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Kenya Wildlife Animals – The Special Five of Northern Kenya

Kenya has a wide stretch of grassland with scattered bushes, this provides a good home for most wildlife especially herbivores who spend most of their time grazing. Their major predators (the big cats) are not left behind making the food chain complete.

Most popular of Kenya’s wild animals are the ‘big 5’ and tourist agencies use this as a selling point for their safari packages. There is also a hidden number of wild animals that are considered a rare sight in Africa that are now competing for attention with the Big 5.

These animals are known in Kenya as ‘The Special Five’ and are found in the Northern Region of Kenya. The animals include; grevy zebra, long-necked gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, beisa oryx and the Somali ostrich. They are a rare species found in the horn of Africa though their number has been declining to an alarming rate.

Northern Kenya is the only part in Kenya that has been able to maintain it’s virgin nature over the years. The area is dry and only has rainfall few times in a year. The community living in this area has also contributed to this, specifically Samburu community who are pastoralists and nomads always moving from an area to another with their livestock in such of pasture. Hence, making it a safe place for the wild animals to inhabit with minimal conflict.

We have one of Kenya’s big national park in this area, The Samburu National Park which has a wide range of wild animals and bird species. This is where the Special Five call home and are also referred to as ‘the samburu five’. Though the area is classified as an arid and semiarid area, we have the Ewaso Nyiro River that flows through the park and provides the much-needed water for the animals.

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Grevy Zebra

The grevy zebra is the largest and most threatened of all the zebra species. It is found in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia. It is classified as having very thin black and white stripes, tall and has large ears. The belly part of its body has no stripes and is normally white.

It lives in arid and semi-arid grasslands and feeds on grass and legumes. This zebra is known to go up to five days without water. Its known to have very few long-lasting social bonds compared to other zebras. It is now classified as an endangered species due to habitat loss and game meat hunting.

Kenya Wildlife Animals

Long-necked Gerenuk

The gerenuk is a species of the antelope that has a long neck commonly refer to as a giraffe gazelle. It known to stretch it’s long slender neck as it eats the leaves of the thick bushes while standing on its hind legs. This is one animal species that can survive its whole life without water making it thrive well in dry areas.

Kenya Wildlife Animals

Reticulated Giraffe

This giraffe also known as the Somali giraffe is native to Southern Ethiopia, Northern Kenya and Somalia. They are known to be shorter than the maasai giraffe. Their spots are shaped like polygons with straight smooth side and are lighter brown.

This is one of the most popular of all giraffes and is the one seen in most zoos. It is also known to inter-breed with other giraffes found in the wild.

Kenya Wildlife Animals

Beisa Oryx

This is a species of the antelope found in East Africa semi-desert area. They feed on grass, leaves, fruits and buds. They are able to store water by raising their body temperature to avoid perspiration. They move in herds of between 5 to 40 with the females moving to the front and a large male guarding from the rare.

Kenya Wildlife Animals

Somali Ostrich

This is also known as a blue-neck ostrich. It used to be a sub-species of the common ostrich but was made a distinct species in 2014. This large flightless bird is identified by its blue-grey neck and thighs, the blue on male turns light blue during mating season.

The number of this ostrich is declining at a steady pace though there are some remaining in the Horn of Africa more so Northern Kenya. The decline has been caused by uncontrolled hunting for meat, medicinal products and eggs.

Kenya Wildlife Animals

Visit The Samburu National Park

Samburu National Park is situated in the southeast side of Samburu County, it is boarded to the south by River Ewaso Nyiro. Apart from the special five, the park also has other wild animals like elephants, the big cats like the lion, leopard and cheetah not forgetting wild dogs.

Kenya Wildlife AnimalsThe park is famous for Kamunyak the lioness who had adopted a baby oryx. This is also one of the areas where conservationist George and Joy Adams raised Elsa the Lioness featured in the best-selling book and movie; born free.

There is a vast population of bird life with over 450 species recorded. They include birds of the arid northern bush country as well as a number of riverine forest species. There are five species categorized as vulnerable, these include; African Darter, Great Egret, White-headed Vulture, Martial Eagle and the Yellow-billed ox pecker. The critically endangered species, the pancake tortoise is also found in the park.



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Anita

14 Comments

  1. This is awesome!

    I’ve wanted to go on a safari to Africa ever since I was a child, but I haven’t had the money yet. I’ve had a love for animals my whole life.

    The Oryx is a really pretty antelope. The one I was not very familiar with is the Gerenuk. It’s very unique! I was surprised that the Greater Kudu was not on this list. Are Kudu not in Kenya?

    Thanks for sharing this info!

    • Hi Jordan,

      Don’t loose hope, one day you will get the money and have the adventure you have been longing for all your life in Africa. Great to know you love animals, then on your dream safari makes sure game drives feature as the major part of your travel, that way you will be able to meet enough animals in their natural habitat.

      The Great Kudu is also a species of the antelope found in Kenya, however it is very hard to spot and is always hiding in bushes, it is also not found in the Reserve i have highlighted above.

  2. Wow! The Samburu National Park looks absolutely beautiful. I still haven’t made it to Africa in all of my international travels and this is one of my biggest target destinations for 2019. My wife and I usually do one international trip per year and this is #1 on the list!

    I recently read that Kenya is doing some of the best work worldwide in wildlife conservation too, especially in stopping poaching. It is always wonderful to see governments putting forth the funding and the resources to maintain these beautiful parts of the world.

    Are there any tours our tour guides you recommend to ensure I get to see all of these animals in one fell swoop? Or is it pretty easy to do yourself?

    • Wow, travelling around the world is my dream too though I have not yet started. 

      Glad that Africa is on your list for 2019, hope you come to Kenya. Kenya has various bodies working in collaboration with the government to save wildlife. You can learn more here.

       I may not point out a good travel agent but leave that to you depending on which part of the Africa you intend to visit but I can point you out to Trip Advisor below and check out some recent comments from travelers and their recommended tour guides and hotels and lodges in different locations.


  3. Thank you for sharing with us this great article on kenya wildlife animals.Those special five animals are extremely attractive and everyone would like to visit Kenya to see them live.

    I was surprised to find Ostrich in your selection.I didn’t know that Ostrich can be found near my country.

    I wish I will visit Kenya soon to see those wonderful animals especially Ostrich

    • Ostrich are very common in Kenya and found in most national parks. The one I have mentioned in the article is the Somali Ostrich mostly found in the Horn of Africa, it is a different species from the common ostrich found on other parts of the country.

  4. What a great article. I really would love to visit Africa ( I’m a huge animal fan). I go to the Zoo fairly often, but I know that it’s not really comparable to seeing these vibrant animals frolicking in the open. I’m particularly interested in the big predators- lions, hyenas Cheetas. I love studying the group dynamics of animals and wonder how African animals differ. As for the park that’s famous for a lioness that had adopted an oryx, I’ll probably never see it, but that sounds so cool! Thanks for all the information! Just more inspiration for me to get up off the couch and do a little traveling! Africa is definitely on my bucket list. ~Koda 

    • Hey Koda, thank you for taking time to check out my article. If you love animals definitely you would love it here in Africa. The African Animals are very interesting to watch since most of them inhabit their natural habitat and use they own skills to survive away from human intervention.

      Don’t say never to visiting the Samburu National Park, it all start with a dream and with your love for animals it may one day come true.

  5. Hi Ms Anita.

    I’ve never been to Africa all my life. Actually, in the big 5 I would expect animals such as lions, elephants and buffaloes. These animals come to mind first in Africa. I’m surprised that they’re not on this list. Why don’t there be animals like lions or elephants on this list?

    • Hello, kindly note am not talking about The Big Five am talking about the special five of Kenya. These special five are only found in Northern Kenya which is very dry but they are well adopted to the arid area and are able to survive with minimal availability of water. If you want to learn more about the Big Five, you can check this article here.

  6. Hi Anita!

    What an informative post! I have never been to Kenya yet but it is on my buckest list. You see I love the animals, I live in NYC, and I join the wildlife program as well. I want to see the pride once in my life. Also the list of the animals besides the big 5 is intriguing as well. Thanks for the information. Now I can plan my trip better!

    Happy Holidays

    Nuttanee

    • You need to come to Africa if you are a wildlife lover, you will be spoilt for choice. So many animals and birds to see some unique as the special five others famous like the Big 5 and others small animals rarely mentioned.

  7. I enjoyed reading this article. Thanks Anita. I’ve never been on a safari before, though I always long to.

    This special 5 animals are really beautiful and I’ll love to see them up close in their habitat, the gerenuk and the ostrich especially. I hope to one day visit Kenya especially for the safari, I hear and read so much about it. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Glad you enjoyed the article. You will definitely enjoy your safari more so now that you have information on what kind of animals to see. You can check out more animals here.

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