What are the different kinds of PREDATORS found in the Congo?
These are often the first animals you think of when you imagine visiting the Congo! 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!
8 Predators Found in the Congo:
- 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 the Congo.
In fact, individuals’ coat coloring is so unique it can be used to identify individuals like fingerprints. Their color patterns help these carnivores to remain camouflaged in various habitats.
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 the Congo. They can swim, climb trees and descend from them head first, run at bursts of 60 kph (36 mph), and jump 6 m (20 ft) horizontally and 3 m (10 ft) vertically. This is one carnivore that would break every record in gym class! 🙂
Sadly, leopard populations are declining due to habitat loss, range fragmentation, and hunting. Today, they are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
#2. 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 the Congo!
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 the Congo.
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.
- 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 the Congo 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!
#4. 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 the Congo.
Side-striped Jackals live in swamps, marshes, humid savannas, and wooded areas up to 2,700 m (8,800 ft) above sea level.
They’re strictly nocturnal, so they can be hard to spot, but you may hear them calling out at night. These canines are incredibly vocal creatures that make various noises, including yipping to communicate with other jackals, screaming when threatened or wounded, and an owl-like hoot, which sets them apart from other jackal species.
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.
#5. 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 the Congo 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.
#6. 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 the Congo, 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 the Congo!
Aardvarks are highly specialized to forage for their favorite prey; ants and termites. Their large ears, long noses, and sticky tongues help them 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.
#8. 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 freshwater predator in the Congo.
These reptiles 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 terribly common but can be quite a spectacle to witness!
Check out these other guides about animals found in the Congo!
Which of these predators have you seen before in the Congo?
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