Animals in South Africa

Below you can find a complete list of South African animals. We currently track 160 animals in South Africa and are adding more every day!

South Africa is among the richest biodiversity hotspots in all of Africa. Located at the southernmost tip of the continent at the meeting point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the country shares a land border with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to the north. It also completely surrounds the tiny kingdom of Lesotho. The interior of South Africa is dominated by the central plateau, while the highly mountainous region known as the Great Escarpment forms the edge of the plateau and then slopes downward in the direction of the oceans.

The Official National (State) Animal of South Africa

The national animal of South Africa is the springbok. This small brown and white antelope has endured as a national symbol in post-apartheid South Africa thanks to the intervention of Nelson Mandela and the country’s tremendous win at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. South Africa also has a national bird, the blue crane, and a national fish, the galjoen.

Where to Find the Top Wild Animals in South Africa

Since its independence, South Africa has established 19 national parks to protect its natural beauty and wildlife. Together they comprise about 3% of the country’s total landmass.

  • Kruger National Park, located along the northeastern border with Mozambique, is the oldest and most famous protected area in all of South Africa. It’s also the largest park located entirely within the borders of South Africa. Designated by UNESO as an important biosphere reserve, the park contains some of the most popular African wildlife, including elephants, zebras, rhinos, leopards, cheetahs, lions, hyenas, hippos, and antelopes.
  • The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park encompasses some 15,000 square miles of sparse red sand dunes and dry river beds around the Kalahari Desert. Most of the park is actually located on the other side of the border with Botswana. Visitors who brave the difficult climate can expect to find migratory herds of wildebeests, springboks, and elands, along with their predators such as cheetahs, hyenas, and leopards. There are also more than 200 species of birds, including vultures and eagles.
  • The Addo Elephant National Park, located close to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, is one of the best places on the entire continent to find these magnificent giants, mixed among the lions, rhinos, and leopards. The park also encompasses St. Croix and Bird Island, where visitors can see cute penguins, whales, and even great white sharks in their natural habitat.

The Most Dangerous Animals in South Africa Today

South Africa contains its fair share of interesting but dangerous wildlife. Of the 100 species of snakes, about a quarter of them are venomous. Many of the world’s largest mammals are also found here.

  • Puff Adder – On account of its widespread distribution, toxic venom, and camouflaged coloring, the puff adder is probably responsible for more attacks than any snake in Africa, especially because it’s so often accidentally stepped on. The symptoms of its venom include pain, swelling, and bleeding, but death only occurs in a small number of untreated cases.
  • Black Mamba – This brown or olive green snake is actually named for its inky-black mouth, which it opens wide as part of its threat display. It’s a good thing that this snake will only tend to strike when cornered or threatened because if left untreated, the venom is often fatal.
  • Hippopotamus – The hippo is responsible for a surprising number of deaths every year, usually as a result of someone accidentally stumbling on its territory. These large and aggressive mammals will take great strides to defend themselves from any perceived threats.
  • Nile Crocodile – With its very powerful jaws and sharp teeth, this common freshwater reptile is responsible for more attacks than almost any other crocodile in the world.
  • Lions – While they are large and formidable, attacks from lions are very rare; they almost always occur from people wandering alone across the wilderness.
  • Rhinoceros – As one of the largest animals with horns, the rhino could easily harm a human, but it will only attack once it feels threatened.

Endangered Animals in South Africa

  • Black Rhinoceros – The large and imposing figure of the black rhinoceros, with horns emerging from the head, is one of the great natural sights in all of Africa. But this species is now in critical danger of becoming extinct from habitat loss and (in some countries) being caught in the middle of warfare. As one of the few species with horns, it’s also a target for illegal poachers. Despite strenuous conservation efforts, only a few thousand of them remain, mostly existing in isolated pockets across all of Africa.
  • African Bush Elephant – These large, magnificent creatures are now endangered from illegal poaching, habitat loss, diseases, and even conflicts with humans. It is estimated that some 400,000 remain in the wild.
  • Riverine Rabbit – Native to a small section of the Karoo Desert, this cute rabbit has suffered greatly from habitat loss. With only about 1,500 remaining, it is in critical danger of becoming extinct.
  • Cape Gannet – Sporting black and white plumage and a distinctive yellow crown, this sea bird is native to the coasts of sub-Saharan Africa, but numbers have declined precipitously from their height.
  • Cape Vulture – This scavenging bird has become endangered from poisoning, electrocutions, collisions, and loss of natural foraging habitat. It’s estimated that only about 10,000 mature individuals remain in the wild, which places it in danger of becoming extinct.

South African Animals

Aardvark

Can move 2ft of soil in just 15 seconds!

African Bullfrog

The African bullfrog is one of only three species of frog that have “teeth.”

African Clawed Frog

A particularly ferocious amphibian!

African Penguin

The only penguin species in Africa!

Albatross

The largest wingspan of any bird in the world!

Angora Goat

Each adult Angora goat produces about 12 inches of mohair annually while kids have about 8 inches.

Ant

First evolved 100 million years ago!

Antelope

Renew their horns every year!

Baboon

Can travel more than four miles a day!

Barb

There are over 2,000 known species!

Barn Owl

Found everywhere around the world!

Bat

Detects prey using echolocation!

Beetle

There are more than 350,000 different species

Bichir

The bichir species is more than 400 million years old

Bird

Not all birds are able to fly!

Black Rhinoceros

Horns can grow to 1.5m!

Black Widow Spider

They typically prey on insects!

Brown Hyena

They don’t laugh

Buffalo

Has no real natural predators!

Bumblebee

The most common species of bee!

Bush Baby

In a series of leaps, this creature can cover almost 30 feet of distance in just a few seconds.

Butterfly

There are thought to be up 20,000 species!

Caracal

Has 20 different muscles in it's ears!

Cat

First domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians!

Caterpillar

The larvae of a moth or butterfly!

Catfish

There are nearly 3,000 different species!

Centipede

There are about 3,000 documented species!

Chameleon

There are more than 160 different species!

Cheetah

The fastest land mammal in the world!

Chicken

First domesticated more than 10,000 years ago!

Cicada

Cicadas have one of the longest insect lifespans

Cichlid

There are more than 2 000 known species!

Cockroach

Dated to be around 300 million years old!

Common Buzzard

The most common raptor in the UK!

Cow

There are nearly 1.5 million worldwide!

Crab

There are 93 different crab groups

Crab Spider

Crab Spiders can mimic ants or bird droppings

Crane

Many are critically endangered species!

Crocodile

Have changed little in 200 million years!

Desert Rain Frog

The desert rain frog doesn't hop

Dog

First domesticated in South-East Asia!

Donkey

First domesticated 5,000 years ago!

Dormouse

Found in Europe, Africa and Asia!

Dragonfly

It's larvae are carnivorous!

Duck

Rows of tiny plates line their teeth!

Eagle

Has exceptional eyesight!

Earwig

There are nearly 2,000 different species!

Eel

Eels can be a mere few inches long to 13 feet!

Elephant

Spends around 22 hours a day eating!

Elephant Shrew

Found exclusively on the African continent!

Falcon

The fastest creatures on the planet!

Fallow deer

The fallow deer has more variation in its coat colors than most other deer.

Flamingo

Sleeps on just one leg!

Fly

There are more than 240,000 different species!

Fox

There are 12 different species in the world!

Frog

There are around 7,000 different species!

Fruit Bat

Among the largest bats in the world

Gecko

There are thought to be over 2,000 species!

Gerbil

Originally known as the Desert Rat!

Giraffe

Long, black tongue can grow to 18 inches long!

Glass Lizard

Can grow up to 4ft long!

Glow Worm

Found inhabiting dense woodland and caves!

Goat

Most closely related to the Sheep!

Golden Oriole

Migrates between Europe and Asia!

Grasshopper

There are 11,000 known species!

Green Bee-Eater

Mainly eats honeybees!

Guinea Fowl

Found in a vairety of African habitats!

Hamster

Able to run as quickly backwards as forwards!

Hare

Can reach speeds of over 40 mph!

Hedgehog

Thought to be one of the oldest mammals on Earth!

Heron

Inhabits wetlands around the world!

Hippopotamus

Has pink anti-bacterial sweat!

Honey Badger

One of earth's bravest creatures!

Honey Bee

There are only 8 recognized species!

Hoopoe

Stunning bird with a stinky way to deter predators!

Horse

Has evolved over 50 million years!

Horsefly

Horseflies have been seen performing Immelmann turns, much like fighter jets.

Human

Thought to have orignated 200,000 years ago!

Huntsman Spider

Some huntsman spiders have an interesting way of moving around. Some cartwheel while others do handsprings or backflips.

Hyena

There are four different species!

Ibis

Found in swamps, marshes and wetlands!

Impala

Able to jump over 10 feet high

Insects

There are an estimated 30 million species!

Jackal

Can maintain speeds of 16 km/h!

Kingfisher

Inhabits wetlands and woodlands worldwide!

Kudu

Lives in herds of up to 24 individuals!

Ladybug

There are more than 5,000 species worldwide!

Leopard

Spends much of the time high in the trees!

Leopard Tortoise

The most widely distributed tortoise in Africa!

Liger

The offspring of a lion and tiger parents!

Lion

Lives in small groups called prides!

Lizard

There are around 5,000 different species!

Locust

Each locust can eat its weight in plants each day.

Magpie

They are found across Europe, Asia and Africa!

Mallard

With an appropriate tail wind, the mallard can travel hundreds of miles a day

Marabou Stork

The marabou stork does not have a voice box.

Mayfly

There are 2,500 known species worldwide!

Meerkat

One will stand on guard to watch for predators!

Millipede

Some species have a poisonous bite!

Mole

Primarily hunts and feeds on Earthworms!

Mongoose

Range in size from just 1 to 3 foot!

Mongrel

Has characteristics of two or more breeds!

Monitor Lizard

Some species are thought to carry a weak venom!

Monkey

There are around 260 known species!

Moorhen

Feeds on aquatic insects and water-spiders!

Moth

There are 250,000 different species!

Mouse

Found on every continent on Earth!

Mule

The offspring of a horse and donkey parents!

Myna Bird

For a nice price, the mynah bird makes a good pet.

Nightingale

Named more than 1,000 years ago!

Nile Crocodile

When a female Nile crocodile’s hatchlings are in danger, she may hide them in a special pouch inside her throat.

No See Ums

There are more than 5,000 species.

Ostrich

The largest bird in the world!

Otter

There are 13 different species worldwide

Pangolin

Bad eyesight, but great sense of smell

Parrot

Can live for up to 100 years!

Peregrine Falcon

Fastest animal on Earth

Pheasant

Females lay between 8 and 12 eggs per clutch!

Pigeon

They can find their way back to their nests from up to 1300 miles away.

Quagga

The quagga is a subspecies of plains zebra.

Quail

Inhabits woodland and forest areas worldwide!

Rabbit

There are more than 50 different species!

Rat

Omnivores that eat anything!

Rhinoceros

It's horns are made from keratin!

River Turtle

Inhabits freshwater habitats around the world!

Robin

There are more than 45 species in Australia alone!

Rock Hyrax

Actually related to Elephants and Manatees!

Rodents

The capybara, the world’s largest rodent, likes to be in and around bodies of water. Because of this, the Catholic Church in South America decided that it was a fish, and people were allowed to eat it during Lent and First Fridays.

Scorpion

There are around 2,000 known species!

Seahorse

Males give birth to up to 1,000 offspring!

Serval

Can leap more than 1 meter into the air!

Sheep

Around 35 million in the English countryside!

Shrimp

There are 2,000 different species worldwide!

Skink Lizard

Some skinks lay eggs in some habitats while giving birth to skinklets in other habitats.

Snail

There are nearly 1,000 different species!

Snake

There are around 3,000 known species worldwide

Sparrow

There are 140 different species!

Springbok

The springbok has a large tuft of hair that emerges from a pouch on the back

Squirrel

Small rodents found in woodlands worldwide!

Stick Insect

There are more than 3,000 different species!

Swan

Populations have been affected by pollution!

Termite

Their mounds can be up to 9 meters tall!

Thrush

The American robin is called the robin because its red breast reminded European settlers of the robin back in the old country.

Tortoise

Can live until they are more than 150 years old!

Tree Frog

Found in warmer jungles and forests!

Vervet Monkey

Rarely found more than 450m from trees!

Vulture

There are 30 different species worldwide!

Warthog

Has two sets of tusks on it's face!

Wasp

There are around 75,000 recognised species!

Water Buffalo

Has been domesticated for thousands of years!

White Rhinoceros

The second largest animal on the land!

Wildebeest

Can trek more than 1,000 miles every year!

Wolf Spider

Carnivorous arachnid that hunts its prey.

Woodlouse

Actually a crustacean, not an insect!

Woodpecker

There are 200 different species!

Xerus

Squirrel that lives in burrows in Africa.

Zebra

Stripe patterns are unique to each individual!

Zebu

There are around 75 different species!

Zonkey

The offspring of Zebra and Donkey parents!

Zorse

The offspring of a Zebra and Horse parents!

South African Animals List

Animals in South Africa FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What kind of animals live in South Africa?

South Africa is home to quite a few mammals, including rodents, moles, shrews, bats, carnivores, elephants, and hoofed animals (like zebras and antelopes). The country is particularly rich in birds, from penguins to eagles. It also has a lot of snakes.

What animals are unique to South Africa?

The cute riverine rabbit, golden moles, Cape elephant shrew, Cape horseshoe bat, and Cape genet are all unique or mostly unique to South Africa.

What dangerous animals live in South Africa?

South Africa is home to venomous snakes, large crocodiles, carnivorous lions, very aggressive hippos, and even some spiders.

How many animals does South Africa have?

South Africa is home to more than 200 species of mammals, 450 species of reptiles, 130 amphibians, and 800 species of birds.