The African savanna is dominated by grasses, with scattered trees and shrubs. Because savanna soil is very porous, grasses thrive while other vegetation struggles. Savannas are home to a diverse range of animals. Herbivores prefer the savanna because of the diverse grasses that grow there during the wet season. There are many predators because there are so many plant eaters.
Africa has many different habitats – wetlands, deserts, mountains, jungles, and many more – but the most impressive numbers and diversity of wildlife can be found on Africa’s savannas.
Here are ten animals that can be found in the African savanna.
After the tiger, lions are the second largest cats. Most are tawny in color, with some having faint spots on their young that persist into maturity. Males have a thick mane around their heads that extends down their chest between their forelegs; the color of the mane can range from yellow to black. There are some populations with very thin or no manes. Males who have been injured may lose their manes as well. Only lions have tufts at the tips of their tails. They have massive shoulders and powerful forelimbs, as well as long sharp claws and short powerful jaws. Their muscular build generates a lot of metabolic heat, and walking across an open plain may cause them to pant. There are nine distinct vocalizations used by lions, including roars and puffing. Humans can hear their roar from five miles away.
The zebra is the savanna’s horse. The Grant’s zebra is the most numerous of the three zebra species. The zebra resembles a horse, but it is much smaller. It does not sound like a horse, and it “barks” rather than neighs. It stands about 50 inches tall from shoulder to hoof and weighs 500 to 600 pounds. It has long legs and a large head. The zebra is distinguished by black and white stripes, a black nose, and black hooves. It has a short, erect mane as well.
On its side, the stripes are vertical but bend to become horizontal on its rump. Every zebra has a unique stripe pattern. The zebra lives in small groups known as families or harems, which are led by a single male. Each family can have up to 17 members. Everyone in the family relies on one another to spot danger and assist those in need. Even when migrating in herds of 10,000 or more, they stay close to each other. They slow down for weak or young members and never abandon them. They can live to the age of 28.
The giraffe, perhaps the ultimate symbol of the African savanna, is an unmistakable land mammal distinguished by its long neck and spotted coat. Because of their delicate features and graceful poise, Arab prophets referred to them as the “queen of the beasts.”
This safari animal is the tallest in the world in some ways, with nine subspecies sharing its distinguishing characteristics. The giraffe’s coat can be identified by its dark spots on lighter hair. Male giraffes may darken with age, and while calves inherit spot patterns from their mothers, each giraffe has a distinct coat pattern that distinguishes it. It has a keen sense of hearing and smell, which serves as another line of defense against predators, and it can close its nostrils during sandstorms and against ants.
4. Spotted Hyena
Hyenas are unique and important components of most African ecosystems, both preying on other animals’ kills and hunting themselves. The size of a hyena kill or scavenge is usually determined by the hyena’s clan, which can number in the dozens. They frequently hide extra food in watering holes because nothing goes to waste. Hyenas consume all parts of an animal, including bones and hooves.
Hyenas are found in grasslands, woodlands, savannas, forest edges, sub-deserts, and mountains and can adapt to almost any habitat.
5. Wild Dog
African wild dogs are highly intelligent and sociable, living in packs of 6-20. The bond they display before a hunt is one of the most fascinating sights; the group begins mingling within the group, vocalizing and touching each other, working each other up into a frenzy of excitement. Unfortunately, these animals are critically endangered.
6. Grant’s Gazelle
Grant’s gazelles, a type of antelope, are common herbivores in the savanna biome. Gazelles are primarily grazers, but they also eat tall grass during the dry season and, on occasion, fruit. What is perhaps most amazing about gazelles is their ability to go for extended periods of time—sometimes their entire lives—without drinking water.
Gazelles, on the other hand, can get enough water from the food they eat, making them an ideal resident of the dry savanna environment. Furthermore, gazelles have large salivary glands that allow them to eat their dry diet without a reliable water source.
7. African Pygmy Falcon
These adorable hunters are the smallest raptors in Africa, reaching a height of just under eight inches. Pygmy falcons are extremely agile and perch in high trees to better spot and target their prey, despite their small stature. Pygmy falcons also assist other savanna residents, most notably weaver birds, by sharing communal nests and reducing predator threats such as snakes and rodents.
However, pygmy falcons will occasionally turn on their weaver companions. When their preferred food of insects, lizards, rodents, and small birds is unavailable, they will attack and kill weaver chicks in communal nests.
8. Blue Wildebeest
Blue wildebeests, also known as gnus, are antelopes that look more like cattle than antelopes. These herbivores play an important role in keeping grass low and otherwise maintaining the savanna ecosystem for other local animals as a keystone species of the plains and acacia savanna ecosystems.
The jackal is a small canid found primarily in Africa, with some species also found in Southeastern Europe and Asia. In Swahili, the African jackal is known as “Mbweha”. The jackal appears to be a cross between a fox and a German shepherd dog at first glance. This is because it has a small face, delicate legs, a fluffy tail, and German-like ears.
10. African Elephant
African elephants, also known as savanna elephants, are the world’s largest land mammal. They can grow to be 12 feet tall and weigh up to 10,000 pounds. They have a long, flexible trunk with nostrils at each end. It picks up food and water and transports it to its mouth. Two long teeth protrude from inside its mouth on either side of its mouth. These are made of ivory and are known as tusks. They have thick, gray skin that protects them from dangerous predator bites. African elephants inhabit Africa’s savannas. In Africa, there are two types of elephants: savanna elephants and forest elephants. The savanna elephant’s natural habitat is savannas or grasslands.
African savanna animals have a high level of biodiversity. The openness of the tropical grassland, dotted with a few trees, makes it ideal for savanna biome animals. Hoofed mammals and big cats have evolved the ability to sprint across the plains. Because of the expansive nature of the area, hunting birds and scavengers thrive, as they can more easily see their prey or carcasses scattered across the grasslands. Many of these animals have also developed unique characteristics to cope with the harsh climate of the area. Many, for example, have learned to digest tough grasses or to seek shelter underground.