The African wildlife attracts people from far and wide. While visitors mostly go for African safari to see the big five game animals, Mama Africa has much, much more animals to offer. From mammals to reptilian species, avian and sea life the continent is richly blessed with animals in their natural habitats. Let's look at the ten largest animals in Africa and marvel at their being.
Biggest animals in Africa
Here are the ten biggest animals you will encounter in the African forests, savannas, and oceans.
These African giants weigh up to 6000kgs and can reach up to 3m in height and 7m in length making them the largest and heaviest land animals. African elephants (Loxodonta Africana) are found in savannas and forests in over 30 countries across the continent. They are predominantly herbivorous feeding on leaves, barks, and roots<1> and can consume an average of 250kgs of food daily. Their newborn calves weigh over 100kgs. Due to increased poaching, African elephant population has gradually reduced to about 400,000 elephants.<2> Forest elephants are mostly found in central Africa’s forests while savannah elephants are spread across Eastern Africa and Southern Africa moving in herds. They have an average lifespan of 70 years.
Listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) both white and black rhino’s species can be spotted in the East and Southern Africa. Unlike the rest of big fives which can easily be seen roaming in forests and national parks, it has become increasingly hard to spot these gems in the wilderness. Due to their expensive horns rhinos are targeted during poaching.<3> To save rhinos from extinction they are mainly confined in protected conservancies under 24-hour surveillance such as Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda. Adult rhinos can weigh between 800-23000Kgs with white rhinos weighing more than black rhinos. Feeding exclusively on vegetation, rhinos can grow up to 1.8m in height and 3-4.5m in length.
These semi-aquatic animals weigh between 1300- 3500kg with males being heavier than females. Taking the third position as the largest land animals hippos consume about 35 Kgs of food daily. Different subspecies are found in different parts of Africa and can grow up to 4m in length and 1.5m in height. Though they are herbivorous, hippos are extremely dangerous and are known to viciously attack humans. They are nocturnal feeders and can live up to 40 years. Their calves weigh an average of 30kgs. Despite the fact that they spend most of their lives submerged in water and are huge in size and similar to rhinos can run at 30km/hr on land.
Like elephants, the Cape buffalo live in herds. With an average weight of between 250- 900kgs an adult African forest buffalo can reach up to 1.5m in height and 2m in length. Spread across Africa, the buffalo move in huge herds. Unlike most of African wildlife the buffalo are rarely poached due to their aggressive nature and large groups. With an average lifespan of 20 years and high breeding rates, buffalo population is high in Africa.
These gentle giants are the world’s tallest animals and can be spotted roaming in towers across Africa’s savannahs. As the biggest of the ruminant animals' giraffes weigh between 1100-1900kgs and can grow up to 5 meters in height. Different African giraffes subspecies such as West African giraffe, Reticulated giraffe, Rothschild’s giraffe, Kordofan giraffes, Angolan giraffe, Masai giraffes, Nubian giraffes, South African giraffes and Northern giraffes are found in different parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Giraffes consume about 40 Kgs of shrubs and leaves daily and can reach 25 years old.
Occasionally found off the west coast of South Africa Antarctic blue whales are the world’s largest and heaviest creatures. These migratory gigantic marine mammals weigh over 130,000 kg an equivalent of about 20 adult African elephants combined. They have an average length of 24 meters and can feed up to 3000 kilograms of krill daily. Their young ones weigh an average of 2500kg and 7m in length at birth and can live for over 80 years.
In Africa, wild ostriches can found in their natural habitats roaming across the arid plains and savannas. Weighing between 100kgs-159kgs ostriches are the largest and heaviest among the avian species. Despite their towering height (1.7m- 2.8 meters) ostriches can run at an average speed of 70km/hr. Feeding on plants, insects and reptiles ostriches have an average lifespan of 35 years. Species found in Africa include the Red-necked ostrich, Masai ostrich, and Southern ostrich and Somali ostrich.
Often referred to as the king of the jungle, African lions are the most prominent among the wild cats. Weighing about 120-250 Kgs lions can grow up to 2 meters in length and 1 meter in height. Unlike other big cats, they hunt and live in groups. Lions have an average lifespan of 10 years in the jungle. Although lions can be found in most countries within sub-Saharan Africa they are mainly concentrated in the plains and savannas of Eastern and Southern Africa.
Both blue and black wildebeest species inhabit the open savannas of Eastern and Southern Africa in large herds. African wildebeest weigh between 110-270 Kgs with blue wildebeests being larger and heavier. Thousands blue wildebeests of Africa cross the Mara River from Kenya to Serengeti during the great migration. Being the largest among African antelopes Gnus are grazers and can grow up to 1.5m in height and 2.3m in length.
Three zebra species namely the Grevy’s, Mountain and Plain zebras are found in African plains. They weigh between 290-450kg and grow up to 2.7 m in length depending on species with Grevy’s zebra being the largest and tallest. Foals weigh an average of 30 Kgs and they can live up to 25 years in the wilderness. Together with wildebeests, they migrate to and from Maasai Mara and Serengeti in search of food. In the African wilderness, zebras feed on vegetation and graze in groups with a stallion manning the herd.
Although Africa still holds the majority of the world's wildlife in their natural habitats massive poaching and habitat loss have greatly reduced their numbers. African countries are actively involved in fighting this menace and safeguarding wildlife welfare. Most species of these large African animals have been listed as either being vulnerable or endangered.