What types of animals can you see in Ghana?
Ghana 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 Ghana.
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 Ghana.
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 Ghana:
22 Incredible ANIMALS IN Ghana:
#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 Ghana!
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.
#2. Spotted Hyena
- Crocuta crocuta
- They have sandy yellowish or gray course, wooly coats with black or dark brown spots on their bodies, though these may be absent in old individuals.
- They are strongly built with massive necks, large heads, rounded ears, bushy-tipped tails, and longer front legs than back legs.
Spotted Hyenas are one of the most unique animals in Ghana!
These entertaining mammals live in clans of 3-80 hyenas. Females lead the clans, and all of the females within the clan are dominant over the males.
One of the strangest features of Spotted Hyneas is that males and females are very difficult to distinguish. Females have skin and tissue in their genital area that allows them to mimic males, which may protect females from aggression from other females.
Spotted Hyenas have a reputation as cowardly scavengers that steal food from other predators, but researchers have found that they kill most of their prey. Despite their odd, sloped appearance, hyenas are incredible runners and will chase prey for long distances at speeds up to 65 kph (40 mph). They usually work in groups to take down large animals.
Although Spotted Hyenas are not currently endangered, they are “Conservation dependent,” meaning that programs are in place to protect them. If the conservation efforts were removed, their populations would begin to decline within five years.
- Panthera pardus
- They have relatively short heads and long bodies, broad heads, small round ears, and long whiskers.
- Adults may be tawny, light yellow, reddish-orange, or black, and they often have black rosettes on their faces and bodies and black rings on their tails.
Leopards have the most varied coloring of any animal in Ghana.
In fact, individuals’ coat coloring is so unique it can be used to identify individuals like fingerprints. Their color patterns help these carnivores to remain camouflaged in various habitats.
This excellent camouflage is essential as leopards are ambush predators. They approach prey while remaining hidden, crouched low to the ground, and then pounce before the animal can react. These big cats have tremendous strength and can tackle prey up to ten times their own weight!
Leopards are some of the most athletic wildlife you will find in Ghana. They can swim, climb trees and descend from them head first, run at bursts of 60 kph (36 mph), and jump 6 m (20 ft) horizontally and 3 m (10 ft) vertically. This is one carnivore that would break every record in gym class! 🙂
Sadly, leopard populations are declining due to habitat loss, range fragmentation, and hunting. Today, they are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
#4. African Buffalo
- Syncerus caffer
- They are heavy, cow-like animals that are typically dark gray or black.
- Both sexes have heavy, ridged horns that go straight out from the head and curve downward, then up.
African Buffalo are one of the most formidable animals in Ghana!
They are widely regarded as dangerous and have few natural predators other than humans. Lions are the only carnivores that regularly hunt adults, but it is certainly not easy. Cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, and African wild dogs will only go after calves.
Buffalo are known to defend themselves courageously against lions and will often fight off multiple individuals, chasing them until they jump into a tree.
These large mammals are some of the most successful grazing wildlife found in Ghana. They live in a wide range of habitats so long as there is plenty of access to water and grass. You may spot them in semi-arid bushlands, savannas, lowland rainforests, grasslands, montane forests, and coastal savannas.
This is one of my favorite videos to watch, and it shows the toughness of the African Buffalo. You must watch it to the end!
The African Buffalo uses a safety-in-numbers approach to avoid predation, sometimes congregating in herds of thousands of animals. These large herds are critical to protecting young calves. Calves give low, mournful bellows if threatened, and their herd will come running to defend them! (As you can see in the video above)
- 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 Ghana, 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.
- Hippopotamus amphibius
- Adult males weigh up to 9,920 pounds (4,500 kg), while adult females average 3000 pounds (1,360 kg).
- They’re typically purple or slate gray, brownish pink around their ears and eyes, and covered in sparse, thin hair.
Hippos are the LARGEST animal in Ghana you will find in freshwater!
In fact, the Hippopotamus is the third largest land animal alive today, after the Elephant and the White Rhinoceros!
Hippos have unique skin that needs to be wet most of the day, meaning they spend most of their time submerged in shallow lakes, rivers, and swamps. But despite their aquatic lifestyle, Hippos can’t actually swim! They are just walking on the bottom when you see them in water.
Hippopotamus Range Map
At night, Hippos typically leave the water to feed to avoid the sun. They mainly feed on short grasses near the water but sometimes travel miles for food, using their acute sense of smell for dropped fruit.
These big mammals may look cute, but beware, Hippos are one of the most aggressive and dangerous mammals alive, particularly the dominant males. They clash with anything in their territory, including other hippos, humans boating, and predators. Hippos have HUGE, sharp canines that grow continuously and may reach 20 inches (51 cm) in length!
#7. 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 Ghana (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.
- Kobus ellipsiprymnus
- They have shaggy brown-gray coats, large rounded ears, and white patches above the eyes, on the throat, and around the nose and mouth.
- Males have prominently ringed horns that curve back and up and may reach 55–99 cm (22–39 in) long.
The Waterbuck’s appearance may vary throughout its range. There are 13 recognized subspecies, all with slightly different traits! In general, all waterbucks have glossy coats with a unique oily secretion. It makes them smell a bit funny to humans, but the scent helps them to find a mate! The oil secretion also serves to help keep their coat waterproof.
These robust animals live in grasslands in Ghana and are almost always found near water. Compared to some more migratory antelope species, Waterbucks tend to be rather sedentary, remaining in valleys with rivers and lakes. This is because their diet depends on access to fresh water along with the protein-rich medium and short grasses that grow in moist areas.
Waterbucks are social animals and usually live in herds of up to 30 individuals. Typically, bachelor males form herds together, and females form separate herds comprised of only females and their young.
Once born, mothers leave their calf hidden in the thicket and only visit to nurse. This helps prevent predators from smelling or finding the calf, though mortality is still quite high.
#9. African Forest Elephant
- Loxodonta cyclotis
- Wrinkled gray skin that tends to be darker than Savanna Elephants.
- They have rounded ears, hairy trunks, and straight, downward-pointing tusks.
As their name suggests, Forest Elephants prefer to dwell in dense forest and rainforest habitats in Ghana. They spend 70 to 90 percent of their day eating and consume hundreds of pounds of food daily!
Because of their dense habitat, much less is known about these elephants than their cousins, the Savanna Elephants. However, they have some incredible adaptations.
First, their feet are sensitive, allowing them to feel vibrations from thunder and other elephant calls up to 10 miles away (16 km)! Also, their trunks are more sensitive than human fingers and help these elephants to dust, bathe, breathe when swimming, trumpet, eat, and defend themselves.
African Forest Elephants may live 50 to 70 years in the wild. Sadly, their populations have declined significantly due to habitat loss and poaching, and fewer than 100,000 individuals are estimated to remain in the wild.
- Alcelaphus buselaphus
- Deeply sloping backs, long legs, long, narrow snouts, tufted tails, and large glands below their eyes.
- Their coloring varies, may be pale brown to brownish gray, and both sexes have dark, oddly shaped horns.
Look for these animals in grasslands and savannas in Ghana.
Hartebeests are almost entirely grazers; their diet is never less than 80% grass. Their odd, long snout may look funny, but it enhances their chewing ability, allowing them to gain more nutrition from poor-quality food.
The map above shows the ranges of the different Hartebeest subspecies.
Hartebeests are usually rather sedentary animals that often appear to be relaxing, but don’t let their casual appearance fool you. They are alert and cautious. Hartebeests always have a sentinel watching for predators. When danger is spotted, the herd will bolt away as a group.
Although their populations are stable, some subspecies of Hartebeests are endangered or threatened. They are dependent on conservation efforts to keep their numbers up. Hartebeests are affected by hunting and habitat loss and destruction, primarily related to cattle farming.
#11. Straw-coloured Fruit Bat
- Eidolon helvum
- Wingspans up to 30 inches (76 cm).
- They have yellowish-brown necks and backs and tawny olive or brownish undersides.
- Large, narrow wings, long, pointed faces, large eyes, and widespread ears.
Straw-colored Fruit Bats are the second largest African species of fruit bat. They are often called “flying foxes” for their large size, dog-like faces, widespread ears, and big eyes.
These big bats are social animals in Ghana that live in large colonies of 100,000 to 10,000,000 individuals! While they are often active during the day, they mostly feed at night, leaving the colony in small groups to search for food in nearby forests.
Straw-colored Fruit Bat Range Map
Unlike many of the smaller insectivorous bat species you may be familiar with, Straw-colored Fruit Bats are herbivores. When they find fruit, Straw-colored Fruit Bats grab it using their large thumbs and hold it to eat.
Unlike most bats, Straw-colored Fruits Bats don’t use echolocation to navigate the skies. They rely upon their keen sense of smell and eyesight.
#12. Red River Hog
- Potamochoerus porcus
- Most populations in Africa are predominantly reddish, with a white stripe down their back, white facial markings, and black legs.
- Both sexes have tusks, long white whiskers, and ear tufts, but males have well-developed warts on their snouts.
These hogs are one of the most colorful mammals in Ghana!
They get their name, Red River Hogs, from their beautiful coloration and preference for wallowing in and around rivers and streams. They prefer areas with thick vegetation to hide in and are rarely spotted far from the rainforest.
Red River Hog Range Map
They typically forage at night, and their excellent sense of smell allows them to locate food. Red River Hogs are also smart! Researchers have also observed these clever animals following groups of Chimpanzees to eat the fruit they drop from trees.
Red River Hogs are social creatures that usually live in groups called “sounders.” These groups typically consist of one male and 2 to 15 females and their young.
#13. White-bellied Pangolin
- Phataginus tricuspis
- They have small, pointed heads, thick eyelids, long tongues, large curved claws, and prehensile tails.
- Except for their faces, undersides, and insides of their legs, they are covered in three-cusped keratin scales ranging from dark brown to russet to brownish-yellow.
White-bellied Pangolins are an incredibly interesting animal in Ghana!
These unusual-looking little creatures live in tropical, moist, lowland forests. They feed exclusively on ants, ant eggs, termites, and termite eggs.
Their unique appearance comes from their many special adaptations.
- Pangolins are covered in hard scales made of keratin, the same material as our fingernails.
- When threatened, Pangolins roll into a ball so that only this hard, scaly surface is exposed.
- Additionally, White-bellied Pangolins can release a foul, skunky secretion from their anal glands to ward off attackers.
White-bellied Pangolin Range Map
Lastly, pangolins have prehensile tails, which help them climb trees and walk on their hind feet. When they walk on all fours, they actually walk on the knuckles of their front feet to avoid wearing down their sharp claws.
Sadly, White-bellied Pangolins are overhunted for food and traditional medicine in many areas. Today, they are listed as endangered.
#14. Red-legged Sun Squirrel
- Heliosciurus rufobrachium
- Large eyes, small rounded ears, and tails that comprise about half their total length.
- Their bodies are dark brown to gray with blackish tails and reddish legs and muzzles.
Red-legged Sun Squirrels are typically found in Ghana in areas with large trees, including plantations, primary and secondary forests, and patches of trees in savannas and gardens.
These small animals primarily eat fruit and seeds but also feed on other vegetation and insects. They will probe into crevices for insects and larvae and may even feed on birds and their eggs if any opportunity arises.
Usually, Red-legged Sun Squirrels are found alone or in pairs. But they are occasionally seen resting with other squirrels and grooming each other.
#15. Northern Bushbuck
- Tragelaphus scriptus
- Adults may be reddish, yellow-brown, or light brown with various white spots and stripes, which vary over their range.
- Adult males have parallel horns which spiral once and are fairly straight.
These animals are highly adaptable in Ghana.
Northern Bushbucks prefer areas with plenty of wooded cover. They spend much of their time on forest edges and in brushy areas near rivers and streams. At night, they often head to nearby open spaces to feed. Northern Bushbucks are very capable swimmers and will easily cross rivers.
These small antelopes are solitary but not territorial, so sometimes, many animals will live within the same habitat even though they don’t form traditional herds. They’re widespread and plentiful within their range. In fact, unlike many antelopes, they can thrive around humans, and in some areas, they are considered a pest.
#16. 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 Ghana!
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.
#17. 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!
- Kobus kob
- They have short, reddish-brown coats, white throat patches, white underparts, and distinctive black stripe marks on the front of their forelegs.
- Adult males have ringed horns that curve backward and then turn up at the tips.
Look for these animals in Ghana around permanent water sources.
You might spot Kobs grazing in moist savannas, floodplains, and along the edges of woodlands. They feed primarily on grasses and weeds and migrate great distances along rivers and streams to find food.
About nine months after breeding, females typically give birth to a single calf. The calves remain hidden, with mothers visiting only to suckle them for the first month of their life. This protects them from predators because adult females draw much more attention than the young. As they get older, the calves form groups, called crèches, and eventually join the herd at three to four months old.
Kobs are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List. However, their populations are declining because of hunting and human development. Their range is greatly reduced from what it was even 100 years ago, and they may become dependent on conservation efforts in the future.
#19. Gambian Sun Squirrel
- Heliosciurus gambianus
Gambian Sun Squirrels are arboreal animals in Ghana 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.
#20. Gambian Epauletted Fruit Bat
- Epomophorus gambianus
- Adults have an average wingspan of 20 inches (50 cm).
- They have vestigial tails, widespread ears, and big, pendulous lips, and males have air sacs on their necks and pouches on their shoulders containing patches of white fur.
- They may be grayish-brown, russet, or tawny, with a white patch at the base of each ear.
Gambian Epauletted Fruit Bats are a species of megabat in Ghana with dog-like faces. Unlike other bats that are secretive, these big fellows regularly roost in bright, low areas on the edges of forests or even under the roof of thatched sheds, seemingly undisturbed by the presence of people.
Gambian Epauletted Fruit Bat Range Map
As their name suggests, their preferred food is fruit, and you’ll see them anywhere near ripe figs, mangos, guavas, or bananas. They’ll also feed on the nectar of certain flowers, and some flowering trees depend on them for pollination. Interestingly, these bats don’t use echolocation, instead relying on their keen sense of smell to locate ripening fruit and flowers.
For such small mammals, these big bats have long lifespans and may live up to 21 years in the wild and 28 years in captivity.
#21. Roan Antelope
- Hippotragus equinus
- They are reddish-brown with lighter undersides, black faces, and white eyebrows, cheeks, and around the nose.
- They have short, erect manes, light beards, and red nostrils, and both sexes have ringed horns that sweep backward.
Roan Antelopes are one of the largest animals in Ghana!
Look for these large ruminants in lightly wooded savannas with medium or tall grass and access to water. They feed in the morning and evening and retreat to shaded areas in the middle of the day, so you’ll need to rise early to observe them.
Unlike many antelopes, healthy adult Roan Antelopes are formidable opponents to most predators. They don’t flee like many animals. Instead, they face down even the most fearsome predators, like lions. They’re known to gore attacking lions with their long, scimitar-like horns.
These fierce creatures don’t travel alone either, instead living in mixed herds of about 20 animals, including females, young, and one dominant bull. Less dominant bachelor males tend to form their own groups. Being a herd animal is one more way these animals discourage attacks.
Roan Antelopes are currently listed as lower risk but conservation dependent by the IUCN. Their populations have rapidly declined in recent years due to hunting and poaching, habitat deterioration and loss, and slaughter as part of tsetse fly control efforts.
#22. 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 Ghana, 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.
Do you want to learn about MORE animals in Ghana?
Check out these ID Guides. Each one is specific to wildlife in Ghana!
Which of these animals in Ghana is your favorite?
Leave a comment below! I’d especially like to know if you have visited Ghana before and what you saw.