The Ugly Five in Kruger National Park
You would imagine that the ugly five would be something terrifying from a horror movie. Instead, this is the expression used for a group of animals on safari.
So why are they named the ugly five ?
In Genesis 1, Day 5, God created all the animals after his kind, and God saw that it was good. Well close, some came out very elegant and posh while others at the back of the queue were not so lucky.
Put three scavengers and two vegetarians together and you get these five animals. Paint them all with a bush of a slightly awkward appearance, and you get the ugly five.
This group has been designated this rather unceremonious title due to their ungainly looks.
They are, however, no less loved by people than other animals. The proof of this is if you call these creatures “ugly” on any social Media platform and watch Masses of supporters rally behind them.
The Spotted Hyena
It’s hard to find Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed from the 1994 movie, the Lion King, entirely sympathetic, as one of their suppers of choice consisted of the adorable lion cubs Simba and Nala. They were decidedly among the bad guys as they aligned with archvillain Scar.
Besides being considered as treacherous, the Hyena has some peculiar proportions, with all the running strength loaded in their forequarters, and the weak-looking hindquarters seemingly added as something of an afterthought.
With its scrappy fur, hunched back and wide, drooling grin, this so-called laughing hyena may not be the prettiest of animals.
Its exterior gives a mixture of grizzly bear, dog, as well as the ears of a rhinoceros.
This creature combines some of the strongest jaws in the world with shearing teeth in front and blunt teeth in back. The back teeth can crack bones as thick as an elephant’s or a rhino’s.
The mighty hyena’s laugh sounds like a series of loud, high-pitched whoops, cackles, and groans. It is more like an intense cackle or chuckle than an actual laugh and you wonder who it is laughing at.
The Marabou Stork
According to African legend, God ran out of animal parts while producing the creatures of Africa.
So, God decided to use all the leftover bird parts to create the unsightly marabou stork.
Considered to be one of the ugliest animals on the planet, beneath its homely exterior the marabou stork is also one of the most fascinating birds found on earth.
There is no sugarcoating it. These African storks are an eye-sore, with their scabby pink faces, featherless heads, and bulbous throat sac.
But the lack of feathers and fluff on its head is extremely important in preventing infections.
The marabou sticks its head into rotting carcasses which are ripe with bacteria. Its bald head, while unsightly, is essential for keeping the marabou clean and disease-free.
Marabou storks eat everything. The birds are Africa’s vacuum cleaner, gulping discarded animal remains and even garbage.
The huge gular sac is a distinctive, and a rather unattractive feature as well. It is not used for food storage but is most noticeable during the breeding season. The stork uses the pouch to show dominance.
In addition, the sac connects to the left nostril and works to resonate a guttural croaking sound. The pouch also aids in thermoregulation, helping to maintain body temperature.
Being one of the largest birds in the world, they measure 1.5 metres in height and have a wingspan of 2.6 metres. A fascinating fact is that they have hollow legs and feet that ease their weight while in flight.
It is rather unlikely that the lappet-faced vulture will ever win a beauty contest.
It is a massive vulture with its dark wings and body feathers which like an over-sized black coat, a bullish, naked, square head, a bulky bluish-yellow beak, and wrinkled loose skin (Lappets) that hangs from the sides of its bare pink head.
This big, greedy, ugly bird perches at the top of the scavenger list in Africa. When the lappet-faced vulture arrives at a fresh kill, other animals scatter out of the way.
This bird tears into a carcass until it eats its fill. The lappet-faced vulture can eat up to 1.5 kg of meat in one meal.
Competing scavengers actually benefit by waiting as the lappet-faced vulture has such a strong beak it can tear through tough hides other animals can’t penetrate. It will then leave the remains of the carcass for the rest of the “clean-up crew”, as we call vultures as well.
Though the lappet-faced vulture won’t hesitate to dig into fresh carrion, the bird is actually very picky about what it eats. This scavenger won’t touch meat that has begun to turn putrid, preferring to find abandoned kills whose blood is still warm.
The featherless head serves actually a very hygienic purpose- preventing the settling of parasites and bacteria from the carcasses on which they feed.
The Blue Wildebeest
What’s Gnu with You?
The ungainly-looking wildebeest, or gnu, is recognized by its rather disproportionate build – a long face, wild eyes and uncomfortably eyelashes, short stubby horns, bedraggled beard and brindled sides, a sloping back and scrawny legs, and an unexpectedly impressive tail – create a rather unfortunate and unattractive looking antelope.
The term “wildebeest” translated from Dutch means “wild cattle”.
The name “gnu” originates from the rather unique and monotonous call give off by territorial bulls.
A herd of wildebeest is known as a confusion. I’m not certain whether that is because it looks like mass chaos when they migrate in huge bunches, or because wildebeest look like a conglomeration of an ox head, a horse mane, and buffalo horns.
There is furthermore a common notion which suggests that wildebeest are stupid. This notion is related to their rather unusual behaviour that gnus often walk, with their heads bobbing, straight back to the place they initially ran away from.
In fact, the wildebeest is better described as a reliable source of food for the truly menacing predators of the African savanna: lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas.
Warthogs are not the most attractive animals on the African savannah either, but they don’t’ seem to mind.
In fact, most people would agree that these animals are so ugly that they are considered cute.
The name warthog comes from the big wart-like structures that are found on their faces. It actually looks as if their faces are constantly swollen.
These warts are made of fatty deposits. Male warthogs have two sets and females only have one set. These are thought to serve as protection when fighting with other warthogs.
Thay can often be seen while on safari running with their tails up, stopping suddenly to look around, shovelling dirt with their strong snouts and rolling in mud puddles when the opportunity arises.
They do have other odd habits such as entering burrows backwards, trotting with erect tails, and bending their forelegs to graze.
Nevertheless, Pumba is an iconic creature that we love to see running through the bush with its little ones in tow, all with tails sticking straight up in the air.