Exuding power, grace and beauty, the Big Five group of mammals remains a firm favourite among tourists and philatelists alike. No matter how many times these animals appear on African stamps, they always attract attention and are still among the most popular topics for thematic collectors.
The country's latest Big Five stamps feature the illustrations of both first- and second-prize winners of the South African Post Office's 2013 postcard illustration competition. An airmail postcard rate self-adhesive stamp booklet and five postcards featuring oil paintings of the Big Five by the first-prize winner, Marius Trollip, and a B4 rate stamp sheet and first day cover, featuring water colour paintings by second-prize winner Annetjie Esterhuizen, were launched on 9 May 2014.
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
This elegant, powerfully built cat with its distinctive spotted coat, has been persecuted by man ever since livestock were domesticated. Their numbers have decreased due to hunting, reduced habitat, and depleted prey, and they are now listed by the IUCN as 'near threatened'. They still occur across southern Africa, sometimes even on the outskirts of large cities, but mostly in mountainous areas.
Lion (Panthera leo)
The King of the Beasts, Africa's largest carnivore, has been admired by man for thousands of years for its beauty and power. Today, lions are listed as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN and occur mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
It has been said that a buffalo looks at you as if you owe him money; and this is a very appropriate description should you ever encounter one on foot in the bush. The African buffalo is a heavy cattle-like animal with a powerful body and huge curved horns. The horns are formidable weapons against predators, and males also use them in fights for dominance in the herd.
Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
These large, primitive-looking mammals have been hunted to near extinction, and since 1970 their numbers have declined drastically mainly due to poaching. There are two species of rhinoceros in Africa, namely the black rhinoceros (depicted on the stamp), which is listed as 'critically endangered' by the IUCN, and the white rhinoceros (Cerratotherium cimum).
African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
The majestic African elephant is the largest land mammal in the world and is the flagship relic of the lost mega-fauna of planet earth. Elephants once occurred almost throughout Africa, but because they have been hunted mercilessly for their ivory tusks, their numbers have decreased drastically and they are now listed as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN.