22 August 2012 by Kate Turkington

The Ugly 5

You’ve heard of the Big 5 and the Little 5, but do you know about the Ugly 5? They have a reputation they don’t deserve and can often be quite beautiful.

On a recent trip to that greatest of all game parks – Kruger National Park – the grandchildren asked me to point out the Ugly 5. 'I’ll do so,' I told them, 'but I’m going to explain why they’re called the Ugly 5 and how they got a bad reputation which they don’t deserve.'

A baby blue wildebeest

The warthog may be ugly (it’s a bit of a bummer having such big warts on your face) but the movie The Lion King, in which he appears as Pumba, has given him a whole new loveable reputation.

The Ugly 5 are the warthog, the wildebeest, the vulture, the marabou stork and the hyena.

The warthog may be ugly (it’s a bit of a bummer having such big warts on your face) but the movie The Lion King, in which he appears as Pumba, has given him a whole new loveable reputation. 'I lo-ove warthogs,' announced the 5-year-old.

Next up is the wildebeest (a gnother gnu), which is known as the Clown of the Veld because of its habit of running wildly about, tossing its head up and down. (You’d also toss your head up and down if you had parasites in your head.) Baby wildebeest are beautiful. Look out for them in November when they are newly born.

It’s hard to make out a case for a vulture being attractive, although the smallest of the lot, the hooded vulture, is an elegant bird.

But vultures act as the environmental guardians of the bush, cleaning up carcasses and keeping things tidy.

Marabou storks shooing elephants away

Another bird in the Ugly 5 is the marabou stork. Not a pretty sight when hanging round trash cans in the national parks, but when you see them breeding in heronries, which I have done, when the morning light glints off those long feathers, it’s a lovely sight.

And last on the list is the hyena, which has been given an unjustifiable reputation over the years as a greedy, ruthless scavenger. We now know it hunts its own prey as well as scavenging, and has a wonderful caring family structure. And it’s impossible not to be impressed by that long whoo-oop it gives as darkness falls.

And even if you are 1 of the Ugly 5, it’s a sure bet that your mother loves you...

A typical Kruger park camp

Category: Wildlife


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