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article imageSouth Africa only country to boast 'Big 7' animal ambassadors Special

By Alex Volker     Jun 27, 2009 in Environment
The Big five, South Africa’s number one tourist drawing card, is set to be soon upgraded to “The Big seven” reports new minister of Forestry and Environmental Affairs.
The South African big 5, the lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo, are the top animal ambassador species and wildlife symbols for South Africa as a tourist destination. All these mammals have reached this status as prized hunting trophies and now, in more conservation conscientious times, as the benchmark of a successful game-viewing experience in the numerous game parks and reserves.
These animals are all either known for their predatory allure or danger potential in compromising situations. The big 5 are but a few examples of the magnificent wildlife variety the country has to offer. The natural splendour and diverse range of plants and animals draw thousands of tourists to the southern tip of the continent, yet these very same natural resources are facing many conservation challenges, which threaten their sustainable existence. Poaching, habitat destruction and disease are but a few examples of the threats our animals face.
Minister of Forestry and Environmental affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, recently took over the reigns from Martinus Van Schalkwyk, after the Environmental Affairs and Tourism portfolio was split into Tourism, which Van Schalkwyk retained, and Forestry and Environmental Affairs.
Sonjica was quoted as saying that South Africa’s big five attraction will be expanded to boast a now so-called big 7, which also includes the whale and the shark. These broadly categorised marine animals feature amongst others, the predatory Killer Whale, the Southern Right Whale and the Humpback Whale. Ironically the better known Blue Whale, is the largest mammal in the world, but feeds exclusively on microscopic plankton. Also a great tourist attraction is the misunderstood Great White Shark, which reached international infamy in the 1975 movie Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg.
Jeff Gaisford, the KZN Wildlife media manager, responded that this move is an effort to include in the country’s international image as a wildlife destination, the rich marine diversity that the South African shores also offer.
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