The concentric boundaries of Pilanesberg National Park are home to more than 8 000 animals - including 35 species of large mammal. With the recent introduction of three prides of lions (20) from the Etosha National Park, the park is now one of the privileged reserves hosting the Big Five.
The most recent game census showed that there are 74 elephants, more than 2 000 impala and warthogs, 353 buffaloes and 1 800 Burchell's zebras.
In addition, there are black and white rhinos (the third largest population of white rhinos in the world), 16 species of antelope, 25 hippos, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas.
A major reason for Pilanesberg's diversity of animals is that it lies in the transition zone between the arid Kalahari in the west and the humid Lowveld of the Northwest Province. Typical Kalahari species, such as gemsbok, honey badger, aardwolf and brown hyena, are therefore able to co-exist with animals more common in the eastern, better-watered regions, such as bushbuck, waterbuck and hippopotamus.
Another important reason is that in the early 1980s the park was on the receiving end of 'Operation Genesis', the largest game relocation operation ever undertaken, when 6 000 animals were released on the rugged green plains.
Elephants came from Addo National Park; red hartebeest from Namibia and 17 rhinos were donated by the National Parks Board.
Among Pilanesberg's reptiles and amphibians are 35 species of snake and 27 different lizards. The venomous snakes include Mozambique spitting cobras, vine snakes, tree-snakes, black mambas and puffadders. Less venomous varieties are green watersnakes, African pythons and common egg-eaters.
The seven different habitats at Pilanesberg attract a rich and diverse population of birds (more than 300 species) among them brilliantly coloured malachite kingfishers, pied and brownhooded kingfishers, crimson-breasted shrikes, lilac breasted rollers, crested barbets and fish eagles. The granite outcrops, thickets and fringes of the waterways are home to such species as arrow-marked babbler, golden-breasted bunting, black eagle, Cape vulture and kurrichane thrush.