Here are ten unusual and lesser-known facts about African animals:
- Aardvark: The aardvark is an insect-eating mammal found in Africa. Its name comes from the Afrikaans language and means “earth pig.” Despite its pig-like appearance, it is not related to pigs. Aardvarks have a long sticky tongue that they use to catch ants and termites from their nests.
- Dung Beetle: Africa is home to many species of dung beetles, which play a vital role in the ecosystem by burying and recycling animal dung. Some dung beetles navigate using the Milky Way as a guide, making them the only known insects to use the stars for orientation.
- Okapi: The okapi, also known as the forest giraffe, is native to the dense rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its unique appearance combines features of giraffes and zebras, making it one of the most elusive and enigmatic animals in Africa.
- Shoebill: The shoebill is a large bird found in the swamps of East Africa. It gets its name from its distinctive shoe-shaped bill, which it uses to catch fish and sometimes small mammals.
- Gerenuk: The gerenuk, also known as the giraffe gazelle, has a long neck and slender legs, making it well-adapted to reach foliage high up in trees. This allows them to browse on leaves that other antelope cannot access.
- Naked Mole-Rat: Found in the arid regions of East Africa, naked mole-rats are fascinating creatures known for their eusocial behaviour, similar to some insects like ants and bees. They live in large underground colonies led by a queen and perform different roles within the colony, such as digging tunnels, foraging for food, or caring for the young.
- Pangolin: Africa is home to four species of pangolins, which are the only mammals covered in protective scales. When threatened, pangolins curl up into a tight ball, using their scales as armor against predators.
- Fossa: The fossa is a carnivorous mammal found on the island of Madagascar, though it is not a cat despite its cat-like appearance. It is the largest carnivore on the island and is an agile tree climber, which is unusual for a predator of its size.
- Secretary Bird: This bird of prey is a unique hunter that stomps on its prey with its long legs to kill it, earning it the nickname “the stomping bird.” Secretary birds are known for their elaborate courtship displays, which involve dancing, bowing, and aerial acrobatics.
- Dik-dik: The dik-dik is one of the smallest antelope species in Africa, reaching a height of only about 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) at the shoulder. They are known for their large, dark eyes and distinctive “sniffing” behavior, where they blow air to detect predators or danger.
These unusual African animals showcase the incredible diversity and adaptations found in the continent’s wildlife. Each species has evolved unique characteristics that enable them to survive and thrive in their specific habitats.