What are the different kinds of PREDATORS found in Benin?
These are often the first animals you think of when you imagine visiting Benin! The exciting, beautiful, and sometimes terrifying carnivores are some of the most fun to learn about. 🙂
In this article, you’ll find interesting facts, photos, and even range maps of these amazing animals!
12 Predators Found in Benin:
- Panthera leo
- Adults are 160-208 cm (63-82 in) long.
- They have short tawny coats, white undersides, and long tails with black tufts at the ends.
- Males have manes, while females do not.
These predators range throughout savannas and plains in Benin.
They prefer areas with plenty of cover and prey. In the past, lions had a much larger range, and some populations still live in semi-desert, forested, shrubby, and mountainous habitats.
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.
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 a pride by seriously injuring or killing the current leaders and their cubs. 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 attacks from humans. Their worldwide populations have declined significantly throughout their range. Sadly, some subspecies of lions are critically endangered, and some are already extinct.
- Panthera pardus
- Adults are 92-183 cm (36-72 in) long.
- 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 predator in Benin.
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.
Individuals found in dry habitats tend to be lighter than those living in dense forests. Interestingly, the shape of their spots seems to be determined by location. For example, leopards living in eastern Africa have circular spots, while those in southern Africa tend to have square spots. Occasionally, solid black leopards are found in humid forests.
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 has a chance to react. These big cats have tremendous strength and can tackle prey up to ten times their own weight!
Leopards have incredible athletic ability, which is one reason they are an apex predator in Benin. 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.
#3. Spotted Hyena
- Crocuta crocuta
- Adults are 95–166 cm (37–65 in) long.
- 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 some of the most unique predators in Benin!
These odd animals live in clans of 3-80 hyenas. Females lead the clans, and all of the females within the clan are dominant over all males. Males and females, there are separate dominance hierarchies.
One of the strangest features about these carnivores 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.
Female Spotted Hyenas are incredibly dedicated mothers. Incredibly, they nurse their young until 12 to 16 months of age. By the time the young are weaned, they already have all of their adult teeth which is very rare among carnivorous animals in Benin.
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 there are currently programs in place to protect them. If the conservation efforts were removed, their populations would begin to decline within five years.
- Acinonyx jubatus
- Adults are 110-150 cm (3.6-5 ft) long.
- They have relatively long legs, small, rounded heads, and short ears.
- Their coloration is yellow, gray, or fawn speckled with a white or light tan underside, small black spots, and dark rings terminating in a white tip on the end of their tail.
Look for these predators in grasslands and deserts in Benin.
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.
Unlike most other big cats in Benin, 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.
When a Cheetah overtakes its prey, it strangles its target by squeezing its neck in its jaw. They feed mostly on gazelles but will also consume impalas, hares, and birds. Interestingly, most Cheetah 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 that 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 often persecuted for livestock losses.
#5. 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 carnivores in Benin!
They have a reputation for being able to live anywhere, eat anything, and survive no matter what. Look for these resourceful creatures in forests, grasslands, woodlands, deserts, rocky hills, and arid steppes. You’re likely to find them near sheltered spots like burrows and rock crevices.
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. While they are primarily carnivores, Honey Badgers also enjoy fruits, roots, and bulbs.
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 “scar backs” 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.
- Leptailurus serval
- Adults are 67-100 cm (26–39 in) long.
- 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.
These predators in Benin are known for their playful nature!
Servals 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 a bit 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 bamboo 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.
Although they’ve become popular with some people as pets, these wild carnivores are not domesticated animals 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!
#7. Side-striped Jackal
- Lupulella adusta
- Adults are 69-81 cm (27-32 in) long.
- 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 predators in moist habitats in Benin.
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.
Unlike others, Side-striped Jackals are true omnivorous scavengers. While their diet often 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 they never run down prey, spending more 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.
#8. Rusty-spotted Genet
- Genetta maculata
- Adults are 42-52 cm (17-20 in) long with 40-53 cm (16-21 in) long tails.
- 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 predators in Benin at night.
Rusty-spotted Genets are small omnivores closely related to mongooses. They’re nocturnal and solitary, although they 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.
#9. African Civet
- Civettictis civetta
- Adults are 67–84 cm (26–33 in), with a 34–47 cm (13–19 in) long tail.
- 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 predator in Benin, you might not know exactly what you’re looking at!
African Civets are incredibly unique. They have some 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 will live in both forested and open areas, but they 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.
Despite being a relatively shy animal, they can become a nuisance to farmers. Occasionally, they go after poultry and young lambs. When catching live prey, they overpower it with their teeth rather than their paws.
- Orycteropus afer
- Adults are 105 and 130 cm (41-51 in) long.
- 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.
This might be the strangest-looking predator in Benin!
Aardvarks are highly specialized to forage for their favorite prey; ants and termites. Their large ears, long noses, and sticky tongues help them find, scoop, and eat these insects with ease. Due to their highly specific prey preference, they avoid areas that flood or have hard, compacted, or rocky soil.
When Aardvarks find an ant or termite mound, they dig rapidly into the side of it with sharp claws. Then, they sweep the ants and termites into their mouth with their long, sticky tongues.
They don’t chew the insects but digest them whole in a gizzard-like stomach. The defenses ants and termites use, like stinging, biting, chemical defenses, and hard mounds, may work on other predators but are no match for Aardvarks. However, they rarely destroy a colony, and the insects will build the mound back up when the Aardvark moves on.
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.
- Caracal caracal
- Adults are 78–108 cm (31–43 in) long.
- 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 predators are nearly impossible to spot in Benin.
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. They’re frequently killed by farmers and ranchers for feeding on small livestock.
#12. African Wildcat
- Felis lybica
- Adults are 46-60 cm (18-24 in) long.
- 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 a couple of rings near the end and black tips.
These predators in Benin are the ancestors of the domestic cat!
While they’re also known as Desert Cats, they can be found in many habitats, including steppes, savannas, and bushlands.
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.
Check out these other guides about animals found in Benin!
Which of these predators have you seen before in Benin?
Leave a comment below!