The African Buffalo is part of the Big Five, but often overshadowed by the other members. One of the reasons is that, fortunately, the African Buffalo is not faced with severe threats to its survival like the other members are. This magnificent beast is listed on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species as "Least Concern".
Buffalos are misleading creatures, because although they appear calm and tranquil they are highly unpredictable and extremely dangerous when provoked. For this very reason it has been included as one of the Big Five. The term originally referred to the five animals that hunters found the most challenging to pursue, and with its volatile nature it is no wonder that the buffalo made the grade. They remain popular in trophy hunts across southern and eastern Africa, but due to large and healthy populations this has not impacted them negatively.
Female buffalos are associated with goddesses in several African traditions and as such are viewed as symbols of female reproduction and the regenerative powers of the deities. The power to renew and restore life is made tangible by the animal as a source of food. The goddess of game animals offers them as food for humans and then replenishes the supply. The Baronga of south-east Africa called the buffalo "the Miracle Worker of the Plains" and viewed it as the master animal. Baronga belief stipulates a pact between the master animals and humans. Stories of the Baronga people clarify the importance of this pact between the two and reiterate the importance of their relationship, highlighting the fact that it should never be abused.
According to some traditional African beliefs, sprits inhabited the plains of the savannah. Further connection to the spirit world is indicative in animal representation on masks. The spirits are called upon to ward off destruction and the buffalo is one of the animals often carved on these masks. A legend exists that a buffalo can lick the skin off a human, but this is just a tall tale, particularly as the buffalo's tongue is very smooth! Much like its fellow Big Five member, the elephant, buffalos have a good memory; but in their case the strong ability to recall is a matter of "never forget, never forgive."
Placed on the R100 bank note of South Africa, it serves as a reminder of their placement in the distinguished Big Five. Although the focus on them may be narrower than on the other species of the group, the buffalo's legend and lore remains vast across Africa.
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