There is another “big five” among African animals–the five ugliest animals: hyena, vulture (which one?), wildebeest, warthog, and Maribou stork. I’m not sure what constitutes “ugly” status, but it might have more to do with behavior than actual looks. Scavenging for a living is apparently not quite as glamorous as true carnivory. However, what would the landscape look like with a lot of partially eaten carcasses just lying around, smelling bad? Scavengers perform a vital service!
Bald-headed birds seem less beautiful than fully feathered ones, but if you are going to stick your head inside a bloody carcass, then bald is practical and easy to clean. Hooded and white-backed vultures clean meat off an elephant skull, along with Pied Crows (also scavengers).
Maribou storks scavenge what little flesh remains on a Cape buffalo carcass.
There is nothing beautiful about the Maribou stork’s face. The bill seems disproportionately big, and those red puffy areas on its head make it look diseased.
We didn’t see any hyenas, although they do roam the grasslands of Southern Africa. Is it their odd stance (sloping shoulders), slobbery faces, vicious behavior, or scavenging habit that makes them part of the all-ugly team? (Photo from kids.britannica.com)
Scavenging alone is not enough to qualify for the ugly five, because a couple of vegetarians made the team.
Just minding their own business, a herd of wildebeest cruise the grassland in search of something nutritious to eat. They are really just lion bait.
Other antelope have short horns, or manes, or hair running down their necks to their chest, but not such long noses or beards, like this Blue Gnu.
Wildebeest need to take a lesson from the stately elegance of Kudu males. Short nose, no beard, better posture!
And lastly, the ungainly warthog, whose ropey tail and oversized head make it a comical-looking creature. Mother warthog leads her offspring away by waving her tail like a flag for them to follow.
What does an animal need a huge head like this for?