What’s the top 10 African animals you should see when on safari in Africa?
Africa is a unique land of varied traditions, culture, people, languages and geography. It is the second largest continent of the world. It is also the second most populous continent after Asia. The Mediterranean sea surrounds Africa to the north, the Red Sea and Suez canal to the northeast, the southwest surrounded by the Indian Ocean and the west bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The equator passes through Africa making it the only continent that stretches from the northern temperate to the southern temperate zones. This has created an arid or desert region in the northern half and the central and southern half covered with the plains of savanna and a dense rainforest jungle region.
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African elephants once numbered in the millions across Africa, but by the mid-1980s their populations had been devastated by poaching. The status of the species now varies greatly across the continent. Some populations remain in danger due to poaching for meat and ivory, habitat loss and conflict with humans.
Elephants are important because their future is tied to much of Africa’s rich biodiversity. Scientists consider African elephants to be keystone species as they help to maintain suitable habitats for many other species in savanna and forest ecosystems.
Giraffes are long-necked browsing animals that taxonomists place in a separate family, Giraffidae, from other artiodactylids: camels, deer and bovines. Possessing only seven cervical vertebrae (like other mammals), giraffes, at almost 19 feet, are the tallest of all mammals. Adult males weigh as much as 4,000 lbs. They are characterized by having two knobs, called ossicones, on their head. Some individuals may have additional bumps on the sides of their skulls that are irregularly located. Unlike antlers on deer or horns on bovids, ossicones are permanently covered by hair and never shed. After a gestation of 15 months, females give birth to a single young; twins occur rarely. Adults are not territorial but rather feed over a large “roaming” area. When alarmed, giraffes can reach speeds of 30 to 36 miles per hour. Unlike most mammals giraffes walk using both legs from the same side of the body simultaneously. When they gallop they move both fore legs and both hind legs together, and because of its long stride is faster than it appears.
Lions are unique in that they are the only cats to live in groups (prides). They are the largest member of the cat family and the largest of all the African carnivores. They are are the top predator in any African ecosystem where they live.
The most secretive and elusive of the large carnivores, the leopard is also the shrewdest. Pound for pound, it is the strongest climber of the large cats and capable of killing prey larger than itself.
The African leopard (Panthera pardus) is more numerous than the African rhino in the Big 5 pantheon, but they are just as difficult to spot on safari in Africa. Leopards use trees as observation platforms and for protection, so you have to remember to look up to see this solitary, beautiful cat. Leopards are shy and nocturnal, quite modest for a cat that can climb, swim and live in a wider range of habitats than most other wild cats.
A leopard’s spots offer excellent camouflage as they move about their range, seldom staying in the same area for more than a few days. Males tend to have larger ranges than females and mark it by urinating and leaving claw marks. Leopards tend to store their fresh kill up in a tree to avoid it getting poached by lions and hyenas. Leopards are smaller than lions but an adult male can still weigh in at 200 lbs. They can run at speeds of over 35 mph, and are extremely agile jumpers.
The lion is said to be majestic, the leopard ferocious and shrewd. But elegant and graceful best describes the cheetah. The cheetah is smaller than the other two cats, but by far the fastest at speeds of 70 miles per hour it can run faster than all other animals. Now restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, wild cheetahs once were found in most of Africa, the plains of southern Asia, the Middle East and India.
Cheetahs are not strong predators, but they are fast. They rely on their speed, which can reach 70 mph, to catch their prey. Everything about the cheetah is built for speed, from their non-retractable claws that act like cleats for traction, to their long tail that works like a rudder to help them change directions quickly.
Cheetahs are also known for their spotted coat. The dots are both small and large, and the pattern of spots is unique to each cheetah. The fur of cheetah cubs is darker than that of adults. As fast as cheetahs are, they can’t outrun the threats that they face. Like a lot of animals, cheetahs are losing their habitat, as are the prey animals they need to survive. Cheetahs are also often viewed as pests by ranchers. Ranchers may shoot cheetahs to keep them away from their livestock.
The antelope family is one of the largest in the animal kingdom. Though antelopes do not exude the sexy aura of the big five- lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino; they are very successful and are fully paid up members of the African wilderness. Some species are very prolific such as the impala, of which an estimated 100,000 can be found in South Africa’s Kruger Park alone.
South Africa Rhinoceros
There are two species of rhino in Africa, the Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) and the White rhino (Ceratotherium simum). Black rhinos have suffered the most drastic reduction in population in the last 20 years. There are now only about 4000 left in the wild although valiant conservation efforts are increasing those numbers. The white rhino is more numerous numbering at over 17,000 but they are heavily concentrated in Southern Africa. Rhinos are actually neither black nor white in color, they are all grey.
The great annual migration of millions of zebra, wildebeest (gnu) and other antelope in East Africa tops almost every list of safari experiences. When you plan your trip, you’ll need information about the annual migration, the best times to witness this wildlife spectacle, where to stay, and when to see it in Kenya andTanzania.
Large female crocodile
The Nile crocodile is found throughout Africa. Large, lizard shaped reptile with four short legs and long muscular tail. The hide is rough and scaled. Considerable variation exists throughout the range of the Nile Crocodile. Generally, it is a large crocodilian, averaging 5 m in length but reportedly reaching 6 m in rare instances. There are dubious reports of 7 m animals having existed, but these are hard to verify.
With only around 800 mountain gorillas left in the world, seeing them in the wild is something only a few people will ever have the chance to experience. There are only about 790 mountain gorillas left in the world, in two small national parks in Africa. These highly endangered animals suffer from poaching, human-induced injuries, and loss of habitat. They face survival threats each day, with health issues at the top of the list.
About 450 mountain gorillas inhabit an extinct volcanic region called the Virunga Range along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in East Africa. The other 350 or so mountain gorillas inhabit a nearby area of Bwindi in Uganda, a thick rainforest.