Africa is teeming with all sorts of wild animals. It is home to some of the world’s smallest creatures as well as the planet’s biggest land animal, the African bush elephant.

Many Southern African game reserves are home to the Big Five (leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo and elephant) and the Little Five (leopard tortoise, ant lion, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver and elephant shrew), and are definitely worth a visit.

From smallest to biggest (in terms of height), here are 13 animals that call Africa home.

Lilac-breasted roller catching its prey

The stunningly coloured lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus), weighing only 110g, tosses a recently caught grasshopper into the air. It will swallow this grasshopper head first, so as to avoid having the legs getting caught in its throat.

Ground pangolin

The elusive, mainly nocturnal ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) is said to be the world’s most trafficked animal due to the high demand for its scales and claws, for use in traditional medicine in parts of Africa and Asia. It can reach up to about 30kg in weight, despite its small stature.

The black-backed jackal

The black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), which stands at only about 50cm at the shoulder, is a feisty scavenger. They often nip in and steal kills, but if there is no opportunity to do so, they will hunt for small mammals and reptiles.

The endangered African wild dog

The endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is one of the continent’s most efficient hunters, with a success rate of around 80%. This is due to their excellent teamwork when hunting in a pack.

An impala

Anyone who has been to the Kruger National Park has seen an impala (Aepyceros melampus) from every angle possible. They are also frequently spotted in many other Southern African game reserves. So, it will come as no surprise that impala populations are stable and their conservation status is listed as least concern.

The spotted hyena

Like the black-backed jackal, the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), which is the largest of the three hyena species, is also a tenacious scavenger. Spotted hyenas have extremely powerful jaws, allowing them to maximise scavenging potential when they come across a carcass.

A Leopard

Leopards (Panthera pardus) are some of the most elusive animals in African game reserves, meaning a sighting is a rare occurrence. Male leopards can grow up to 70cm and are great climbers, which allows them to enjoy their meals in peace, as they drag their kills up trees, away from competing predators.

The cheetah

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), standing close to 90cm tall when fully grown, is the world’s fastest land animal, capable of reaching speeds of up to 120km/h over short distances.

The common Eland

The common Eland (Taurotragus oryx), the world’s second-largest antelope, can grow up to 1.6m tall at the shoulder and males can reach up to 900kg, although they typically weigh closer to 600kg. Despite its size, it can jump a 1.5m fence from a standstill and can trot for extended periods of time.

The Buffalo

Buffalos (Syncerus caffer) are some of the biggest mammals in Africa – they can reach heights of 1.7m and weights of 1 000kg. On the buffalo’s nose in the image above is a yellow-billed oxpecker, a bird that eats ticks and other insects off mammals like buffalos.


Hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) are one of Africa’s most dangerous animals – despite being primarily herbivorous, they kill an estimated 500 people a year, which dwarfs the numbers of deaths caused by more infamous predators like lions (200) and sharks (10). Adult hippos stand about 1.6m tall and can weigh 1 800kg.

The white rhino

The white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest species of rhino, with males standing close to 2m tall and weighing over 2 500kg. They are classified as near threatened because of extensive rhino poaching plaguing Southern Africa.

The African bush elephants

The African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the world’s largest land animal, with bulls reaching close to 4m and weighing 6 000kg. Elephants are powerful herbivores, strong enough to push over trees with minimal effort.

At Flow Travel, we are into our African game and absolutely love visiting game reserves to see the incredible variety of animals on the continent. We specialise in creating bespoke travel experiences across the world. If you’re keen on seeing animals like these in person, or have a particular destination in mind, contact us to organise the experience of a lifetime for you.