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Africa’s Most Unusual Species



Africa’s tropical grasslands, rainforests, and deserts are home to some of the most fascinating animals in the world.

From the giraffe and its blue tongue to the dung beetle navigating its way by using the stars, Africa is the ultimate hub for exceptionally weird wildlife.

In this blog, it’s the weird and the wonderful wildlife’s time to shine. Here are our top 7 unusual species of Africa.

1. The Pangolin

Habitat: Savanna woodlands, floodplain grasslands and rocky slopes

Status: Critically endangered.

At the top of our list is the pangolin. You might mistake these small creatures for reptiles, but they are the only mammals in the world wholly covered in scales.

The pangolin has three claws on each foot and an exceptional sense of smell, which allows it to detect its prey under the soil surface. Its tongue is long and sticky (some over 15 inches long!) and is used to collect prey by being inserted into tunnels – this is done about 90 times per night when feeding.

The pangolin is well equipped for self-defense – it rolls up into a ball when threatened, using its scales as protective armour. It also has scent glands, similar to those of a skunk, which it uses to spray its enemies.

It breaks our hearts to say that the pangolin is the most trafficked animal on the planet, with more than a million already taken from the wild.  They are trafficked by the ton and hunted for their skin, scales and meat (which is considered a rare delicacy).

Most interesting fact:

The pangolin’s scales make up 20% of their entire weight.

2. Bat-Eared Fox

Habitat: Short-grass savannas and dry grasslands

Status: Least concern

Another very unusual African wildlife species is the bat-eared fox. These foxes have enormous ears, easily measuring up to 5 inches long, giving them an incredible sense of hearing.

The bat-eared fox is an insectivore – its diet consisting mostly of ants, grasshoppers and harvester termites. When the bat-eared fox senses its prey, it will burrow a path into the ground and strike.

Just like the swan and the otter, these animals mate for life. The males also babysits and guards the den while the females are out foraging for food. These foxes are very sociable, rather than territorial, and they use 9 different calls to communicate with each other.

Most interesting fact:

The bat-eared fox has extremely pointed teeth which enables them to quickly and efficiently chew meals before digesting.

3. Colobus Monkey

Habitat: Forests, woodlands or wooded grasslands

Status: Vulnerable / Endangered

Coming in at number three of Africa’s most unusual species is the colobus monkey. The name “colobus” is derived from the Greek word “mutilated” as this unusual species of monkey, unlike almost all other primates, does not have thumbs. They are Old World monkeys that are native to Africa.

The colobus monkey is adapted to live high in trees, where it is prone to sit and daydream. This has made them the target of both human and other primate hunters. Yes, in a strange turn of events, the chimpanzee has been known to hunt the colobus as a way of supplementing its fruit diet.

Most interesting fact:

The colobus monkey is the most arboreal of all African monkeys – meaning out of all of Africa’s monkeys, it spends the most time in trees.

4. Aardvark 

Habitat: Savannahs, open grasslands and bushlands

Status: Least concern

Aardvarks are fairly big creatures, weighing in at around 81kg (180 pounds), the average weight of a full-grown human! This unusual species, with the snout of a pig, boasts a 15-inch tongue and very sharp claws.

Aardvarks are mammals and they are prey for many natural predators, including lions, leopards, hyenas and pythons. A keen sense of hearing enables them to detect predators approaching. They strike with their claws, shoulders or tails.

Aardvarks also have the best sense of smell in the animal kingdom. Their diet consists of ants and termites and they are known to eat around 50 000 in one night! The Aardvark has a sticky tongue that can be up to 12 inches long and their nostrils have hairs and fleshy folds that close to keep out dirt and insects.

These nocturnal animals are solitary creatures and they only come together to mate, giving birth to one newborn each year.

The Maasai tribe believes that spotting an aardvark brings good fortune.

Most interesting fact:

The name aardvark is an Afrikaans word and literally means Earth pig.

5. Okapi (forest giraffe)

Habitat: Rainforests

Status: Endangered

More commonly known as the “forest giraffe”, the Okapi is the only living relative of the giraffe, with a similar head and a shorter neck. The male okapi also sport ‘horns’ similar to those of the giraffe.  These creatures are shy and solitary, making it hard to observe them in the wild.

The Okapi’s main predators are humans and leopards. They camouflage well with their brown and white marks in their natural habitat. Okapi’s mate all year long and the female will give birth to one calf after 14 months.

Okapis are herbivores and will eat anything from leaves to fruits and vegetation found on the underbrush of rainforests.

These animals have some unusual “powers”. Okapi mothers communicate with their calves through infrasonic calls around 14Hz, which humans cannot hear. They also have stinky feet, scent glands on each foot leave behind a sticky, tar-like substance to mark their territory. Apart from these “powers”, their tongues, measuring around 18 inches long, are long enough to lick their own ears and eyelids!

6. Shoebill Stork

Habitat: Freshwater swamps and marshes

Status: Vulnerable

There is no way of missing this distinctive looking bird, found in Eastern Africa. Shoebills grow up to about 5 feet tall and their 9-inch-long bill looks like a huge wooden clog.

They can stand still for hours, making them a worthy opponent for a staring competition.

The shoebills’ diet consists of lungfish, eels, catfish, lizards, snakes and baby crocodiles. They inflict very powerful bites and their beaks are strong enough to decapitate larger prey.

They are solitary birds and feed during the night, ambushing their prey with incredible speed and accuracy.

Most interesting fact:

The Shoebill Stork is also known as the Whale-head and there are no more than 8000 left in the wild.

7. Galago (“bush baby”)

Habitat: Forests, woodlands and bushlands

Status: Not extinct

Ending off our unusual species list is the galago, one of the most unusual and smallest primates in the world. Galago’s produce baby-like cries, hence the name “bush-baby”.

They have thick wool-like fur and large eyes, giving these nocturnal animals exceptional night vision. They also have large ears and long tails that help them balance.

The most unique feature of the galago is its two tongues! Underneath their regular tongue, they have a tongue made of cartilage. This plays an important role in grooming.

Galagos are omnivores and their favourite food is grasshoppers, although they also eat small birds, eggs, fruits and flowers.

These small primates can jump 6 feet in the air as they have elastic joints on their lower legs, covering ten yards in just seconds.

The galago lives in small family groups, consisting of the male, the female and their offspring.  Mating happens once a year with two to three babies being born.

Most interesting fact:

The galago marks its territory by urinating on its hands and spreading the scent when it jumps from tree to tree.

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