Watch the Big Five @ Korat Zoo

The Big Five is actually a term coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, namely the Lion, the African Elephant, the Cape Buffalo, the African Leopard and either the Black or White Rhinoceros. 

The members of the Big Five were chosen for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved, rather than their size. The big five are among the most dangerous, yet most popular species for big game hunters to hunt.

Countries where all the members of the big five can be found include Botswana, Zambia, Uganda, Namibia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Malawi. The only hope you would have of seeing them all in a day would be on safari in one of the bigger National Parks in any of the countries mentioned but even there seeing all five species within 24 hours would still be difficult.

But did you know that a trip to Korat Zoo is a lot closer and will yield the same result.

All the animals are kept in large enclosures, so even though it isn't as nice as watching them in their true natural surroundings it does give people the chance to experience the splendor and majesty of the five species without needing to get on a plane and head off to Africa.

The Lion (Panthera leo) is one of the five big cats in the genus Panthera and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia (where an endangered remnant population resides in Gir Forest National Park in India) while other types of lions have disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru. 

The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a major population decline in its African range of 30–50% per two decades during the second half of the 20th century. Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern.

African Elephants are elephants of the genus Loxodonta (from the Greek words loxo (oblique sided) and donta (tooth)). The genus consists of two species: the African bush elephant and the smaller African forest elephant. The bush elephant, is the largest living terrestrial animal, while the forest elephant is the third largest. Their thickset bodies rest on stocky legs, and they have concave backs. Their large ears enable heat loss. The upper lip and nose form a trunk. The trunk acts as a fifth limb, a sound amplifier, and an important method of touch. African elephants' trunks end in two opposing lips, whereas the Asian elephant trunk ends in a single lip. Males stand 3.2–4.0 m (10–13 ft) tall at the shoulder and weigh 4,700–6,048 kg (10,360–13,330 lb). The largest recorded individual stood four metres (13.1 ft) at the shoulders and weighed 10 tonnes (10 long tons).

The Cape buffalo or African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), is a large African bovine. It is not closely related to the slightly larger wild Asian water buffalo, and its ancestry remains unclear. The African buffalo is not the ancestor of domestic cattle, and is only distantly related to other larger bovines. Owing to its unpredictable nature, which makes it highly dangerous to humans, the African buffalo has never been domesticated unlike its Asian counterpart, the Asian buffalo. It is a very robust species. Its shoulder height can range from 1 to 1.7 m (3.3 to 5.6 ft) and its head-and-body length can range from 1.7 to 3.4 m (5.6 to 11.2 ft). 

Compared with other large bovids, it has a long but stocky body (the body length can exceed the wild water buffalo, which is rather heavier and taller) and short but thickset legs, resulting in a relatively short standing height. Savannah-type buffaloes weigh 500 to 900 kg (1,100 to 2,000 lb). Its head is carried low; its top is located below the backline. The front hooves of the buffalo are wider than the rear, which is associated with the need to support the weight of the front part of the body, which is heavier and more powerful than the back. The horns of African buffalo are very peculiar. A characteristic feature of them is the adult bull’s horns have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as a “boss’, which can not always be penetrated even by a rifle bullet.

The African Leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) is a leopard subspecies occurring across most of sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008, the IUCN classified leopards as Near Threatened, stating that they may soon qualify for the Vulnerable status due to habitat loss and fragmentation. They are becoming increasingly rare outside protected areas. The trend of the population is decreasing. African leopards exhibit great variation in coat color, depending on location and habitat. Coat color varies from pale yellow to deep gold or tawny, and sometimes black, and is patterned with black rosettes while the head, lower limbs and belly are spotted with solid black. Male leopards are larger, averaging 60 kg (130 lb) with 91 kg (201 lb) being the maximum weight attained by a male. 

Rhinoceros, often abbreviated as rhino, are a group of five species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. Two of these species are native to Africa and three to Southern Asia. Members of the rhinoceros family are characterized by their large size (they are some of the largest remaining megafauna, with all of the species able to reach one tonne or more in weight); as well as by an herbivorous diet; a thick protective skin, 1.5–5 cm thick, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure; relatively small brains for mammals (400–600 g); and a large horn. They generally eat leafy material, although their ability to ferment food in their hindgut allows them to subsist on more fibrous plant matter, if necessary. Unlike other perissodactyls, the two African species of rhinoceros lack teeth at the front of their mouths, relying instead on their lips to pluck food. 

Rhinoceros are killed by humans for their horns, which are bought and sold on the black market, and which are used by some cultures for ornamental or traditional medicinal purposes. East Asia, specifically Vietnam, is the largest market for rhino horns. By weight, rhino horns cost as much as gold on the black market. People grind up the horns and then consume them believing the dust has therapeutic properties. The horns are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails. Both African species and the Sumatran rhinoceros have two horns, while the Indian and Javan rhinoceros have a single horn. The IUCN Red List identifies three of the species as critically endangered.

You'll need to catch the land train (20 Baht for a multi-ride ticket) to get to the enclosures. It departs regularly from outside the visitor centre and then you just get off and back on again as many times as you like as you travel around the zoo.

I'm not a big fan or keeping animals in enclosures, but zoo's do have their place as long as the animals are well cared for and are involved in breeding and research programs which help conserve them for future generations. But what I personally love about Korat Zoo is the fact that younger and older children are given the chance to get up close and personal to some of the greatest animals on earth including the Big Five. This can only give them a greater appreciation of the natural world and ensure they grow up realising how important caring for and protecting everything around us on incredible planet Earth is.

Korat Zoo is open everyday from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

Address: 111 Moo 1 Chaimongkol, Muang, Nakhon Ratchasima.

Telephone: 044 943 532, 044 943 537 to 8

Fax: 044 943 531, 044 943 537


E-mail: prmarketing.krz@gmail.com


FF


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