25 animals of the African savannah and their characteristics

Abraham McLaughlin
25 animals of the African savannah and their characteristics

The animals of the african savanna they have always attracted human beings for their unique characteristics, diversity and abundance. From caribou and vulture, to hyenas, zebras, giraffes, antelopes, gazelles, rhinos and elephants, to the lion.

The latter erroneously called King of the Jungle, since its natural habitat is mainly in the extensive savannas of Africa. African savannas are part of the extensive savanna biome of the world, characterized by being plains dominated by herbs, especially grasses.

Some of the animals of the African savannah

They are lands with a warm tropical climate, where trees are either absent or very sparsely distributed. In addition, its climate is characterized by having two seasons, one dry and the other rainy, which conditions the behavior of the species that inhabit it..

However, in the rainy season, no more than 500 to 1,200 mm of rain fall on an annual average. While temperatures are around 23ºC on average for the year, reaching maximums of up to 38ºC..

In addition to the great diversity of animal species, the savannah is characterized by the large herds that some of them constitute. Such is the case zebras, antelopes, gazelles and wildebeest, especially the latter form migrant herds of thousands of individuals..

The largest migration of mammals on the planet occurs with the arrival of the dry season in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. There are two million herbivores traveling more than 3,000 km, including 1 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras, gazelles and other species.

Savanna mammals

Kaffir buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

Kaffir buffalo (Syncerus caffer). Source: Charles J Sharp / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

It is a wild bovine native to the African savannas that reaches up to 3.4 m in length, 1.7 m in height and 1,000 kg in weight. The species includes three subspecies that are distributed through central Africa south of the Sahara to the Cape of Good Hope.

They show a dark brown to black coat and two thick lateral horns curved inwards..

Zebra (Equus spp.)

Common Zebra (Equus quagga)

There are three species of zebras, two of which are typical of the African savannas, Grévy's zebra (Equus grevyi) and the common zebra (Equus quagga). Since the mountain zebraEquus zebra) although it is plains, they are mountainous plateaus.

These horse relatives are unmistakable for their black coloration with white stripes, as well as their erect hair..

African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana)

African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana)

It is the largest land animal on the planet, reaching 7.5 m in length, 4 m in height and 6,000 kg in weight. They have large ears that allow them to regulate their body heat on hot days in the savannah. As well as its long trunk with which it is able to take food and water that it takes to its mouth.

Warthog (Phacochoerus spp.)

Warthog (Phacochoerus spp.)

They are also known as warthogs, because of the warts they show on their face, with a large snout and two huge protruding fangs. These fangs, in addition to defense, are used to dig into the ground in search of food..

There are two species that inhabit the savannah, the largest and most abundant is the common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus). On the other hand, there is the eastern warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus) that inhabits the horn of Africa to the east.

Spotted hyena or spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)

Spotted hyena or spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)

It is perhaps the most typical of the hyena species, characterized by having longer front legs than the rear ones. Its 1.7 m long body is yellowish brown covered with dark brown spots.

In addition, it has strong jaws capable of cutting the bones of the carrion on which it feeds, although they are also hunters.

Impala (Aepyceros melampus)

Impala (Aepyceros melampus). Source: Charles J Sharp / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

It is a species of antelope up to 1.3 m in length and 92 cm in height, capable of jumping up to 10 m in length. Its back is light brown and the belly, chest and neck are white, the males having two curved erect horns of up to 90 cm..

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)

This is another very peculiar animal of the African savannah, with its long neck ending in a relatively small head with two small horns. They reach up to 5.8 m in height, being the tallest land animal, as indicated by its name derived from Arabic, giraffe = tall.

Their skin has a characteristic color pattern with reddish brown or orange spots on a white or cream background..

Lion (Panthera leo)

Lion (Panthera leo)

It is the largest feline in the world, reaching up to 3.34 m in length plus a 105 cm tail, and a height of 1.25 m. It inhabits the savannas of Africa south of the Sahara desert, and in jungles of the Atlantic coast and the Congo River basin.

A small population is also located in the northwest of India and formerly it was found throughout much of the planet.

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, being able to reach 1150 kilometers per hour. They take advantage of their speed and morphology for hunting, especially gazelles and impalas, and are distributed throughout much of Africa. They are polygamous and cannot roar.

Lycaon or African wild dogLycaon pictus)

African wild dog (Lycaon pictus)

It belongs to the dog family and shows a distant resemblance to hyenas in face shape and coat color. Hence, it is also called a hyena dog, being an efficient herd hunter.

Its coat is yellowish brown with black and white spots, with a long tail with a yellowish brown base, a black middle part and a white tip. The front of the face and throat are black.

Wildebeest (Connochaetes spp.)

Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus). Source: Muhammad Mahdi Karim / GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)

There are two species of wildebeest that form large herds, the blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and the black wildebeest or white-tailed wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou). Wildebeest belong to the group of antelopes.

In the case of the blue wildebeest, it reaches up to 2.15 m in length plus 55 cm in tail and 1.22 m in height. While the white-tailed wildebeest that lives towards South Africa, it is somewhat smaller in size.

Blue wildebeest make up the largest migrating herd known. In it, more than a million animals move in search of pasture between July and September.

White rhino (Ceratotherium simum)

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

It is one of the two rhinoceros species that inhabit the African savannah, in this case restricted to southern Africa with around 20,000 animals. There was previously another subspecies in the Congo, but the last specimen died in 2018.

The white rhino is the fourth largest land animal, after the three species of elephants. They reach 4.2 m in length, 1.85 m in height, weigh 4,500 kg and have two front horns.

Black rhino or hooked lip (Diceros bicornis)

Black or hook-lipped rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

It is smaller than the white rhinoceros, reaching 3.8 m in length, 1.6 m in height and up to 1,500 kg in weight. It is also a darker gray color than the white rhinoceros and, like that one, has two front horns. Today there are more than 48,000 specimens of this species.

Topi (Damaliscus korrigum)

Topi (Damaliscus korrigum)

It is a species of bovine 1.7 m long, 110 kg in weight and turned horns slightly curved backwards. Its short coat is reddish brown except for the upper half of the legs and the muzzle, which are dark brown almost black..

While the lower half of its legs are yellowish brown. Its distribution is scattered throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, forming several subspecies.

Birds of the savanna

Ostrich (Struthio camelus)

Male Ostrich (Struthio camelus)

It is the largest bird in the world, reaching 3 m in height, not flying, but running, reaching speeds of up to 90 km / h. Their bodies are covered with large black feathers in males, with white tail and wingtips, and brown to gray in females. While the neck is devoid of feathers like the head.

African white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus)

African white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus)

It is a typical vulture with dense plumage on the body and only down or small scattered feathers on the neck and head. The latter due to the fact that it introduces its head into the decomposing bodies with which it feeds..

It has a ring of white feathers at the base of the neck, whitish plumage, except for the lower half of the wings, which are black. It can measure up to 98 cm long and its open wings reach up to 2.25 m.

African Marabou (Leptoptilos crumenifer)

African Marabou (Leptoptilos crumenifer)

This species of black stork feeds on carrion and also hunts small vertebrates and even large birds. They reach a height of 1.5 m with a wingspan of 3.2 m.

Its wings and back are black and the rest white, with a pink neck and head, without feathers. Like any wading bird, its legs are long and in this case white.

African tantalum or yellow-billed stork (Mycteria ibis)

African tantalum or yellow-billed stork (Mycteria ibis)

It is another species of stork that inhabits the African savannas in wetland areas where it travels through shallow waters with its long red legs. It has faint pink plumage on the back and white on the rest except for the black edges of the wings.

Its neck is covered with dense short white feathers, its head is orange and red and its beak is orange..

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

This heron has a very wide worldwide distribution, within which the African savannas and wetlands are included. They reach about 65 cm in length and the outstretched wings reach 105 cm, presenting a totally white body..

A characteristic feature in the rearing period is that the adults show two long, narrow feathers projecting from the head backwards..

Savannah reptiles

Black mambaDendroaspis polylepis)

Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

It is one of the most poisonous snakes in the world reaching 3 m in length and being both terrestrial and arboreal. It has round black eyes and its skin is gray to dark brown, characterized by having a bluish-black inside of the mouth..

It is very fast in the attack, which can do it up to a great distance from its position, even giving several bites in rapid sequence..

African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata)

African spurred tortoise (Centrochelys sulcata)

This tortoise is the third largest in the world and the largest if only continental tortoises (that do not live on islands) are considered. Its shell reaches up to 85 cm long and weighs 100 Kg.

It has yellowish chestnut patches with dark brown edges, which become grayer with age. It owes its name to two large dewclaws that present the front part of the breastplate or lower part of the carapace..

Speke's tortoise (Kinixys spekii)

Speke's Tortoise (Kinixys spekii)

It is another turtle that lives in African savannas, in this case smaller, about 20 cm and with a hinge (joint) in its shell. The carapace or upper part of the carapace is elongated and somewhat flattened, with dark brown patches with light to yellowish edges..

Savanna amphibians

Microhylid frog (Phrynomantis microps)

It is a frog of humid savannas in Ivory Coast and also in drier savannas in Benin. It is characterized by its elongated and somewhat flattened body of intense red color on the back and black in the lower half, with black extremities..

It also sometimes shows a black line on the back and in stressful situations its color changes to gray. Females are larger than males, reaching up to 60 mm in length and 16.7 g in weight..

African common toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis)

African common toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis)

Females reach a length of 12 cm and males 9 cm, inhabiting a wide variety of environments, including African savannas. Its coloration is a pattern of variations of brown tones from dark to light, presenting white tubercles on its front legs..

Savanna insects

Termites (Macrotermes spp.)

Termites (Macrotermes spp.)

There are more than a thousand species of termites in Africa, those of this particular genus feed on a basidiomycete fungus of the genus Termitomyces. They cultivate the fungus in their galleries using dead plant material as a bed for cultivation. They build large mounds of earth in the savannah, within which the colonies live.

Fly tse tse (Glossina spp.)

Tsetse fly (Glossina sp.). Source: Alan R Walker / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

There are more than 23 species of African flies of the genus Glossina they are called tse tse fly. They inhabit savannas, scrublands and jungles throughout the central strip of Africa south of the Sahara desert.

These flies are blood-sucking (they feed on blood) and in doing so transmit a protozoan called Trypanosoma brucei. This parasite produces sleeping sickness in humans, since people, in addition to edema, fevers and other symptoms, manifest drowsiness during the day.

Themes of interest

Jungle animals.

Animals of africa.

Amazon animals.


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  2. Brown, L. (1997). The birds of Africa. Academic Press Limited.
  3. Duellman, W.E. (ed.) (1999). Patterns of Distribution of Amphibians. A Global Perspective. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  4. Keesing, F. and Young, T.P. (2014). Cascading Consequences of the Loss of Large Mammals in an African Savanna. BioScience.
  5. World Wild Life (Viewed on August 27, 2020). Tropical and subtropical grasslands savannas and shrublands. Taken from: worldwildlife.org

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