43 Amazing ANIMALS to see in Uganda! (ID guide w/ pics)

What types of animals can you see in Uganda?

Types of animals in Uganda

Uganda is home to some of the most incredible wildlife on the planet. The amount of diversity is truly incredible. πŸ™‚

But because of the sheer number of different species, there was no way I could include every animal living in Uganda.

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 Uganda. Well, except the last species is a large reptile, so make sure you scroll to the bottom to find out what it is. πŸ™‚

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 Uganda:

Monkeys / Birds / Owls / Ducks / Snakes / Lizards / Spiders

43 Incredible ANIMALS IN Uganda:


#1. Giraffe

  • Giraffa camelopardalis

Types of animals in Uganda

  • Males typically stand around 18.7 feet (5.7 m) tall, while females are closer to 16 feet (4.9 m) tall.
  • They have longer front legs than their back legs, giving them a downward-sloping back.
  • Ossicones (horn-like, skin-covered protrusions) on the top of their head.

The Giraffe is the tallest animal in Uganda (and the world)!

These long-legged creatures spend their time roaming savannas, open woodlands, and grasslands, often seeking areas with plentiful acacia growth. Their long legs and necks help them feed higher in the canopy than most other browsers, giving them access to food other animals can’t reach!

Giraffe Range Map

Giraffe. (2023, August 22). In Wikipedia.

Each color above is a different sub-species of Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)

They may look peaceful, but male Giraffes can be aggressive with each other, particularly in the spring. They will stand side by side, intertwine their necks, and push against each other, testing their strength.

They may also engage in “necking” and use their long necks to swing their horns at their opponent’s rump, neck, or flanks. These blows can be intense, and some individuals are knocked down or injured.

Females typically give birth while standing or walking, making a rough entrance for the calf! Believe it or not, these newborn Giraffes drop about 6.5 feet (2m) onto the ground as they are being born. Thankfully, these tough babies handle it well and are up and feeding in about 15 minutes.


#2. Honey Badger

  • Mellivora capensis

Types of animals in Uganda

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Uganda!

They have a reputation for living anywhere, eating anything, and surviving no matter what.

Honey badger. (2023, August 7). In Wikipedia.

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.


#3. Spotted Hyena

  • Crocuta crocuta

Types of animals in Uganda

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Uganda!

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 hyena. (2023, September 5). In Wikipedia.

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.


#4. Serval

  • Leptailurus serval

Types of animals in Uganda

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Uganda!

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.

Serval. (2023, August 27). In Wikipedia.

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!


#5. Leopard

  • Panthera pardus

Types of animals in Uganda

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Uganda.

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!

Leopard. (2023, August 29). In Wikipedia.

Leopards are some of the most athletic wildlife you will find in Uganda. 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! πŸ™‚

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.


#6. Cape Porcupine

  • Hystrix africaeaustralis

cape porcupine

  • Covered with bristly hairs and quills that they can erect.
  • Long whiskers and hollow spines on their tail, which rattle when they shake.

The Cape Porcupine is the largest rodent in Uganda!

These formidable animals are most commonly seen at night and usually live in wooded areas with plenty of vegetation and rocky outcrops. They need shelter and frequently seek out crevices, caves, or antbear dens. They will build dens up to 65 feet (20m) long if none are available.

Cape Porcupine Range Map

Cape porcupine. (2023, June 23). In Wikipedia.

Despite looking a bit clumsy, Cape Porcupines are formidable opponents for most predators. If approached by a lion, hyena, or other meat-eater, they freeze and lift the sharp quills running down their back, making them appear twice their size. They give other warning signs, too, by rattling their tails, hissing, and snorting.

If a predator is foolish enough to ignore these warnings, the porcupine will spin and charge sideways or backward into an opponent, sometimes causing considerable damage with their long quills. They can’t shoot their quills, but stabbing their enemies does the job!


#7. Lion

  • Panthera leo

  • They have short, tawny coats, white undersides, and long tails with black tufts at the ends.
  • Males have manes, while females do not.

Lions are probably the most famous animal found in Uganda.

Though intimidating, lions aren’t very effective hunters on their own. Instead, lions usually hunt in groups, called prides, to take down large herbivores like zebras, impalas, gazelles, wildebeests, giraffes, and cape buffalo.

Tommyknocker, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Lions live in groups called prides, which range from 2-40 individuals, though they are rarely all together at once. Female pride members are all related, as females don’t leave their mother’s territories. Females don’t have a dominance hierarchy and instead work together to find food and care for each other’s cubs.

On the other hand, males are generally forced out of their father’s territory at about 2.5 years of age, roam for two to three years, and then attempt to take over their own pride by seriously injuring or killing the current leaders.

While we often picture one male as the “king,” male lions sometimes form coalitions of 2-4 males to take over a pride. These coalitions are often brothers, and the larger the coalition, the longer they’ll be able to reign over their pride.

While they don’t have natural predators, lions are still susceptible to starvation and human attacks. Their worldwide populations have declined significantly throughout their range. Sadly, some subspecies of lions are critically endangered, while others are already extinct.


#8. African Buffalo

  • Syncerus caffer

african buffalo

  • 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 Uganda!

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 Uganda. 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)


#9. Impala

  • Aepyceros melampus

  • They have reddish-brown hair on the upper parts of their bodies, and the undersides of their bellies, chins, lips, inside ears, the line over the eye, and tails are white.

Look for these well-known animals in Uganda in grasslands and savannas.

While Impala are predominantly grazers, especially when the grass is lush and abundant, they switch to shrubs, trees, and other plants as needed. They’re ruminants, meaning they have multi-chambered stomachs and regurgitate and chew their food, called cud, multiple times to get the most nutrients possible.

Impala. (2023, July 30). In Wikipedia.

Impalas share their grassland and woodland habitats with many large, capable predators, so they must stay alert and ready to make a quick escape! Impalas leap in random directions when they sense danger and run quickly to startle their enemies.

They’re incredibly athletic and may jump up to 10 ft (3.5 m) in the air! To avoid being grabbed, Impalas often kick their back feet up as they land on just their front legs.

Calves are the most susceptible to predation, harsh weather conditions, and illness. Thankfully, female Impalas have some incredible strategies to care for their young. For example, they can delay giving birth for up to one month if weather conditions are harsh. They also typically give birth around mid-day when most predators are sleeping.


#10. Greater Kudu

  • Tragelaphus strepsiceros

  • Their coloring ranges from reddish-brown to blue-gray, with 6 to 10 stripes down their back and black-tipped tails with white undersides.
  • Males have beards and large horns with two and a half twists that can grow as long as 120 cm (47 in).

This species is one of the biggest animals in Uganda!

Greater Kudus are tall and large with impressive horns. These graceful creatures can easily clear obstacles up to 2.5 m (8 ft) tall and run up to 100 kph (62 mph).

Greater Kudus are social and surprisingly vocal animals. You may hear them make whimpers, bleats, barks, grunts, and hums. The females stay together in groups of up to 25 with their offspring, and the males gather in small herds of 2-10. Males and females only come together to mate.

Greater kudu. (2023, September 6). In Wikipedia.

The map above shows the ranges of the different Greater Kudu subspecies.

The females give birth during the rainy season when the grass is high, essential for keeping the calves hidden from predators. The calves remain hidden for the first four weeks of their lives before they can join the herd. During this time, their mother will only visit to nurse them to avoid attracting attention from predators.


#11. 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 Uganda.

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 jackal. (2023, September 6). In Wikipedia.

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.


#12. 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 Uganda 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.

Side-striped jackal. (2023, September 6). In Wikipedia.

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.


#13. Warthog

  • Phacochoerus africanus

warthog

  • 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 Uganda, 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.

Common warthog. (2023, July 27). In Wikipedia.

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.


#14. Black-backed Jackal

  • Lupulella mesomelas

  • They have a fox-like appearance with slender bodies, long legs, large ears, and bushy tails.
  • They are reddish-brown to tan with a black saddle that has a mix of silver hair and black tail tips.

Unlike many other animals in Uganda, Black-backed Jackals are noisy!

These fox-like canines are highly vocal, making various sounds, including yelling, yelping, woofing, whining, growling, and cackling. They use sounds to advertise their presence and territory and express alarm and excitement.

These opportunistic omnivores eat anything they can find. They take small prey like insects, small mammals, and young antelopes but will also go after larger species if the animal is wounded or sick. In coastal areas, Black-backed Jackals will consume seals, fish, and shorebirds.

Black-backed jackal. (2023, September 6). In Wikipedia.

Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, there were several attempts to eradicate Black-backed Jackals through hunting, poisoning, gas, and trapping, but they were all unsuccessful. These resourceful creatures have learned to regurgitate poisoned bait or avoid it altogether.


#15. Hippopotamus

  • Hippopotamus amphibius

hippo

  • 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 Uganda 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

Hippopotamus. (2023, August 25). In Wikipedia.

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!


#16. Southern Bushbuck

  • Tragelaphus sylvaticus

  • They are light brown with up to seven white stripes on their backs, white splotches on their sides, and often some white on their ears, chins, tails, legs, necks, and muzzles.
  • Males have horns with a single twist up to 0.5 m (1.64 ft) long.

Bushbucks are one of the least social antelopes in Uganda. Unlike many of their relatives that move about in herds, Southern Bushbucks are solitary animals. However, they aren’t aggressive towards each other and will sometimes forage in close proximity.

Bushbucks only come together to mate and then go their separate ways. Females hide their young and go to great lengths to keep them hidden. When they visit their calves, they go so far as to eat their dung to keep the scent from attracting predators.


#17. Aardvark

  • 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 Uganda!

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.

Aardvark. (2023, August 23). In Wikipedia.

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.


#18. Southern White Rhinoceros

  • Ceratotherium simum simum

white rhino

  • Adults typically weigh 3,080 to 7,920 pounds (1,397 to 3,593 kg).
  • They have pale-gray skin with dense, tough, plate-like folds.
  • Relatively small eyes, square lips, long necks, humps, and two horns of unequal size.

Southern White Rhinos are the second largest land animal in Uganda after the Elephant.

They may not look like antelopes and other grazers, but White Rhinos feed primarily on grass, something their wide upper lip is specially adapted to. They usually spend their mornings along riverbanks and in open areas and move to denser woodlands for shade during the heat of the day.

Females give birth to just a single offspring, which they aggressively defend, after 16 months of gestation. Interestingly, females can continue to breed every two to three years until they’re 46 years old!

Unlike most other animals, White Rhinos live longer in the wild than in captivity. In the wild, they often live for 46 to 50 years, while they only live about 27 to 30 years in captivity.

Southern White Rhinos almost went extinct at the end of the 19th century, when there were only between 20-50 individuals left. But since then, their population has recovered due to aggressive conservation efforts. Unfortunately, they are still threatened due to habitat loss and poaching for their horns in the use of traditional Chinese medicine.


#19. African Savanna Elephant

  • Loxodonta africana

Also called the African Bush Elephant.

savanna 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 Uganda (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

African bush elephant. (2023, August 17). In Wikipedia.

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.


#20. Waterbuck

  • 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 Uganda 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.

Waterbuck. (2023, June 6). In Wikipedia.

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.


#21. 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 Uganda, 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.

African civet. (2023, August 31). In Wikipedia.

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.


#22. 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 Uganda!

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 otter. (2023, August 7). In Wikipedia.

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!


#23. Plains Zebra

  • Equus quagga

plains zebra

  • Zebras are boldly striped, with some populations tending to have more narrow, defined striping.
  • They have upright ears with rounded tips, erect manes, tufts at the ends of their tails, relatively short legs, convex heads, and somewhat concave nose profiles.

The Plains Zebra is probably the most recognized animal found in Uganda!

Even the youngest children can identify their black and white coats. Interestingly, the exact coat pattern is unique to the individual, just like a fingerprint.

As their name suggests, Plains Zebras prefer open terrain and spend most of their time in open savannas, grasslands, woodlands, and scrublands. Typically, zebras move about these areas in social groups called harems, consisting of one dominant stallion (male) and several females and their offspring.

Plains Zebra Range Map

Plains zebra. (2023, August 22). In Wikipedia.

When threatened, Plains Zebras will often form a semi-circle. The stallion will attempt to protect his harem and may charge their two most common predators, Lions and Spotted Hyenas. Adults are fast animals, capable of running 40 miles per hour (64 kmh) to escape when necessary.

To help avoid predation, newborn foals are incredibly well-developed when born. Unbelievably, they can STAND within 15 minutes and can run after an hour! Then, after a week, they are already feeding on grass, even though they aren’t fully weaned until 7 to 11 months old.


#24. Black Rhinoceros

  • Diceros bicornis

black rhino

  • Hairless except for their ears.
  • Typically gray but may vary from yellow-brown to dark brown.
  • They have two horns, short, rounded ears, and hooked or pointed upper lips.

Black Rhinos are distinguished from White Rhinos by their hooked upper lip, which is flat in White Rhinos. This distinguishing feature is due to their different diets. White Rhinos are grazers feeding primarily on grass, while Black Rhinos are browsers, and their hooked lips help them pull leaves from trees and bushes.

Black Rhinos will inhabit woodlands, forests, wetlands, and semidesert savannas. Good food sources are one of the most essential features of their habitat, as they need areas with plenty of shrubs and woody plants, water sources, and mineral licks.

Black Rhino Range Map

Black rhinoceros. (2023, June 25). In Wikipedia.

Adults have NO natural predators due to their large size, deadly horns, and thick skin. Despite being aggressively defended by their mother, calves, and juveniles are sometimes preyed upon by lions and crocodiles.

These incredible animals are classified as “critically endangered” in Uganda due to habitat loss and poaching.


#25. Common Eland

  • Tragelaphus oryx

  • Females are usually much smaller than males.
  • They are a uniform fawn color with some vertical white striping on their upper parts.
  • Both sexes have long dewlaps, short manes, and corkscrew horns that are 43–66 cm (17–26 in) long.

Elands are incredibly large animals found in Uganda.

But they are relatively slow compared to other wildlife, only running at speeds up to 32 kph (20 mph). However, they can jump nearly 1 m (3 ft) into the air. They are one of the world’s most adaptable ruminants and can survive in deserts, grasslands, and mountainous areas.

Elands have another feature that sets them apart: a weird sound that lets you know they’re near. When walking, the tendons and joints in their front legs produce sharp clicking sounds that can be heard from a distance. Scientists believe that these sounds may help an Eland advertise their territory.

Common eland. (2023, August 15). In Wikipedia.

Elands are generally social creatures and may form large herds of up to 500 individuals. Typically, these larger herds are mostly females and their young, while males tend to roam by themselves or in small groups. Males often fight for mates, and females tend to select the most dominant males to breed with.


#26. Klipspringer

  • Oreotragus oreotragus

  • Adults are stocky with short necks and bodies, large hindquarters, large rounded ears, and sometimes short, straight horns.
  • Their coats may be yellow and speckled with brown, bright golden-yellow, or gray and dull, with each individual hair being light at the base and dark towards the tip.

Look for these animals in the arid, rocky hills of Uganda.

To make life in these rocky regions a bit easier, Klipspringers have specially adapted feet. The last joints of their toes are rotated so that they walk on the tips of their hooves. The rocks wear the hooves down into cylindrical shapes well-suited for balancing on the rocks.

Klipspringer. (2023, January 18). In Wikipedia.

These unique little creatures are also monogamous to a greater extent than most other antelopes. A pair will mark and defend a territory together, with males performing dominance displays and butting heads. Females are a bit aggressive, too, and may bite and rip out each other’s fur.

Klipspringers are usually most active in the morning and evening. One of the pair, usually the male, will stand guard while the other feeds. They are preyed on by many large predators and have to remain constantly alert.


#27. Cheetah

  • Acinonyx jubatus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Relatively long legs, small, rounded heads, and short ears.
  • Their coloration is yellowish with a white or light tan underside, small black spots, and dark rings terminating in a white tip on the end of their tail.

As you probably know, Cheetahs are the FASTEST animal in Uganda (and the world).

Unlike most other big cats, Cheetahs do not stalk their prey. Instead, they use their incredible speed (80-130 kph, or 50-80 mph) to charge. However, they can only maintain this speed for short distances.

Cheetahs are solitary except during mating. The cubs are cared for solely by their mother. When they’re young, the female will hide the cubs in tall vegetation, rocky outcrops, or marshy areas while she hunts, occasionally carrying them to new hiding spots. Once they are old enough to fend for themselves, the mother goes back to her solitary lifestyle until mating again.

Cheetah. (2023, September 6). In Wikipedia.

When a Cheetah overtakes its prey, it strangles its target by squeezing its neck in its jaw. They feed mostly on gazelles but also consume impalas, hares, and birds. Interestingly, most hunts are unsuccessful, and they work much harder than other big cats to get a meal.

Cheetahs are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Researchers have found they have little genetic diversity, which leaves them susceptible to disease and environmental changes. Despite this, some countries still allow Cheetahs to be hunted, and they are sometimes persecuted for livestock losses.


#28. Hartebeest

  • 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 Uganda.

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.

Hartebeest. (2023, August 21). In Wikipedia.

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.


#29. 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 Uganda!

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.


#30. Straw-coloured Fruit Bat

  • Eidolon helvum

straw colored fruit bat

  • 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 Uganda 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

Straw-coloured fruit bat. (2022, November 21). In Wikipedia.

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.


#31. Red River Hog

  • Potamochoerus porcus

red river hog

  • 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 Uganda!

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

Red River hog. (2023, June 1). In Wikipedia.

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.


#32. White-bellied Pangolin

  • Phataginus tricuspis

white bellied pangolin

  • 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 Uganda!

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

Tree pangolin. (2023, July 10). In Wikipedia.

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.


#33. 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 Uganda 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.


#34. Four-toed Hedgehog

  • Atelerix albiventris

Also called African Pygmy Hedgehogs.

four toed hedgehog

  • 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 Uganda!

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 hedgehog. (2023, August 31). In Wikipedia.

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.


#35. 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!


#36. Kob

  • 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 Uganda 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.

Kob. (2023, March 15). In Wikipedia.

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.


#37. Gambian Sun Squirrel

  • Heliosciurus gambianus

gambian sun squirrel

Gambian Sun Squirrels are arboreal animals in Uganda 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.


#38. Tsessebe

  • Damaliscus lunatus

  • They have glossy, tan coats with grayish or bluish-black markings on their upper legs, black faces and tail tufts, and light undersides.
  • Both sexes have ringed, s-shaped horns but are typically slightly larger in males.

Tsessebes are one of the most territorial herbivores in Uganda.

Their territories are taken seriously by other Tsessebe herds, to the point that traveling herds will go to great lengths to avoid them. They will move around the outskirts of another herd’s territory, occasionally risking entering neutral areas with lions and other predators!

Tsessebe Range Map

Damaliscus lunatus. (2023, July 9). In Wikipedia.

The map above shows the ranges of the different Tsessebe subspecies.

All of the Tsessebes’ territories have high vantage points, which allow females to alert others of danger and males to display their territory. They prefer grassland habitats, including open plains and lightly wooded savannas. As their habitat suggests, they feed primarily on grass.

During the rainy season, when the grass is fresh and wet, they get all their water needs from their food, but during dry periods, they need fresh water every day or two. Tsessebes are most active in the morning and evening and spend the hotter parts of the day watering, resting, and digesting their food.


#39. 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 Uganda!

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.

Roan antelope. (2023, March 1). In Wikipedia.

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.


#40. Sitatunga

  • 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 Uganda – 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!

Sitatunga. (2023, August 23). In Wikipedia.

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.


#41. 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 Uganda, 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 hyrax. (2023, June 9). In Wikipedia.

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.


#42. Aardwolf

  • 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 Uganda 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.

Aardwolf. (2023, August 26). In Wikipedia.

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.


#43. 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 Uganda.

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 Uganda?

Check out these ID Guides. Each one is specific to wildlife in Uganda!

Monkeys / Birds / Owls / Ducks / Snakes / Lizards / Spiders


Which of these animals in Uganda is your favorite?

Leave a comment below! I’d especially like to know if you have visited Uganda before and what you saw.

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