• One of the Big Five in Tanzania: The Rhinoceros

The Big Five in Tanzania

During your time on Safari in Tanzania you will have the chance to see the Big Five, the lion, the African elephant, the African buffalo, the leopard and the rhinoceros. There are a some other African countries where you can see the Big Five. The most beautiful of these is certainly the United Republic of Tanzania, especially because of its large animal populations and ideal environment. The best spot to see the Big Five in Tanzania is within the famous crater of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

In the past, the selection was not primarily based on the body size of the animals, but mainly on the difficulties and dangers of hunting them. These five large African mammal species were popular with hunters as trophies and achievements. Therefore they were associated with much prestige. Fortunately most visitors nowadays are content with a great photo, but sadly hunting the big five as a recreational sport is still not prohibited in all African countries (including in certain parts of Tanzania).

Here you will find a list with additional information about the Big Five in Tanzania:

Lion Panthera leo Tanzania


Scientific Name: panthera leo

Family: cats (Felidae)

Habitat Northern Circuit: Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti

Population in Tanzania: ca. 15.000 (2010)

Diet: antelope, gazelle, gnus, buffalo, zebras

Head-and-body length: 140 – 250 cm

Weight: 120 – 270 kg

Sexual Maturity: ca. 4 years

Life Span: ca. 15 years (zoo animals up to 25 years)

IUCN Status: vulnerable

Lions are markedly social creatures and Africa’s largest predators. Lions live together in herds of ca. three males and about 6 to 12 female lions plus offspring. Usually it is the females that go hunting and feed the young. Male lions occupy and mark their own territory after they have defeated or driven away the alpha animals living in the region.

Elephant Loxodonta africana Tanzania


Scientific Name: loxodonta africana

Family: elephants (Elephantidae)

Habitat Northern Circuit: Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Arusha

Population in Tanzania: ca. 43.000 (2014)

Diet: grasses, leaves, twigs

Head-and-body length: 250 – 750 cm

Weight: 3200 – 6500 kg

Sexual Maturity: ca. 12 – 15 years

Life Span: ca. 40 bis 80 years

IUCN Status: endangered

The African elephant, the most powerful land mammal in the world, is much larger than its Asian relatives and also has larger ears, making them easy to distinguish. Females and their offspring are usually spotted in herds led by a matriarch. Male elephants are usually found in small bachelor herds or as individual bulls. Tarangire national park is one of the best areas in Tanzania to view these majestic animals.

Diceros bicornis Rhinoceros Tanzania

Black Rhinoceros

Scientific Name: diceros bicornis

Family: rhinocerotidae

Habitat Northern Circuit: Ngorongoro, Serengeti

Population in Tanzania: less then 1000

Diet: leaves, branches, twigs, bark, thorns

Head-and-body length: 280 – 360 cm

Weight: 800 – 2500 kg

Sexual Maturity: ca. 4 – 6 years

Life Span: up to 45 years

IUCN Status: critically endangered

Although the black rhino is one of the original Big Five ensemble, other rhino species are now also included. White and black rhinoceroses differ in size and the shape of their lips. As the name suggests, white rhinoceroses have a square lip, while black rhinoceroses have a pointed upper lip. Unfortunately the rhino is highly endangered by intensive poaching, the horn is considered a potency enhancer in Asia.

The most dangerous out of the Big Five in Tanzania: The African Buffalo

African Buffalo

Scientific Name: syncerus caffer

Family: bovidae

Habitat Northern Circuit: Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Arusha

Population: 100.000+

Diet: grasses

Head-and-body length: 240 – 340 cm

Weight: 300 – 900 kg

Sexual Maturity: ca. 4 – 5 years

Life Span: ca. 18 to 25 years

IUCN Status: least concern

The African buffalo (also known as Cape buffalo, Black buffalo or Steppe buffalo) can be regularly observed in very large herds. The animals resemble cattle, but one should not be fooled by their appearance. These buffaloes are incredibly strong and aggressive when provoked. Many Safari guides think of them as the most dangerous of the Big Five in Tanzania – even more dangerous than the giant hippos! Buffalo are the only members of the Big Five in Tanzania that are not classified as “endangered” or “threatened with extinction” on the IUCN Red List.

Leopard Panthera pardus Tanzania


Scientific Name: panthera pardus

Family: felidae

Habitat Northern Circuit: Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire

Population Tanzania: ca. 15.000 to 20.000

Diet: antelopes, wild boars, birds, zebras

Head-and-body length: 90 to 185 cm

Weight: 25 to 100 kg

Sexual Maturity: ca. 3 years

Life Span: ca. 12 to 18 years

IUCN Status: vulnerable

The leopard is an elegant but shy big cat, which makes a sighting more difficult. After a successful hunt (preferably at night) the loners move their prey into the safety of trees to keep scavengers and thieves away. They usually hunt smaller antelopes, but are opportunistic hunters and do not shy away from attacking even larger animals. These beautiful spotted cats are usually found alone or with their young.