What types of animals can you see in Eritrea?
Eritrea is home to some of the most incredible wildlife on the planet. The amount of diversity is truly incredible. 🙂
But because of the sheer number of different species, there was no way I could include every animal living in Eritrea.
So, here is what I did to make this list more manageable:
The article below focuses mostly on the most common and unique MAMMALS found in Eritrea.
If you were hoping to learn about something else, like reptiles, birds, or spiders, I have created separate ID guides for these categories of animals.
Please click the links below to view pages dedicated to these species in Eritrea:
10 Incredible ANIMALS IN Eritrea:
#1. Honey Badger
- Mellivora capensis
- Adults are 55–77 cm (22–30 in) long.
- They have stocky bodies, large heads, small eyes, strong, wide forefeet, small hind feet with short claws, muscular necks and shoulders, and thick, loose skin.
- Their color varies with subspecies, but generally, their lower half is black, and they have an upper mantle of gray or bright white.
Honey Badgers are one of the toughest animals in Eritrea!
They have a reputation for living anywhere, eating anything, and surviving no matter what.
Their diet is as varied as their habitat. Honey Badgers are opportunistic foragers whose menu changes with the season and prey availability. They frequently prey on snakes, birds, eggs, frogs, and small rodents. As their name suggests, they’re also known for raiding honey bee hives to eat the larvae and honey inside.
Honey Badgers are known for their aggressive nature. Males will ferociously defend their territory and mate from other males. Naturalists sometimes refer to older adult males as “scarbacks” because they usually have a noticeable patch of scars on their backs from conflicts.
The video below is one of my favorites and shows how TOUGH Honey Badgers are! Seriously, you have to watch until the end.
- Phacochoerus africanus
- Warthogs have disproportionately large heads with thick protective pads (“warts”) on the sides of their heads, two upper tusks that protrude from their snout, and sharp lower tusks.
- Sparse bristles cover their body, with manes of longer bristles down the top of their head and spine.
- A tuft of long hairs at the end of their tail.
Warthogs live in various habitats in Eritrea, including wooded savannas, grass steppes, and semideserts. But their lack of body fat and fur means they need certain landscape features to help them regulate their body temperatures.
For example, they use wet areas called “wallows” to cool off in the mud when the temperature is hot. In cool temperatures, they go inside burrows to stay warm. They fill these holes with grass and use them as shelter and insulation from the hot sun and cold temperatures.
Warthogs have some interesting feeding adaptations. They often kneel on their calloused, padded front knees when feeding on grass. They also use their strong, blunt snouts and tusks to dig up and eat tubers, bulbs, and roots.
#3. African Savanna Elephant
- Loxodonta africana
Also called the African Bush Elephant.
- Thick, gray, creased skin, muscular trunks, and large triangular ears shaped a bit like the African continent.
- Both sexes have thick, curved ivory tusks.
The African Savanna Elephant is the biggest land animal in Eritrea (and the world). It is also the largest of the three elephant species (Forest and Asian).
Due to their size, an elephant’s most significant requirement is food. They spend most of their time eating, and a single individual may eat 350 pounds (158 kg) of vegetation daily. Today, these magnificent creatures are restricted to preserves, but in the past, they would migrate hundreds of miles annually, moving from high to low elevations with food availability.
Savanna Elephant Range Map
As you probably know, one of the most unique features of elephants is their trunks. Their trunks contain over 40,000 muscles and two sensitive finger-like projections on the tip, allowing them to handle small objects or pick up as much as 400 pounds (181 kg)! They can also use their trunks to breathe, drink water, or blow water onto their backs to cool themselves.
The females have a 22-month gestation period, the longest among mammals, and give birth to a single calf, which the whole herd helps to raise.
Elephants are considered ecosystem engineers because of their many impacts. For example, they dig in dry riverbeds in the dry season, creating watering holes with their tusks, which other animals rely upon.
And as they move through the landscape, they create large pathways for other species to follow. They also rip up small trees and open areas for other grazers like zebras. Lastly, their dung also spreads seeds from several important plant species.
#4. Four-toed Hedgehog
- Atelerix albiventris
Also called African Pygmy Hedgehogs.
- Oval bodies, long snouts.
- Short protective spines with black centers and white bases and tips.
- Their undersides and faces are covered in soft white or brown fur.
Four-toed Hedgehogs get my vote for the CUTEST animal in Eritrea!
They are usually found roaming open areas of savanna and desert. But they can be hard to spot because they’re nocturnal and constantly on the move, searching for food. During the day, they take shelter and rest in burrows.
Four-toed Hedgehogs primarily feed on insects and spiders. Interestingly, they have a very high tolerance for toxins and can consume scorpions and venomous snakes without issue! And just in case food becomes scarce, they have the ability to enter a dormant state and live off stored fat for a period.
When threatened, hedgehogs put their spines to good use and roll into a protective ball! If that doesn’t work, it will twitch to try and jab the spines into the predator. Unlike a porcupine, the spines on a hedgehog do NOT come out.
#5. Striped Ground Squirrel
- Euxerus erythropus
Euxerus erythropus. (2022, November 11). In Wikipedia.
- Their fur is typically similar to the soil color in their area and may range from brownish to reddish gray to yellowish gray.
- Look for a white or buff stripe down each side from shoulders to hindquarters, small ears, long, slightly curved claws, and a flattened, darker tail.
As the name suggests, Stiped Ground Squirrels DO NOT climb trees. Their claws are well-suited to digging and running across the ground but don’t allow them to climb well.
Female Striped Ground Squirrels tend to be highly social and often live in groups of 6 to 10. The males are mostly solitary but come together to mate with multiple females several times per year.
Females in the same group work together to build special burrows for their young that are lined with soft, dried grasses. These burrows typically have multiple emergency exits to help escape from predators. Life is tough for baby squirrels, as approximately 70% of them are lost!
#6. Gambian Sun Squirrel
- Heliosciurus gambianus
Gambian Sun Squirrels are arboreal animals in Eritrea that spend most of their time in the upper branches of trees in dense woodland savannas. They are also found along wooded waterways and may be expanding their range into rainforest areas.
These squirrels are highly opportunistic when it comes to what’s for dinner. They will feed on nearly anything they can, including insects, seeds, fruit, acacia pods, lizards, geckos, young birds, small mammals, and palm nuts. Gnawing on tough, fibrous foods like palm nut husks helps wear down their continually growing incisors.
Gambian Sun Squirrels are often solitary, and little is known about their reproduction. However, small families of parents and young are observed together. The parents build lined nests, usually in tree cavities. They often try to hide the nest by covering the entrance with loose twigs and leaves.
#7. Rock Hyrax
- Procavia capensis
Also called Dassie, Cape hyrax, Rock Rabbit, and Coney.
- Short snouts, cleft upper lips, stout legs, short ears, and rubber-like soles on their feet.
- They are brownish-gray with creamy undersides, long black whiskers, and a black patch of hair on their back.
These small animals may look like rodents in Eritrea, but their closest living relatives are actually elephants and manatees! As their name suggests, they live in rocky, scrub-covered areas.
Rock Hyrax have several adaptions that allow them to move about skillfully on steep, rocky surfaces. First, Rock Hyrax feet soles are rubber-like and kept moist by a glandular secretion. And second, their feet also have a depression in the center that acts a bit like a suction cup.
Rock Hyrax Range Map
Rock Hyraxes usually live in colonies called “kopjes,” ranging from 5 to 60 individuals. Usually, these groups are made of a male, several females, and their young.
Interestingly, Rock Hyrax colonies usually urinate and defecate in a common restroom. This habit causes a build-up of calcium carbonate from the urine, turning the cliffs where they live white. In the past, African tribes and Europeans collected the calcium carbonate crystals for medicine to treat epilepsy, hysteria, and other injuries and ailments.
#8. Dorcas Gazelle
- Gazella dorcas
- Pale-colored with white underbellies and a rufous stripe down their sides, separating their upper and lower coloring.
- They have white eye rings, a pair of white and dark brown stripes running from each eye to the corners of the mouth, and ringed, lyre-shaped horns, which are generally thinner, straighter, and shorter in females.
These animals thrive in the dry habitats of Eritrea.
Dorcas Gazelles are small but well adapted to the desert and live in arid places. They can easily handle high temperatures and harsh sunlight.
Despite these intense conditions, they don’t need much water and get most of their moisture from their food, though they will drink when it’s available.
If they spot a predator, these herbivores twitch their tails and make bounding leaps to warn others and confuse their attacker. Dorcas Gazelles are often able to escape if a predator gives chase. Their long, slender legs allow them to sprint away at speeds of 80-100 kph (50-62 mph). They also can perform quick zig-zags, which help them to escape.
Unfortunately, these fascinating creatures are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. Their populations have declined significantly as they have faced extreme habitat loss due to land development and climate change.
- Proteles cristatus
- They have large pointed ears, slender skulls, thick manes that run from the back of their head to their tail, and longer forelegs than hind legs, giving them a sloping appearance.
- They have buff-yellow or dark brown fur with dark stripes on their bodies, horizontal dark stripes on their legs, and dark feet and tails.
It’s easy to mistake this animal in Eritrea for a hyena.
Aardwolves are smaller than hyenas and have more defined stripes. However, their similarity is so uncanny that some researchers have suggested it may be a defense mechanism called Batesian mimicry. This trait, which is rare in mammals, is where one species mimics a more dangerous one in appearance.
Aardwolves don’t hunt large animals and are considered insectivores since they almost exclusively feed on insects. Their favorite food is termites, and they have specially adapted long, sticky tongues that help them lap up hundreds at a time. One Aardwolf can consume 300,000 termites in a single night!
Aardwolves live in dry, open savannas and grasslands and spend most of their life either solitary or in pairs. During the daytime, they retreat into underground dens to escape the sun and heat. Despite being common and widespread, it’s rare to spot one since they’re nocturnal, shy, and secretive.
#10. African Wolf
- Canis lupaster
- Relatively long pointed snouts and ears, comparatively short tails, and robust teeth.
- They’re yellowish to silvery gray with reddish legs, black speckling on their tails and shoulders, and some white markings on their faces, throats, and abdomens.
Look for this canine during the day in Eritrea in grassland areas.
African Wolves have an extensive range, and their appearance and size vary with location. They usually center their territory around a den, often made from a modified aardvark or warthog den, where the female will have her pups.
African Wolves have flexible social structures that are largely dictated by prey availability. Each pack consists of a monogamous breeding pair that remains together constantly. It also includes current offspring and previous generations that help to raise their siblings.
These wolves can be formidable predators in Eritrea, sometimes taking prey up to three times their weight. However, they usually go after much smaller animals.
Pairs of wolves often hunt gazelle fawns and other small mammals like cane rats and ground squirrels. They also consume fruit, snakes, and insects. Interestingly, during the wildebeest calving season, African Wolves feed almost exclusively on wildebeest afterbirth.
Do you want to learn about MORE animals in Eritrea?
Check out these ID Guides. Each one is specific to wildlife in Eritrea!
Which of these animals in Eritrea is your favorite?
Leave a comment below! I’d especially like to know if you have visited Eritrea before and what you saw.