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Africa is teeming with iconic wildlife and we couldn’t be more proud of showing off to everyone – EVEN the animals given the endearing moniker of ‘Ugly Five‘. Despite their quirky looks, these guys are full of personality! We have rounded up our best pictures to show you a glimpse of the Ugly Five in their natural habitat.
Well known for their stampedes in Disney movies, these herd creatures look curious up close with their skinny legs and long faces that might as well be the butt of dad jokes. Their sheer numbers are truly impressive to witness, though, especially on the annual Great Migration, which takes place across Kenya‘s Maasai Mara and Tanzania‘s Serengeti National Park.
Curious wildebeests approaching
Herds of wildebeest prepare to cross the Mara River
Wildebeests emerging from the Mara River
Bald and armed with sharp talons and beaks, vultures are the good guys misjudged as villains. Their lifestyle is ironic – they deal with carcasses and unpleasant sights to keep Africa’s savannahs hygienic. To watch them descend upon unfortunate limbs and compete with hyenas can be strangely entertaining and gripping.
Trio of vultures claim stakes on a piece of carcass
Two vultures keep a sharp eye out
Spotted and roughed up, these carnivores are famous for their ghoulish “laughter” and savage stalking. Interestingly, their “laughter” actually shows social ranking. Beyoncé would be very proud to know that female hyenas rule their world with such dedication and organisation.
A spotted hyena chases vultures away
Spotted hyena cub keeping cool in the shade
Rugged and resting; a spotted hyena naps while a cub peers out
Pumba’s little piggies are full of personality and can be spotted zig-zagging through the grass. They are actually sneaky, too, because they steal dens dug by aardvarks and other small mammals to provide shelter for their piglets. When they eat, they usually “kneel” on their front wrists (ouch?) to reveal the best and juiciest grasses.
A small piglet “kneels” on its front wrists
A “sounding” of warthogs with tails up
Surprisingly tall for its stooped posture, these storks are actually majestic in flight with an impressive wingspan of about 2.6 metres. To add to their list of deceiving looks, their long, white legs are, in fact, covered with their excrement to regulate temperatures. They can look intimidating and sound scary too with their croaking and snapping beaks.
Marabou Stork gives vultures a lecture
These are Africa’s Ugly Five – remarkable in their own way and sometimes sweet too. What do you think?
Do you have any favourite pictures of the Ugly Five to share with us? We would love to see!
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Jessica grew up surrounded with stories and photographs of the Congo and Lake Kivu, where her grandfather experienced his childhood. After reading several National Geographic magazines, she realised her dream of travelling and writing about Africa. Jessica is proudly Deaf and fluent in South African Sign Language and hopes to master more languages. Besides being an avid reader, she loves animals and wants to experience owning as many pets as possible.
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The Beautiful One: Your article!
Hello Anton, thank you!
Very interesting and keep on . Thanks for the lovely images and story. ♥️♥️
Hello Stella, thank you! I certainly enjoyed writing about them 🙂
Your ugly five are very accurate but we need and love them all.
Hello Neil, I totally agree with you. I find them sweet in their own way 🙂
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