Wildlife of South Africa

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Male lion and cub feeding on a Cape buffalo, Sabi Sand Game Reserve

South Africa has a large variety of wildlife, which includes snakes, birds, plains animals, and predators. The country has 299 species of mammals, and 858 species of birds.



  • The Cape buffalo, also known as the African buffalo, is a powerful animal that has few natural enemies. Their power and size means that they are very much able to defend themselves. They have been known to kill lions, hyena, humans, and other wild predators. Because of this, they have taken their place in the African big five, elephants, lions, rhinoceroses (both black and white species), and leopards. The Big Five are known to be some of the most dangerous and aggressive animals in Africa. Another African name for the Cape buffalo is "black death", because of their colour and aggressive behaviour.
  • The Gemsbok, alternatively known as oryx, is an arid country specialist that travel in groups of 10-45. The Gemsbok's groups are set up with a dominant male and in most cases a few dominant females. The horns of males are straight and pointed at the tip. Because of this, they have been known to impale attacking lions. Females' horns are similar but are occasionally slightly curved backward. The Gemsbok is the sole representative of the genus Oryx in South Africa; other Oryx species are found much further north.
  • The spiral-horned antelopes classified under the genus Tragelaphus have a large presence in South Africa, with three species represented, all widespread in the country: the Greater Kudu, Nyala, and Bushbuck.
  • The Springbok is South Africa's national animal. Mostly found in the open grasslands and semi-desert in the western and southern region, the Springbok both grazes and browses. Its population is large, and it is often hunted for its meat and hide.


  • Leopards are the most reclusive of the big cats. They are opportunistic hunters and will prey upon smaller mammals and rodents when other food sources are unavailable. The diet of leopards consists primarily of ungulates such as Impala and duikers. Leopards have a relatively small physical build in comparison to lions, and tend to favour more closed habitats such as forests and mountains, both habitats lions rarely inhabit. In areas where lions and leopards coexist, leopards have developed various strategies that allow them to survive and compete with their larger relatives, such as caching their kills up trees, out of the lion's reach.
  • South Africa is home to the lion. With average weights of about 189.6 kg (418 lb) for males, and 126.9 kg (280 lb) for females, it appears to be the largest lion subspecies,[1] and hence one of the biggest cats on Earth.[2]


There are many kinds of birds in South Africa. Here are a few:

  • Ostrich - South Africa has the largest population of ostriches in the world. The ostrich is the largest bird in the world.
  • African goshawk - The African goshawk is a bird in the family of raptors such as eagles and buzzards
  • Tawny eagle - The tawny eagle is a large bird of prey with a wing span of about 160 to 190 cm
  • Black-chested snake-eagle - The black-chested snake-eagle is a medium-sized bird of prey
  • Spotted eagle-owl - The spotted eagle owl is an African owl related to the great horned owl of North America


  • Eastern green mamba- is a medium to large highly venomous snake found along the eastern coast of the southern part of Africa.
  • Black mamba- The black mamba is a large and highly venomous snake that is found in a variety of habitats in Africa.
  • Cape cobra- The cape cobra is a medium-sized African cobra and its colour varies depending on where it lives.
  • Mole snake - The mole snake is a non-venomous species that kills its rodent and mole prey by constriction.
  • Puff adder - The puff adder is a cryptically-coloured adder species that inhabits mountainous areas.

National parks[edit]

South African endangered species[edit]

Scientific name in italics:

Critically endangered[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smuts, G.L.; Robinson, G.A.; Whyte, I.J. (1980). "Comparative growth of wild male and female lions (Panthera leo)". Journal of Zoology. 190 (3): 365–373. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1980.tb01433.x.
  2. ^ Heptner, V. G.; Sludskij, A. A. (1992) [1972]. "Lion". Mlekopitajuščie Sovetskogo Soiuza. Moskva: Vysšaia Škola [Mammals of the Soviet Union. Volume II, Part 2. Carnivora (Hyaenas and Cats)]. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation. pp. 82–95. ISBN 90-04-08876-8.