Mammals in East Africa
The mammal wildlife in East
Africa is very rich. There are many species, and many individuals of most species.
The largest concentrations of mammals are found in parks,
i.e. areas where nature and wildlife are protected. The animals are wild and free to
go wherever they want, including out of the parks, which some species do seasonally
to find grazing or water. A few parks in Kenya are fenced, which limits the movability
of the local mammals.
In some regions, especially away from populated areas, mammals appear in numbers also
The parks visited by most safari tours are rich in mammals all year round. You can expect
to see a lot of mammals going on such a safari.
Parks in Kenya
Parks in Tanzania
30 to 40 species of mammals
There are about 300 mammal species and subspecies in Kenya
and Tanzania. Half of these are smaller mammals, such as
bats, rodents and shrews. The other half includes the mammals that we normally associate
with Africa and it's savanna,
such as elephants, buffalos, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, zebras and giraffes. There are
roughly 70 different kinds of antelopes and relatives, 50 kinds of carnivores
and 40 kinds of primates.
All mammal species don't live in the same type of environment, but are found in different
biotopes throughout East Africa. For example, Thomson's gazelles live in grass plains,
but not in forests, while bongo antelopes live in forests, but not in grass plains.
By visiting parks that have different environments, you may see more mammal species
than if you would go to just one park.
Species list: Mammals
When visiting the parks, you get many opportunities to take pictures of animals. Some
species are shy, secretive and difficult to catch on film, for example the bushbuck.
Others, such as lions and elephants, are confident and may get very close, helping you
to good pictures.
More about cameras
The mammals on this page
The mammals shown on this page all appear in many East African parks. You have good
chances seeing most of them on a safari.
Carnivores belong to a mammal order originating from animal-eaters. The vast majority
of today's carnivores still eat animals, including other mammals, but some species have
since developed other feeding habits, for example the giant panda of eastern Asia, which
mainly eats bamboo.
The African carnivores belong to six different families, out of the eight families found
world-wide: cats (lion, leopard etc), dogs and allies (jackals, wild dog etc), hyaenids
(hyaenas, aardwolf), mustelids (weasels, otters etc), genets and civets, and mongoose.
Many safari-goers are keen to see the carnivores, especially the big cats: the lion,
the cheetah and the leopard. The lion is the biggest terrestrial carnivore in Africa,
and can be seen in many East African parks. Serengeti,
the Ngorongoro Crater and Masai
Mara are very good parks for lions, and also for cheetahs. There are also
leopards, but these are mainly active at night and not seen as often. Serengeti in Tanzania
is probably the best place to go for seeing leopards.
There are not only big cats, but also small ones, which together with the lynx, the
domestic cat and others belong to the genus Felis. The most common small cat
in East Africa is the serval. You may see it in the big cat parks, in the same kind
of landscape where you can see lions, but servals are difficult to spot, not only because
they are small, but also shy. African wild cat, caracal and African golden cat are other
small cats found in East Africa, but they are not seen very often.
Dogs and allies
The canines, i.e. dogs and allies, are represented in East Africa by jackals, bat eared
foxes and African wild dogs. The wild dogs are very rare, though, and can mainly be
seen in parks such as Selous, Mikumi
and Ruaha in southern Tanzania, but are now and then also
reported from Kenya. The bat eared fox is small and shy, and is not seen as often as
The hyaenas may look somewhat like some strange kind of dog, but they belong to a different
family, called hyaenids. The most common species in East Africa, which can be seen in
many parks, is the spotted hyaena. It is the second largest carnivore on land in Africa
(the lion is the largest), and even though it's mainly known for eating carrion, it's
also a skilled hunter.
There is also a number of smaller carnivore species, for example genets, civets and
ratels (or honey badgers). These are mainly active at night, and therefore not seen
very often. Most mongoose are active during the day, and three or four different mongoose
species can be seen on many safaris. The probably most known mongoose species, the suricate
(or meerkat), is not present in East Africa, but the banded mongoose has a similar behaviour
and is often seen.
They use a variety of hunting techniques, ranging from seemingly well-organized hunts
where each member of the pride has its specific task, to chaothic and un-synchronized
| Serengeti in Tanzania and Masai
Mara in Kenya are prime lion parks (we have never been there, or heard of
anyone going there, without seeing lions). The Ngorongoro
crater in Tanzania is also a very good park for seeing lions.
The lions are the largest carnivores on land in Africa. They live in groups called
prides, which vary a lot in size. A common size is two males, a handful of females
and a number of cubs. Also smaller prides are found, as well as substantially
larger; prides of some 30 or more lions have been seen.
In general, lions mostly hunt at night, when they can use their good night vision
to gain an advantage over their prey.
Seeing lions hunt is rare, partly because of their nightly hunting habits. They may
choose to hunt in daylight, though, if there is a lot of prey around, or if a good opportunity
appears by chance. A place where lions often hunt during the days is the Ngorongoro
Otherwise, daytime is often spent doing little. Lions behave quite similar to domestic
cats, relaxing, socializing and eating, if there is still food left from their last
The lion is one of the Big
Good parks for lions: Serengeti (Tz), Ngorongoro
(Tz) and Masai Mara (Ke). They can also be seen in many
More about lions
The leopard is the second largest cat of Africa, second to the lion. (It's also somewhat
smaller than the hyaena.) Leopards are normally spotted, but some individuals are black,
due to a condition called melanism, which seems to be more common in forested areas
than in open country. Such a black leopard (or a black jaguar, found in South America)
is sometimes called a black panther.
| Leopards are not rare, but they have secretive habits, and are thus not seen
very often. It's not un-realistic hoping to see a leopard during a safari, provided
you go to parks where these cats are known to be regularly observed. You shouldn't
expect seeing a lot of them, though, but be content seeing one.
Females may be seen with cubs, but otherwise, leopards are solitaries, living
alone. They are active at night, hunting for medium-sized antelopes by quietly
stalking them, followed by a quick rush and attack. The prey is usually carried
up into a tree, out of reach from lions and hyaenas. The leopard eats in the tree
and then leaves the leftovers there for later. Most leopards observed during daylight
are found resting on a branch in a tree or on a high rock.
The leopard is one of the Big Five species.
Good parks for leopards: Serengeti (Tz) and Lake
Nakuru (Ke). They can also be seen in many other parks.
More about leopards
Therefore, the cheetah quickly bolts its food, eating up to 15 kg/33 lb in one sitting.
Unlike leopards and lions, it doesn't return to the carcass later for leftovers, but
abandons it after finishing its meal.
| The cheetah is the fastest running land mammal on Earth, capable of speeds
up to 110 km/70 mi per hour. The speed is used for hunting its main prey, gazelles
and small antelopes, in open grasslands, which is the kind of surrounding where
it is usually found. It cannot exploit its speed in wooded or shrubby areas, but
may be found there resting.
Contrary to lions and leopards, it normally hunts in daylight. This is one reason
why cheetahs are regularly seen, even though they are not really numerous; cheetahs
are on the move during the days, when most game
driving is done. But in daylight, soaring vultures easily spot a cheetah
eating a prey, and they in turn may attract lions or hyaenas, which can easily
steal the food.
Many cheetahs are solitaries, but it's not uncommon to see groups of two or three males
or females. They move openly in grassland, and may also be found resting on rocks or
in the shadow of trees. They are poor climbers, and are thus rarely found in trees.
Good parks for cheetahs: Serengeti (Tz) and Masai
Mara (Ke). They are often seen also in the Ngorongoro
crater (Tz), and may be seen in many other parks.
More about cheetahs
Good parks for servals: Serengeti (Tz) and Masai
Mara (Ke). They can also be seen in many other parks.
| The serval is the most regularly seen of the East African small cats. With
a maximum weight less than 20 kg/45 lb, it is a lot smaller than the lion, leopard
The serval is also shy, and is difficult to spot when it moves about in its typical
habitat, grassland. It mainly hunts for rodents, but also other small mammals,
birds and insects are eaten.
The serval has big ears and good hearing, listening for the sound of moving prey
in the grass. Having located a prey, the serval leaps upon it to strike it with
it's paws. Servals have also been seen jumping for and catching flying birds as
big as storks.
species of hyaena are found in East Africa; the spotted hyaena and the striped hyaena.
The latter is active at night and not very common, so the only hyaena normally seen
on safaris is the larger spotted hyaena. It is active both day and night, is seen regularly,
and its characteristic contact call, whooop, is often heard in the night. Another
sound, somewhat like a strained giggle, is heard from excited or upset hyaenas, for
example when fighting for food around a carcass. This giggle is the source of the nickname
'laughing hyaena'. It is the second largest carnivore on land in Africa; it's smaller
than the lion, but larger than the leopard.
Hyaenas live in groups called clans, which live in a permanent territory and are led
by a dominant female. Females are generally higher ranking than males in the social
hierarchy of the clan.
Some people think hyaenas are scavengers only, unable to fend for themselves by proper
hunting. But in fact, hyaenas are skilled hunters, relying on endurance rather than
on speed. They do eat carrion, but so do other big predators such as lions and leopards,
too. The hyaena has very strong jaws, and can break and digest bones, which none of
the other predators can.
Good parks for hyaenas: Serengeti (Tz) and Masai
Mara (Ke). They can also be seen in many other parks.
Good parks for jackals: Serengeti (Tz) and Masai
Mara (Ke). They can also be seen in many other parks, as well as in populated areas.
| The jackals are fairly small canines, up to 15 kg/35 lb in weight and 50 cm/20
in in height. Three different species are found in East Africa. The black-backed
jackal is the most common one in the safari areas of southern Kenya and northern
Tanzania, but also the golden, or common, jackal can be seen. The third species,
the side-striped jackal, is active at night and less common, and is thus not seen
The black-backed jackals are often seen in pairs; a male and a female, staying
together for life. Sometimes they are accompanied by a third adult, a former cub
of the two, which has stayed with its parents to help them raise their next litter.
Jackals hunt for small mammals, birds and reptiles, and may also eat fruit. They
also eat carrion, and are often seen waiting in the background for lions or other
larger predators to finish their meals at a kill.
Golden jackal (or common jackal).
bat-eared fox is a small canine specialized in eating termites and other invertebrates.
It is also shy, and therefore not seen very often, seldom at close range. When seen,
it is unmistakable; it is small and has thick fur, black masked face and very big ears.
The ears are used for locating underground termites, which are then quickly excavated.
Good parks for bat-eared foxes: Serengeti (Tz) and Masai
Mara (Ke). They can also be seen in many other parks.
A fourth species, seen at night only, is the white-tailed mongoose. It is a quite
big, solitary mongoose, not seen very often due to its nocturnal habits, but it is not
rare. You can recognize it by its white tail. If you look around at night in the lodge
where you are staying, using a flashlight, you may be lucky to spot one. It's seen regularly
at Treetops Lodge in Kenya and Tarangire
Safari Lodge and Lake Manyara Hotel in Tanzania, for
example. (Be aware that moving around in the dark in wildlife areas may be dangerous.
You should never do so without first making sure no dangerous animals are around. Speak
to the night watchman. You can also ask him to accompany you. Stay out of grass, shrubs
and other vegetation. Make sure you can see where you're stepping; stay in lit areas
or use a flashlight.)
| There are more than ten different species of mongoose in East Africa, although
many of them are not widely distributed. Three of them are seen regularly on safaris.
The banded mongoose, seen in the picture, is normally seen in packs of
20 or more individuals, scurrying on the ground foraging for termites, larvae
and small vertebrates. The dwarf mongoose has similar habits, although
it is much smaller; it's the smallest mammal carnivore in Africa. The slender
mongoose is a small solitary, and thus not as easy to find. It is often spotted
when quickly crossing the road in front of the safari vehicle. Even if you only
catch a brief glimpse of it, you may recognize it from the way it lifts and curves
it's tail when moving.
A fifth species, on rare occasions seen by water, is the marsh mongoose. It is
big, quite dark, and is known for it's ability to open crabs and mussels by standing
on its hind legs and hurling them down onto a rock.
Good parks for mongoose: Serengeti (Tz), Tarangire
(Tz) and Masai Mara (Ke). They can also be seen in many
are only active at night, but can sometimes be seen around lodges (in some lodges, genets
are even fed to help you see them). They may be seen both on the ground and in trees,
feeding on small prey such as insects, small rodents and reptiles.
Genets are sometimes referred to as genet cats, but even if they do have some cat-like
behaviour, such as certain postures, a purring sound and retractile claws, they are
not cats; they belong to a separate carnivore family, viverridae, comprising
genets and civets.
Good parks for genets: They can be seen in many parks. Some lodges where we have seen
genets many times are Ndutu Safari Lodge in Ngorongoro
Conservation Area (Tz), Seronera Wildlife Lodge in Serengeti
(Tz) and Samburu Lodge in Samburu (Ke).
The hoofed mammals, or ungulates, comprise all the various antelopes and gazelles, zebras,
pigs and buffalos, and also heavyweight species such as elephants, hippopotamus, rhinoceros
Three of these the elephant, the buffalo and the hippopotamus are regarded
as the most dangerous mammals to humans.
Below, four different orders of hoofed mammals are described; probocids (elephants),
hyraxes, odd-toed ungulates and even-toed ungulates.
The great migration
One of the world's most spectacular wildlife features can be seen on the border between
Kenya and Tanzania where Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya)
and Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) meet. Herds of
up to 1.5 million wildebeest and a few hundred thousand zebras move from pasture to
pasture, in search for quality grazing, in a never-ending migration.
The routes and time of the migration are never fully predictable, as local rainfall
is an important factor, but during normal years, the herds spend August to October in
Masai Mara, and December to June in Serengeti. Most of the calves and foals are born
during January to March, when the herds are normally found in southern Serengeti. The
calving and foaling season is highly interesting not only to the wildebeest, the zebras
and us safari-goers, but also to predators of all sizes.
More about the migration
One single East African species belongs to this order; the African elephant, or bush
elephant. A second African species (formerly regarded as a subspecies), the smaller
forest elephant, can only be seen in other parts of Africa.
safari-goers want to see elephants during their safari. And chances are good, as elephants
can be found in many parks.
The African elephant population suffered from heavy poaching during the 1970's and 1980's.
Today, poaching in Kenya and Tanzania has been greatly reduced. But another problem
still remains; because of human activities, expanding farming and grazing etc, elephants
are confined to protected areas, which in many cases are too small to support the local
elephant population. The regrowth of trees and shrub can't keep up with the foraging
elephants, and as a result, the local biotope can support less and less elephants.
Female elephants and their calves live in herds, led by a matriarch, usually the oldest
female. All herd members are closely related; the oldest individuals are sisters, and
the rest of the herd is their offspring. The herd moves over large areas, guided by
the experience and local knowledge of the matriarch, to find food and water.
The males live alone, or sometimes in pairs of one older and one substantially younger
bull, and mainly meet with females for mating or at waterholes. Males are larger (up
to 6,000 kg/13,000 lb) than the females (4,000 kg/9,000 lb). They may need to eat 150300
kg/330650 lb of food every day, and drink 75150 litres/2040 gallons
The elephant is one of the Big Five species.
Good parks for elephants: Amboseli (Ke) and Tarangire
(Tz). They can also be seen in many other parks, although not in Nairobi
National Park (Ke) and Lake Nakuru National Park (Ke).
More about elephants
This order holds some ten species of hyrax. They are often referred to as the closest
relative of the elephant, and were formerly placed in the same order as the elephants.
Bush hyrax and rock hyrax
bush and rock hyraxes, which are sometimes found sharing the same habitat, are often
found in rocky areas such as kopjes,
where they may be seen scurrying or resting on rocks, or climbing the thin branches
of trees. They eat grasses and leaves, and form territorial colonies ranging from 5
to 25 individuals, led by a male.
Hyraxes are sized like rabbits, have primitive systems for digesting and regulating
body temperature. For being such small animals, their eight-month gestation is unusually
Good parks for hyraxes: They can be seen in rocky areas in many parks.
This order comprises zebras (one toe per foot) and rhinoceros (three toes per foot).
None of them are ruminants.
As a result, rhinos are absent in most parks, but can be seen in the prime parks and
in sanctuaries focusing on rhino conservation. Some of these have re-introduced rhinos
raised in South Africa, where parks such as Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park for a long
time successfully have been engaged in conservation.
| Two species of rhinoceros are found in Africa (and three more in Asia): black
rhino (or browse rhino), which has a pointed mouth for plucking leaves, and
white rhino (or grass rhino), which has a wide and flat mouth for grazing
Both are grey, despite the names. The name of the white rhino originates from
the Dutch/Afrikaans word weit, which means 'wide' and refers to the shape
of the mouth of this species. Subsequently, the other species was called black.
Both species are rare in East Africa, as well as in most other parts of Africa,
following many years of hunting and poaching. Their keratin horns are highly prized,
used in traditional Chinese medicine and for dagger handles in Yemen and Oman.
Black rhino (or browse rhino).
White rhino (or grass rhino).
The rhinoceros is one of the Big Five species.
Good parks for rhinoceros: Lake Nakuru (Ke), where both black
and white rhinos can bee seen, is all enclosed by an electric fence to protect the wildlife
within. Black rhinos can be seen in the Ngorongoro crater
(Tz). Black rhinos are also present in Serengeti (Tz),
Masai Mara (Ke) and some other parks, but are not seen
common zebra lives in herds on the savannas of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania,
often seen together with wildebeest. They are found in most parks where the habitat
is suitable, i.e. where there is a lot of grass. The most famous area for seeing them
is the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem, where zebras and wildebeest congregate in great
numbers, moving between pastures in what is called the migration.
The herds are loose congregations, made out of family groups of a stallion, a handful
of mares and foals. They eat grass, but do not ruminate.
Each zebra has an individual pattern of black and white stripes. The theories explaining
the striping are many, ranging from camouflage and cooling by micro-winds to tsetse
fly repellation. Modern theories say that the stripes are for social bonding.
Good parks for common zebras: Masai Mara (Ke) and Serengeti
(Tz), but the presence of zebras highly depends on the time of the year (for more information,
see The migration. They can also be seen in many other
Grevy's zebra is restricted to northern and eastern Kenya, where it replaces the
common zebra. It has thinner stripes and a more donkey-shaped body than the common zebra,
and is mainly seen in family groups, not in herds.
Good parks for Grevy's zebras: Samburu and Shaba (Ke). They
can also be seen in other parks in northern and eastern Kenya.
Most African herbivore
mammals belong to this order, as do many of the herbivores we may know from our own
countries, such as cattle, sheep, deer and pigs.
All even-toed ungulates in East Africa, except for pigs and hippopotamus, are ruminants.
are not very difficult to find, as they are restricted to permanent water and stay for
long time in the same place. The hippo spends most of its day in the water, protecting
its sensitive skin, which easily dries and burns in the sun. It doesn't eat in the water,
but leaves it's pool or river at night to graze.
Hippos are aggressive and dangerous to humans, so it's a good idea to avoid them while
boating, and to stay away from areas close to rivers and hippo pools in the dark. A
large male hippo may be as heavy as 3,000 kg/6,600 lb, and fiercely defends its territory
in the pool or river.
Good parks for hippopotamus: Lake Naivasha (Ke) and Serengeti
(Tz). They can also be seen in many other parks.
can be seen in most parks, usually in family groups, consisting of a male, a female
and a couple of piglets. They are herbivores, and good at finding food also in areas
where resources are poor.
Pumbaa, the warthog appearing in Disney's The Lion King, is known to many safari-goers.
Pumbaa means "daft" or "aimless" in Swahili, and the warthogs may
appear to behave accordingly. They are far from harmless, though. Their sharp tusks
may seriously injure attacking predators.
Besides the warthog, there are also other species of wild pigs in East Africa, but these
live in forest and are not seen very often.
Good parks for warthogs: They can also be seen in many parks.
African buffalo usually looks quite slow and peaceful, mainly spending its days grazing
and ruminating. But the large horns say it all; the buffalo is dangerous. A threatened
herd may chose to close ranks and defend itself, or chose to charge. Old males may be
forced by younger and stronger males to leave the herd. Such single buffalos can be
very aggressive, lacking the communal protection of the herd. The main threat to an
adult buffalo is lions.
The African buffalo is one of the Big Five species.
Good parks for African buffalos: They can be seen in many parks. Katavi
National Park (Tz) is known for it's huge herds of buffalos.
eland is the largest antelope (up to 900 kg/1,900 lb) and lives mainly in grasslands,
but also eats leaves and may appear in denser vegetation. It belongs to a group of antelopes
called spiral-horned bovines, and is fairly closely related to buffalos and cattle.
The common eland is found in eastern and southern Africa, while another species, Derby's
eland, is found in countries further west in Africa.
The male eland is usually a dark greyish brown, while females are lighter and warmer
brown. Both have horns, which are spiralled.
Despite their size and heavy body, elands are capable of high speeds and very high jumps.
A legend says that an eland facing death in the mouth of predators may chose to kill
itself by jumping straight up and landing on its head, breaking its neck. Such a behaviour
isn't very likely, but rather illustrates the eland's jumping capacity.
Good parks for eland: Ngorongoro (Tz). They can also
be seen in many parks, but are few and not regularly seen.
The giraffe's long neck was formerly seen as a way for giraffes to find food which other
herbivores couldn't reach, but today the neck is also considered an adaptation to the
way giraffe males fight; they wrestle their necks and use their heads as clubs, which
favours long- and strong-necked males.
| The giraffes all over Africa have been believed to belong to one single species,
with a number of different subspecies mainly differing in markings and patterns.
Modern research indicates that this may not be correct; some of the 'subspecies'
may be full species (which, for example, don't breed with other species).
Three different giraffe subspecies/species are found in East Africa. The Rothschild
giraffe is the least common, and is found only in far-western Kenya and in
Lake Nakuru National Park, where Rothschild giraffes
have been introduced to help conserving the subspecies/species.
The reticulated giraffe, found in northern and eastern Kenya, has a bold
and attractive marking.
Finally, the Masai giraffe is found throughout Tanzania and in southern
A big male giraffe may be over 5 m/16 ft high, a female slightly shorter, and
reaching even higher thanks to a 50 cm/20 in tongue. The overall height, the long
neck, the long legs and the markings make the giraffe unmistakable.
Despite its size, the giraffe is not invulnerable to packs of lions, even if it can
defend itself by deadly kicks. Lions often prefer to hunt for the calves, which are
practically defenceless if singled out from their mothers.
Good parks for giraffes: Reticulated giraffe in Samburu and
Shaba (Ke), Rothschild giraffe in Lake Nakuru
(Ke). The Masai giraffe can be seen in many parks, including Serengeti
(Tz) and Masai Mara. It's rarely seen in the Ngorongoro
More about giraffes
wildebeest, or gnu, is an antelope. The subspecies found in southern Kenya and northern
Tanzania is called white-bearded gnu.
The wildebeest is known for its migration in the Serengeti-Masai
Mara ecosystem on the border between these countries. Up to 1.5 million wildebeest,
together with many zebras, move between pastures in a never-ending search for grazing
and water. You have probably seen them crossing rivers on nature documentaries on television,
defying currents and crocodiles.
The wildebeest is unmistakable, looking like no other antelope or herbivore. Because
of its flat black face and it's seemingly clumsy way of moving, it's sometimes referred
to as the clown of the savanna. A legend says, when God created the animals, he created
the gnu last of them all, out of the bits and pieces left over.
Good parks for wildebeest: Masai Mara (Ke) and Serengeti
(Tz) (for best seasons to see them there, see The migration).
They can also be seen in many other parks. Ngorongoro
(Tz) has a healthy population all year round.
hartebeest is fairly stationary, preferring the boundaries between open savanna and
more densely vegetated areas, such as woodland. It drinks regularly, and is therefore
seldom seen in very dry areas.
As to shape, it looks very much like its close relative the topi. Compared to the topi,
it has a lighter coloration and a much wider gap between the horns (which also have
a different shape). Like topis and wildebeest (another close relative), both male and
female hartebeest have horns.
The East African subspecies of hartebeest is sometimes referred to as kongoni.
Good parks for hartebeest: Masai Mara (Ke), Nairobi
National Park (Ke) and Serengeti (Tz). They can also
be seen in many parks.
topi prefers green grass and may move far to find it, but seems to prefer a stationary
life in grassy valleys and surrounding areas. Compared to the hartebeest (see above),
it's coloration is darker, with black blotches on its shoulders, and it has yellowish
legs as well as narrower horns. Seen from a distance, it may be recognized from the
typical position as seen in the picture, standing with its front legs on a termite mound.
Good parks for topi: Masai Mara (Ke) and Serengeti
waterbuck is fairly stationary, and is usually found close to permanent water, as its
digestive system requires a lot of water. There are two subspecies in Africa, common
waterbuck (south-east) and defassa waterbuck (north-east and west). Both are found in
East Africa. The common waterbuck, which has a big white ring on its behind, lives east
of the Great Rift Valley, while the defassa waterbuck, which instead of a ring has a
blotch, lives to the west.
The waterbuck has a shaggy fur, and distinct white markings in its face. Only males
Good parks for waterbucks: Lake Nakuru (Ke), Lake
Naivasha (Ke) and central Serengeti (Tz). They can
also be seen in many parks.
reedbuck is related to the waterbuck, and is always seen next to water. The male (which
has horns, while females do not) keeps a certain part of the river or lake shore for
a territory, defending it from other males, and trying to make passing females stay.
This type of habitat supports big trees, which are popular with leopards. So are the
reedbucks; they are common prey to leopards.
Good parks for reedbucks: Serengeti (Tz) and Nairobi
National Park (Ke). They can also be seen in many parks.
bushbuck is more closely related to the eland than to the waterbuck and reedbuck; it
is a spiral-horned antelope, but unlike the eland, only the male has horns. It is shy,
lives in shrubby woodland and forests, and usually waits to venture from vegetation
to drink until dark.
Good parks for bushbucks: Arusha National Park. They can
also be seen in many parks, but in Arusha NP, they seem to be less shy than elsewhere.
impala is a common antelope in eastern Africa. It is both a grazer and a browser, and
is usually found on the boundary between grassland and shrub- or woodland. It feeds
mainly on grass during wet seasons, when green grass is abundant.
Impala females (lacking horns) live together in herds dominated by a single male (which
has horns). Such harem herds of some ten females, their calves and the one male are
common, but herd sizes of 50 females or more can also be seen. The dominant male is
kept busy keeping watch for predators and defending his herd from rival males. The latter
form bachelor herds, which are often seen not far away from the harem herds. Sooner
or later, a bachelor challenger will oust the harem male and take his place with the
You can recognize the impala by the male horns, the colouring of the flank (upper half
dark brown, lower half light), the three black vertical stripes seen from behind (one
on each thigh and one midstripe on the tail), and the patches of black hair just above
Good parks for impalas: They can be seen in many parks.
gazelle is found in most parts of Kenya and northern Tanzania, where it prefers grassland,
savanna and open shrub- and woodland. It lives in herds of some ten females and one
male, or, as for impalas, in bachelor herds. Both males and females have horns, although
the males' horns are longer and thicker. It eats grass, which it may eat even after
it has dried.
Grant's gazelle is often seen together with the smaller Thomson's gazelle, but can always
be distinguished from the latter by its larger size and by the rump, where the white
colour extends above the tail. The white rump can often be seen at great distance.
Good parks for Grant's gazelles: Masai Mara (Ke) och Serengeti
(Tz). Huge congregations of Grant's and Thomson's gazelles may be seen here.
gazelle is mainly found in open grassland and savanna in south-western Kenya and northern
Tanzania. To beginners, it may look similar to Grant's gazelle, but is generally much
smaller. It can be recognized by the black stripes on the flanks, and by the rump, where
the white colour stops below the tail. The male has big horns, while the female has
smaller horns or, sometimes, no horns at all.
Both Thomson's and Grant's gazelles are important prey to cheetahs, which hunt the open
grasslands and savannas of East Africa.
Good parks for Thomson's gazelles: Masai Mara (Ke) and
gerenuk is a gazelle found in dry areas in northern and eastern East Africa. As to colour,
it reminds of the impala, but has a smaller head and a much longer neck (in some languages
it's called 'giraffe gazelle'). It also lacks black markings and the male has horns
shorter and thicker than the impala's.
The gerenuk has a special behaviour seldom seen with other antelopes or gazelles; it
feeds from shrubs and trees standing on its hind legs. This position, combined with
the long neck, allows the gerenuk to reach higher for food than most other species.
Good parks for gerenuk: Samburu and Shaba (Ke).
dikdik is the smallest East African antelope. The most common species, seen in Tanzania
and most of Kenya, is Kirk's dikdik, with has an adult weight of 4 kg/9 lb to 7 kg/15
lb. The less common Guenther's dikdik is slightly smaller, and is found mainly in northern
and eastern Kenya.
The dikdik is mostly found in dry and shrubby areas, where it lives in permanent territories,
kept by a male and a female staying together for life.
Good parks for dikdik: Tarangire (Tz). They can be seen
in many other parks.
klipspringer is another small antelope, adapted to living in rocky areas, where it can
move safely on minimal space thanks to small, specialized hooves. Klipspringers are
often seen in pairs, sometimes in family units of three or four, but are difficult to
spot because of their camouflage colouring.
Good parks for dikdik: The Lobo area in Serengeti (Tz).
oryx prefers dry and fairly open areas, where it lives in small herds. The beisa oryx
is found in central and northern Kenya (for example Samburu
and Shaba), while the fringe-eared oryx is found to the south (for example in Tsavo
in Kenya and Tarangire in Tanzania).
Some years ago, a female lion in Samburu was observed adopting oryx calves, which would
normally be prey to lions. These events were filmed and have been shown on television.
Good parks for oryx: Samburu and Shaba (Ke).
Primates is a mammal order that includes apes, monkeys and prosimians (the latter is
a group of primitive primates, including for example galagos and lemurs).
There are two main groups of African monkeys: colobid monkeys and cheek-pouch monkeys.
In East Africa, the former group comprises a few colobus species, which are tree-dwellers
mainly found in forests and along the coast. The latter group has more members, but,
as most species live in forests, if you go for a savanna-style safari in traditional
safari areas, your chances of seeing monkeys are restricted to a handful of species,
for example baboons, vervet monkeys and blue monkeys.
Prosimians primitive primates
All East African prosimians are nocturnal. To see them, you need to go for night safaris
or look for them at your lodges or camps using a flashlight. The most common prosimians
are the galagos, also known as bushbabies. They move about quickly in trees, but you
may spot them from their eyes reflecting the light.
There are no lemurs in East Africa, or in any parts of mainland Africa (other than where
lemurs have been introduced in private reserves). The lemurs origin from and are restricted
to Madagascar, where many different species are found.
live in troops numbering from a handful up to 150 or more individuals. They are mostly
seen on the ground, looking for mainly vegetarian food, but they may also feed from
trees on occasion. Each troop usually includes a couple of males (which can be identified
by their substantially bigger size), a number of females and young ones.
Two species are found in East Africa; the slightly bigger and darker olive baboon in
western parts, and the yellow baboon in eastern parts, including the coast.
Good parks for baboons: Lake Manyara (Tz) and Lake
Nakuru (Ke). They can be seen in many other parks, as well as outside of parks.
Black-faced vervet monkey
is the most common savanna monkey of East Africa. It lives in groups of up to 20 individuals,
and is often seen in trees (usually acacias), mainly close to water.
Black-faced vervet monkeys are also seen close to many lodges and camps, where they
may raid trashcans, bags, jeeps and rooms for food. They can make a real mess, and do
it quickly, so make sure not to leave open doors or windows unattended.
Good parks for black-faced vervet monkeys: They can be seen in many parks, lodges and
camps, as well as outside of parks.
blue monkey is not seen as often as the black-faced vervet monkey. It lives in smaller
groups, usually of less than ten females, their babies and a male. The blue monkey is
mostly seen in trees and prefers forests, where it eats mainly fruits, but also insects,
which are found by patiently searching bark and moss.
Good parks for blue monkeys: Lake Manyara (Tz), as well
as mountain parks such as Arusha National Park (Tz), Kilimanjaro
(Tz) and Mount Kenya (Ke).
few different species of colobus monkeys are present in East Africa. The two black-and-white
species, Angola pied colobus and guereza colobus, are found along the coast and in highland
areas respectively. There are also four species of red colobus; one in the western parts
of Tanzania, the other three in small local populations (Iringa and Zanzibar
in Tanzania, and Tana River in Kenya). These
red colobus are rarely seen, apart from the Zanzibar red colobus, which is often seen
by tourists visiting the Jozani Forest on Zanzibar Island.
The colobus monkeys are less lively than the baboons, vervet monkeys and blue monkeys.
They spend almost all of their time in the trees, and are found only in forested areas,
such as gallery forests along rivers and montane forests. If you are an early riser,
you may see colobus monkeys foraging in the trees lining the beaches along the coast.
Good parks for colobus monkeys: Arusha National Park (Tz).
are nocturnal prosimians found in woodlands and forests. They are nocturnal, and thus
rarely seen on safaris, other than during night game drives. Galagos are sometimes called
bushbabies, a name that comes from the baby-like cries of the greater galagos.
The food varies between species, but may include Acacia gum, flowers, fruits, and invertebrates.
Chimpanzees are found in forested areas in Uganda and along
Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, where two national parks are located: Gombe
Stream and Mahale Mountains. Both have healthy populations
of chimps, but you may have to tailor a safari to go there, as few packaged tours include
these parks. Chimpanzees are also found in some private reserves, but these populations
are not wild, but have been introduced.
There are no gorillas in Kenya or Tanzania. Mountain gorillas are found in southern
Uganda and in Rwanda, bordering north-western Tanzania.
There is a multitude of smaller mammals in East Africa, belonging to different orders.
On most safaris, you're looking for elephants, lions and other larger species, and you
may see the small ones such as hares, squirrels and shrews mainly by chance. To see
them, you need to look for them. They are not easy to spot while driving in a jeep,
so your best chances may be looking for them on the lodges and camps where you are staying,
between game drives.
squirrels have claws adapted for digging rather than for climbing. They dig holes for
themselves and their babies to shelter in, and where they can stash abundant food, such
as seeds and nuts. They also eat roots and fruits. The East African ground squirrels
prefer dry savanna or open woodland.
Good parks for ground squirrels: Dry savanna parks such as Tarangire
(Tz) and Tsavo (Ke). They are generally found in the drier
parts of East Africa, i.e. Kenya and northern and eastern Tanzania.
are mammals belonging to an order of it's own: chiroptera or, simply, bats. A
number of species are found in East Africa, and you may see them around lodges and camps
in the evenings. It's hard, however, for amateurs to study and identify them as they
appear mainly in the dark, and are on the move feeding most of the time. Most bats eat
insects, but some are also feeding on fruits, flowers and leaves. Bats pollinate a tree
often seen on safaris, the sausage tree, or Kigelia africana.
Good parks for bats: They can be seen in many parks, as well as outside of parks, in