tufted tail, with the male having a thick mane of brown or black hair encircling the head and neck. One of the most spectacular events to watch as lions chase prey is one of the new wonders of the world known as the Great Mara Wildebeest migration where millions of wildebeests as well as zebras trek thousands of kilometers in search of food being pursued by hungry predators.
Unlike most big wild cats, the lions are pretty social and can be found in prides of about 15 ranging from 5 to 10 females, their young, and 2 or 3 territorial males. The males in each pride work in unison all with a common goal which is to protect their females.
Leopards are large cats with dark or ocher colored fur that has rosette markings which assist in their camouflage. Spotting Leopards has often proven to be a daunting task due to the fact that they are very elusive, solitary and nocturnal boasting of abilities such as climbing, swimming and can live in rather diverse habitats as compared to other wild cats.
Leopards incessantly move about their territory, hardly ever staying in an area for more than two or three days at a time. Leopards mark their large territories with their urine and claw marks, and will let other leopards know of their presence in an area by making a rasping cough-like noise.
Leopards put their climbing skill to good use by hauling prey they’ve caught up into trees to eat. This is necessary as other predators and scavengers like hyenas and lions will quickly help themselves to a leopard’s kill if they don’t.
Cheetahs are the fastest land animal, and have been known to reach amazing speeds of up to 120km/hr over short distances of usually less than half a kilometer. This ability is due to the physiological characteristics of the cheetah, which include large nostrils for increased oxygen intake, and large heart and lungs which are used to efficiently circulate oxygen during the run, where cheetahs may breathe up to 150 times each minute.
There are only about 12,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild now, most of which live in the eastern and southern parts of Africa. One of the most common places for visitors to see cheetah is in the Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya, and the Serengeti national park in Tanzania.
To see big cats in their natural habitats, Kenya and Tanzania are great countries to visit. One will be spoilt for choices on what type of tour to go for as they enjoy the scenery in East Africa. Some popular tours include beach based safaris, Kenya camping safaris and even luxury safaris.