What types of animals can you see in Mali?
Mali 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 Mali.
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 Mali.
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 Mali:
7 Incredible ANIMALS IN Mali:
#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 Mali!
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.
- 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 Mali 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!
#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 Mali (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 Mali!
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 Mali 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 Mali, 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 Mali?
Check out these ID Guides. Each one is specific to wildlife in Mali!
Which of these animals in Mali is your favorite?
Leave a comment below! I’d especially like to know if you have visited Mali before and what you saw.