National Animals are often the face of a nation. These animals present their country to the rest of the world and are nonverbal symbols of all that is significant within its boundaries.
Now, I want to assume that we all know that the continent of Africa is rich in wildlife. Almost every wild animal can be found on this interesting continent; from the hunters to the herbivore’s, the endangered and the rare. So, wouldn’t it be interesting to have this information of which animals, the countries within Africa, have selected as their national animal on your finger tips?
Since most countries want to be seen as powerful and strong, you’d think they’d all have opted for the lion, or perhaps the leopard, but surprisingly enough, this isn’t the case. That’s why we’ve put together a list of ten national animals, and where to find them!
Let's get into it;
The Okapi - Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Insecurity aside, the biodiversity in the Democratic Republic of Congo is second to none in Africa.
Congo has rare species like the Okapi, bonobos, mountain and Eastern lowland gorillas. The okapi, sometimes referred to as a forest giraffe or Okapia johnstoni is a strange looking creature with markings that are similar to that of zebras.
What is amazing about the Okapi is that they are more related to giraffes and were only discovered in 1901 at the Virunga National Park. It is only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Ituri forest and Virunga National Park.
The government of Congo has selected the Okapi as a national symbol of wildlife conservation and appears in many national emblems.
Where can you see the Okapi
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is technically opened for visitors throughout the year but the dry seasons between June and August is perfect for visiting.
The Oryx - Namibia
This large antelope with its striking appearance of long horns and distinct colouration is the national animal of Namibia. The Oryx, also known as the Gemsbok, occurs in the more arid regions throughout the African continent where it feeds on course grasses and thorny shrubs often during the morning and late afternoon.
Having successfully adapted to harsh conditions where scarce water and intense heat are the norm, it is no surprise that this large mammal has solidified itself as the country’s national animal. The Oryx was chosen as Namibia’s national animal due to its courage, elegance and pride with the national coat of arms bearing this unmistakable dweller of the desert.
Where can you see the Oryx in Namibia?
Namibia is one of the best places to experience Oryx, the current Oryx population in Namibia is believed to be 373,000. These large antelopes have adapted to many environments that most large mammals are unfit to live in. They are so prevalent in Namibia that you will likely spot them alongside the road all over the country. Seeing them in the dunes at Sossusvlei against the backdrop of the rising sun, however, is especially memorable. Keep an eye out for the characteristic large hoofed tracks on the soil. During the day, the animal will rest in the shade to escape the heat. If there is no shade available, the antelope will position itself in a manner to expose as little as possible of its body surface to the sun.
The Sable Antelope - Zimbabwe
The handsome Sable Antelope is the national animal of Zimbabwe and is one of the most sought after for photographers and trophy hunters alike due to its scimitar horns. They are very aggressive when it comes to danger, defending themselves fiercely against Lions, Hyenas and Wild Dogs. They will lie down and defend themselves with their horns as a last resort.
The Giant Sable Antelope is a greatly respected animal which may be one of the reasons it survived the long civil war in Zimbabwe. These antelopes are protected in nature parks where hunting is forbidden as they are vitally endangered. Like its close relative, the Roan, the Sable has a conspicuous mane and this, combined with its horse-like build, have earned them the family name of ‘Hippotragini’, which means ‘horse-goat’. It is estimated that only a thousand Giant Sable Antelopes survive today.
Where can you see the Sable Antelope?
The national animal of Zimbabwe, Sable antelopes are found basically in the southern savannas of Africa from the southeastern part of Kenya, in eastern Tanzania, as well as Mozambique to Zimbabwe and in southern Zaire, mostly in the Miombo Woodland Zone. They prefer a mixture of grassland and savanna woodlands.
The African Fish Eagle - Zambia
Zambia, home to the exquisite natural phenomenon and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World; the Victoria Falls, prides itself in raw, natural charm. Just when you think the country has been blessed abundantly in natural beauty, it’s also home to a plethora of wildlife. But, even with so many choices, the country settled on the African Fish Eagle as their national animal, to represent their values and their people. The African Fish Eagle is depicted as the eagle of liberty and is representative of the country’s wealth; not just economically, but in beauty, too.
Where can you see The African Fish Eagle?
These enchanting birds are usually found near rivers, or lagoons, which means you have a good chance of seeing them if you visit the Victoria Falls!
The Zebra - Botswana
Botswana is yet another breathtaking country, found near the south of Africa. Open grasslands, that extend for miles, which are riddled in the world’s most beautiful wildlife, is what makes this destination a cut above the rest. From sightings of the big five to rare wildlife species and fauna and flora that will leave you speechless, Botswana prides itself on this unusual typography. The chosen national animal of Botswana is the gorgeous, black and white striped animal; the Zebra, and was chosen because it’s seen as harmless and lovable, making it easier for the people of Botswana to relate to. The symbol also reflects national unity and is found on the country’s coat of arms.
Where can you see the Zebra?
The zebra roams throughout Botswana, but can be found in large herds near the Kalahari desert; the Makgadikgadi pans, and the Okavango Delta.
The Kob - Uganda
The African Ugandan Kob is the national animal of Uganda and features on the Ugandan coat of arms, along with a Grey crowned crane representing the abundant wildlife present in the country.
The kob is a type of antelope found all across Sub-Saharan Africa. They move around in small herds, which can come together into large groups sometimes up to 1000 strong. Kobs are abundant and not protected, though their grazing areas are coming under strain due to farming.
In Uganda, these animals are one of the main sources of food for predators including lions, leopards and hyenas.
Male kobs can whistle – which they do both to mark their territory and as part of their courtship rituals.
Where can you see the Kob?
You’ll have no trouble spotting Kob in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks among many others.
The Masai Giraffe - Tanzania
You may have heard of the Serengeti National Park, where the great mammal migration takes place each year; around the months of January to March, and November to December. It’s a natural spectacle that attracts thousands of people each year, as the wildlife migrate in their strong numbers across the plains, to greener pastures and water. Tanzania is where all of this goes down, so it’s no wonder the country has chosen a mammal as their national animal, and they’ve chosen the tallest of them all, too; the giraffe. The legs of a giraffe, alone, are more than 6 feet in length-taller than that of most humans. The country believes the giraffe reflects mental, physical and spiritual strength, as well as flexibility. The country believes the long neck of the giraffe allows it to have a better perspective and ‘see life from all angles,' which is what they hope to mirror, as a nation.
Where can you see the Masai Giraffe?
The Serengeti National Park and Selous National Park.
The Leopard - Rwanda
The leopard is the national animal of Rwanda. By choosing the majestic predator, Rwanda is showing the world that she is fierce, powerful, and courageous. Leopards are a vulnerable or near threatened species and live in rocky areas with dense bush.
Where can you see the Leopard?
Akagera National Park, located in the north-eastern province of Rwanda, is the only site in the country where visitors stand a chance to view these big cats in their natural habitat.
The Dodo Bird - Mauritius
Mauritius proudly demonstrates the Dodo bird as a symbol of its cultural pride. This bird was endemic to the country and helped to put Mauritius, a small island nation, on the map by sailors who stopped there for provisions. Unfortunately, the Dodo bird became a popular meal and an easy catch since it didn’t have natural prey and therefore didn’t fear humans. Its habitat was also destroyed by people and other non-indigenous animals. The Dodo has become famous as the "poster-animal" of extinction, and its story is kept alive in the museums, business names, and stamps of Mauritius.
Red-Crested Turaco - Angola
The national bird of Angola, this bird is striking. They are the only birds in the world to possess true red and green
colouration. Pigments of the turaco’s red and green plumage contain traces of copper. If you stirred a glass of water with a red turaco feather, the water would turn pink!
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction. It has become a national icon for bird and forest conservation. Living up to 10 years, turacos nest in large flocks of up to 30 individuals. They have unusual mobile outer toes, which they are able to rotate forward or backward.
Where can you see the Red-Crested Turaco?
Red-Crested Turaco occurs quite commonly along the length of the Angolan escarpment and adjacent forested habitats.
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