It was gun-toting trophy hunters who coined the phrase the ‘big five’ while stalking the savannahs of Africa. They used it as the collective term for lions, leopards, rhino, Cape buffalo and elephants, which they considered the most challenging animals to hunt. The name caught on: now the big five is the highlight of most African safaris.
However, this week a new big five was announced. The idea being to subvert hunting connotations and create a set of species that can be promoted as ambassadors for conservation.
More than 50,000 people voted for the animals they most wanted to shoot – with a camera, not a gun – as part of the New Big Five project. The crowning species (elephant, lion, polar bear, gorilla and tiger) are all listed as either critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.
Primatologist Dr Jane Goodall said: “These five animals are such beautiful and remarkable species, and are wonderful ambassadors for the world’s wildlife. So many [species] face threats to their survival. If we work together, we can stop this happening.”
Image: A mountain gorilla. Credit: Luc Huyghebaert