An intriguing new campaign seeks to redefine the term for today’s travellers. And you can have your say.
t is odd that the term ‘Big Five’ is used so commonly as an indicator of the most celebrated animals to see on safari, when it is a term coined by colonial hunters for the toughest animals to track and kill – and which offered the most impressive trophies.
While there is no doubt that the species included on the list – lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard – are top attractions for wildlife-lovers, one does wonder if they do still reflect the animals you most hope to see and photograph when you sit down to plan your safari.
So we are intrigued and excited to follow a new initiative which sets out to redefine the term for today’s context, based on shooting with a camera, not a gun.
The New Big 5 project is inviting people all over the world to vote for the species they would like to be included on the list. Significantly, the scope is widened to embrace all wildlife, so it could now include polar bears, orangutans, tigers and others as well as a wider range of African species, such as zebra, pangolin, wild dog, cheetah and so on.
The project is the brainchild of UK-based wildlife photographer and writer Graeme Green, but has quickly gained the support of over 100 of the world’s leading photographers, conservationists and wildlife lovers – including Dr Jane Goodall, Ami Vitale, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Nick Brandt, Steve McCurry, Greg du Toit and so many others – as well as an impressive number of conservation organisations such as WWF, African Wildlife Foundation, IUCN and more.
It is hoped the New Big 5 will represent a ‘bucket list’ for travellers, photographers and wildlife lovers to see in their lifetimes. But Green also wants to focus attention on the world’s incredible wildlife and the urgent need to act together globally to conserve them.
Photographer Ami Vitale agrees: “The New Big 5 initiative is a beautiful, poignant reminder that all of nature and all of life is threatened on this planet. We must do everything we can to care for the plants and the critters that inhabit the Earth. Our future happiness depends on all of them.”
Says Dr Jane Goodall: “What a great project the New Big 5 is. I wonder what the final choices will be? There are so many incredible animals in our world, all fascinating in different ways. The animals chosen will reflect the participants’ characters as much as the qualities of the animal themselves. Any project which brings attention to animals, so many of whom are threatened or endangered, is truly important. I hope this project highlights the need to protect the world’s animals.”
To see the shortlisted selection offered and to cast your votes for the animals you would like to be included in the New Big 5, click here.
The website also includes podcasts and interviews as well as articles on wildlife issues – from habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade to the impacts of Covid-19 – and a free educational fun pack for young people.
The campaign will run for six months, with the results being announced later in 2020. So why not add your voice and ensure Africa’s precious wildlife is widely represented on the new list.
But this also got us thinking. As a Travel Africa reader, your love for the African continent and its wildlife is already established, and you will probably have a fairly strong idea of the five animals you most long to see. Perhaps your wishlist extends beyond just five, so how do you whittle them down and what is your criteria for doing so?
We’d love to hear from you. Write to us with Your Big Five, with your reasoning for the selection, and we’ll share these on social media to stimulate further discussion, and will also publish a selection in Travel Africa. If yours is chosen for publication, we’ll give you or a friend a free one-year subscription to the magazine.
In the meantime, enjoy this portfolio of images from some of the supporting photographers in the New Big 5 campaign… how many of these featured animals will make the final list?
To see the images in full frame, click on one and flick through the gallery.