Unique and Exciting wildlife groups to look out for in the Kruger National Park & South Africa
Updated: Jan 10
South Africa is home to all kinds of fascinating creatures that roam her national parks and the surrounding coastlines. The crown jewel of these areas being the Kruger National Park. Here, you’ll be able to explore the African wild and encounter all manner of creatures and plant life. You’ll be able to witness unique encounters and enjoy all the thrills of nature.
Though you will come across so many exciting and thrilling species of wildlife, there are some special and iconic groups of animals that you should be on the lookout for. Here’s a few that you should tick off on your bucket list when you plan your visit:
#1 The Big 5:
The most well-known and iconic group of animals in Africa. Dubbed the Big 5 by hunters back in the colonialist era, they are the most dangerous animals to come across in the African wild on foot and are some of Africa’s largest. The Big 5 are:
#1.1 Elephant: The largest and heaviest land mammal in the world. You have a very high chance of encountering a herd of elephants or a lone bull as they roam throughout the Park. The Kruger National Park is home to just under 20 000 elephants according to a 2019 census.
#1.2 Rhino or Rhinoceros: Another one of Africa’s largest and heaviest mammals though critically endangered. It is one of the most difficult of Africa’s mammals to spot in the wild due to their low numbers. There are two species that can be found in the Kruger National Park. The Black Rhino which is the more endangered out of the 2 species, having a hooked lip and smaller frame to its cousin the white Rhino which has a square mouth and much larger in size.
#1.3 Cape Buffalo: A popular prey for lions, they have a reputation for being dangerous and ill-tempered. Usually docile in a herd, they can be unpredictable, more so when you have a lone bull. One of the most dangerous animals you can come across on foot and one you should keep your eyes on. There are roughly 2 500 in the Kruger National Park, so you do have a good chance of coming across some if you’re staying a few days.
#1.4 Lion: Largest of Africa’s big cats and second in the world. They are very social creatures, living in prides of up to 30 individuals but can be very dangerous, especially when there are cubs around. They are often seen laying around during the day, under shady spots due to the heat but as soon as night comes around, they are at their most active. It is estimated that there are 1 500 lions within Kruger so chances are good that you may come across the king of the jungle.
#1.5 leopard: Being Africa’s second largest big cat and the most elusive of the big 5 due to their camouflage. They are solitary and independent creatures, blending into the surrounding bush and taking down prey twice their size and after, dragging it up a nearby tree. It is estimated that there are around 1 000 in Kruger national park, so you have a fair chance of seeing one.
#2 The Magnificent Seven:
Along with the big 5, two new magnificent creatures are added into this group. The magnificent seven consists of Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Leopard, Lion, Cheetah and Wild Dogs.
#2.1 Cheetah: Built for speed, this animal is the Kruger Parks third largest big cat. With its long legs and greyhound-like body, the cheetah can reach speeds of up to 114km/h, therefore being the world’s fastest land animal. There are just over 400 individual adults roaming around the Kruger National Park, making this animal one of the hardest to find.
#2.2 African Wild Dogs: One of Africa’s most endangered species along with the Rhino. There are sadly only 4 remaining populations in Africa, one of which is the Kruger national Park. These fascinating creatures live in packs with a dominant male and female. They do not bark but instead, twitter and squeak. There are roughly around 450 -500 Wild Dogs in the Kruger National Park so, like the Cheetah, seeing them requires a bit of luck.
#3 The Small 5:
We have looked at the famous Big 5 and now we will look at the hard to see small 5. Though these animals are not shy, they are generally hard to find due to their size. Each one has a name from one of the Big 5 in its own.
#3.1 Elephant Shrew: The cutest one out of the five. Its appearance is like that of a mouse but has a very long nose. This little critter enjoys living inside rocky crevices, so you have a good chance of spotting one near large rocky outcrops.
3.2 Leopard Tortoise: Getting its name from the black spots on yellow background of its shell, they’re gentle creatures. Mainly feeding on plants and occasionally bone in order to get some vital calcium.
#3.3 Ant Lion: Adult Ant Lions are often mistaken for dragonflies, with their narrow bodies and translucent wings. The larvae are known to make little conical traps, trapping any ants that fall. You will see them mostly flying at night.
#3.4 Rhino Beetle: A fierce-looking insect, with a horn on its head, like that of the rhino. They are totally harmless, being neither biters or stingers. Though their appearance doesn’t look very friendly, the only time they fight, is over the attention of female Rhino Beetles.
#3.5 Buffalo Weaver: Being very sociable birds, they build colony type nests which house numerous birds in separate compartments. They enjoy dining on insects like ants and grasshoppers and can be found all over the Kruger National Park.
Thank you for taking the time to read about these unique and interesting groups of animals.
If you enjoyed reading about these amazing creatures, please keep a look out for our next blog as we look at some more interesting animal groups like the Shy five, the ugly five and more.