What types of animals can you see in Sierra Leone?
Sierra Leone 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 Sierra Leone.
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 Sierra Leone.
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 Sierra Leone:
13 Incredible ANIMALS IN Sierra Leone:
#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 Sierra Leone!
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. African Forest Buffalo
- Syncerus caffer nanus
Also known as the Dwarf Buffalo and Congo Buffalo.
- They are heavy, cow-like animals that typically have a reddish-brown hide.
- Both sexes have horns.
African Forest Buffalo are one of the most formidable animals in Sierra Leone!
They are widely regarded as dangerous and have few natural predators other than humans.
These large mammals are some of the most successful wildlife found in Sierra Leone. They are found in various habitats, including marshes, grassy savannas, and wet rainforests.
- 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 Sierra Leone, 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 Sierra Leone 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!
#5. African Civet
- Civettictis civetta
- They have large hindquarters, low heads, and short manes that extend down their backs.
- Coloration is silverish or cream with black or brown markings and spots, a black raccoon-like face mask, and white neck stripes.
If you see this shy animal in Sierra Leone, you might not know exactly what you’re looking at!
African Civets are incredibly unique. They have similar features to raccoons and cats but aren’t related to either. Their large hindquarters and extended mane are dead giveaways that you have found an African Civet.
These unusual-looking animals live in forested and open areas but need plenty of cover for hunting and hiding from larger animals. For example, in open areas, they require tall stands of grasses or thickets to shelter in during the daytime.
African Civets are primarily nocturnal but occasionally move around during the morning or evening of cloudy days. They’re secretive and solitary except when they come together to breed.
#6. African Clawless Otter
- Aonyx capensis
- They have large heads, stout, tapered tails, partially webbed hind feet, long white whiskers on their cheeks, chin, and brows, and are clawless except for three grooming claws on each back foot.
- They have thick, shiny, dark brown coats with white markings on their upper lips, the sides of their faces, necks, throats, bellies, and lower ears.
Otters are one of the most playful animals in Sierra Leone!
As a primarily aquatic species, you’ll almost always see African Clawless Otters around rivers and other freshwater habitats. They prefer areas with thick reed beds and shallow water because they don’t dive below 1.5 m (5 ft).
African Clawless Otters also spend time on land. They build dens with entrances above or below the water they share with other otters. They use their dens for giving birth, playing, eating, and resting.
These creatures breed during the dry season, and the young otters are particularly fun to watch. They spend much of their time fighting, swimming, sliding on rocks, playing with food, and throwing pebbles into the water to dive and grab before reaching the bottom. Watching them is like a little circus show!
#7. 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 Sierra Leone. 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.
#8. 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 Sierra Leone 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.
#9. 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 Sierra Leone!
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.
#10. 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 Sierra Leone!
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.
#11. 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 Sierra Leone 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.
#12. 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!
#13. 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 Sierra Leone 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.
Do you want to learn about MORE animals in Sierra Leone?
Check out these ID Guides. Each one is specific to wildlife in Sierra Leone!
Which of these animals in Sierra Leone is your favorite?
Leave a comment below! I’d especially like to know if you have visited Sierra Leone before and what you saw.