The Eastern Cape is known as a transition region, where almost every major South African biome can be found. A biome is defined as a naturally occurring community of plants and animals, which occupy a significant area. The fauna and flora of an area are interdependent. When even one species is out of balance, the others are usually all affected in some way.
As such, Port Elizabeth boasts an extraordinary array of animal species; whether land-based, marine or avian. The Big Five is a common tourist attraction, and many of the reserves and parks in the Eastern Cape are able to boast all five of the species, which comprise:
5.Black Rhino (an endangered species)
These are the five most dangerous animals to hunt, hence their status as the Big Five. This title has nothing to do with their physical size. Other popular wildlife in the area include zebra, giraffe, kudu, Nyala, duikers, warthog, cheetah, Hyrax, bushbuck, klipspringer, tortoises, Black-backed Jackal, hippopotamus, porcupine, hyena, genet and lynx, amongst many others. The Least Dwarf Shrew is the smallest mammal in and around Port Elizabeth, while the African Elephant is the largest.
Snakes of the Eastern Cape include the Green Mamba, Cape Cobra, Rinkals, Boomslang (“Tree Snake”) Brown House Snake, Puff Adder, Grass Snake, and a plethora more. Some of these snakes can strike a deadly blow, while others are as harmless as an earthworm. Geckos, lizards and frogs are also commonly found, even in the built up suburbs of the city centres. These maintain important eco-balances, and should be protected. There are about 90 species of reptiles and amphibians living in this province alone.
Bird-lovers are well rewarded in the Eastern Cape and Port Elizabeth, with the sheer diversity and variety of birds exceeding that of entire countries elsewhere in the world. Some of the beautiful bird species to be found in the Eastern Cape are:
•Pale Chanting Goshawk
•African Pied Avocet
•African Black Oystercatcher
Ostriches and Hadedas may not be as rewarding a find for bird watchers, but are still an important part of the Port Elizabeth bird population.
Port Elizabeth enjoys a unique coastal structure, as it is home to a large protected bay (Algoa Bay) as well as the open waters of the Indian Ocean. In the warm waters can be found Bottlenose Dolphins, penguins, seals, Southern Right Whales, Humpback Whales, Great White Sharks, Hammerheads, and many smaller, fascinating fish species. These fish make for fabulous SCUBA diving and snorkelling outings in Port Elizabeth.
The species mentioned are only scratching the surface of the variety of fauna that can be found in and around Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay. This enriches the area, both in terms of its tourist value as well as its natural contribution to the wildlife of Africa.