There is so much excitement that goes along with a safari game drive in any National Park or Game Reserve in Kenya. Everyone expects to see wild animals and in plenty. Most people are not sure which animals to expect though King of the Jungle, the Lion is one of the most popular.
There are a number of wild animals found in Kenya living in their natural habitat and most safari game drives include driving around in these areas in search of the animals. Each drive on different days produces different results as the animals are always on the move. Some species of wildlife are found in almost all game reserves and parks but some are specific to certain regions.
It is always good to take the game drive with an open mind and a spirit of adventure. Depending on the season or climate, a national park can be busting with wildlife or might be almost empty with the animals having migrated through the wildlife corridor to a different region.
On this post, we will focus on the large mammals and the larger predators that are found in most game reserves. Most predators thrive in certain regions due to the availability of prey which we will look into in the next post. Larger mammals always make a game drive complete since they are easy to sport and always a thrill to watch.
Though it is referred to as the King of the Jungle, the lion is known to thrive well in the grassland where food is plenty and hunting is much easier. The Savannah grasslands provide a good home to the King and his family.
The Lions live in pride mainly consisting of up to 4 males and a group of related females and their cubs. They spend around 20 hours a day sleeping, an average of 2 hours walking and about 50 minutes eating. Lions are found in most parks and reserves in Kenya although their population has declined due to human conflict.
Leopards are known to be solitary, territorial and very elusive with adults only associating during mating. Though there are quite a number of them in Kenya, it takes time to spot one. They spend most of their days sleeping up on trees and are active from dusk to dawn.
Their well-camouflaged fur makes them hard to spot and it takes a keen eye to spot one. They are known to hunt and take their kill up a tree, hanging it there to keep it away from other competing predators.
The cheetah is known as the fastest land animal. They are characterized as having a slender body, deep chest, spotted coat, small rounded head, long thin-spotted legs.
Unlike the leopard, the cheetah is more active during the day with hunting being their major activity. The adult males though territorial are sociable forming groups called coalitions. The female is not territorial though they may live in solitary or with their offspring. They are listed as vulnerable as there has been a decline in number due to habitat loss, human conflict, poaching and illegal pet trade.
The African elephant consists of the bush and forest elephant species. They are characterized by thick bodies, stocky legs and a concave back. Their large ears enable heat loss, upper lip and nose form the trunk which acts as a fifth limb, sound amplifier and a method of touch.
Elephants live in family units consisting of closely related females and their calves led by the older female referred to as the Matriarch. The males once they hit puberty form close alliances with other males.
The African buffalo or Cape buffalo is one of the largest subspecies of the buffalo found in Sub Sahara Africa. The characteristic features of an adult buffalo are its horns which have fused bases forming a continuous bone shield at the top of the head known as a “boss”.
These buffaloes are regarded as very dangerous animals and some estimates have shown they gore and kill over 200 people every year.
These two subspecies of Rhinos found in Kenya, mainly the black rhino and the white rhino. This is one of the most endangered wild animals with its biggest predator in the wild being humans. They are normally hunted down for their horn which is used for ornamental carvings and traditional medicine.
The rhinos are being introduced to areas that they had gone extinct though the white southern rhino was actually introduced to Kenya from South Africa and it has been doing so well. There are also the two remaining Northern White Rhinos housed at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy under 24 hours armed guard security.
The Hippopotamus is native to Sub-Sahara Africa with the large species found in East Africa. They inhabit rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps. The territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river with groups of five to thirty females with their young ones.
They remain in the water to cool during the day and come out at dusk to graze in the grasslands. Hippos are among the most dangerous animals in the world and are known to be highly aggressive and unpredictable.
In Africa, we have the Nile Crocodile which is the largest freshwater predator in Africa. They dwell in Lakes, rivers and marshland and are known to take up any animal within their range. They have an extremely powerful bite that is unique among all animals.
The Nile Crocodile is also among the most dangerous species of crocodile and is responsible for thousands of human deaths every year.
In Africa, we have the spotted hyena species also known as the laughing hyena. There is a noted large number of these animals in Africa with estimates between 27,000 to 47,000 and is listed as of list concern by the ICUN though a decline is being noted outside protected areas due to habitat loss and poaching.
Jackals are medium size omnivorous mammals that are very opportunist preying on medium to small size animals and are also proficient scavengers. There are two types found in Africa; the black-backed jackal and side-striped jackal.
The African wild dogs are recorded as the largest of its family in Africa. It is classified as endangered, it’s number has been declining at a fast pace due to habitat fragmentation, human persecution and disease outbreak. They are highly social animals living in pairs.
This is known as the tallest living terrestrial animal. The giraffe is distinguished by its extremely long neck and legs, its horn-like ossicones and a distinctive coat pattern. Their food sources include; leaves, fruits and flowers of woody plants which they browse higher above other herbivores.
There are three types of giraffes found in Kenya, namely; the Maasai giraffe found in the southern side, reticulated giraffe found in the north and the Rothschild giraffe which is being reintroduced to places it had gone extinct through conservation found in Nairobi known as The Giraffe Centre.