This article was originally published on SmartCelery
Africa's diverse and beautiful wildlife is truly breathtaking. Africa has it all, from the tiniest insect to the biggest mammal, but while they are majestic creatures, many are extremely dangerous, making them even more fascinating. Join us on a virtual safari where we list the most interesting African animals from A - Z, and learn more about their fight to survive. But also enjoy Africa in its full Glory, a destination everyone should have on their bucket list. So whether you are the adventurous type who wants to rough it in the wilderness, or instead, try the glamping route, Africa is the place to be!
I'm sure not many of you know what an aardwolf is; they are nocturnal creatures that belong to the Hyena family. However, they are nothing like their savage cousins. An Aardwolf's diet mainly consists of termites, but they are also known to eat mice and eggs. You will find them in Africa's Eastern and Southern regions, but they are very shy, and you can count yourself extremely lucky if you have ever seen one.
Aardwolf's do not live in packs; they are solitary animals. This is primarily because they are foragers and can't bring any food back to the burrow.
Baboons are highly intelligent primates that dominate most regions of Africa. They adapt well to almost any habitat, but they are primarily in Southern Africa in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. They are very social animals and live in big groups, called troops. They are omnivores, and their diets consist of fruit, insects, rodents and sometimes small antelopes. Known to be mischievous, they often come into contact with humans when trying to steal food from houses.
Their naughty natures can be very misleading because these primates are incredibly vicious. Their long fangs can cause some severe damage. So if you ever see one in the wild, roll up all your windows!
The Cheetah is one of the few big cats that hunt during the day, which is why they have those distinctive black tear marks running down their faces. These marks act as sunglasses and reflect the sun away from their eyes, so they can focus on their prey, no matter what direction they run in. Cheetahs are also the fastest land animal in the world and can reach speeds of 70 miles per hour.
Unfortunately, they have a lot of enemies in the wild, and when they do catch something, many times, a bigger predator, like a lion or hyena, will steal their kill.
Africa has many antelope species, but none quite as small as the duiker. This pocket-sized delight derived its name from the Afrikaans word "duiker," which means to dive because they are known for running and diving for cover when threatened. They are also the only known antelope that eat carrion and insects. But typically, their diet is made out of seeds, leaves, and fruit.
You can find duikers in Southern Africa, but not in forested areas. Instead, they prefer the open plains but still like some shrubbery to hide from predators.
The saying "Elephants never forget" stems from their behavior and the matriarch's ability to locate water in old destinations the herd once traveled to. They are also emotional animals and grieve for their dead. Elephants have been known to stay behind when one of their own has died, and sometimes even bury them with nearby vegetation. They are very interested in skeletal remains, and if they come by an elephant carcass, they will spend hours smelling it and touching it with their trunks.
But if you ever come across a mother trying to protect her offspring or a solitary bull, be very careful. Threatened elephants will charge at any sudden movement and have been known to knock over a vehicle or two during their rampage.
Pangolins are often referred to as scaly anteaters because of their love of ants. The pangolin will curl up into a ball with its sharp scales exposed to any potential threats when startled. They are critically endangered in Africa and are one of the most trafficked animals in the world. There is a high demand for their scales in Asia, which is used in traditional medicine. In addition, their meat is eaten as a delicacy.
They are also highly in demand in the USA, as their scales are used to make leather for boots, belts, and bags. In Africa, they are found in arid regions like the Kalahari Desert in South Africa.
These fuzzy little furballs like to live in the arid regions of North Africa and the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas. Their big ears serve a purpose, and that is to give off body heat to keep them cool in the sweltering temperatures. However, they are nocturnal and do most of their foraging after the sun sets. Their diet consists of plants, but they are omnivores and will also eat rodents and insects.
Fennec foxes are social animals and live in small groups. Unfortunately, their numbers have significantly dwindled in some areas due to being hunted for their coats.
The Gorilla is critically endangered, but there are still troops found in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and large areas in Gabon and the Republic of Congo. However, it is hard to tell precisely how many of them there are because they live in dense forests. Their numbers were significantly reduced due to poaching and the ebola virus that dominates their environment.
Gorillas are great parents, and both males and females raise their offspring. They are social animals and live in groups of up to 10 members, with one dominant male.
The giraffe is a gentle giant who can grow up to a whopping 5.5m! Their long necks are their trademark, but did you know they have long, purple tongues as well? The giraffe's tongue is used as a tool to get the juiciest leaves right at the top of the trees. And if you thought human pregnancy was long, giraffes' gestation period lasts 457 days, and they give birth to 100kg calf!
You can find several giraffe species throughout Africa. They can adapt to most environments but tend to stay out of congested forests because it's harder to see predators amongst the trees.
Hyena's a known for their obnoxious laugh but also have one of the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom. They are scavengers, which means that they steal other predators kill, or eat any leftovers they come across. However, they are excellent hunters and extremely intelligent. Their social structure is very similar to British royalty due to the fact there is an alfa female, and her cubs will outrank the rest of the pack.
Hyena's biggest enemy in the wild is lions. Because hyenas run in large packs, they are basically untouchable, but lions live in prides and can easily overpower the pack if the pride is large enough.
Impalas are one of the common antelope species in Africa. They are often referred to as the Macdonalds of the bush because they are so many. In addition, the markings on their behinds resemble the "M" from the franchise's logo. The females live in big breeding herds while the young males live in bachelor herds until they are strong enough to make it independently.
The males have beautifully curved horns, while the females have none. They are hunted by many big predators like lions and leopards, but their calves are killed mainly by pythons.
Jackals live solitary lives until they find their mate. They are one of the few species of mammals that mate for life. They are good hunters but mostly scavenge from other predators kill and have been known to frequent dump sites for food. Jackals are extremely shy and mostly come out at night. The four main jackal species are the side-striped jackal, the golden jackal, the black-backed jackal, and the Ethiopian wolf jackal.
Female jackals have a gestation period of two months and usually give birth to 2 - 4 pups. They tend to move their den frequently in order to avoid predators.
Kudus are known for their beautiful striped coats and the male's long, curly horns. They are often victims of trophy hunters, who see the value in their horns. But they are also hunted for their meat, which is a delicacy in Africa. Kudus are excellent jumpers, and if you ever drive around in South Africa, you might notice road signs with their silhouette on them. This means that the area is known for rogue kudus that have jumped the fence.
The females don't have horns and mainly live together until the mating season, when the bulls finally appear. Once the season is over, the males leave. Nice life, Hey!
Zebras belong to the horse family, but they can not be broken, unlike their domesticated cousins. Their strips are unique, much like a human fingerprint. Who knew? They all look exactly alike! Their striped coats serve multiple purposes. Firstly, it acts as a bug repellent to keep flies and other pests away. Secondly, their stripes act as sunscreen, and thirdly, their strip pattern confuses colorblind predators like lions, making them challenging to hunt.
Zebras are very protective of their herd and, if attacked, will form a semi-circle around their sick or injured as well as their fouls. The outer circle will nip or kick any predators that come too close.
Of course, lions would make an appearance on this list! They are, after all, the king of the jungle. Lions live in prides that can sometimes include over 50 members! The males are the dominant sex and protect the pride, while the females hunt and take care of the cubs. Lionesses are stealthy hunters and often form thought-out formations to take down their prey. Once caught, the males eat first, then the females and cubs can finish off the leftovers.
The males can grow up to 330 to 570 pounds and have manes that protect them during battle. Their manes also indicate how powerful the lion is; if they have a thick, lush mane, they appear more intimidating.
Everyone remembers Timone from The Lion King. And just like the character, meerkats are adorable! They are mostly seen standing on their hind legs, looking out for potential threats while their family digs for grubs. Meerkats eat insects, rodents, and even snakes! They strike as fast as lightning and have razor-sharp teeth! Meerkats live in groups of 5-25, comprising of an equal ratio of male to female.
When a meerkat sees a potential threat, they call out to their family, who then scurry to their burrow for cover. Their biggest predator is birds of prey like eagles or hawks.
You can't have Timone without Pumba! Despite their large size, warthogs are actually really fast; they can run up to speeds of 48km/hour! Their thick skin and big tusks are used for protection; however, they usually flee from any potential threat. Their main predators are lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas, but if cornered, warthogs will attack. Farmers hate them as they are avid borrowers and usually damage border fences while escaping.
Warthogs like to live in grassland, savanna, and woodland in sub-Saharan Africa. They are similar to pigs regarding eating their habits and will consume almost anything.
The fearsome Nile Crocodile plagues the rivers of Africa with their toothy grin. However, unlike other reptiles, crocodiles are excellent parents. Two months after mating, the female will dig a hole on the bank and lay up to 80 eggs. She spends the rest of their incubation nearby the nest, keeping a watchful eye. Once the eggs start to hatch, the baby crocks will scream out to their mother for help.
She digs them out and carries them to the water. They remain under her protection for a further two years. They mainly feed on aquatic animals, but the larger crocks hunt antelope, buffalo, and even big cats!
Ostriches are the biggest species of bird in the world. Due to their immense weight of up to 135kg, they cannot fly. Their diet consists of grass, berries, seeds, and insects. However, they have been known to swallow pebbles which aids in their digestion. To attract a mate, the male ostrich, who consists of mainly black feathers, dances to attract a female who is a mousy brown color.
Once the female has laid her eggs, they take turns sitting on the nest, but the males take the responsibility of looking after the hatchlings until they are old enough to go out on their own.
The Quelea Quelea bird might seem small, but they cause huge problems for farmers throughout Africa. The problem is that they breed up to 3 times a year, and just one mating pair can produce up to nine offspring a year. This causes enormous flocks to form, and they can decimate fields upon fields of crops within hours. Their biggest targets are sorghum, wheat, barley, millet, and rice crops.
Their preferred locations are in the semi-arid regions of Africa, but they never stay further than 30km from a water source. Although they are the most common bird species in Africa, they have many enemies in the wild and are often hunted by snakes, genets, foxes, and hyenas.
Rhinos are nature's tanks. These large animals can weigh up to 3,500kg which is really impressive since they are herbivores and live off grass. Unfortunately, rhinos are critically endangered and poached for their horns. Their horns are sold on the black market, mainly to Asia, where they are used in traditional medicine. However, it is made from the same material (keratin) as human hair and fingernails.
It has gotten so bad that in South Africa, many game reserves are sedating their rhino and cutting off their horns so that the poachers won't kill them. Hopefully, one day soon, all this madness will come to an end, and the evil people out there will leave these majestic animals alone!
Servals are often used in crossbreeding with domestic house cats and sold as pets called Savannah Cats. But they are actually very vicious in the wild, and you would be foolish to approach one. Although they are shy animals, they have incredibly sharp teeth and claws that cause some severe damage. In addition, they are excellent jumpers and can reach 3.5m in one leap, which makes them professional bird hunters.
They are also one of the few cat species that enjoy the water and tend to stay in forested areas with lots of water sources nearby. Servals can make several noises like chirping and growling, but they also purr like regular house cats.
Topi is a type of antelope with various names depending on where you are in Africa. In Eastern Africa, they are referred to as Topi, but in Sub-Saharan Africa, they are known as sassaby or tsessebe. They belong to the same family as hartebeest, wildebeest, and blesbok. They can live up to 15 years of age in the wild which is quite a milestone for an antelope species.
During the migration, they often socialize with other species like zebra and wildebeest for security in numbers. But they still have many predators out to get them, like the lion, leopard, and cheetah.
Uromastyx is a type of lizard that stems from the same family as the breaded dragon. You will find them in the dryer regions of Northern Africa. In the wild, their lifespan is approximately 4 years. However, many people keep them as pets, and in captivity, they have been known to live up to 15 years. Their diet consists of desert plants like cacti and dandelion greens. However, they have been known to eat the occasional insect here and there.
They are quick movers and scale a rocky environment in seconds if threatened. But mostly, they bask in the sun and mind their own business. However, they are always on the lookout for predators like snakes, raptors, and monitor lizards.
Vervet monkeys are the most abundant species of monkey in Africa. They are highly adaptable, and you will find them in most regions across the continent. They are omnivores, and their diet consists mainly of flowers, fruit, and insects. However, they are scavengers and will often enter highly populated areas to scratch through the bins. Vervet monkeys are very social and live in large troops where the males are dominant.
If you ever see them in the wild, never challenge them to a staring competition, as they see this as a sign of aggression, and it's how they challenge each other to fight.
Xerus, or an African Ground Squirrel, is a mammal found all across the African continent. They are one of the very few mammals that don't require trees for shelter because they can burrow straight into the ground for shade or to evade predators. They are often hunted by jackals, lizards, and snakes. However, if they can avoid becoming a meal, they can live up to 10 years in the wild!
Their diet includes grains, fruits, stalks, roots, and nuts, but they have also been known to eat small invertebrates, eggs, and insects. Xerus are very social animals and live in groups, usually 10 members. However, the adolescent males are known to leave their homes and form a "band" of 15 - 25 bachelors.
Here's a fun fact, not all yellow mongooses are yellow! Some subspecies are actually grey. You will find them mainly in the Southern regions of Africa like Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Lesthoto. Unlike their furry counterparts, the meerkats, yellow mongooses are primarily solitary but sometimes live in pairs. They are very adaptable and can survive in various environments. However, they are most common in open, semi-arid areas such as grasslands and scrublands.
Yellow mongooses are carnivores, and their diets consist of insects, amphibians, rodents, and reptiles. Yellow mongooses are the only ones of their kind to feed large prey to their young like, rodents, bats, or reptiles.
Leopards are solitary animals that can live in various habitats but usually prefer forested areas to take refuge in large trees. They are extremely powerful animals and can carry three times their body weight up a tree. They are littered in spots called rosettes which are unique to each cat, just like a fingerprint. While leopards are strong, lions are stronger and have been known to kill leopards.
There is a genetic mutation in leopards that produces more melanin, and they are born with black coats. These black leopards are very rare, and most of them are in captivity where their captors are overbreeding them. Since there are so few, most have been inbred.
The Cape Buffalo is a massive Bovine that can weigh up to 750kg but are herbivores that primarily graze veld. However, this doesn't mean that they are not dangerous. In fact, they are so feared; it is one of the reasons why they form part of the Big 5 in South Africa (Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Buffalo, and Rhino). An injured bull is unpredictable and very aggressive. On average, buffalo kill 200 people per year.
The only animal brave enough to hunt them (besides humans) are lions. It requires the whole pride to bring one of them down, and they have to ensure their target is alone because if the herd is nearby, they will charge. Not even the largest pride of lions could fight off a herd of buffalo.
While we're talking about dangerous animals that kill numerous humans each year, we need to mention the hippo. This giant is found in the Eastern, Central, and Southern parts of Africa. They are the second-largest mammal in the world and can weigh up to 3.5 tons. Because of their enormous weight, they don't have many predators but are hunted by humans for their hide, meat and ivory. In addition, there are some prides of lions that specialise in hunting hippos.
Hippos have giant tusks that can crush just about anything that comes into their territory. It is estimated that they kill over 500 humans a year, so it is best to avoid them.
The next animal on our list stands out for all the wrong reasons. Even the most devout animal lover would find it hard to like this bird. They aren't too easy on the eyes. The marabou stork can be found in Southern Africa, where they survive in both wet and arid regions. These storks are drawn to grass fires and successfully hunt the fleeing animals. However, they are also scavengers and feed off abandoned carcasses, much like vultures.
They are extremely lazy and spend the majority of their time just standing around, even though they can fly. A gross fact about marabou storks is they defecate on their legs to regulate their body temperature, Yuck!
Caracals can be found in woodland savannahs and the rocky, hilly areas of Central Africa, South Africa, and West Africa. Livestock farmers consider them pests as they often hunt for fun and kill several lambs but won't eat them all. However, conservationists are working with the farmers to trap and relocate them, as shooting them will do more harm than good. The caracals keep jackals away, and if you remove them from their territory, the jackals will take over.
Caracals are nocturnal animals who do most of their hunting at night but are great at catching birds due to their ability to jump up to 3 meters high!
African Wild Dog
African wild dogs are on the critically endangered list, but there are still packs spread over Africa. They are a nomadic species, so they have massive territories spanning miles. They are often referred to as the painted dog because of their unique coat; wild dogs take their family role very seriously. The whole pack helps look after the pups, and they are even allowed to eat before superior group members.
Humans have tried to domesticate them in the past but have been unsuccessful. Their loyalty is to the pack and nothing else. Wild dogs communicate well, which makes them excellent hunters.
A bushbaby or galago is a small primate found in East Africa and the woodlands and bushlands of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are nocturnal animals, which makes the nickname "nagapie" is so fitting. It means night monkey in Afrikaans. Their diet consists mainly of insects that they catch in mid-flight. Although they are super cute, bush babies do not make good pets. It is not easy to tame them, and they make loud, shrieking calls that will definitely irritate your neighbors!
They also urinate on their hands and spread it everywhere, which is a considerable health hazard. Not to mention they are illegal in most of the U.S. States.
Large Spotted Genet
Large spotted genetics are native to South Africa and mainly occur in forested areas. However, you can also find them in more arid regions like the Kalahari desert. They are nocturnal mammals that feed on small prey like rodents, birds, eggs, and snakes. However, they are also known to eat fruit. You can identify them by their unusually long tails that can grow up to 400mm long.
They are solitary animals that are only seen together during mating season. Genets become pretty tame if you feed them often enough, but they carry diseases and have a sharp bite, so never get too close.
The Gemsbok or oryx is a large antelope species found in Southern Africa. The bulls are notorious for their long, straight horns. These horns are used during their sparring matches to attract females and for protection against predators. Not even a lion is safe from those sharp weapons. Gemsbok prefers a dyer climate, and you find them mostly in arid regions.
They have a very low metabolism to aid them in surviving days without water. They get most of the moisture they need from plants and shrubs that they dig up.
African penguins are often referred to as jackass penguins because their calls sound similar to a donkey. Their numbers have significantly decreased since the 1800s from over four million to just 50 000 due to overfishing and climate change. There are only two colonies left, one in Namibia and the other in South Africa. African penguins' main predator is the Cape fur seal, but they are victims to caracals, dogs, and mongooses when on dry land.
African penguins are often described to be charismatic and enjoy social interactions with humans if they were brought up in captivity. An interesting fact about the African penguin is that they drink seawater and just sneeze out the salt!
The puff adder derived its name, puffing up and hissing when threatened. This snake belongs to the viper family, and its venom is cytotoxic, which means it attacks your tissue. If bitten, a person must be admitted to the hospital immediately for a dose of anivenom. Unfortunately, puff adders bite the most humans out of all the African snakes because it is lazy and takes its time when fleeing. It would much rather camouflage, making it easier for a human to step on it.
Puff adders are one of the few reptiles that carry their young inside of them. Although they are still in eggs, the mother will carry them until they hatch and emerge from her.
Wildebeest have a funny nickname in Africa; they are called the clowns of the plains because they love to frolic and chase each other around while grazing. You can find them in Africa's Eastern, Central, and Southern regions, where they migrate in large herds consisting of millions of members. The great migration takes place over Eastern Africa, but mainly in Tanzania, where wildebeest and other antelope species travel over 800km in search of water.
The great migration is said to be the most incredible wildlife event in the world, and tourists from all over the world flock to Tanzania to witness it each year. But unfortunately, many do not make it, as the predators follow the herd and pick off the weak one by one.