What types of animals can you see in Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe 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 Zimbabwe.
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 Zimbabwe. 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 Zimbabwe:
44 Incredible ANIMALS IN Zimbabwe:
- Giraffa camelopardalis
- 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 Zimbabwe (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
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
- 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 Zimbabwe!
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.
#3. 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 Zimbabwe!
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 Zimbabwe!
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 Zimbabwe.
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 Zimbabwe. 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.
#6. Cape Porcupine
- Hystrix africaeaustralis
- 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 Zimbabwe!
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
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. African Buffalo
- Syncerus caffer
- They are heavy, cow-like animals that are typically dark gray or black.
- Both sexes have heavy, ridged horns that go straight out from the head and curve downward, then up.
African Buffalo are one of the most formidable animals in Zimbabwe!
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 Zimbabwe. 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)
- 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 Zimbabwe 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.
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.
#9. 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 Zimbabwe!
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.
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.
#10. 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 Zimbabwe.
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.
#11. 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 Zimbabwe 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.
- 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 Zimbabwe, 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.
#13. 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 Zimbabwe, 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.
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.
- 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 Zimbabwe 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!
#15. 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 Zimbabwe. 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.
#16. Blue Wildebeest
- Connochaetes taurinus
- They have broad shoulders, broad muzzles, and cow-like horns.
- They are typically slate-colored with tan forelegs, dark vertical stripes on their shoulders and backs, and white or tan manes and beards.
Wildebeests are one of the most unique-looking animals in Zimbabwe!
Blue Wildebeests look like cows to me, although they are considered antelopes. They eat short grasses and live in various habitats. However, their favorite spots are moderately moist with rapidly regrowing grasses and a nearby water source.
Despite their shrinking population, Wildebeest herds are protective of their young. Females give birth in the middle of the day, allowing the calf time to get steady on its feet before most predators come out in the evening.
The map above shows the ranges of the different Blue Wildebeest subspecies.
While healthy adult Blue Wildebeests are perfectly capable of defending themselves, the calves are not. If the adults spot a potential predator, they bunch together, stamp their feet, and issue loud, shrill alarm calls. The larger the herd, the more likely the calf will survive.
Blue Wildebeest herds are famous for their historic long-distance migrations with the change of season, where they move to areas where good forage is more available. Sadly, Blue Wildebeests have seen serious population declines. Today, they typically live in much smaller herds and are less nomadic. Only three populations are known to migrate more than 100 miles.
- Caracal caracal
- Coloration is red to brown with white undersides adorned with many small spots and black facial markings.
- They have robust builds, disproportionately long, muscular back legs, short faces, long tufted ears, and short tails.
These animals are nearly impossible to spot in Zimbabwe.
Caracals are nocturnal and generally very secretive. These medium-sized cats live in a range of habitats, including plains, rocky hills, scrub forests, woodlands, and thickets. They love edge habitats, especially the transition between forest and grasslands.
Caracals are highly athletic, capable carnivores that can take down prey three times their size. They’re also known for their incredible bird-snaring leaps into the air. To hunt, they rely on stealth to get close to prey and then pounce on it, using their muscular back legs.
They’re also perfectly capable of avoiding predation. When they sense a threat, they often lie flat and use their coloring to blend in with the ground and go unnoticed. They’re also agile climbers that can escape lions and other large predators by climbing into trees. If all else fails, they’re known to chase off predators twice their size.
Unfortunately, the one predator they can’t go up against is humans. Farmers and ranchers frequently kill them for feeding on small livestock.
#18. Southern White Rhinoceros
- Ceratotherium simum simum
- 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 Zimbabwe 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.
- 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 Zimbabwe (and the world). It is also the largest of the three elephant species (Forest and Asian).
Due to their size, an elephant’s most significant requirement is food. They spend most of their time eating, and a single individual may eat 350 pounds (158 kg) of vegetation daily. Today, these magnificent creatures are restricted to preserves, but in the past, they would migrate hundreds of miles annually, moving from high to low elevations with food availability.
Savanna Elephant Range Map
As you probably know, one of the most unique features of elephants is their trunks. Their trunks contain over 40,000 muscles and two sensitive finger-like projections on the tip, allowing them to handle small objects or pick up as much as 400 pounds (181 kg)! They can also use their trunks to breathe, drink water, or blow water onto their backs to cool themselves.
The females have a 22-month gestation period, the longest among mammals, and give birth to a single calf, which the whole herd helps to raise.
Elephants are considered ecosystem engineers because of their many impacts. For example, they dig in dry riverbeds in the dry season, creating watering holes with their tusks, which other animals rely upon.
And as they move through the landscape, they create large pathways for other species to follow. They also rip up small trees and open areas for other grazers like zebras. Lastly, their dung also spreads seeds from several important plant species.
- Damaliscus pygargus
- They are chocolate brown with black tails, white undersides, white stripes from their foreheads to the tips of their noses, and a white patch surrounding their tails.
- Both sexes have large, dark-colored, noticeably ringed, curving horns. The horns can reach a length of 0.5 m (1.64 ft).
These animals are some of the easiest to spot in Zimbabwe!
They have a striking color pattern, with rich brown fur and a large white patch on the front of the head. Their curved, ringed horns add another level of glamor to their appearance.
Males are territorial and fiercely guard harems of females and young year-round. They will attempt to intimidate other males by stamping their feet, digging up the soil with their horns, and swinging their heads. If their intimidation tactics fail, things may get violent. Males clash their horns and occasionally catch each other on the sides or head, which can be deadly.
In the early 1900s, Bonteboks came within a hair’s breadth of extinction! In 1931, only 17 Bonteboks remained in the wild! Thankfully, these 17 were conserved, and Bontebok National Park was created. Today, their population ranges from 2,500 to 3,000 individuals descended from those original 17 animals. However, Bonteboks remain listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
- 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 Zimbabwe and are almost always found near water. Compared to some more migratory antelope species, Waterbucks tend to be rather sedentary, remaining in valleys with rivers and lakes. This is because their diet depends on access to fresh water along with the protein-rich medium and short grasses that grow in moist areas.
Waterbucks are social animals and usually live in herds of up to 30 individuals. Typically, bachelor males form herds together, and females form separate herds comprised of only females and their young.
Once born, mothers leave their calf hidden in the thicket and only visit to nurse. This helps prevent predators from smelling or finding the calf, though mortality is still quite high.
#22. 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 Zimbabwe, 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.
#23. 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 Zimbabwe!
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!
#24. Plains Zebra
- Equus quagga
- 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 Zimbabwe!
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
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.
#25. Black Rhinoceros
- Diceros bicornis
- 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
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 Zimbabwe due to habitat loss and poaching.
#26. African Wild Dog
- Lycaon pictus
- They have large, muscular legs, thin bodies, large, rounded ears, four toes on each foot, and blackish skin, which may show through where fur is sparse.
- Their coloring makes them appear painted in shades of yellow, white, brown, red, and black, with some black on their head and white on the tip of their tail.
These canines live in savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands in Zimbabwe.
They’re widespread, social animals, often living in packs of up to 40 members. The pattern of colors on each African Wild Dog is unique to that individual, like a fingerprint.
Like their wolf cousins, African Wild Dog packs are run by a dominant male and female pair. They have a complicated hierarchy that dictates their behavior, but the entire pack is incredibly nurturing toward one another.
All members care for the pups once they’ve left the den, and pups may even nurse from other females. Upon returning from a hunt, all hunting pack members will regurgitate food for the puppies, old or sick dogs, and any adults unable to go on the hunt.
African Wild Dogs are diurnal and do most of their hunting during the morning and evening. The alpha male usually leads the hunts. Once the pack locates prey, they chase it as a group. Chases may last several kilometers and reach speeds up to 56 kph (35 mph).
#27. 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 Zimbabwe.
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.
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.
- Raphicerus campestris
- They are reddish-fawn with a white throat and belly, large white-lined ears, and sharp hooves.
- Males have vertical horns that grow 7–19 cm (3-7.5 in) long.
Steenboks are one of the smallest antelopes in Zimbabwe!
They prefer to live in open areas that offer some cover in the form of grasses or sparse trees. They’re herbivorous but don’t just graze like some antelopes. Steenboks will use their sharp hooves to dig up roots and tubers. They get most of the moisture they need from their food, so you may find them far from fresh water.
Due to their small size, Steenboks must be on high alert for predators. If they sense danger, their first instinct is to freeze and lie low in dense vegetation, but if they still feel threatened, they will run and sometimes try to hide in aardvark burrows!
You’ll usually see Steenboks by themselves or in pairs. The males are territorial and solitary, remaining in their territory for life. Males and females only come together to mate.
- 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 Zimbabwe.
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.
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.
- Acinonyx jubatus
- 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 Zimbabwe (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.
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.
- 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 Zimbabwe.
Hartebeests are almost entirely grazers; their diet is never less than 80% grass. Their odd, long snout may look funny, but it enhances their chewing ability, allowing them to gain more nutrition from poor-quality food.
The map above shows the ranges of the different Hartebeest subspecies.
Hartebeests are usually rather sedentary animals that often appear to be relaxing, but don’t let their casual appearance fool you. They are alert and cautious. Hartebeests always have a sentinel watching for predators. When danger is spotted, the herd will bolt away as a group.
Although their populations are stable, some subspecies of Hartebeests are endangered or threatened. They are dependent on conservation efforts to keep their numbers up. Hartebeests are affected by hunting and habitat loss and destruction, primarily related to cattle farming.
#32. 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 Zimbabwe!
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.
#33. 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 Zimbabwe 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.
#34. Sable Antelope
- Hippotragus niger
- Adult males are black, adult females are chestnut, and all adults typically have white eyebrow markings, cheek stripes, bellies, and rump patches.
- Both sexes have horns that arch backward, but the horns of females are generally 61–102 cm (24–40 in) long, while males’ horns may reach 81–165 cm (32–65 in).
These stunning animals in Zimbabwe prefer mixtures of savanna, open woodlands, and grasslands. They tend to avoid extensive areas of open land. Researchers believe that their food preferences dictate their somewhat limited habitat. Sable Antelopes prefer grasses at specific heights and only graze during certain seasons in a highly specific feeding pattern.
They also require water at least every other day. You will rarely spot this species far from a river or watering hole. Interestingly, Sable Antelopes will chew on bones to ingest important minerals they can’t get from grass.
Despite their calm appearance, these antelope are impressive fighters with few natural predators besides humans. Their formidable size and abilities make even lions think twice about taking on adults. However, the young are susceptible to predation from various species.
To help protect against predators, Sable Antelopes typically live in herds of 15 to 25 members. The herds with females, their young, and one dominant male will rally around all the young to protect them in case of an attack. Non-dominant males will also form bachelor herds until they are old enough to mate.
- 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 Zimbabwe.
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
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.
#36. Brown Hyena
- Parahyaena brunnea
- They have heavily built necks, shoulders, chests, and heads.
- Short brushy tails, large pointed ears, noticeably larger hind feet, and longer forelegs than hind legs, giving them a sloping appearance.
- They have long, shaggy hair that’s usually dark brown to black on their body and tan on the shoulders and neck and striped legs.
Look for this predator in semi-arid regions of Zimbabwe.
Brown Hyenas can live in drier areas than some of their relatives because they consume fruit with high water content when fresh water sources aren’t available. While this is a great adaption, it also puts them at odds with melon farmers seeking to protect their crops.
These canines protect themselves from heat by hunting nocturnally and taking shelter during the day. They build dens in sandy areas near rocks or vegetation, which helps provide shade.
Brown Hyenas may form clans or remain solitary, but all adults look for food alone. They don’t usually hunt live prey, instead using their keen sense of smell to locate carrion. However, they will go after birds and small mammals if a good opportunity presents itself.
Brown Hyenas have decreasing populations and are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. They are often killed by farmers who blame them for crop and livestock losses. This is sad because they almost never prey on livestock since they are primarily scavengers.
#37. 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 Zimbabwe!
Look for these large ruminants in lightly wooded savannas with medium or tall grass and access to water. They feed in the morning and evening and retreat to shaded areas in the middle of the day, so you’ll need to rise early to observe them.
Unlike many antelopes, healthy adult Roan Antelopes are formidable opponents to most predators. They don’t flee like many animals. Instead, they face down even the most fearsome predators, like lions. They’re known to gore attacking lions with their long, scimitar-like horns.
These fierce creatures don’t travel alone either, instead living in mixed herds of about 20 animals, including females, young, and one dominant bull. Less dominant bachelor males tend to form their own groups. Being a herd animal is one more way these animals discourage attacks.
Roan Antelopes are currently listed as lower risk but conservation dependent by the IUCN. Their populations have rapidly declined in recent years due to hunting and poaching, habitat deterioration and loss, and slaughter as part of tsetse fly control efforts.
#38. 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 Zimbabwe, but their closest living relatives are actually elephants and manatees! As their name suggests, they live in rocky, scrub-covered areas.
Rock Hyrax have several adaptions that allow them to move about skillfully on steep, rocky surfaces. First, Rock Hyrax feet soles are rubber-like and kept moist by a glandular secretion. And second, their feet also have a depression in the center that acts a bit like a suction cup.
Rock Hyrax Range Map
Rock Hyraxes usually live in colonies called “kopjes,” ranging from 5 to 60 individuals. Usually, these groups are made of a male, several females, and their young.
Interestingly, Rock Hyrax colonies usually urinate and defecate in a common restroom. This habit causes a build-up of calcium carbonate from the urine, turning the cliffs where they live white. In the past, African tribes and Europeans collected the calcium carbonate crystals for medicine to treat epilepsy, hysteria, and other injuries and ailments.
#39. Bat-eared Fox
- Otocyon megalotis
- Coloration is yellow-brown with pale throats and underparts.
- Black outer ears, raccoon-like face masks, lower legs, feet, and tail tips.
- They have relatively short legs, huge ears, and more molars than other canids.
Look for these small animals in the arid grasslands and savannas of Zimbabwe.
Named for their enormous ears, these interesting-looking foxes prefer areas with short grass. They live in large dens with long tunnels and several entrances, and they have multiple dens within their territory.
Bat-eared Foxes arrange their schedule by the weather. In the summertime, they’re mostly nocturnal to avoid the heat of the day, while during colder weather, they sleep at night.
They spend much of their time feeding on insects and other arthropods. They often follow herds of wildebeest, zebra, and buffalo, which disturb the termites as they walk. Their dung also attracts dung beetles, which make a tasty treat. Their large ears allow them to hear insects even underground!
#40. African Wildcat
- Felis lybica
- Coloration varies and may be tawny brown, sandy yellow, reddish, or gray with faint tabby spots and stripes, banded legs, and reddish or rusty-brown on the backs of their ears.
- They have long legs, small ear tufts, and long, thin tails with rings near the end and black tips.
You are looking at the ancestor of the domestic cat!
African Wildcats are skillful hunters with incredible hearing. Once they’ve located prey, they slowly and sneakily approach it and pounce once they’re in range. They usually feed on mice, rats, and other small mammals.
African Wildcats are most active at night. During the day, they tend to avoid the heat and rest under bushes or other shelter, although sometimes they can be observed out hunting on cloudy, overcast days. Additionally, when threatened, these cats raise their hair to make themselves seem larger and intimidate their opponents, similar to what we see in domestic cats.
However, they have some distinctly wild traits. For example, when they sit upright, their long front legs raise their bodies almost vertically (more so than domestic cats). This posture can be seen on Egyptian bronze mummy cases and tomb paintings. They also have high shoulder blades that give them a distinctive cheetah-like gait.
- 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 Zimbabwe 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.
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.
- Tragelaphus angasii
- Adults are 90-110 cm (35-43 in) tall at the shoulder.
- Females are a rusty red color, while males are slate gray, and both sexes have some white stripes and spots that vary with the individual.
- Both sexes have a dorsal crest of hair running from the back of the head to the base of the tail.
- Males also have spiraling horns up to 60–83 cm (24–33 in) long.
Nyalas are one of the oldest antelope species in Zimbabwe!
These amazing animals emerged as a separate species at the end of the Miocene era, close to six million years ago!
They live in savannas and woodlands, always within close proximity to freshwater sources. They’re mainly active in the morning and late afternoon when they browse and graze on grasses, twigs, fruit, and tree leaves. They’re clever, too, sometimes following baboons to eat the fruits and leaves that they dislodge from trees.
Interestingly, Nyalas are among the few species that benefit from poor agricultural practices. Overgrazing by cattle usually encourages weeds to grow, and these plants are some of their favorite things to eat!
Large carnivores are a major concern for these antelopes. When they feel threatened, they give a deep barking alarm call that warns other Nyalas in the area. Nyalas listen closely to other animals, too, and react to the alarm calls of impala, baboons, and kudu.
- Oryx gazella
- Adults are about 1.2 m (4 ft) at the shoulder.
- They are typically light taupe to tan in color with lighter patches towards the bottom of their rump.
- Black markings extend from the base of the horns and sweep back in stripes over the eyes and cheeks, continuing down their necks and backs. They have black bands around all four legs.
- Both sexes have slightly curved black horns with light-colored rings that average 85 cm (33 in) long.
Gemsboks are some of the most-hunted antelope in Zimbabwe.
They are prized by hunters for their long, curved horns, which are often turned into trophies or other ornamental objects. Although they’re a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List, there have been large declines in several parts of their range. They’re most susceptible to hunting, climate change, habitat destruction, and livestock overgrazing.
Oddly, you can also find these unique creatures in parts of North America. The New Mexico Department of Fish and Game introduced a herd to the Tularose Basin between 1969 and 1977. Today, scientists estimate their current North American population at around 3,000 individuals, and an unknown number have also spread north into the San Andres Wildlife Refuge and the Jornada Biosphere Reserve.
#44. 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 Zimbabwe.
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 Zimbabwe?
Check out these ID Guides. Each one is specific to wildlife in Zimbabwe!
Which of these animals in Zimbabwe is your favorite?
Leave a comment below! I’d especially like to know if you have visited Zimbabwe before and what you saw.