South Africa is truly a land of plenty big when it comes to wildlife. It’s home to the ostrich, the world’s largest living bird. It’s also home to six of the world’s eleven heaviest land mammals. The African elephant ranks No. 1 on that list, weighing in at up to six tons (5.4 tonnes). No. 3 and No. 4 positions in the list are held by the white rhinocerus and hippopotamus, respectively (after the Indian elephant, which is No. 2). The giraffe (world’s tallest land animal) ranks No. 6, after the Asian gaur. The black rhino ranks No. 8, after the walrus. Last on the list but far from least, the African buffalo (Cape buffalo) ranks No. 11, following the Asian water buffalo at No. 9 and the American bison at No. 10. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
In the marine environment, South Aftrican waters are visited by other “biggests” and “plenty bigs”: the great blue whale (world’s largest animal), sperm whale, humpback, right whale and other whales, southern elephant seal (largest seal), dugong, giant squid (largest invertebrate), and the whale shark (largest living fish) and great white shark.
On a slightly smaller scale, four of South Africa’s charismatic wild cats are in the top ten biggest cats in the world. The African lion weighs in at No. 2, after the Siberian tiger, the world’s largest cat. The leopard ranks No. 6, the cheetah, No. 7, and the caracal, No. 10.
After living in SA for three months, I fear that I may soon join the list of plenty bigs. The cost of living here is low, and food is astonishingly inexpensive, by Canadian standards. Grahamstown, in addition to having giant earthworms and giant millipedes, also has giant servings of sweets in the bakery sections of Checkers and Pick n Pay. Their sticker comfort makes them even more enticing.
As a writer, I spend hours a day in front of a computer. Yes, I stretch and tone for forty-five minutes five days a week, push hard up Gunfire Hill nearly every day (sometimes twice a day), and get out hiking with Vilis for a couple days every week. However, I’ve always struggled to control my weight and a life-long sugar addiction, and I’ve let both get out of hand here. Yesterday, when I tried on a pair of medium-sized hiking pants, I had to loosen the belt that came with the pants to get it to snap closed. That was a wake up call, and as of today, I’m determined to say no to South Africa’s plenty big sweets. Unlike this country’s mesmerizingly impressive big guys in the wildlife world, I don’t need the size to survive.