Are you a greenhorn in the world of Tourism and Wildlife for some reason? Or you are probably an ace wanting to invigorate his/her familiarity with the Kenyan’s beautiful wild animals? Well, your visit here is just timely and opportune.

Our country Kenya is awash with wildlife, particularly the fauna; I can proudly confess. These are mostly found either in national parks, reserves or in conservancies.

Lately the idea of conservancies has been steadily getting popular both with the local communities living near these sanctuaries and the government as well.

In case you are wondering what a conservancy is; It is a land parcel managed by an individual landowner, a body or corporate, group of owners or a community for purposes of wildlife conservation and other compatible land uses to better livelihoods, of which three types exist: Community, Group and Private, with community conservancies being those established by a community on their land and they are the dominant decision makers and enforcers. Group conservancies are created by the pooling of land by private land owners who share a common border, while Private ones are set up on private land by an individual or corporate body for the purpose of wildlife conservation. These have played a major role in ensuring that wildlife is conserved and has since seen the growth in numbers of various animal species across Kenya

After deliberating on the animal habitat, I think it is time we jumped straight to discussing in small details, some of the Popular Kenya animals, starting with the “Big Five”: the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.

The Lion

The lion is very fascinating to watch. Being the largest of Africa’s big cats. Its massive size, regal walk, power and hunting expertise make is a favorite of most visitors to these nature reserves.

Lions are vicious hunters! and I remember sometime in 2016 while on a routine game drive with my then students of Koiyaki Guiding School – a renowned guiding school bordering the famous Masai Mara National Reserve, and fellow lectures Mike and Peterson, we unexpectedly came across an astounding phenomenon of a lioness killing a zebra! This was the first time I witnessed such a terrifying spectacle. I assure you it is different from watching it on a movie; The air was filled with a loud silence from the folks who had filled the green open school safari truck. Most whispering in hush tones and hearts beating. Worse still, the zebra was heavily pregnant. We couldn’t help but watch the lioness in awe. On the flip side, unlike the other big cats, lions are social animals, living in prides consisting of a few adult males, related females and cubs. Each pride may have one to three males. It is almost a guarantee to see Kenyan lions on a Kenya safari tour to the Masai Mara

The Elephant

African Bush Elephants are the largest land animals in the world. Males can grow up to 13 feet tall at the shoulders, measure up to 30 feet from trunk to tail, and weigh up to 14,000pounds.

A few Facts about the Elephant

Elephants in Masai Mara

Elephants eat grasses, roots, fruit and bark. They use their tusks to pull the bark from trees and dig roots out of the ground. An elephant has an appetite that matches its size. An adult can eat (136 kg) of food in a day, according to the National Geographic.[Sep 25, 2014]

Elephants have a sharp sense of smell and are highly intelligent. They are said to be the only animals that recognize one another, even after death. Amboseli National Park is home to most elephants and is one of the best places to see them.

The elephants in Tsavo National Park have a distinct reddish-brown color that they obtain from the red volcanic soil in Tsavo. Elephants in other parks are grayish in color.

An Elephant in Tsavo East National Park with distinct reddish-brown color

Elephant hunting and ivory trade are prohibited in Kenya, which is a good thing but earlier last week 26 elephants were alleged to have been killed through poisoning; an occurrence vehemently denied by the governor (Mr. Samuel Ole Tunai) himself. More needs to be done to protect these magnificent jumbos

The Buffalo

The buffalo resembles the typical cow but has a distinct grayish black color. It also has up-curving horns with bases that meet across the forehead. This gives it a very dangerous look. The male horns are usually thicker and more profound than the female horns.

Well-known for its boiling temper, the buffalo is one of the most feared animals both by humans as well as by some of the most daring predators in the wild.

The mighty lion rarely ever hunts it. Most that try end up dead or badly injured. Lions and hyenas are only known to hunt solitary aging buffaloes that are either too weak to fight or greatly outnumbered.

Buffaloes live in herds of several hundred led by one dominant bull. Old, defeated buffalo bulls are the most dangerous. They either live alone or with other bulls. They often lie in wait to ambush people.

To enjoy a view of the buffalo and other wild animals, go on a safari to the Masai Mara, a home to the largest buffalo herds. I’ve always found them breathtaking especially at close range, of course at the comfort of a four-wheel vehicle.

The Rhinoceros (Rhino)

There are two species of rhinoceros found in Kenya: white and black rhinos. Both are endangered species. The white rhino derives its name from the Dutch word Weid meaning broad.

White rhinos have a broad, wide mouth adapted for grazing, and often hang out in large groups.

Najin (R) and Fatu, the only two remaining female northern white rhino, graze in her paddock on March 20, 2018 at the ol-Pejeta conservancy in Nanyuki, north of capital Nairobi. 

The future of the northern white rhino is in doubt after the death of the last male. Sudan was put to sleep Monday 19th March 2018 after a long illness. There are now just two female northern white rhinos left; Najin, a female, was born in captivity in 1989. She is the mother of Fatu. Her mother was Nasima and her father was Sudan. Fatu, also a female, was born in captivity in 2000. Her mother is Najin and her father was Saut.

Sudan was 45 years old, and his health had deteriorated after a severe leg infection, at least according to the Ol Pajeta conservancy Management.

Sudan was rescued from Sudan in 1975, when he was just 2.

The black rhino on the other hand, has a pointed upper lip adapted for browsing. It feeds on dry bush and thorny scrub, especially acacia.

The Black Rhino

Black rhinos have a sharp sense of smell and hearing but very poor eyesight. They lead a solitary life and are the more dangerous of the two species. Masai Mara National Reserve has the largest population of black rhinos.

The Leopard

Dubbed the “Silent Hunter”, the leopard is a very elusive animal with a gorgeous skin. It is nocturnal, hunting at night and spending its day resting in trees. The leopard lives a solitary life and only pairs up during the mating season.

Leopards hunt on the ground but take their “kill” up into the trees, out of the reach of scavengers such as hyenas.

Most people fail to draw the distinction between Leopards and Cheetahs, but they are two very different animals.

A leopard is stouter while a Cheetah is slender

The Leopard has a shorter body length while the Cheetah has a longer body length

The Cheetah has black tear marks running down its eyes while a Leopard doesn’t

Although both have golden yellow fur, a leopard has black rings while a Cheetah has black spots on their fur. For more on the Cheetah, see my earlier blog: The cheeta’s hidden actualities authored by Michael Kahiga

Other African Safari Animals outside the “Big Five”

The Zebra

Kenyan zebras are beautiful, horse-like animals with a striped skin. There are two types of zebras in Kenya – the common zebra and Grevy’s zebra.

The Common Zebra

The common zebra has broad black and white stripes that continue down into the belly, while the Grevy’s zebra’s stripes are very narrow and stop on the lower flanks, leaving the belly clean and unmarked.

Grevy’s zebras are the larger of the two and are found in the drier regions of Northern Kenya and the Samburu National Park. Common zebras are popular in most of Kenya’s other parks. Often, I ask my friends why Kenyans don’t regard the zebras as highly as they would, say, the Elephant despite their clear beauty; I’ve never gotten a conclusive answer – maybe you, the one reading this blog, may persuade me…. Please place your comment below this post if you truly believe you know why this is the case.

The Giraffe

Known to be the world’s tallest animal, there are three different sub-species of giraffes found in Kenya.

The Reticulated Giraffe

The reticulated giraffe, which has a bold network of white lines that give it a very regular pattern. It is only found in Samburu National Park.

The Masai Giraffe

The Maasai giraffe, whose patches are leaf-like in shape and lack the clean lines of the reticulated giraffe. Maasai giraffes are found in Amboseli, Tsavo and the Maasai Mara.

The Rothschild’s giraffe has patches similar to those on the Maasai giraffe. However, the Rothschild’s giraffe has no spots below the knee, giving it the appearance of wearing socks. Rothschild’s giraffes are found in Lake Nakuru National Park.

The Rothschild’s Giraffe

The Cheetah

The cheetah, the fastest animal on land, looks like the leopard but has longer legs and a smaller head. Cheetahs hunt during the day; they use their sheer speed to run-down their prey, then trip and knock them off-balance before seizing them by the throat or muzzle. It is very thrilling to watch a cheetah hunt. Unlike other cats, cheetahs cannot retract their claws into flesh sheaths. Read more on my earlier blog: The cheeta’s hidden actualities authored by Michael Kahiga

Other Animals found in Kenya

Other popular animals in Kenya include the African wild dog, African civet, large-spotted genet, banded mongoose, black-backed jackal, common jackal, bat-eared fox, spotted hyena, striped hyena, aardwolf, common baboon, vervet monkey, sykes monkey, common eland, greater kudu, lesser kudu, bongo, sitatunga, bushbuck, Thompson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, gerenuk, impala, bohor reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, black & white colobus monkey, bushbaby, roan antelope, sable antelope, oryx, fringe-eared oryx, beisa oryx, common waterbuck, defassa waterbuck, common wildebeest, hartebeest, topi, klipspringer, steenbok, common duiker, Kirk’s dik-dik, hippopotamus, warthog, giant forest hog, aardvark, cape clawless otter, spotted-necked otter, scrub hare and squirrel.

All of these animals are a wonder to witness on a Kenyan wildlife safari. If you’re soon doing a tour to one of Kenya’s wildlife preserves, as an amateur, then at least now you have some head start regarding the Kenyan Fauna.

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  3. THE small FIVE – Jua Kenya Travel Ltd

    […] animals, aka, the Big Five include the elephant, the buffalo, the leopard, the lion and the rhino. Read my previous article. These are the pantheons, but little is known about their counterparts, the Little Five or the […]

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