Next to Asia in size but in diversity and uniqueness, Africa is on par with the rest of the world. This continent contains more than 12 million acres of vast savannas, deserts, and tropical rain forests. African animals are incommensurable. They are known for their tenacity, strength, and stamina. Unique African animals such as giraffes and elephants are all part of the millions of species inhibiting Africa.
Moreover, African animals portray the wildest variety in structure and size of all continents put together. No continent hosts such a variety of most feared and loved African animals on earth.
In this article, let us take a look at some of the well-known African animals.
In The Article
Lions live in groups called as pride. They belong to the Felidae family and are a member of the species genus Panthera. For all the ferociousness, growling, and roaring, lions are truly social. King of the jungle, lions live in pride. A pride can contain 3 or 40 animals.
A pride can consist of at least three males, more than a dozen female including their young. In a pride, female lions perform most of the cub rearing and hunting. Moreover, all the lionesses residing in the pride turn out to be relatives. Young male lions normally leave to form their own pride.
Hunting and Lion Prides
Lookswise, males lions only have manes, the arresting hem of long locks that covers the head. It is the duty of the male to defend the territory of the pride. The territory may include open woodlands, scrub, or some hundreds of kilometres of grasslands. These ferocious animals use their urine to mark their territory. Other than this they may roar menacingly to chase off animals and to warn intruders.
A female lions duty is to feed the pride she belongs to. They work to prey upon large animals, wildebeest, zebras, and antelopes. Teamwork works well because almost all the animals move faster than lions.
After the hunt, the lions then resort to squabble over the kill. Young Lions will take part in the hunting process after they turn one. Interesting African animals like lions have the habit of stealing other’s prey including wild dogs and hyenas.
Males and females weigh 130 kg and 190 kg on an average respectively. At the shoulder, females, and males reach 1.1 m and 1.2 m respectively. They have a lifespan of around 10 to 14 years.
The lion usually inhabits savannahs and grasslands. They are mostly not found in dense forests. Among other African animals, lions are part of the group called “big cats”. The group includes dangerous animals like cougars, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, and tigers as well.
Lions are big-time carnivores. The prey varies from region to region. Some of the region-wise hunting preferences are-
- Wild boar
- Sambar deer
Other than this, lions usually avoid fully grown rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and elephants. Small preys such as vervet monkey, hare, hyrax, and dik-dik are consumed only if the situation arises.
- Running away from a lion may instigate its instinct to attack and chase.
- Today, they are present only in India’s Gir forest and certain parts of African sub-Sahara.
- Lions are recognized in almost all the civilizations for strength and valour.
- The Tsavo Kenya male lions do not have manes.
- African lions very rarely hunt an elephant.
- This African animal likes to hunt on no-moon days.
- Lions can easily identify the sound of hyenas devouring its victim.
How many of you are aware that both white and black rhinoceros are grey. These rhinos are totally different in lip shape and not in colour. The white and black rhinoceros have a squared and pointed upper lip respectively. The lip shape reflects the difference in their diets.
Rhinos cannot see well, so they charge at any moving object or big rocks. But, these bulky African animals have a good sense of hearing and smell.
Fights among rhinos are common. Black African rhinos use their bigger nose horn to fend off its competitor. The horns of a rhinoceros are made of a material similar to human fingernails. These horns will grow or regenerate if it gets broken during a fight or so.
Black Rhino – Behavior
Black rhinos have a nice side too. The female rhinos are known for their love and affection. They teach the young ones to survive independently. Young rhinos stay till they turn two.
This majestic African animal takes cover by choosing to avoid the blazing sun in the African continent. Rhinos are natural wallowers. They are smart enough to find a water hole and use the mud in them to protect against bugs.
Black Rhino – Threats
In numerous Asian countries, people have faith in a lot of superstition. They believe that a medicine prepared from the horns of a rhino can cure major ailments. While in Africa, rhinos are killed for making special handles for daggers.
In spite of various strict laws forbidding rhino poaching, it is still prevalent. The colossal-sized black rhino which was once in abundance is now declining drastically.
An adult can reach 59 to 69 inches at the shoulder. They can grow 3.5 to 3.9 m long. A fully grown adult rhino can weigh 1870 to 3530 lb on an average. The horns can grow up to 140 cm in the exceptional case, and normally touch 50 cm long.
There are around four-sub species in this category. They are
West African – Declared extinct a couple of years ago
East African – Tanzania
South-western – Western South Africa, western Botswana, southern Angola, and in Namibia’s savannas.
South-central – Northeastern South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and central Tanzania.
Rhinos are fond of grasslands and it is their preferred habitat.
Rhinos are herbivores as such. They consume leafy materials, fruits, and leaves from the trees. Black rhinos feed on bushes and trees. With the help of their lips, they pluck fruit and leaves from the branches.
The white rhinos feed on grasses, walking with squared lips and big gigantic heads lowered.
- Black rhinos live a lonely life. They are generally aggressive.
- Black rhinos grab twigs and leaves using their upper lips.
- They once were in huge numbers throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
- Known for their blind violent behavior, black rhinos are reported to have charged at trains moving through their territory.
- With a lifespan of 35 to 50 years, black rhinos live quite long.
Termed as the largest animal on land, African elephants are majestic in appearance. They are known for their large ears. These super-powerful African animals are slightly bigger than their Asian counterparts. Asian elephants have rounded smaller ears.
Tusks and Trunks
The ears of elephants radiate heat to stay cool, but the summers in Africa are intolerable. Elephants love to play in the water. They suck water using their trunks and sprinkle it all over their body. Then, later on, they again spray a coat of protective dust cover.
The elephant trunk contains more than 1,00,000 different muscles.
Two fingerlike features are present on the end of an African elephant’s trunk. They use it to grab little small items. An elephant’s trunk enables it to grab things, drink, trumpet, breath, and for smelling.
Both female and male African elephants use their trunks to dig for water and food. They also use it to strip bark from the trees. Male African elephants use their tusks to fight one another.
Many African elephants were hunted for their tusks and now they belong to the endangered species.
Big, giant African animals such as elephants eat bark, fruit, grasses, and roots. A fully grown adult elephant is capable enough of consuming up to 300 pounds on a daily basis.
African elephants do not generally sleep much. They wander for long distances looking for food to sustain their big, gigantic bodies.
- Having a “calf” is a big commitment. Elephants pregnancy period is mammoth 22 months.
- Elephants stand 3 feet tall and weigh 136 kg at birth.
- Mali’s Sahel desert elephants are Africa’s northernmost elephants.
- They have the ability to recognize themselves.
- Using low-frequency rumblings, elephants communicate very well.
- Elephant’s brain and a human’s brain are similar in structure.
- Known for excellent memory, they will remember faces of every human they spend time with.
- Elephants express their grief by touching the bones of the dead long after they have gone.
The African civet is an opportunistic, nocturnal mammal. They belong to the Viverridae family. This family includes linsangs, civets, and genets. This species is conveniently identified by its large hindquarters and stumpy front legs. African civets hold their head low and rump high in a distinct posture unique of civets.
African civets appear like a “raccoon”. They have small, rounded ears, sharp eyes, pointy muzzle, and a wide head. The white and black stripes and blotches covering African civet’s coarse pelage are acutely variable. This allows the civet to be cryptic. Other important features are its standing dorsal crests and inordinate large hindquarters.
It is Africa’s largest viverrid. Among the surviving viverrids, the binturong exceeds or matches the civet in size. While female civets are a bit larger, there is no great difference in measurement between them.
The civets have semi-retractile claws which are long and curved. Their feet are unsuitable and compact for climbing or digging. The soles are hairless. The upper portion of tail, paws, and legs are in black. There are five unfinished white rings that wrap the tail pointed in the end. Clear white streaks finished in black extends all the way from its shoulders to right behind the ears.
This African animal’s fur can look rusty-brown, pale yellow, and white. No two African civets have the same coat pattern. The irregular skin markings provide brilliant camouflage in exposed habitats.
When under threat, this animal emits surprisingly fearsome coughs and deep growls. It can appear large by erecting the hairs on its back and by fluffing its fur. The crest hairs are usually 12 cms long.
The measurements are
- Average shoulder height – 16 inches or 40 cm
- Tail length – 13 – 19 inches or 34 – 47 cm
- Head-body length – 26 – 33 inches
- Average mass – 28 lb
- Weight range – 15 – 44 lb
The African civet feeds on eggs, carrion, crabs, fish, frogs, reptiles (Striped skink, Agama spp), birds, small mammals, fruit, and insects.
In winter months they consume more of birds, reptiles, and mice. Insects have preferred food in the warmer months.
Green in feces indicates amphibians and snakes in their diet.
They are known to occupy a vast array of habitats. Civets prefer long grass, thickets, arid areas, open savannahs, and swamps. Montane forest and lowland are their other choices. Their elevation range is up to 5000 meters. Civets can be found in places alongside rivers.
This animal can be found in Somalia, Namibia, Botswana, and Senegal.
African civets prefer to live in degraded, deforested areas.
- They are renowned for their smell capacity. It communicates using auditory, visual, and olfactory cues.
- African civets are solitary and territorial animal. It dispenses musk to announce its readiness to breed and also to mark its territory.
- For nursing and sleeping, they use abandoned underground burrows.
- They have 40 razor sharp small teeth to catch their preys.
- Each African civet has a unique pattern of streaks and spots on the body.
Grey Crowned Crane
Standing more than a meter tall, the grey-crowned crane is found in Africa’s wetlands. Its plumage is grey in color. With white and black wings, a cute red-colored throat pouch, and a golden feather crown; this African animal looks stunning.
This bird belongs to the Gruidae crane family. The grey-crowned crane is Uganda’s national bird. It is mostly found in southern and eastern Africa.
The neck is in pale grey color with a black head. Females are slightly smaller than males. The plumage of a young grey-crowned crane is brown. Its face is buffish and feathered and the nape and crown are dark.
There are two-subspecies of the grey-crowned crane. They are an east African crane and South African cranes. The east African crane contains a red patch of skin near the white cheeks for easy identification.
- Wingspan range – Between 71 – 79 inch or 180 – 200 cm
- Body Length – Could be between 39.37 – 43.37 inch or 100 – 110 cm
- Mass range – Pounds- 6.6 – 8.8, Kilograms – 3 – 4
They occur in south Sahara in dry savannah. Preferably, it nests in wetter conditions. Grey-crowned cranes live in South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda. They are found in grassy flatlands, cultivated lands, and in marshes.
Grey-crowned cranes do not follow particular migration patterns. These birds are typically sedentary. Those cranes staying in Namibia locally move from one place to another during dry periods.
Grey-crowned cranes are omnivores. They feed on the egg, small fish, snake, worm, frog, grain, seed, and plant. The Grey-crowned crane stamps its feet on the ground and flushes out insects. These animals spend their day searching for food and night for resting.
- The Grey-crowned crane flock in groups. The group might include anywhere between 30 to 150 birds.
- “ Precocial “ grey-crowned crane chicks can run immediately after hatching.
- During breeding time, these cranes are known to perform beautiful dances. They make loud honking, jump, and bow.
- Grey-crowned cranes normally roost in the trees.
- This bird is also called as a royal crane or blue-necked crane.
A cute looking antelope, the greater kudu is an outstanding animal. The males have a spiral horn of maximum length 1 meter. This popular African animal consists of 6-10 pale stripes in contrast to the grey-brown or tawny body.
The male is large in size. Female greater kudu does not have impressive horns. The female greater kudu’s coat color ranges from russet to sandy-yellowish grey. The thin stripes on a greater kudu are conspicuous.
The male and female have a mane which runs along the back. Each and every greater kudu carries a peculiar white band between the eyes across the face. The rounded and large ears give greater kudu a different comical appearance.
There are two types of kudus. Other than the greater kudu, the lesser kudu too has spots and stripes on the body. Between the eyes on the forehead, most kudus have white hair.
Horns of Greater Kudu
Lesser and greater kudu males have spiral horns; long. Female kudus are known to have small ones. The horn of greater kudu can touch 72 inches with 2.5 graceful twists. These spectacular horns are mainly used to make ritual objects, honey containers, and musical instruments. In various cultures, spirits are believed to dwell in the horns. In some cultures, they are associated with male potency.
The horns are very rarely used to hunt predators.
A sociable animal, greater kudu move in groups. The group members mingle and then separate frequently. The male greater kudus roam with more freedom and independence.
The greater kudus are always quick to identify predators. In spite of being bulky, they are extremely agile. The female greater kudu takes care of the calves. Grown-up male greater kudus move away from the group when they turn two.
- Male – 190 to 320 kg or 418 to 705 lb
- Female – 120 to 214 kg or 264 to 473 lb
- Head-body measurements
- Female – 185 to 235 cm or 73 to 92.5 in
- Male – 195 to 245 cm or 77 to 96 in
This amazing African animal inhabits woods near watercourses and savannah woodland. The greater kudu avoids forest and open grassland.
They hail from the African continent. Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, and Ethiopia in the east are some of the places in east this animal lives. In the south, these African animals are found in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola, and Zambia.
This animal is a hardcore herbivore. In the dry season, they go in search of water. During wet seasons, a greater kudu gets enough water supplements from the food it consumes. The greater kudu feeds on herbs, grasses, flowers, vines, fruits, and leaves.
- Even though greater kudus are bulky; they can cross a 2-meter high fence with ease.
- Jews make their ritual horn, shofar, from the horns of this animal.
- Using their impressive long necks, a greater kudu can reach food situated in high places. As far as reach is concerned, they are next to the only
- A greater kudu will use their cryptic markings and coloring to escape from their predators.
- These African animals are widely susceptible to rinderpest virus.
- Kudus are nervous and alert animals.
- African wild dogs are their main predators.
- The male greater kudu dig up soils and thrash bushes with their horns to establish supremacy.
Scientifically, Leopards are known as Panthera pardus pardus. Amongst the Big five African animals, by far this is the fastest. The leopard nominotypical subspecies endemic to various countries in Africa, the African leopard is a strong powerful cat. The African leopard is mostly distributed in sub-Saharan Africa. The historical range has become fragmented because of habitat conversion.
Leopards are mighty and graceful big cats very closely related to jaguars, tigers, and lions. However, African leopards populations are endangered.
African leopards display enormous variation in coat colour, based exclusively on habitat and location. Skin colour varies from black, tawny, deep gold to yellow. With black rosettes pattern and black colour belly, lower limbs, and head, they are beautiful creatures.
Hunting and Behavioural Skills
The African leopard is comfortable and strong in trees. Due to this fact it mostly hauls its prey into the tree branches. By keeping the preys aloft, it believes it is safe from hyenas. These African animals are suited to hunt from trees. The African leopard is a nocturnal predator. They also stalk pigs, deer, and antelope by secretive activity in the lanky grass.
In case of human settlements, they attack dogs and, very rarely humans.
Leopards are known for their swimming skills. They are good at hunting crabs and fish in water.
Female African leopards are capable to give birth 365 days around the year. They give birth to two greyish cubs. The female leopard safeguards her cubs if they are mature enough to fend for themselves. Leopards are always solitary animals. Only during the growing-up phase, the Cubs seek their mother.
Leopards have spots called as rosettes because it resembles the figure of a rose. Black Panthers are also called as black leopards because of their dark coat colour.
- African male leopards weigh around 60 kg on average
- The females weigh at anywhere between 33 – 42 kg under normal circumstances
- Average Head and body measurements – 4.25 – 6.25 ft
- Tail length – 3.5 – 4.5 ft
An African leopard is present in a wide range of places including from savannahs and grasslands to forests. They do not live in the sandy desert. Moreover, leopards were found in arid desert and rainforest habitats in sub-Saharan Africa. Leopards prefer to live in places having at least 2 inches of rainfall. Leopards can survive at high altitudes too, up to 18700 feet.
They live in China, India, Central Asia, northeast Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.
At present, they are scantily present within historical limits.
A leopard is most active between early sunrise and late sunset. They normally kill more at this time only. The Leopards are opportunistic hunters. In sub-Saharan regions, their prey mostly consists of arthropods, hares, hyraxes, and antelopes etc. They also feed on medium-sized ungulates.
Other than this they also feed on mongooses, giraffes, kongonis, and zebras.
Their diets at times even include reptiles when options are scarce.
- Leopards are adaptable and also the most widespread of all cats.
- They are relatively young species. Leopards came into existence just 500000 years ago.
- Human development has ransacked 65% of their area in Africa.
- Leopards can reach a top speed of 57 km/h.
- With a leaping capacity of 6 meters, leopards are incredibly agile.
- They are known for their ambush skills.
- Leopards growl when angry and when happy, purr.
The Cape buffalo or African buffalo is a big African bovine. One of the most formidable African animals, African buffalo is a common sight to tourists of African reserves and parks. This is the only animal belonging to Bovini family that occurs naturally. The Congo buffalo or (Syncerus caffer nanus) is connected to the African buffalo.
The horn of the Cape buffalo is its speciality. They have a strong bone shield across its big sturdy head called as “boss”. The bases of the horns are fused. They are generally regarded as deadliest animals, as they kill around 100 humans every year.
A powerful and large bovine, they reach a typical shoulder height of at least 1.5 m. An African buffalo will weigh around 750 kg on an average. The bulls are much heavier than domestic cows. The adult buffalo coat is black and thin. The young calves have brown or a black coat.
Due to their erratic behavior, they were not domesticated like the water buffaloes. Except for humans, these African animals have only a few predators. Large crocodiles and lions give them trouble and African buffaloes are strong enough to defend themselves. One of the famous members of the African big five, the African buffalo is the most prized possessions in hunting.
The shoulder height of the African buffalo can be anywhere in the range of 3.3 – 5.6 ft. The total head and body measurements can be anywhere between 5.6 – 11.2 feet. It has short thickset legs and huge stocky body. The tail can be of any length ranging from 28 – 43 inches.
The happiest grazer in Africa, the African buffalo lives in mopane forests and grasslands, floodplains, and swamps. They prefer to live in places with dense covers such as thickets and reeds and in open woodland. The African buffalo can be found in Eastern Cape, Zululand, and in woodland savannahs.
The African buffalo’s main requirement is a perennial water source. Other than that, they are not particular about habitat.
A buffalo can easily live on course, tall grasses. A single herd mow down grasses and gradually make way for additional selective grazers.
- A wounded buffalo is seldom disturbed. It is even more dangerous than a wounded lion.
- Buffalo are known to carry fatal viruses that can affect domestic livestock. So, a virus-free Eastern Cape buffalo can fetch a huge price.
- Herd comes to the rescue of the attacked member, they can even kill a lion when pressed.
- Extremely friendly, they are one of the remaining African ruminants.
- They are excellent swimmers; an African buffalo can cross deep waters for food.
- White buffalo calves are very rare to see.
- A buffalo is four times more powerful than an ox.
- Cape buffalo have known to possess exceptional memory.
- They are strong enough to ambush hunters just like that.
A small active African carnivore, the dwarf mongoose belongs to the Herpestidae mongoose family.
Physically, it is similar to a mongoose in appearance. It has long claws, short limbs, a long tail, small ears, and a conical pointed head. This species is different from other mongoose species by its small size. The dwarf mongoose is Africa’s smallest existing carnivore. The color of its fur ranges from dark brown to yellowish red.
Mongooses use cheek and anal gland secretions in order to mark objects used as refugees.
A business of dwarf mongooses includes somewhere between 12 to 32 animals. Mongoose territories are bigger in drier areas compared to wetter areas. Mongooses are matrilineal. An older dominant female mongoose normally heads the pack. The next important animal in the pack is this female mongoose’s mate. This monogamous pair is the only one responsible for the population of the pack.
Overall, the female in the group dominate the male counterparts. Immigrants and sub-adults clean, foster, and feed young ones, take turns babysitting. Very rarely, female mongooses except the alpha mongoose will nurture the young. In spite of this harsh breeding potential, growing mongooses fail to leave the pack. The pack splits only when the dominant female dies. The reason for this is because there are only a few limited opportunities to start a new pack.
Relationships are usually sour between neighbors. A large group replaces the small group when they face any conflict.
Dwarf mongooses measure 18-26 cm long; tails measure 12-20 cm long. Females are smaller than males; males weigh 326 grams or 11.4 ounces.
Dwarf mongooses can be found in Somalia and Ethiopia. They are also present in Namibia and eastern South Africa. They survive in mountain scrub, brush country, woodlands, and savannah. Dwarf mongooses elevation range normally ranges up to 1800 meters above sea level.
Their preferred choice for territories includes scattered bush, thickets, rock crevices, and termite mounds.
Dwarf mongooses’ feeds on fruit, eggs, small vertebrates, scorpions, spiders, grasshoppers, and beetles. These small African animals spend their day mostly searching for food. They move in groups, but each dwarf mongoose catches its own feed. A dwarf mongoose is water independent.
- A dwarf mongoose is diurnal. They start their day socializing and sunbathing.
- Ground hornbills and dwarf mongooses share a unique relationship.
- Hornbills help dwarf mongooses by making strange calls to alert them of approaching predators.
- Dwarf mongooses do not stay in one place for a long time.
- They have a lifespan of 18 years.
The African penguin is also called as black-footed and jackass penguin. They are found in the waters of South Africa. An African penguin is called a jackass because it makes a donkey-like bray. Like all other extant penguins, they are flightless. African animals like this African penguin never fail to impress. Their wings are shaped like flippers and have a streamlined body.
The African penguin has a clear pink skin patch above the eyes combined with a dark black facial mask. The upperparts of the body are black and clearly delineated from the underparts which are white in colour. The under part is spotted with a black colour band. The presence of pink band helps them to manage changing temperatures.
Females and males have similar plumages, making it really hard to correctly identify the sexes. However, females have smaller bills compared to males.
Young penguins have a blue-grey plumage minus white facial markings. They do not have band or spots on the chest.
African Penguin Behaviour
The African penguin feeds mainly on squid and fish. They are pursuit divers. A penguin can reach a top speed of 20 km/h. Effortlessly, they can touch 130 m and cruise at an average speed of 4 to 7 km/h. Known for their drunken walk, and African penguins are clumsy walkers.
African penguins communicate using display and vocalization techniques. Vocalisation includes growling, barking, and donkey-like braying. Aggressive display of bill-slapping, pecking and beating. Soft behaviour includes head-scratching and preening of feathers.
African penguins can reach 60 to 70 cm tall. On an average, they weigh anywhere between 4.9 – 7.7 lb.
African penguins can be spotted along offshore islands and coastal areas. They prefer to reside in rocky sites with sparse vegetation. These African animals exist only in Africa’s south-west coast. The one and only species of penguins that breeds in the African continent.
The Boulders Beach and an island in Namibia are the two main colonies of penguin.
African penguins may hunt in groups or individually. The diet of a penguin changes from one place to another. Their main diet includes small pelagic fish like herring, horse mackerel, anchovies, and pilchards. They may also feast on small crustaceans and squid. Hunting takes place only during the day.
During breeding seasons, these penguins may search for food 20 – 40 km far away from their respective colonies. Moreover, during non-breeding season they move much further away.
- African penguins adapt extremely fast in captivity. This is why they are easy to conserve.
- An African penguin’s special tuxedo suit like appearance serves as a camouflage protecting them from their predators.
- On land African penguins are near-sighted; underwater their vision is speechless.
- These penguins have not yet fully recovered from the 1994 Dassen island oil spill.
- They have special salt glands in their body. Using that African penguins desalinate sea water for drinking.
- Amazingly, penguins are endemic to tropics. Later, they became accustomed to cold climates.
- African penguins have extremely sharp beaks.