Picturesque Kenya has everything a tourist could wish for – beaches, mountains and the wild savanna and its wildlife. In fact, it is the only country with a national park a stone throw’s away from a major city’s centre. Wildlife roams free wherever you go, and these are some of the common animals you may encounter.
The Big Five
Long ago when the game hunting was at its peak, the hunters expressed their dismay at the difficulty of hunting five specific animals — the lion, cheetah, leopard, cape buffalo and rhinoceros. Consequently, they named them the Big Five. These days, tourism bodies still use the term to describe these elusive animals.
The Big Cats
The king of the jungle dominates the savanna. Lions are ruthless; they kill both prey and competitors alike, including the cubs of a disgraced or deceased lion. They live in a pride; lionesses do the hunting but lions eat first.
Leopards are a farouche and elusive animal, for a cat. However, do not mistake this timidity for weakness. Leopards are stealth killers. They follow their prey surreptitiously from up a tree, pouncing on them unexpectedly.
Can you spot the difference? Cheetahs have a much smaller stature compared to leopards. But the most distinctive differentiation is their tear marks that run from the corner of their eyes down the side of their nose. Needless to say, they are the fastest animals – they can accelerate faster than a sports car.
You will find African buffaloes within a riverine. These social animals live in herds comprising more than 1,000 buffaloes. They are generally gentle but have a quick temper. They are among the most dangerous animals in Africa.
A rhino is not just a rhino: how would you differentiate between a white and black rhino? Believe it or not, it comes down to their mouths. There are other subtle differences like their height, but who has the time to measure them? Black rhinos, which are highly endangered, have a narrow mouth while white rhinos have a wide mouth. This also differentiates their feeding behaviours – white rhino are grazers; black rhinos are browsers.
Others – carnivores
These are cats worst enemies, even in the wild. They have a matriarchal led social structure and hunt in large groups. In the case of food shortage, they purloin big cat’s catch, particularly cheetahs’.
African wild dog
These endangered monogamous animals live and hunt in small groups of six to 20. Due to their small stature, they hunt small- and medium-sized prey like impalas and gazelles.
Black-backed jackals are very similar to the African wild dogs. They also live in small monogamous social structures and are strategic hunters.
Others – herbivores
These gentle giants are very social, with matriarchal structures. Elephants are known to exhibit human emotions like mourning, and they are very playful as well as having a high intelligence level. Unfortunately, their tusks are in great demand, leading to their endangered status as hunters continue to attack them for their ivory.
These are plentiful in Kenya – there are three types to be precise. The Maasai giraffe is the tallest terrestrial animal and the most commonly found type of giraffe. The reticulated giraffes are very rare, only found in the northern part of the country. Rothschild giraffes are endangered, and almost extinct in the wild. However, they are a spectacle at the Giraffe Manor where they dine with the guests.
Although there are three types of these beauties, only two of them are found in Kenya. The Plains zebras are prevalent, whereas Grevy’s zebras, another endangered species, are mostly found in the northern part of Kenya. They are differentiated by their stripes – Grevy’s zebras have thin stripes while Plains zebras have much larger stripes.
There is a huge variety of antelopes: wildebeest, gazelles, impala, reedbuck, kudu, hartebeest, oryxes, duikers, bushbucks, waterbucks, topi, gnu, and sitatunga. Perhaps the “Wildebeest Migration”, a natural event where more than a million wildebeest, zebra and antelope migrate from Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, made the wildebeest more famous.
Others – omnivores
You may see hippos lazing around on the shorelines of rivers and lakes, or submerged in water during the day.
Put all these animals in your wildlife checklist, and check them off when you spot them on your next safari to Kenya.