Rolling savannahs. Snow-capped peaks. Lush forests and sprawling plains. Kenya hums with landscapes of diversity. These varied landforms support a fantastic range of wildlife, granting the country its deserved reputation as a superb safari destination.
Every sort of animal type is found here but perhaps no animal group is as desirable a find as Africa’s iconic “Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino. You’ll see them all at Kenya’s premier parks:
To catch the excitement of the big cats – lions, leopards, and cheetahs – no other park beats Masai Mara for the sheer concentration of these great felines stalking its rolling grasslands.
The numbers of rhinos throughout Africa have been severely depleted due to poaching but in Kenya, they are making a strong comeback due to stringent conservation efforts. These parks and reserves offer safari-goers increasingly larger numbers of both the black and white rhinos:
Perhaps no animal symbolizes the majesty and wonder of Africa as does the noble elephant. These giant but extremely intelligent creatures are found in great concentrations at Amboseli Park, marching before the backdrop of iconic Mt. Kilimanjaro, and also seen in numbers reaching 1000 at Samburu Park to the north. Tsavo East shows off a unique aspect of elephant life – they love to roll in the park’s red-oxide soil giving them a dusty, rose-coloured coat.
For sightings of wildebeest and zebra, nothing compares with the Great Wildebeest Migration at the Masai Mara Game Reserve for viewing virtual rivers of these invading grazers. Crossing over the Mara River, up to two million of them follow their yearly cycle of birth and survival as they traverse the park’s immense plains creating lines of wildlife that stretch to the horizon.
Of course, a Kenya safari isn’t complete without time spent watching the antics of monkeys and baboons. You’ll find these curious and playful creatures at parks dense with montane, coastal, and tropical forests:
And if you wish to also view highly intelligent chimpanzees in their natural habitat, there’s only one place in Kenya to go – Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
But at whichever parks and reserves you choose for your safari, our Natural World Kenya Safari guides are experts at finding all the species you’ve come to see. They are your experienced escorts to an adventure filled with the wonderful wildlife that Kenya provides.
THE AFRICAN LION
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Panthera Leo
WEIGHT: 125 to 272 kilograms (277 to 600 pounds)
SIZE: 1.2 meters at the shoulder (48 inches) and about 2 to 3.3 meters in length (7 to 11 feet)
LIFE SPAN: 10 to 18 years in the wild. Up to 30 years in captivity.
HABITAT: Grassy plains and open woodlands
GESTATION: Average about 109 days
The Lion is the king of the Savanna grassland a symbol of power and a Big cat on top of the food chain. They are the most feared predators in the African bush. Equipped with teeth that effortlessly tear through bones and tendons of their prey.
They can take down an animal as large as a bull. The lions live in a pride a family unit consisting of more female lions (lionesses) who do the hunting to feed the pride.
The male lions offer protection to the pride and fight among each other to have the mating rights in the pride. It can be found in Masai Mara game reserve, Tsavo East National Park, Nakuru National Park and Nairobi National Park.
THE AFRICAN ELEPHANT
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Loxodonta africana
WEIGHT: 2,000 to 6,100 kilograms (about 2 to 7 tons)
SIZE: Up to 4 meters (13 feet)
LIFE SPAN: 60 to 70 years
HABITAT: Open and closed savanna, grasslands, and arid deserts
GESTATION: About 22 months
PREDATORS: Humans and occasionally lions or hyenas
African Elephants are the world’s largest terrestrial mammal. There are two recognized subspecies of this iconic animal: bush (or savanna) and forest. African bush elephants are the larger of the two and their tusks curve out, while their forest-dwelling cousins are darker and have tusks that are straighter and that point downward.
They can be found in Amboseli National Park, Tsavo East National Park, Nakuru National Park, Nairobi National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve.
They will live in almost any habitat that provides plentiful food and water. Their populations are scattered throughout the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. About 70 percent of their range exists in protected land.
Their trunk is a long nose that is used for breathing, smelling, drinking, trumpeting, and grabbing objects. Their trunks are also a grooming tool. Grooming consists of using their trunks to cover themselves with mud or water to maintain hydration. They have two fingerlike extensions on the tips of their trunks that are used for holding onto small objects. They also use their trunks to exhibit affection, by frequently touching and caressing one another.
It’s no great surprise these large animals love to eat. Elephants spend the majority of their day roaming across large distances to forage for grasses, fruits, roots, and bark. They can eat up to 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of food and drink 113 to 190 liters (30 to 50 gallons) of water in one day.
Much like humans, these mammals are social creatures that live in small family groups that usually consist of an older matriarch and several generations of female relatives. Males are typically solitary once matured but may live in small groups of three or four bulls. They take care of weak or injured members and even appear to grieve over dead companions.
The large ivory tusks on either side of their face—used for foraging for food and water—have long been desired by people. The ivory trade is driven by consumer demand for products made from tusks and supplied by a sophisticated international network of traffickers. Poachers kill this iconic species for its ivory tusks, which are then sold and made into anything from jewelry and crafts to musical instruments to religious objects. At current poaching rates, populations may disappear in the wild within our lifetimes.
They have longer pregnancies than almost any other mammal. Calves are carried for about 22 months, with cows usually bearing only one calf every three to six years. Their regeneration rate averages 5 to 6 percent annually, compared to the 8 to 9 percent poaching rates, resulting in a net loss in population numbers. Extinction is a very real threat if poaching continues unabated.
THE AFRICAN CHEETAH
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Acinonyx jubatus
WEIGHT: 20 to 72 kilograms (45 to 160 pounds)
SIZE: 1 to 1.5 meters in length (45 to 60 inches) 76 centimeters at the shoulder (30 inches)
LIFE SPAN: Maximum recording of a female living 14 years and 5 months in the wild and about 10 years for a males.
HABITAT: Wide range of habitats—from dry forests and thick scrubs through grasslands and Sahara deserts.
GESTATION: About 3 months
PREDATORS: Eagles, humans, hyenas, lions
The Cheetah is the fastest land mammal on the planet. They can reach speed limit of up to 70 Miles Per Hour (112Km/hr) its part of the Big cats found in the Savanna grasslands. They run out of steam after running about 300m and would take more than half an hour to cool off before hunting again.
It can be found in Tsavo East National Park, Nairobi National Park, Masai Mara game reserve and Nakuru National Park.
THE AFRICAN BUFFALO
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Syncerus caffer
WEIGHT: About 300 to 835 kilograms (660 to 1,840 pounds)
SIZE: About 1 to 2 meters tall (4 to 5 feet)
LIFE SPAN: 11 to 22 years in the wild
HABITAT: Dense forest to open plains
GESTATION: 11 to 12 months
PREDATORS: Humans, lions, leopards, hyenas, African wild dogs
The Buffalo is a member of the Big five animals. It is wild and aggressive in nature and live in a herd. They are known to kill lions when in a group especially to protect one of their own when attacked by the lions as a meal.
It can be found in Amboseli National Park, Tsavo East National Park, Nakuru National Park, Nairobi National Park, Hells Gate National Park and Masai Mara game reserve.
THE AFRICAN RHINO
Black: Diceros bicornis
White: Ceratotherium simum
Black: 1 to 1.5 tn. (2,000 to 3,000 lb.)
White: More than 2 tn. (4,000+ lb.)
SIZE: About 60 in. at the shoulder
LIFE SPAN: 35 to 40 years
HABITAT: Grassland and open savanna
GESTATION: 16 months
Its is among the endangered spieces of wild animals in Kenya for illegal trade in horns. There are two types of Rhinos in Kenya, The Black Rhino and White Rhino.
A female Rhino can give birth once every 5 years and that is the reason their population is low. Most of the Rhinos in Kenya are protected in sancturies and national parks.
THE AFRICAN ZEBRA
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Equus Quagga
WEIGHT: 250 to 300 kilograms (550 to 700 pounds)
SIZE: About 1.5 meters in height (about 4.5 feet)
LIFESPAN: 20 years in the wild; up to 40 in captivity
HABITAT: Grasslands and savannas
GESTATION: 13 months
PREDATORS: Lions, cheetahs, hyenas, hunting dogs, leopards, humans
They are among the most preyed animals in the wild as a meal for most of the big cats and other predators. They live in large herds and can be found alongside the wlidebeest during the great migration in the Masai Mara National reserve.
They feed on plants and can virtually be found in all major parks and game reserves in Kenya.
THE AFRICAN IMPALA
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Aepyceros melampus
WEIGHT: 40 to 60 kilograms (90 to 130 pounds)
SIZE: About 1 meter tall (28 to 36 inches)
LIFE SPAN: Average 13 to 15 years in the wild (about 17 in captivity)
HABITAT: Savannas, grasslands, shrubland, and light woodlands
GESTATION: Between 6 and 7 months
PREDATORS: Lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, hunting dogs, humans
Impala is a medium-sized African Antelope. The impala inhabits savanna grasslands and woodlands close to water sources. It is a mixed forager, whose diet consists of grasses and foliage.It switches between grazing and browsing depending on the season and habitat. Water is an essential requirement. Impala are fast runners and are known for their leaping ability, reaching heights up to 3 m (9.8 ft).
THE AFRICAN GIRAFFE
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Giraffa camelopardalis
WEIGHT: Males: 1,930 kilograms (4,254 pounds) Females: 1,180 kilograms (2,601 pounds)
SIZE: 5.7 meters tall from the ground to their horns (18.7 feet)
LIFE SPAN: Average 10 to 15 years in the wild; recorded a maximum of 30 years
HABITAT: Dense forest to open plains
GESTATION: Between 13 and 15 months
PREDATORS: Humans, lions, leopards, hyenas, crocodiles
Its is the tallest land mammal on the planet between 3.5m-5.2m, with long neck and legs an advantage to scare off predators. They feed on tall trees with a tough and long tongue that can feed on thorney trees and bushes.
Their primary food source is acacia leaves, which they browse at heights most other herbivores cannot reach. Giraffes are preyed on by lions their calves are also targeted byleopards, hyenas and wild dogs.
THE AFRICAN WARTHOG
Phacochoerus aethiopicus (desert/cape warthog); Phacochoerus africanus (common warthog)
WEIGHT: 50 to 150 kilograms (110 to 330 pounds)
SIZE: 90 to 150 centimeters in length (35 to 60 inches)
LIFE SPAN: 15 to 18 years in the wild; up to 20 years in captivity
GESTATION: About 6 months
PREDATORS: Lions, leopards, humans, crocodiles, and hyenas
A Warthog is a wild member of the pig family found in grassland, savanna, and woodland in East Africa. A warthog is identifiable by the two pairs of tusks protruding from the mouth and curving upwards. The lower pair, which is far shorter than the upper pair, becomes razor sharp by rubbing against the upper pair every time the mouth is opened and closed.
only the big males are safe from the lions, cheetahs and hyenas. to protect themselves when attacked, warthogs run for burrows and reverse backside in while slashing widly with their tusks.
THE AFRICAN WILDEBEEST
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Connochaetes taurinus
WEIGHT: 118 to 270 kilograms (260-595 pounds)
SIZE: 123 centimeters in length (48 inches)
LIFE SPAN: 20 years in the wild
HABITAT: Open woodlands, open grassy plains
GESTATION: 8.5 months
PREDATORS: Lions, cheetahs, hunting dogs, hyenas
The wildebeests, also called gnus,In East Africa, the blue wildebeest is the most abundant big game species and some populations perform an annual migration to new grazing grounds but the black wildebeest is merely nomadic.
Breeding in both takes place over a short period of time at the end of the rainy season and the calves are soon active and are able to move with the herd.
KIRK'S DIK DIK
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Madoqua kirkii
WEIGHT: 3 to 6 kilograms (6 to 13 pounds)
SIZE: 30 to 40.5 centimeters at the shoulder (12 to 16 inches) 52 to 67 centimeters in length (20 to 26 inches)
LIFE SPAN: No data for in the wild; approximately up to 17 years in captivity.
Ranges from arid, dense thorn scrub to thickets and open woodland, riverine woodlands, and open plains.
GESTATION: 5 to 6 months
PREDATORS: Humans, many small carnivores
Kirk’s dik-diks are tiny antelopes that vary in color depending on their habitat but are typically yellowish-gray to reddish-brown on its back and grayish-white on their belly. Males have horns that are ringed and stout at the base, which are often concealed by a tuft of hair on their forehead. These antelopes have beautiful, large, dark eyes surrounded by a white ring. And while their eyes are stunning, they provide more than just sight. Preorbital glands appear as a black spot below the inside corner of each eye. These glands produce a dark, sticky secretion used to scent-mark their territories.
The most distinguishing feature is their elongated snout, which is also an evolved cooling mechanism that stops them from overheating, even in extreme temperatures of up to 40°C (104°F). This also helps minimize their need for water.
This species remains widespread throughout much of its historical distribution. Kirk’s dik-diks occur in two separate regions: East Africa, from southern Somalia to central Tanzania and in Southern Africa from northern Namibia and parts of southwestern Angola. They tend to live in habitats with good cover but without tall herbage. They move to different ranges when grass grows too high and obstructs their view.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Orycteropus afer
WEIGHT: 39 to 82 kilograms (88 to 181 pounds)
SIZE: 1 to 1.5 meters in length (3 to 5 feet) .6 meters at the shoulder (24 inches)
LIFE SPAN: 18 to 23 years in the wild
HABITAT: All savanna types, rainforests, woodlands, and thickets
DIET: Insectivorous, Myrmecophagous
GESTATION: Average 7 months
PREDATORS: Humans, lions, leopards, hyenas, pythons
Aardvark belong to the same group of mammals as the African elephant and have no relation to anteaters despite their similar appearance. They have a short neck connected to a strong, large, almost hairless body with an arched back. Their legs are not proportional to each other; the hind legs are longer than the front ones. They have an elongated head, with a long, protruding, narrow snout and nostrils that can be sealed. Their ears are long and tubular and are normally held upright but can be folded and closed. Their tapered, cone-shaped tail is short and muscular, and they have thick claws on the forefeet that are well adapted for digging.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lycaon pictus
WEIGHT: 18 to 36 kilograms (40 to 79 pounds)
SIZE: About 1 meter in length (30 to 43 inches)
LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 years
HABITAT: Dense forest to open plains
GESTATION: About 70 days
PREDATORS: Humans and occasionally lions
The wild dog—also sometimes called the hunting dog or African painted dog—has a colorful, patchy coat; large bat-like ears; and a bushy tail with a white tip that may serve as a flag to keep the pack in contact while hunting. No two wild dogs are marked exactly the same, making it easy to identify individuals.
They hunt for a wide variety of prey, including gazelles and other antelopes, warthogs, wildebeest calves, rats, and birds. Like most predators, they play an important role in eliminating sick and weak animals, thereby helping maintain the natural balance and improve prey species. They can run long distances at speeds up to 35 mph. Of the large carnivores, wild dogs are probably the most efficient hunters—targeted prey rarely escapes.
African wild dogs live in packs averaging from seven to 15 members and sometimes up to 40. Before the recent population decline, packs of up to 100 were recorded. Within the pack, these canines have a unique social structure. They cooperate in taking care of the wounded and sick members, there is a general lack of aggression exhibited between members of the pack, and there is little intimidation among the social hierarchy. Every hunting pack has a dominant pair. They are usually the only pair that remains monogamous for life. Wild dogs also have a large range of vocalizations that include a short bark of alarm, a rallying howl, and a bell-like contact call that can be heard over long distances. Elaborate greeting rituals are accompanied by twittering and whining.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Olive baboon (Papio anubis) Yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus) Sacred baboon (Papio hamadryas) Chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) Guinea baboon (Papio papio)
WEIGHT: 9 to 31 kilograms (20 to 70 pounds)
SIZE: 50 to 76 centimeters at the shoulder (20 to 30 inches)
LIFE SPAN: 20 to 40 years
HABITAT: Savannas and woodlands
GESTATION: About 6 months
PREDATORS: Humans, leopards, and cheetahs
They are some of the world’s largest monkeys. There are five species of the baboon—olive, yellow, chacma, Guinea, and sacred—scattered across various habitat in Africa and Arabia. The olive baboon is the most extensively distributed of the baboon family. The baboon, like other Old World monkeys, does not have a prehensile (gripping) tail—meaning their tails are not used as a hand—but they are still able to climb when necessary. They all have dog-like noses, powerful jaws, sharp canine teeth, and thick fur. Males have a longer mane around the neck, called a ruff.
These monkeys are omnivorous and will eat just about anything edible. Grass makes up a large part of their diet, along with berries, seeds, pods, blossoms, leaves, roots, bark, and sap from a variety of plants. They also eat insects and small quantities of meat, such as fish, shellfish, hares, birds, vervet monkeys, and small antelopes. Chacma baboons tend to live in more arid and desert habitats and were observed to survive without water for up to 11 or more days. They all can subsist solely on grass, which gives them the advantage of taking up residencies in savannas not frequented by other monkeys.
They sleep, travel, feed, and socialize in groups averaging of about 50. The yellow baboon typically forages in extended, well-spaced troops, which have been recorded to consist of up to 300 animals. These groups usually consist of seven or eight males and about twice as many females plus their young. The family unit of females and juveniles forms the core of the troop. Males will leave their natal troops as they mature and move in and out of other troops.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tragelaphus scriptus
WEIGHT: 25 to 80 kilograms (55 to 180 pounds)
SIZE: .5 to 1 meter tall (25 to 40 inches)
LIFE SPAN: About 15 years in captivity. No data for in the wild.
HABITAT: Wherever there is adequate cover — typically found in forest edges or brushy cover near rivers and streams.
GESTATION:n About 6 months
PREDATORS: Humans and any large carnivore, mostly leopards
Bushbucks are antelopes with geometrically shaped white patches or spots on the most mobile parts of the body — the ears, chin, tail, legs, and neck. Males have horns, which are between 10 and 20 inches long and grow straight back. At 10 months, young males sprout horns that are strongly twisted and at maturity form the first loop of a spiral.
They need some water but can subsist on dew if necessary. Foods vary in different habitats, with leguminous herbs and shrubs making up most of the diet. They may also eat grass, fallen fruit, acacia pods, tubers, bark, and flowers.
They are the least social of the African antelopes and are generally solitary. Most group associations, except for a female and her latest young, are very temporary and only last a few hours or days. These antelopes have small home ranges, which may overlap with those of other bushbucks. Even so, there still is not much contact, as adult individuals prefer to stay by themselves in their separate areas. Mature males usually go out of their way to avoid contact with each other. They are also not territorial but will defend an area inhabited by a female in heat.
After giving birth, the mother cleans and hides the newborn calf. When she visits and suckles it, she eats its dung, so no scent remains to attract predators. The young calf does not accompany its mother for long periods during the day until it is about four months old. A female and her calf often play together, running in circles chasing each other.
Usually most active during early morning and part of the night, bushbucks become almost entirely nocturnal in areas where they are apt to be distributed frequently during the day. When alarmed, individuals react in a variety of ways. If they are in the forest or thick bush, then they may freeze in one position and remain very still, allowing their coloring to camouflage them. Sometimes they will sink to the ground and lie flat, or they may bound away, making a series of hoarse barks. When surprised in the open, they sometimes stand still or slowly walk to the nearest cover.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pan troglodytes
WEIGHT: 25 to 70 kilograms (57 to 154 pounds)
SIZE: About 1 to 2 meters tall (3 to 5.5 feet)
LIFE SPAN: Unknown but estimated to be up to 50 years
HABITAT: Forests, lowland forests, swamp forests, savanna woodland
GESTATION: 6 to 8 months
PREDATORS: Humans and leopards
There are four subpopulations of the chimpanzee — the western chimp, the Nigeria-Cameroon chimp, the central chimp, and the eastern chimp. This great ape is one of our closest relatives, sharing about 98 percent of their genes with us. They have thickset bodies with short legs, opposable thumbs, no tails, and long arms that are 1.5 times their height that extends beyond their knees. Much of their body is covered with long black hair, but the face, ears, fingers, and toes are bare.
They are intelligent, curious, noisy, and social. Chimps live in loose communities which can number anywhere from ten to more than 100 individuals. They can share a home range that they protect from intruders and will sometimes forage for foods in groups. They exhibit complex patterns of behavior, many of which are learned, and can solve problems, plan for anticipated events, as well as make and use tools. They have even been seen utilizing medicinal plants for a variety of ailments.
Chimps touch each other a great deal and may kiss when they meet. They also hold hands and groom each other. An adult often has a special companion with which it spends a lot of time. The strongest relationships within a community appear to be between adult males. They tend to spend a great deal of time together and will groom one another four times as much than females. Female chimps give their young a great deal of attention and help each other with babysitting chores. The older individuals in the group are usually quite patient with energetic youngsters — not unlike grandparents. An important social activity in their societies is social grooming. Not only does grooming help remove ticks, dirt, and flakes of dead skin from the hair, but it also helps establish and maintain social bonds.
After descending from their night nests in the trees, they hungrily feed on fruits, their principal diet, and on leaves, buds, and blossoms. After a while, their feeding becomes more selective, and they will choose the ripest fruit. They usually pick fruit with their hands, but they eat berries and seeds directly off the stem with their lips. Their diet consists of up to 80 different plant foods, and they will spend anywhere from six to eight hours per day foraging for food. Sometimes, they will supplement their diets with meat, such as young antelopes or goats. Their most frequent victims, however, are other primates, such as young baboons, colobus monkeys, and blue monkeys.
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