Why are they called the Ugly Five? Put three scavengers and two vegetarians together and you get five creatures. Give them all a slightly awkward appearance, and you get the Ugly Five. This group has been selected this rather rude title due to their awkward looks.

Well, by now, you should be familiar with the “Big 5”: rhino, buffalo, elephant, leopard, and lion. Hopefully, you have also heard about the “Little 5”. The little 5, or small 5, as some may define then, includes the rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, and ant lion.

These species may be ugly looking, but they play an important role in the environments found in Southern Africa. The African bush, simply would not be the same without them.

The Hyena

The Hyena family comprises of four species, the striped hyena, the brown hyena, the spotted hyena, and the aardwolf. All four of these types differ in size and play a noteworthy role in the African ecosystem. They often feast on the remains of other predators but will hunt self.

In Southern Africa, spotted hyenas are seen often. They are large animals, heavy build with a length of 120cm- 180cm. Weight ranges from 60 to 80 kg. Spotted hyenas have short, beige yellow, murky grey fur with uneven dark brown spots and spots that will fade with age. Spotted hyenas have a short mane that stands straight up on their backs.

Rounded ears and not as pointed as the brown hyenas. Spotted hyenas have longer back legs, and their shoulders are higher than their ramps. They are known as “laughing hyenas,” as it appears to be laughing and cackling when annoyed or when they are attacking prey.

The size of a hyena’s killing or forage depends on the size of the group, which can be anything from 12 up to 24 hyenas. Some groups can even be bigger and any extra food or left overs will be hidden for later use. Even hoofs from the prey will be eaten.

For quit some time, the spotted hyena has been seen as purely a scavenger. But studies shows that thy eat between 66 and 90% of what they kill, and are highly skilled hunters. Thinking of textbook mothers, spotted hyenas are not on the top list. Astonishingly, female spotted hyenas are unbelievable mothers. They will spend more energy and time on each of their cubs than any other carnivore.


Vultures are born foragers. If there is a carcass of a dead animal, you are sure to find them there. Qualified guides normally refer to them as nature’s very own cleanup squad. They will gorge on prey until they are full, and then just sit around half sleepy in order to digest the food. They have very strong curved beaks and can tear skin, muscle, and bone from carcasses.

Have you seen their bald heads? It is believed that as it is difficult to clean and maintain a feathered head, trying to keep it clean from blood or fluids while eating carcasses, the vulture’s bald head also helps with regulation of their temperature.

They have long, widespread wings that allow them to glide elegantly at excessive altitudes. They will stay in the air for hours without much effort. They will quickly spot other vultures going down to prey far away while scanning for any kill with their sharp eyes.

Egyptians believe that they were symbolic of death because they are normally found feeding on dead animals. Therefore, Egyptians used vultures in their burial ceremonies. The stomach acid of vultures is stronger and eroding than that of any other birds or animal. These scavengers can eat decomposing carcasses infected by dangerous germs, because the acid will kill the bacteria.

The Warthog

The common warthog is part of the Suidae, or pig family, and is related to pigs and boars. There are four species of warthog, namely the Nolan warthog, the Eritrean warthog, the central African warthog, and the southern warthog. The southern warthog is found in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

They have large heads with a mane running from the middle to the back. The common warthog is typically black and brown in color and has little hair. The tails are long with clumps of fur on the tip. Warthogs do look like pigs, plump, hooved animals with a snout with large nostrils at the ends of the snout.

Warthogs generally live in families, where they either search for food or drink from waterholes. They sleep in holes or dens at night. The sub-Saharan African Warthog has a large distribution and prefer open woodlands and savannahs.

Warthogs love to stagger! To cool off, warthogs will dip themselves in water. They love to roll around in the mud, as it cools them and the mud also provides protection from biting insects.

If their litter is gone, warthog sows can foster-nurture piglets. This practice is called allonurse and is the main reason why warthogs can be classified as supportive breeders.

Warthogs will often kneel when grazing lower grasses and to protect their knees while they kneel, warthogs have padding.

The Wildebeest

Wildebeest are mostly grazers but also enjoy shrubs, and herbs. They can live in herds that range anything from around 10 up to 1000’s. The long, black mane is complemented by a bushy, curled horn and a beard that dangles from their neck and throat.

They preferred open grasslands. Seasonal migration is used as an optimum survival plan to access and use large areas of grasslands, lessening overgrazing in both dry and wet seasons.

The start of the pairing season id called the rut and is connected to the full moon. Territorial males, nevertheless, are always prepared to mate. During the mating season, breeding groups of about 150 wildebeest form inside the bigger herds. The five or six most dominant bulls will create and protect areas where cows wander through. Bulls usually make a show of bucking and running around within these areas. They will also mark it by urinating, defecating, and scattering discharges in particular areas. The discharges come from the glands and is spread when bulls paw at the ground and continue to rub it with their heads.

Wildebeests reproduce quickly and give birth to roughly 150 offspring. To influence the females, some of the dominant males perform extravagant mating rituals. Pregnancies last for roughly 8.5 months. They will also give birth in middle of the herd. Wildebeests are some of the most daring animals in Africa. They move regularly and don’t stay put for long. They will move around day and night. While they enjoy taking quick naps, some stay vigilant, to watch for predators.

The Marabou Stork

Marabou storks are one of Africa’s most exclusive birds, and they are also one of the largest birds in the world. They can be found in both dry and wet habitats, especially near human habitation.

They are strangely shaped, with a bald head and wisps, which makes them worthy of being added to the ugly five. They measure around 1.5 meters in height and have a wingspread of around 2.6 meters. A captivating fact about marabou storks is that they have hollow legs and feet that make them able to fly.

Marabous can eat everything, including termites, flamingos, and small birds and animals, as well as human waste. They often share the carcasses with other foragers like vultures or hyenas.

Marabou storks forage for food, and a lot of it is their own. They are attracted by kills made by lions and domestic farmyards. Marabou storks are also fascinated by grass fires, and will move in front of the fire and grab fleeing animals. In order to capture insects disturbed by their actions, these storks might also be associated with large animal herds.

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