When going on safari in Africa, the “Big Five”, Lion, Leopard, African Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. What about all the other lesser-known animals that roam the many plains and bushlands of Africa? Here is a short list of what to look out for and where you might get lucky.
The African Wild Dog, also known as the African painted dog. This name acquired due to its colourful patchy coat, large bat like ears and bushy tail. Although called a wild dog, it’s characteristics are more like a wolf than a dog.
African Wild dogs were once widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with a population in excess of 500,000. However, the African Wild Dog is classified as endangered, with approximately 2,000-5,000 living in the wild. Although the population is fairly small, if you do see an African Wild Dog, it is likely you will see more in the same area. This is because African Wild Dogs travel in packs in numbers from 6 to 20 and sometimes more.
If you’re on safari in Africa and looking for wild dogs in Botswana, then be sure to visit Savute Chobe National Park. The best time to see them is between December and mid January. This is when the resident impala give birth and the famous wildebeest and zebra migration passes through. With so much prey, wild dogs cannot resist Savute. The private Linyanti concession offers a permanent water supply over the late dry season (between August and October). Waterholes and riversides offer an abundance of prey hence the wild dog is never far away.
Travelling to Zimbabwe? Look no further than the Hwange National Park. Zimbabwe is supposedly home to the largest African Wild Dog population with approximately 700 wild dogs.
Catching a glimpse of a wild dog in South Africa is slightly more difficult, however most sightings are in the Madikwe Game Reserve and Kruger National Park. Wild dogs are regularly on the move so a sighting is not guaranteed in any area. However between July and October the sightings are frequent.
If you’re travelling in East Africa, Tanzania’s Selous Reserve has had the most wild dog sightings in East Africa. Despite the size of the reserve (three times the size of the Serengeti), Selous Reserve is the best place to see Wild Dogs in their natural habitat.
The gerenuk is a type of antelope with an exceptionally long neck. The name “gerenuk” is derived from the Somali language and means “giraffe-necked”. The gerenuk’s head is small for its size, but its eyes and ears are large. Unlike other gazelles and antelopes, the gerenuk eats standing on its hind legs to browse tall bushes. The gerenuk is not yet listed as vulnerable, however due to its current declining population trend, it is likely to be in the near future.
The gerenuk can be found on safari in Africa in North East countries including, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Somalia. If you’re looking to see a gerenuk, be on the lookout in open plains near woodland forests. The highest chance of seeing a gerenuk is in Kenya, specifically the Tsavo National Park and Samburu National Reserve.
The African Penguin is the only breeding penguin found in Africa. They are black on top and white underneath, with a horizontal black stripe across their chest. The African Penguin is listed as endangered with an estimated 50,000 mature individuals living in the wild in 2015.
The African Penguin population is declining as a result of oil spills, in particular an oil spill in 2000 that affected approximately 40% of the population. In addition, the African Penguins are also struggling to compete for food against fisheries.
If you want to see an African Penguin, look no further than the coast of South Africa. The Western Cape of South Africa is home to approximately 39% of the world’s breeding African penguin pairs. South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province is home to 43% with 18% of breeding penguins found along the coast of Namibia.