Predators have their eyes directed forward to better stalk their prey. They live a primarily sedentary life, generally sleeping in the shade, between hunts. Prey have their eyes located at the sides of their heads to help them see approaching predators. They are constantly on the lookout, often in motion and tend to live in herds. When they graze, they usually have a “scout” watching for predators approaching. It’s an interesting dynamic to watch.
Our guides are very in tune with animal behaviors. Multiple vultures in a tree indicate a carcass nearby for example. One evening we were returning to camp just after dark when we heard impala making loud sounds and running parallel to our safari vehicle. Our driver quickly stopped, turned around, drove about 50 feet, shown the spotlight into the shrubbery and highlighted a leopard. Wow! He knew what had frightened the impala and exactly where the predator (in this case a leopard) would be.
The Big Five, so-named because these were the desired trophy kills, could be divided this way: predators – lions and leopards, prey – Cape buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros. These magnificent animals have been hunted nearly to extinction, but many are coming back. We’ve seen many examples of the beautiful lions and leopards in the parks we’ve visited. Elephants, though rare in some areas are plentiful in others, with more than 50,000 in Chobe National Park alone. Cape Buffalo abound. Only rhinos are still seriously endangered because of poaching. We’ve been fortunate to see several white rhino (rare) and one black rhino (extremely endangered).