Above all other continents, Africa is home to the world’s most magical, most beautiful and most awe-inspiring animals. Headed by the so-called Big Five – the African elephant, the lion, the Cape buffalo, the leopard and the rhinoceros – there is a long list of potential animals to be seen on an African Safari in amazing locations like Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, the KrugerNational Park in South Africa and Tanzania’s SerengetiNational Park. For every animal on that list there will be many others that you have never heard of, so allow us to introduce five of Africa’s more unusual inhabitants, as weird-looking as they are wonderful to spot in the wild.
Lowland Streaked Tenrec
A prickly-looking dishevelled little chap, the lowland streaked tenrec is native to the tropical rainforests of Madagascar. Feeding on a diet of earthworms and insects, you’re most likely to see a lowland streaked tenrec rummaging around on the ground looking for food (as its name suggests). While they look a little bit like they just got out of bed, that yellow tinged messy “hair” is the tenrec’s most valuable weapon against predators as it will drive those erect spikes into the path of their potential attacker. The lowland streaked tenrec is also a fascinating animal because it’s the only known mammal which uses stridulating – rubbing body parts together like crickets and grasshoppers do – to make sound.
Also known rather affectionately as “bushbabies” the Galagos primates are native only to Africa and variations can be found across Sub-Saharan and East Africa. A distant relative of the lemur, which is somewhat visible in those large round eyes, the Galagos is a nocturnal animal who makes their home in the hollows of trees. After night falls, they seek out insects and fruit as food, leaping into the air or jumping from tree to tree to do so. Incredibly, they can jump as high as two metres off the ground. While not considered appropriate by some, bushbabies are occasionally kept as pets and show signs of being both social and solitary animals. The good news is that you are very likely to see one if you’re exploring bush- or woodlands in eastern or central Africa.
Found in south-eastern African countries, the Elephant Shrew gets its name from its distinctive trunk-like nose, though further research has proven that this insect-eating animal is not actually part of the shrew, or Soricidae, family but is a member of the Macroscelididae family. They are, in fact, more closely related to elephants than they are to other shrews. They are also not as small as other shrews, growing up to 30cm on occasion. Using their “trunk” to search for food and then use their tongue to flick what they find into their mouths, similar to an anteater. A diurnal animal – meaning the elephant shrew is most active during the day – it is believed that while the elephant shrew is a monogamous animal who often makes a partner for life, it’s very common to see them sleeping in separate nests!
It should be fairly clear how the shoebill got its name with that dominating beak, and it is also known as equally unflattering names the Whalehead and Shoe-billed Stork. Found in the tropical swamps of East Africa, the Shoebill is a tall fish-eating bird that grows over a metre tall. While a peculiar feature to look at that large bill is extremely effective at catching and beheading its prey; some have also been known to extend their diet and catching skills to feed on frogs and other wetland animals including baby crocodiles. Though not thought to be closely related to storks (despite one of its names) the shoebill is similar in that it has a habit of staying still for extended periods of time. That said, they are a little wary of humans so be sure to stay quiet if you’re lucky enough to spot one of these unique looking animals.
We’ve perhaps saved the cutest for last with the bat-eared fox. With two slightly different variations being found in south western African countries and East Africa respectively, the bat-eared fox likes living in grassy areas or arid regions of a savanna eco-system. As silly as those oversized ears may look, they happen to be extremely effective at allowing the bat-eared fox to find its prey. They eat mostly termites from which they’re also able to get the water they need, which is why the animal can cope so well in dry areas. For an animal that averages only around 55cm long, it’s impressive to think that those ears grow to be over a fifth of its length! Just don’t laugh too loudly at its ears if you do see one; he’ll definitely be able to hear you!
Encompass Africa can create the ideal Africa safari holiday tailored around what you want to see and how you want to travel. You could even create a journey around seeing these weird and wonderful animals. It’s truly an unforgettable safari experience.
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