What types of animals can you see in the Congo?
the Congo 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 the Congo.
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 the Congo. Well, except the last species is a large reptile, so make sure you scroll to the bottom to find out what it is. 🙂
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 the Congo:
19 Incredible ANIMALS IN the Congo:
#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 the Congo!
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 the Congo!
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.
- Leptailurus serval
- They have the longest ears and legs in the cat family relative to their size.
- They have a coppery, golden-yellow, or buff coat with some white on their faces and undersides, black tail and ear tips, black rings on their tail, and various black stripes and spots on their bodies.
Servals are some of the most playful wildlife you will find in the Congo!
They have a kitten-like personality. Both young and adult Servals sometimes play with their food like domestic cats. They may throw animals into the air or let them scurry away before catching them again.
They hunt by using their large ears and acute hearing to locate prey, sometimes remaining motionless for up to 15 minutes while they listen. Servals can pounce on prey from more than 4m (13 ft) away! These athletic cats have also been observed jumping 1.5 m (5 ft) into the air after birds.
Servals are solitary creatures that spend most of their time in reed beds and grasslands but will also roam through thickets, forest brush, streams, and marshes. They’re crepuscular, spending most of their time hunting in the morning and evening, though Servals living close to human populations often become nocturnal to avoid people.
Although they’ve become popular with some people as pets, these wild animals are not domesticated and shouldn’t be taken from the wild or purchased. Most countries regulate ownership of them, and they can be just as dangerous as any other wild animal. Observe from a distance!
- 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 the Congo.
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 the Congo. 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.
#5. 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 the Congo!
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 the Congo. They are found in various habitats, including marshes, grassy savannas, and wet rainforests.
#6. Side-striped Jackal
- Lupulella adusta
- They are heavily built and have shorter legs and ears than other jackal species.
- Coloration is buff-gray with a darker gray back and a blackish tail with a white or almost silver tip.
Look for these mammals in moist habitats in the Congo.
Side-striped Jackals live in swamps, marshes, humid savannas, and wooded areas up to 2,700 m (8,800 ft) above sea level.
They’re strictly nocturnal, so they can be hard to spot, but you may hear them calling out at night. These canines are incredibly vocal creatures that make various noises, including yipping to communicate with other jackals, screaming when threatened or wounded, and an owl-like hoot, which sets them apart from other jackal species.
Side-striped Jackals are omnivorous scavengers. While their diet varies with location and season, they commonly feed on insects, small vertebrates, fruit, carrion, and plant material. They occasionally kill small prey like rats or birds but spend the most time feeding on the leftovers from other large predators.
Sadly, massive trapping and poisoning efforts have damaged the population of these animals. Side-striped Jackals have also been seriously impacted by rabies and distemper epidemics. While they’re rare in much of their range, they are not endangered and have been given some protection at national parks.
#7. Rusty-spotted Genet
- Genetta maculata
- They have slender bodies, long tails, and short legs.
- Coloration is yellowish-gray with rust-colored to black spots, a continuous dark line down their backs, and dark rings around their tails.
Look for these cat-like animals in the Congo at night.
Rusty-spotted Genets are small omnivores closely related to mongooses. They’re nocturnal and solitary but occasionally hunt or live in pairs. They LOVE to eat rodents, which means they’re frequently spotted around cultivated fields where mice and similar species feed.
These mammals are semi-arboreal, meaning they spend much of their time in the trees and prefer to live in densely forested areas. They sleep during the day and use densely vegetated tree branches, aardvark burrows, or rock crevices as shelter. As you might expect, they have excellent climbing skills!
You may be able to spot a Rusty-spotted Genet right now on our LIVE animal camera from South Africa. They are often seen at night visiting the feeding station.
- 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 the Congo 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!
- Orycteropus afer
- They have squared-off heads, long noses wider at the end, tapering tails, four-toed forefeet, five-toed hind feet, and massive bodies with muscular limbs.
- They have short hairs on their heads, necks, and tails and longer hair on their limbs that may be worn off in older individuals.
Aardvarks might be the strangest-looking animal in the Congo!
Aardvarks are highly specialized to forage for their favorite prey: ants and termites. Their large ears, long noses, and sticky tongues help them easily find, scoop, and eat these insects. Due to their highly specific prey preference, they avoid areas that flood or have hard, compacted, or rocky soil.
When Aardvarks find an ant or termite mound, they dig rapidly into the side of it with sharp claws. Then, they sweep the ants and termites into their mouth with their long, sticky tongues.
They don’t chew the insects but digest them in a gizzard-like stomach. The defenses ants and termites use, like stinging, biting, chemical defenses, and hard mounds, may work on other insectivores but are no match for Aardvarks.
These odd-looking creatures have some equally odd methods of defending themselves. When threatened, Aardvarks will stand on their hind legs or lay on their backs to fight enemies with their large front claws. They also avoid predators and heat by building underground burrows, which they shelter in during the day.
#10. 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 the Congo, 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.
#11. 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 the Congo. 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.
#12. Bush Duiker
- Sylvicapra grimmia
- Adults only grow up to 50 cm (20 in) tall.
- They vary in color and may be chestnut, silvery gray, or light brown, with an erect tuft of hair on the top of their head.
- Males have small, spike-like horns up to 11 cm (4.3 in) long with grooves at the base.
Bush Duikers are the smallest antelopes in the Congo!
These little animals will adapt to various habitats and live in woodlands, savannas, grasslands, and mountainous areas. They inhabit higher altitudes than any other African ungulate. To help live in these inhospitable conditions, they consume insects and have occasionally been observed stalking and eating birds, rodents, lizards, and frogs.
Bush Duikers are territorial and form monogamous pairs. Both sexes will use threat displays to drive other Duikers of the same sex out of their territory. If these displays fail, battles may ensue! Females will head-butt other females, and males may fight, chase, and stab each other with their horns.
The lifespan of Bush Duikers in the wild is unknown, but they have lived up to 14 years in captivity. This species is listed as one of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
#13. 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 the Congo 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.
#14. 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 the Congo!
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.
#15. 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 the Congo!
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.
#16. 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 the Congo 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.
#17. 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 the Congo.
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.
- Tragelaphus spekii
- Males are chocolate to gray-brown and have spiral-shaped horns between 45–92 cm (18–36 in) long.
- Females are brown to bright chestnut.
- They have long coats and white markings on the face, ears, body, legs, and feet.
These animals have an unusual habitat in the Congo – swampland!
Sitatunga have a few special adaptations that allow them to walk on boggy, marshy ground easily. Their feet are elongated with a wide splay and pad-like pattern. They also have unique flexibility in their foot joints, which helps keep them from getting stuck in the mud.
Sitatungas avoid open water areas, preferring tall, dense vegetation like seasonal swamps, mangroves, and thickets. These habitats provide shelter from predators as well as the Sitatunga’s two favorite foods, papyrus and reed shoots. Oddly, when food is scarce, these antelope will eat elephant dung, which often has undigested seeds!
This species’ social structure varies. You may spot them on their own, in male and female pairs, in bachelor male groups of three or four, or family groups of up to 15 animals, including females, young, and a dominant bull.
#19. Nile Crocodile
- Crocodylus niloticus
- Adults are 2.8-3.5 m (9-11.5 ft) long.
- Coloration is dark olive to gray-olive with yellowish bellies, but young individuals may be more greenish or brown with darker crossbands on their bodies and tails.
- They have long, sturdy tails, long, powerful jaws, stout legs, and thick, scaly, heavily armored skin.
The Nile Crocodile is the largest reptile in the Congo.
These creatures have a nasty reputation as man-eaters, and it isn’t entirely undeserved. Nile Crocodiles are indiscriminate carnivores that feed on whatever they can catch, and because their habitat often overlaps with human settlements, run-ins happen.
Although the data can be unreliable, some reports indicate that Nile Crocodiles kill about 200 people annually.
These intimidating carnivores are patient, agile ambush predators. They will feed on nearly any prey that comes into range and may swallow it whole or rip it apart. Their conical teeth and strong jaws give them a uniquely powerful bite with a grip that’s nearly impossible to loosen. As if that weren’t enough, these incredible predators can swim at 30-35 kph (19-22 mph) and remain underwater for up to 30 minutes.
During mating season, males attract females to their territory by bellowing, slapping their snouts in the water, blowing water out of their noses, and making other noises.
In areas with high populations of males, they sometimes get into physical altercations over females, especially if they’re similar in size. These altercations aren’t common but can be quite a spectacle to witness!
Do you want to learn about MORE animals in the Congo?
Check out these ID Guides. Each one is specific to wildlife in the Congo!
Which of these animals in the Congo is your favorite?
Leave a comment below! I’d especially like to know if you have visited the Congo before and what you saw.