Kruger Park is probably most famous for its large predators and carnivores, the big flesh-eating cats (lion, leopard and cheetah) and dogs (hyaena and wild dogs). These carnivores evolved from a mongoose-like ancestor some 40 million years ago and include in their lineage domestic dogs and cats.
Carnivores became particularly dominant in Africa during the past 3 million years as climate changes led to the development of large swathes of savanna grassland over the continent. This led to the arrival of many new species of animals, particularly large herds of grazers that depended on safety in numbers rather than their ability to hide from predators.
Predators, in turn, relied more on collaborative hunting to generate a surplus of food. How the surplus was disposed created hierarchies and strengthened social bonds. Because there was more food than the parents could consume, carnivore offspring could remain part of the family unit for a longer time, thereby increasing their chances of survival.
The dominant large mammal predators in Kruger are lions, hyaenas, leopards, cheetah and wild dogs, each of which occupy slightly different habitats or ecological niches that are suited to their food acquisition needs.
They are found throughout the Park, but are more easily seen in the game-rich grasslands of central and south-eastern Kruger.
Learn more about the lesser know predators and carnivores of Kruger National Park.