East African Safari Animals - Ungulates

This page features all of the hoofed mammal species - known as ungulates - that I’ve seen and photographed while on safari in Kenya, Tanzania or eastern Zambia. It’s a pretty comprehensive list of species for the countries and areas that I’ve visited, although there are a few notable omissions - such as the Black Rhinoceros and the Sable and Roan Antelopes  for example - that are more difficult to find due to their range and preferred habitat. There are also a few smaller antelopes that we may come across in other areas so there’s always going to be scope to extend the list in the future. In fact one of the latest updates was to add the Suni, which was a totally unexpected encounter in the Mara. And, if any of our safaris take us further afield in the future, we may see some of the many other ungulate species like Sitatunga, Bongo, Springbok, Nyala, Kob, Lechwe or Oryx. 

 

The tabulated index on the right (unfortunately not viewable on mobile) is in loose taxonomic sequence. Selecting a species will take you directly to that animal without having to scroll down the page. There are also a number of strategically placed ‘back to top’ buttons as you work through the entries.

 

Just to confuse matters I’ve started the list with the Elephant as I wanted to feature it somewhere, even though it is not an ungulate species. Elephants, of which there are three recognised types (two African and the Asian), are placed in their own taxonomic order PROBOSCIDEA. All of the other species on the list are true ‘hoofed animals’, which are either classified as odd-toed ungulates of the order PERISSODACTYLA, or even-toed of the order ARTIODACTYLA.

 

The primary function of this page is to provide information to assist identification and naming of the species rather than details about the animal’s habits and behaviour. I also want to ensure that I’m using the correct names, both common and scientific and, if there are different forms, the race and subspecies (ssp). Furthermore, I want to know the classification of each species so that they are correctly grouped within my Lightroom keywording system. 

 

For ease of reference I’ve used the same format throughout. For each species there’s a clickable thumbnail photo, alongside which there’s a brief note regarding classification (ORDER, family, subfamily and tribe if relevant), its current IUCN Red List conservation status and, for personal reference, a list of the countries and areas where I’ve photographed the animal.

The text concentrates on where the species is found and how it is identified. The descriptive details have been reviewed and updated to reflect current (new) taxonomy where, in accordance with the reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Groves & Grubb (2011)’, a number of previously recognised subspecies are now regarded as named species in their own right. I’ve also made an amendment to the classification of the various Bovidae (bovid) species to show the new structure where the various tribes are attributed to just two subfamilies, Bovinae and Antilopinae. Any traditionally used subfamily name, such as [Reduncinae] is retained in brackets for reference. Please refer to the footnote for further information.

African_Elephant.jpg

 

African Savanna Elephant  [Loxodonta africana]

Classification :

PROBOSCIDEA > family : Elephantidae

Red List status :

Vulnerable (VU)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

  • Tanzania (Selous, Ruaha & Katavi)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa & Lower Zambezi) 

It’s a common misconception that there is only one species of African Elephant when, in fact, there are two - the more familiar Savanna or Bush Elephant, and the smaller and far less well-known Forest Elephant [Loxodonta cyclotis] from central West Africa. Although no further information is required for this page, I do have a pending article about the species where I shall be writing a bit about their social structure and behaviour. The only observation I'll make here is in respect of their conservation status as I still find it incredible that given all the issues they face with loss of habitat and poaching that IUCN still classify them as 'vulnerable' rather than endangered. Their plight is a much publicised, complex and somewhat emotional issue, but clearly IUCN feel that the future for this magnificent animal isn't as bleak as it appears.

 
Hippopotamus.jpg

 

Hippopotamus  [Hippopotamus amphibius]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Hippopotamidae

Red List status :

Vulnerable (VU)

The Common Hippopotamus, to give the species its full name, is one of only two extant species in the Hippopotamidae family, the other being the ‘endangered’ Pygmy Hippopotamus [Choeropsis liberiensis] from West Africa. Originally found along the Nile and throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, the species today has a very much fragmented and reduced range. Evidence of the species declining populations prompted the IUCN to upgrade their conservation status in 2006 from ‘least concern’ to ‘vulnerable’. Both the IUCN and Jonathan Kingdon treat the Common Hippopotamus as a single species despite regional variations in both appearance, albeit subtle, and size. However, other authorities recognise a couple of specific subspecies and, although they are not universally accepted, it’s worth mentioning that the animals I’ve photographed in Kenya and Tanzania are the East African Hippopotamus [ssp.kiboko] and in Zambia the Cape Hippopotamus [ssp.capensis].

 

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara)

  • Tanzania (Selous, Ruaha & Katavi)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa & Lower Zambezi) 

Cape_Buffalo.jpg

 

Cape Buffalo  [Syncerus caffer]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Bovinae

Bovini (buffalo, bison, cattle)

Red List status :

Near Threatened (NT)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara)

  • Tanzania (Ruaha & Katavi)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa & Lower Zambezi)

Whilst formerly regarded as the nominate subspecies [ssp.caffer] of the African Buffalo [Syncerus caffer], the Cape Buffalo is now classified as a full species. It’s the common form of buffalo that you will encounter when on safari in South and East Africa. The Cape Buffalo is the largest and heaviest of the four currently recognised species, with the smallest being the Forest Buffalo [Syncerus nanus] from Central and West Africa. The subject species is also known as the Southern Savanna Buffalo and, as this alternative name suggests, is a close relative of the West and Central Savanna Buffalo [Syncerus brachyceros]. This particular species effectively incorporates two of the previously recognised subspecies, which were the Western Savanna Buffalo [ssp.brachyceros] and the Central Savanna or Sudanic Buffalo [ssp.aequinoctialis]. The final identified species under the reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Groves & Grubb (2011)’ is the Mountain Buffalo or Virunga Buffalo [Syncerus mathewsi] that’s restricted to a relatively small forested mountainous area of SW Uganda and DR Congo. It should be noted that this new taxonomy is still not universally accepted as certain authors will understandably be reluctant to make changes to traditional classification, particularly when previously recognised subspecies are elevated to species level or when taxon are lumped together. And if a new species is described it often takes years before it becomes formally acknowledged. This is probably going to be the case with the Mountain Buffalo, which is generally considered as an intermediate form between the savanna and forest species. 

 

The African Buffalo is a large bovine that is neither related to the slightly larger Asian Wild Water Buffalo or an ancestor of domestic cattle. The species is known to have an extremely unpredictable nature, which coupled with its shear size, heavy horns and continuous bone shield across the top of its head, makes it one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. This is particularly so with old bulls, known as ‘dagger boys’, who spend the last few years of their lives in small groups away from the herd. They have a reputation for being extremely bad tempered and aggressive if disturbed.

 
Masai_Giraffe.jpg

 

Masai Giraffe  [Giraffa tippelskirchi]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Giraffidae

Red List status :

Endangered (EN)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

  • Tanzania (Selous & Ruaha)

Recent re-classification of the giraffe family confirms that there are now four separate species - the Northern Giraffe, which retains the original scientific name Giraffa camelopardalis with four subspecies (Kordofan, Nubian, West African and Rothschild's), the Southern Giraffe [Giraffe giraffa] with two subspecies (South African and Angolan), the Masai Giraffe [Giraffa tippelskirchi] and the Reticulated Giraffe [Giraffa reticulata]. Consequently, the Masai Giraffe, which was previously regarded as a subspecies of Giraffa camelopardalis, is now considered a species in its own right. Whilst the IUCN duly acknowledge this, they are currently resisting altering the taxonomic status pending acceptance by their Specialist Group (GOSG) who, at present, continue to recognise a single species [Giraffa camelopardalis] with nine subspecies. I’ve followed the new, widely publicised, thinking. The Masai Giraffe, which to confuse matters further, is also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe, has no subspecies as the Thornicroft Giraffe (see below) is now simply regarded as a different form. The species is found in central and southern Kenya and in Tanzania. It is often noticeably darker than other giraffe species. Its blotches are large, dark brown and distinctively vine leaf-shaped with jagged edges, and separated by irregular, creamy brown lines. The giraffe family were categorised as 'threatened species' in 2016 when they were listed as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN Red List and, subsequently, elevated to 'endangered' status at the end of 2018.

 
Thornicroft_Giraffe.jpg

 

Thornicroft Giraffe  [Giraffa tippelskirchi]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Giraffidae

Red List status :

Vulnerable (VU)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Zambia (South Luangwa)

The Thornicroft Giraffe [formerly Giraffa camelopardalis, ssp.thornicrofti], also known as the Rhodesian or Luangwa Giraffe, is now regarded as a different localised form or conspecific ecotype of the Masai Giraffe [Giraffa tippelskirchi] rather than a defined subspecies as originally thought. Its range is restricted to the Luangwa Valley in Zambia with no more than 550 animals remaining in the wild and with none in captivity. The most noticeable difference to the common Masai Giraffe is that its decorative leg spots do not extend below the knee.

 
Grant's_Zebra.jpg

 

Grant's Zebra  [Equus quagga, ssp.boehmi]

Classification :

PERISSODACTYLA (odd-toed ungulates), 

> family : Equidae (equines)

Red List status :

Near Threatened (NT)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara)

  • Tanzania (Ruaha & Katavi)

There are three distinct species of zebra - Plains Zebra [Equus quagga], the endangered Grévy's Zebra [Equus grevyi] and the Mountain Zebra [Equus zebra]. The Plains, or Common Zebra as it's also known, has five primary subspecies - Grant's, Burchell's, Maneless, Chapman's and Crawshay's.

 

The Grant’s Zebra, generally regarded as the standard zebra form of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, is the smallest of the five subspecies of the common Plains Zebra. It is found in southern Ethiopia and Somalia, southwest Kenya and east of the Rift Valley, then down into northern and central Tanzania, Zambia west of the Luangwa River and into certain areas of DR Congo. This northern East African subspecies is vertically striped in front, horizontally on the back legs, and diagonally on the rump and hind flanks. Shadow stripes are absent or only poorly expressed. The stripes, as well as the inner-spaces, are broad and well defined.

 
 
Crawshay's_Zebra.jpg

Classification :

PERISSODACTYLA (odd-toed ungulates), 

> family : Equidae (equines)

Red List status :

Near Threatened (NT)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Selous)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa)

The Crawshay’s Zebra is a localised East African form of the common Plains Zebra that occurs only in southeastern Tanzania, Zambia east of the Luangwa River, Malawi and northern Mozambique. This particular subspecies has narrower stripes when compared with the other forms of the Plains Zebra. Some authorities treat the race found in Tanzania as another subspecies known as the Selous Zebra [ssp.selousi].

 
Johnston's_Wildebeest.jpg

 

Johnston's Wildebeest  [Connochaetes johnstoni]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Alcelaphine] > Alcelaphini (nomadic grazers)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Selous)

Traditionally there were two distinct species of wildebeest - the Blue Wildebeest [Connochaetes taurinus] and the Black Wildebeest [Connochaetes gnou], with the Blue Wildebeest having five named subspecies, which were the nominate Blue or Brindled Gnu, Eastern White-bearded [ssp.albojubatus], Western White Bearded [ssp.mearnsi], Johnston’s [ssp.johnstoni] and Cookson’s [ssp.cooksoni]. That arrangement has been updated by the reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Groves & Grubb (2011)’ where all of these previously recognised subspecies have been elevated to full species. 

 

The Johnston’s Wildebeest, also known as the Nyassa Wildebeest, is only found in east-central Tanzania and north of the Zambezi River in Mozambique. It has a black flowing beard, a slight hump above the shoulders and is more brown in colour than the other species.

 

Crawshay's Zebra  [Equus quagga, ssp.crawshaii]

Western_White-bearded_Wildebeest.jpg

[Connochaetes mearnsi]

 

Western White-bearded Wildebeest

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Alcelaphine] > Alcelaphini (nomadic grazers)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara)

The Western White-bearded Wildebeest is the smallest and darkest of the five previously recognised forms of the nominate Blue Wildebeest. It is the species found across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, inhabiting northern Tanzania and southern Kenya west of the Rift Valley.

 

As a general point of interest, the Bovid Alcelaphini tribe includes wildebeest, hartebeest, topi and related species. They are all classed as ‘nomadic grazers'. In most species the males are larger than the females. Both sexes have double-curved (lyrate) horns.

 
Cookson's_Wildebeest.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Alcelaphine] > Alcelaphini (nomadic grazers)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Zambia (South Luangwa)

The Cookson’s Wildebeest is a lighter-coloured local variant form of the common Blue Wildebeest that is only found in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley and occasionally on the adjacent plateau region of neighbouring Malawi. It was a defined subspecies as previously confirmed, classified as Connochaetes taurinus, ssp.cooksoni, but under current taxonomy could now be regarded as a conspecific form of the Johnston’s Wildebeest. To retain continuity, I’ve named it as a separate species.

 

 

Cookson's Wildebeest  [Connochaetes cooksoni]

Coke's_Hartebeest.jpg

 

Coke's Hartebeest (Kongoni)  [Alcelaphus cokii]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Alcelaphine] > Alcelaphini (nomadic grazers)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara)

The Coke’s Hartebeest is another previously classified subspecies - known as the Kongoni - that has been elevated to full species level under the reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Groves & Grubb (2011)’. The new taxonomy listings describe seven geographically located species. The Coke’s Hartebeest used to occur widely throughout northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, but much of that former range has been lost, such that it is now only seen in the Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks in Tanzania, and in Tsavo and the Masai Mara in Kenya.

 

Horn size and general colouration of the various hartebeest species vary considerably across their range, with the Coke’s having perhaps the smallest horns of the seven, and an intermediate tan colour compared with the other varieties, which vary from the reddy dark brown of the Ethiopian form - the Swayne’s Hartebeest [Alcelaphus swaynei] previously known as the Korkay, to a much lighter brown in the Western Hartebeest [Alcelaphus major] previously known as the Kanki. The other species found in East Africa is the Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest [Alcelaphus lichtensteinii], also known as the Nkonzi. This particular species has a wider range including, but not limited to, southern Tanzania and Zambia. The three other species are the critically endangered Tora Hartebeest [Alcelaphus tora] native to a small area of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Lelwel Hartebeest [Alcelaphus lelwel], also known as the Jackson’s Hartebeest, from central Africa including Uganda and parts of Kenya and Tanzania where it overlaps with the Coke’s, and finally the Red Hartebeest [Allcelaphus caama] from southern Africa.

 

 

Serengeti Topi  [Damaliscus jimela]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Alcelaphine] > Alcelaphini (nomadic grazers)

Red List status :

Vulnerable (VU)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

  • Tanzania (Katavi)

Prior to the reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Groves & Grubb (2011)’, the Topi was one of six recognised subspecies of the Common Tsessebe [Damaliscus lunatus]. Each form of the species had its own name - the nominate Tsessebe or Sassaby [ssp.lunatus], Topi or Nyamera [ssp.jimela], Korrigum [ssp.korrigum], Tiang [ssp.tiang], Bangweulu Tsessebe [ssp.superstes] and Coastal Topi [ssp.topi]. 

 

The new taxonomy elevates the different forms to full species level with the nominate Common Tsessebe, which is native to Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, being renamed the Western Tsessebe [Damaliscus lunatus]. The East African form is now described as three separate species - Uganda Topi [Damiliscus ugandae], Serengeti Topi [Damaliscus jimela] and the Ruaha Topi [Damaliscus eurus]. The other localised forms retain their previous vernacular name - Korrigum [Damaliscus korrigum] a ‘vulnerable’ species found in a small are of West Africa, the Tiang [Damaliscus tiang] from Central Africa and Ethiopia, the Bangweulu Tsessebe [Damaliscus superstes] from Zambia, and the ‘near threatened’ Coastal Topi [Damaliscus topi] from Kenya and Somalia.

 

As its name suggests, the Serengeti Topi is native to the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Topi are a very sociable and fast antelope species that in many ways resemble the appearance of hartebeest except that they’re much darker in colour and have softer-curved horns. They live in seasonally flooded grassland areas where they follow receding waters in the dry season, moving to slightly higher ground when the rains come.

 
East_African_Eland.jpg

 

East African Eland  [Taurotagus oryx, ssp.pattersonianus]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Bovinae

> Tragelaphini (spiral-horned antelope)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

  • Tanzania (Selous & Ruaha)

The East African Eland, or Patterson’s Eland as it’s occasionally called, is one of three defined subspecies of the Common Eland [Taurotagus oryx]; the other two subspecies being the nominate Cape Eland [ssp.oryx] found in the south and southwest, and the Livingstone’s Eland [ssp.livingstonei], which inhabits the central woodlands of Zambia. There are colour and stripe pattern variations between these different forms, which Kingdon describes as being tawny on the Cape variety with adults having loose stripes, brown with up to twelve stripes on the Livingstone’s, and with the East African subspecies being rufous tinged and again having up to twelve stripes. Whilst normally categorised as Taurotragus along with the Giant Eland [Taurotragus derbianus] the species is sometimes considered part of the genus Tragelaphus. Another anomaly that may be encountered is the subspecies scientific name being spelt pattersoni rather than pattersonianus.

 
Greater_Kudu.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Bovinae

> Tragelaphini (spiral-horned antelope)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Selous & Ruaha)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa & Lower Zambezi)

The Greater Kudu is another species whose range has shrunk over the years due to habitat loss. It used to occur over much of eastern and southern Africa, from Chad nearly to the Red Sea, then all the way south down to the eastern Cape, and then across into Namibia and  back north to mid-Angola. Whilst its former range has diminished, particularly in the northern areas where it is now very sparsely distributed from northern Tanzania, it’s regarded as well represented in the more southern protected areas. The Greater Kudu’s main populations are now in the various parks and reserves namely, but certainly not limited to, Selous and Ruaha in Tanzania, the Luangwa Valley and Kafue in Zambia, Etosha in Namibia, Morembi and Chobe in Botswana, Mana Pools in Zimbabwe and Kruger in South Africa. They are one of the largest antelope species with large males (bulls) weighing up to 300kgs or so. They can reach up to 160cm high at the shoulder and carry large spiral horns. The females (cows) are a fair bit smaller and are hornless. The males also have a tesselated dewlap or beard, which the females lack. The colour of their coat varies from brown/grey to reddish-brown with 4-12 pale stripes.

 

The traditional classification of this species included four localised forms, which are now being regarded as full species. And, to complicate matters, the taxonomy has been updated utilising a different genus. I’ve opted to retain the currently recognised names at the present time until the new taxonomy is universally adopted, but for the record the four species now being described are Cape Greater Kudu [Strepsiceros strepsiceros], Zambezi Greater Kudu [Strepsiceros zambeziensis] which would be the name of the species I’ve photographed in East Africa, Northern Greater Kudu [Strepsiceros chora] and the Western Greater Kudu [Strepsiceros cottoni]. 

 

 

Greater Kudu  [Tragelaphus strepsiceros]

 
Lesser_Kudu.jpg

 

Lesser Kudu  [Tragelaphus imberbis]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Bovinae

> Tragelaphini (spiral-horned antelope)

Red List status :

Near Threatened (NT)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Ruaha)

The Lesser Kudu is native to parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda. Whilst it is widespread across this range it is only patchily distributed and with a decreasing trend in population, such that it is categorised as a ’near threatened’ species. The Lesser Kudu is considerably smaller than the Greater Kudu with males only reaching about 105cm at the shoulder compared with the 160cm or so achieved by its bigger cousin. The females are notably smaller. Both females and immature animals are bright russet in colour with 11-15 pale vertical stripes. They could be mistaken for Nyala. Males become yellowish grey or darker after the age of two years. The males have spiralled horns that can grow to 60cm or more. The species is very shy, constantly alert, and has a preference for thick cover where its coat provides excellent camouflaged.

 

The new taxonomy describes two separate species - the Northern Lesser Kudu [Ammelaphus imberbis] which is only found in a small area of Ethiopia and Somalia, and the more common Southern Lesser Kudu [Ammelaphus australis], which is the species I’ve seen in Tanzania. I will carry on using the currently recognised name as I’ve done with the Greater Kudu until the reclassification is universally accepted.

Bushbuck.jpg

 

Bushbuck or Imbabala  [Tragelaphus sylvaticus]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Bovinae

> Tragelaphini (spiral-horned antelope)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Ruaha & Katavi)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa)

Although the Bushbuck has been traditionally regarded as a single species [Tragelaphus scriptus] with numerous subspecies, it's recently been argued that there are in fact two divergent lineages, one in the north and west, and another in the south and east, and that they represent two distinct species - the Kéwel, retaining the original scientific name, which in simplistic terms is distributed from Senegal in the west, across the Sahel to Ethiopia and south to Angola and southern DR Congo, and the second being the Imbabala [Tragelaphus sylvaticus], which ranges up from the Cape along the east coast into Mozambique and across Zimbabwe into Zambia, then north up through Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya into Somalia. It is considered the most widespread antelope species in sub-Saharan Africa.

In my view, unless you’re a seasoned safari goer, the bushbuck is one of those species you could have a bit of trouble identifying, because it’s one of a number of antelopes that are not too dissimilar in appearance. It’s also one of those species that has many different colour and pattern variations across its range. This has led to no less than 27 different subspecies or forms being named, although in practice they are rarely referenced. This particular photo of a male [ssp.Dama] shows the typical colour form and patterning for the region, although other bushbucks in the locality may be lighter or darker, and have more defined body stripes.

Whilst the only amendment arising from the new taxonomy for this particular species is to name it the Cape Bushbuck, I should note that some of the previously named subspecies are now regarded as full species. The latest Bovids field guide now describes eight species in total, four from the Kéwel lineage - Western, Central, Nile and Abyssinian, and four from the Imbabla lineage - Chobe, Cape, Eastern Coastal and Menelik’s. 

Common_Waterbuck.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Reduncinae] > Reduncini (kobs and reedbucks)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Selous)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa)

There are two species of waterbuck - the nominate Common variety and the Defassa. They were previously regarded as subspecies, but have now been elevated to full species level under the reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Groves & Grubb (2011)’ This is the Common or Ellipsen Waterbuck form of the species which, despite its name, has a much smaller current geographical range than the Defassa. Broadly speaking it’s distributed down the eastern side of the continent from southeast Somali, through Kenya and Tanzania east of the Gregory Rift (the eastern arm of the Rift Valley), the middle Zambezi and Luangwa Valley areas of Zambia, eastern and northern Botswana to eastern Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, south to the eastern and northern Transvaal in South Africa. Along the Rift Valley it has a slight overlap with the Defassa species. The waterbuck is one of the heaviest antelopes and the largest of the five species of Kobus, the others being the Kob, Puku, and the Southern and Nile Lechwe. They are big shaggy animals with a reddish-brown to grey coat, which becomes progressively darker with age. The Common Waterbuck is marginally taller than the Defassa, but the principal difference between the two varieties is the white ring of hair on the rump surrounding its tail. The next photo shows the Defassa, which has a solid white patch that stops at the tail.

 
 

 

Common Waterbuck  [Kobus ellipsiprymnus]

Defassa_Waterbuck.jpg

 

Defassa Waterbuck  [Kobus defassa]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Reduncinae] > Reduncini (kobs and reedbucks)

Red List status :

Near Threatened (NT)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

  • Tanzania (Katavi)

The Defassa Waterbuck is found west of the Gregory Rift (the eastern arm of the Rift Valley) and south of the Sahel from Eritrea in the east across to Guinea Bissau in the west. There’s a small population in Senegal, but not in the Gambia where they are now extinct. They also range east of the Congo basin forest down into Angola and Zambia. Whilst the additional comments on the previous photo of the Common Waterbuck equally apply here, there are a couple of other interesting facts about this species.  When sexually excited their skin secretes a greasy substance with the odour of musk, giving it the name of ‘greasy kob’. This odour is so unpleasant that it actually repels some predators. The secretion also assists in waterproofing its body. The Defassa Waterbuck is easily distinguished from the previously described Common Waterbuck by the solid white patch on its rump that stops at its tail, compared with the white ring around the tail on the other form of the species.

 
Eastern_Bohor_Reedbuck.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Reduncinae] > Reduncini (kobs and reedbucks)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

  • Tanzania (Katavi)

The Bohor Reedbuck is distributed across the continent north of the forest zone from Senegal and the Gambia in the west to Ethiopia, and then south to Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania. Traditionally there were four regional variations across this range - the nominate form Redunca redunca found in the west and across the northern savannas, ssp.cottoni in the Sudd region of Southern Sudan and northwest DR Congo, ssp.bohor in Ethiopia, and finally this East African subspecies, ssp.wardi. There were also two closely related species, the Southern Reedbuck [R.arundinum] found south of the Bohor’s range through central and southeast Africa, and the very localised Mountain Reedbuck [R.fulvorufula] from three widely separated mountainous regions.

 

The new taxonomy describes the Bohor Reedbuck as four separate species - the Nagor or Western [R.redunca], Sudan [R.cottoni], Eastern [R.bohor] and Nigerian [R.nigeriensis]. The Common Reedbuck is split Northern [R.occidentalis] and Southern [R.Arundinum], and similarly with the Mountain Reedbuck where there are now three defined species - Western [R.adamauae], Southern [R.fulvorufula] and Chanler’s [R.chanleri].   

 

The Eastern Bohor Reedbuck is a stocky, medium-sized, sand-coloured antelope species in which the slender proportions of females contrast markedly with the thick-necked, hook-horned males.

 
Puku.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Reduncinae] > Reduncini (kobs and reedbucks)

Red List status :

Near Threatened (NT)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Zambia (South Luangwa)

The Puku could be regarded as the southern counterpart of the more northern Kob species. They are both placed within the Kobus genus together with the Waterbucks and various Lechwe species. The Puku formerly occurred widely in grasslands near permanent water within the savanna woodlands and floodplains of south-central Africa. However, it has been eliminated from large parts of that range and now exists in fragmented and often isolated populations. Whilst they can still be found in two areas of Tanzania, north-east Botswana on the Chobe River floodplain and occasionally as vagrants in the middle Zambezi valley of Zimbabwe and a small area of eastern Namibia, their current stronghold is in parts of the DR Congo and Zambia. The species is categorised as ’near threatened’ on the IUCN Red List. They are a medium size antelope species with a shaggy coat that is tan to golden-yellow above and whitish below. Only the male of the species has horns, which are vaguely lyre-shaped and heavily ringed, and that grow to around 40-55cm long. The new ungulate taxonomy describes two subspecies - the nominate Southern form, and this slightly smaller and darker localised variety which is now being named the Senga Puku [ssp.senganus].

 

 

Puku  [Kobus vardonii]

 

Eastern Bohor Reedbuck  [Redunca bohor]

Impala.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Aepycerotinae] > Aepycerotini (impala)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

  • Tanzania (Selous, Ruaha & Katavi)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa)

Strictly speaking this is the Common Impala as there is another species called the Black-faced Impala, which has an isolated population in SW Angola and a small area of Namibia. They were previously regarded as subspecies, but are now described as full species. The Common Impala is one of the most abundant antelope species in Africa. The IUCN confirm that their current range within southeast Africa remains largely unchanged from their historical range, albeit in some areas they have been eliminated by the spread of human settlement and local hunting for meat. Broadly speaking they now inhabit much of the area from Kenya south through Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia to the Transvaal, and across into Botswana and eastern Angola. The Impala is described as being a medium-sized gazelle-like antelope with a reddish-brown back and tan flanks that are in contrast to their white underbelly. Ear tips, thigh stripes, and the midline of their tail and back are black, as are the tufts of hair that cover their fetlock scent glands. Adult males have long narrow horns with shallow well-spaced annulations, which arch up and out, and then back and up. 

 

 

Impala  [Aepyseros melampus]

Serengeti_Thomson's_Gazelle.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

> Antilopini (gazelles and true antelope)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

The Thomson’s Gazelle or ‘tommy’ as it’s affectionately called locally, is very closely related to the Mongalla Gazelle [Eudorcas albonotata] from the southern Sudan, which some authorities regard as a subspecies. The IUCN treats them separately, whilst African Zoologist Jonathan Kingdon puts them with the Eritrean Gazelle [Eudorcas tilonura], listing all three species together as a group. There is a further genus Eudorcas species, which is the Red-fronted Gazelle [Eudorcas rufifrons]. Both Kingdon and the IUCN again treat this species separately, whilst others link it directly with the Thomson’s Gazelle. Notwithstanding, the differences of opinion regarding the taxonomy, the species is known as the gazelle of East Africa, with its core area of distribution being the open plains and grasslands of the Serengeti ecosystem of Tanzania and Kenya, and with a further population east of the Rift Valley. Interestingly, the reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Groves & Grubb (2011)’ describes all these related forms as separate species, and in respect of the Thomson’s Gazelle splits it into two - the Serengeti Thomson’s Gazelle [Eudorcas nasalis] and the Eastern Thomson’s Gazelle [Eudorcas thomsoni] which retains the original scientific name of the species. 

 

It’s a compact little gazelle, sandy brown to rufous in colour with a distinctive black band running across the flanks. Both sexes can possess horns, which are highly ringed and grow to around 25-40cm long on males and 10-15cm on females. Unbelievably they are reputed to reach speeds in excess of 50mph and are considered to be the second fastest animal on earth.

 
Southern_Grant's_Gazelle.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

> Antilopini (gazelles and true antelope)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Ruaha)

Both Jonathan Kingdon and the IUCN combine the Grant’s [Nanger granti], Bright’s [Nanga notata] and Tana [Nanger petersi] species together within a greater gazelles group. Elsewhere the Grant’s Gazelle is credited with three defined subspecies - Northern Grant’s [ssp.notata, by naming the Bright’s brighti] found in northern Kenya except in the range of the Bright’s in the far north, and in eastern Ethiopia; Southern Grant’s [ssp.granti] from southern Kenya and down through Tanzania east of the Gregory Rift (the eastern arm of the Rift Valley) to Ruaha; and the Robert’s [ssp.robertsi] to the west of the Gregory Rift in Tanzania encompassing the Serengeti, and into the Masai Mara and Loita Plains area of Kenya.

 

The latest taxonomy from Groves & Grubb takes a different, although not dissimilar, approach by keeping the Southern Grants Gazelle [N.granti, ssp.granti] and the Robert’s Gazelle [N.granti, ssp.robertsi] as subspecies, and the Bright’s which has been renamed the Northern Grant’s Gazelle [Nanger nanger] as the nominate species. The Tana, now renamed the Peters’s Gazelle [Nanger petersi] is also a separate species.

 

Apart from size, the Grant’s Gazelle is somewhat similar in appearance to the smaller Thomson’s Gazelle, particularly the female which, from a quick sighting, could be mistaken for a male ’tommy’. Both sexes have horns - the male’s are large and heavily ridged, the female’s noticeably shorter and slimmer. The horn shape or style varies regionally. Whilst both the Southern Grant’s and the Robert’s can be found in Tanzania, they can be easily identified as their horn shape is noticeably different - the Southern form have a lyrate shape, gradually curving outwards and then sharply inwards at the tip, whereas the Robert’s splay sharply outwards and slightly backwards from about a third of the length. 

 

 

Serengeti Thomson's Gazelle  [Eudorcas nasalis]

 

Southern Grant's Gazelle  [Nanger granti, ssp.granti]

Central_Oribi.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

> Antilopini (gazelles and true antelope)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Ruaha)

The Oribi, which is the sole member of its genus, has patchy distribution through its range, which spreads across the continent from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia and Eritrea, and south through eastern Africa to Angola and the eastern Cape. There are a number of geographic variations across this range although some are not officially recognised. The new taxonomy describes four specific species - Western Oribi [Ourebia quadriscopa], Sudan Oribi [Ourebia montana], Central Oribi [Ourebia hastata] and the nominate Southern Oribi [Ourebia ourebi]. The Oribi is a small slender antelope species that is primarily found on grasslands and floodplains and open dry swamp areas within miombo bushland. They have a glossy, yellowish to rufous brown coat that contrasts with their white chin, throat, underparts and rump. Their short bushy tails are normally brown to black on the outside and white on the inside, except for the Central Oribi that has a completely black tail. Only the male of the species possess horns, which are relatively short, thin and straight.

 

 

Central Oribi  [Ourebia hastata]

Cavendish's_Dik-dik.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

> Antilopini (gazelles and true antelope)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

Formerly regarded as a subspecies of Kirk’s Dik-dik, the Cavendish’s Dik-dik is one of three localised forms of the species found in adjacent regions of East Africa. The other two that may be encountered are the Thomas’s Dik-dik and the nominate Kirk’s Dik-dik. These former subspecies, along with a further ten separately described varieties, are now all elevated to full species status under the reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Groves & Grubb (2011)’. 

 

The Cavendish’s Dik-dik, or Naivasha Dik-dik as it’s also called, is found in eastern Uganda, central and south west Kenya including the Masai Mara, and northwest Tanzania including the Serengeti ecosystem. Dik-diks are small dainty antelopes standing no more than 45cm tall. Only the male possesses horns, which are approximately 75mm long.  Whilst in most forms of the species the female is slightly larger and heavier than the male, they are around the same size for this variety. They have grizzled coats that change from grey on the back through rufous to chestnut on the upper and lower flanks. This species is very similar to the Thomas’s Dik-dik although somewhat paler and far more uniform in colour, and with more prominent white eye-rings that reach well in front of the eye.

Thomas's_Dik-dik.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

> Antilopini (gazelles and true antelope)

Least Concern (LC)

Red List status :

Seen and photographed :-

  • Tanzania (Ruaha)

The Thomas’s Dik-dik, which is also known as the Ugogo Dik-dik by some authors such as Jonathan Kingdon, is only found in central Tanzania where their preferred habitat is acacia bushland and thickets. They have a rabbit-grey coloured rump, thighs and neck, which merges into their rufous to chestnut flanks, legs and head. Overall they are slightly darker than the previously described Cavendish’s Dik-dik. The female of this form is a bit larger than the male.

 
 

 

Cavendish's Dik-dik  [Madoqua cavendishi]

 

Thomas's Dik-dik  [Madoqua thomasi]

Coastal_Suni.jpg

 

Coastal Suni  [Neotragus moschatus]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

> Neotragini (dwarf antelope)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara)

The Suni is the largest of the three ‘dwarf antelope’ species in the Neotragini tribe - the other two being the tiny Royal Antelope that only stands around 25cm tall at the shoulders and the slightly bigger Pygmy Antelope. I will never encounter those two species as they do not occur in either East Africa or indeed other areas of the continent that I’m likely to visit. But, in saying that, I didn’t expect to see a Suni in the Mara as they don’t feature in field guides for that area as they’re normally only seen to the east of the Rift Valley. And they’re usually found in and around thickets and undergrowth where they can hide rather than on the relatively open plain where we came across the pair that our guide spotted. There was some cover not that far away and they were near a lugga (seasonal watercourse) so I guess that the habitat was suitable for their needs. Because of the rarity of the sighting we drove off-track for a couple of minutes with just enough time to grab a couple of photos of the female, but unfortunately not long enough to get a shot of the male which was a bit further away. The male looked very similar except that he had a pair of small spiked horns that lay back at an angle, therefore appearing less pronounced than a dik-diks.

 

There are three different species - the Coastal Suni [Neotragus moschatus] and Mountain Suni [Neotragus kirchenpaueri] both found in various areas of East Africa north of the Zambezi, and the Livingstone’s Suni [Neotragus livingstonianus] from further south. The Coastal and Mountain forms of the species stand around 33-35cm tall and the Livingstone’s a little taller than that.

 
 
Central_African_Warthog.jpg

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates),

> family : Suidae (pigs)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Masai Mara & Mara North Conservancy)

  • Tanzania (Ruaha & Katavi)

  • Zambia (South Luangwa)

For the record, there are four generally recognised subspecies of the Common Warthog - the nominate Northern Warthog [ssp.africanus] found in the Sahel from Senegal in the west across to central Ethiopia, the Eritrean Warthog [ssp.aeliani] from northern Ethiopia and Djibouti, the Central African Warthog [ssp.massaicus] found across eastern and central Africa, and the Southern Warthog [ssp.sundevallii] which inhabits the northern part of the southern African subregion. The species prefers savanna grasslands, open bush and woodland. It is usually absent from forests, cool montane grasslands and desert areas. Common Warthogs are described as relatively long-legged, but short-necked pigs with prominent curved tusks. Apart from the lank black hair that forms a dorsal crest from the top of their head and down most of their back, their grey skin is almost naked. Their facial ‘warts’ consist of three paired masses of thickened skin and connective tissue that protects their jaw, eyes and muzzle. Feeding animals drop to their knees and usually proceed to graze in this position keeping their hindquarters raised.  

 

 

Footnote :

Correctly classifying mammals is notoriously difficult because different authorities, specialist groups and individuals have different views about the taxonomy (primarily to do with ORDERS, clades and tribes, and whether a particular form of a species is a species in its own right or whether it's a subspecies). On top of that you'll have different opinions regarding the correct common name of the species as many species have alternative or local names. So, it's not surprising that every list you look at differs to some degree. I've tried to pick the most current, and the most recognised, information when compiling my list and for key-wording and cataloguing the species. My primary sources of information for this particular list are :-​

 

Central African Warthog  [Phacochoerus africanus, ssp.massaicus]

Bush_Duiker.jpg

 

East African Bush Duiker  [Sylvicapra grimmia, ssp.nyansae]

Classification :

ARTIODACTYLA (even-toed ungulates), 

> family : Bovidae (bovids) > subfamily : Antilopinae

[Cephalophinae] > Cephalophini (duikers)

Red List status :

Least Concern (LC)

Seen and photographed :-

  • Kenya (Mara North Conservancy)

This particular species, also known as the Common or Grey Duiker, is regarded as being one of the most widely distributed antelopes across sub-Saharan Africa. They exist almost everywhere except for the Horn and the central and western rainforests. Bush Duikers flourish in a wide range of habitats where their need for shelter and food can be met. They are not dependant on water as they get the moisture they require from the many different foods they eat including, but not restricted to, fruit, leaves, shoots, roots, bark, flowers, bulbs and fungi. 

 

Although some authorities refer to numerous races of this species, they’re not all universally accepted, which is strange given that there are nearly twenty species of Forest Duiker [genus Cephalophus] and a number of Blue Duiker [genus Philantomba] species. The latest specialist field guide for bovids narrows down the possible subspecies to just five described forms, which are the Southern Bush Duiker [ssp.caffra], Kalahari Bush Duiker [ssp.steinhardti], East African Bush Duiker [ssp.nyansae], West African Bush Duiker [ssp.coronata], and the Angolan Bush Duiker [ssp.splendidula], whilst mentioning around ten or so other races within the text.

 

The Bush Duiker is longer legged and larger eared than the Forest Duiker species. Colouring varies from region to region with plain tawny animals in the far east and west, and heavily grizzled, grey or brown forms, in the central part of their range. They have a long, typical duiker face with a black midline ending in a rounded, leathery black nose. Only the male of the species has horns, which are around 180mm long, straight and upright.

  • Bovids of the World - Princeton Field Guide (first edition, 2016)

  • Reclassification of ‘Ungulate Taxonomy by Colin Groves & Peter Grubb (2011)'

  • Jonathan Kingdon's 'Field Guide to African Mammals' (second edition, 2015)

  • A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania (WildGuides - 2014)

  • Animals of the Masai Mara (WildGuides - 2012)

  • Beat about the Bush - Mammals : 'Taxonomic Chart' by Trevor Carnaby (updated edition, 2010)

  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (status checked December 2019)

  • Wikipedia (an invaluable resource)

Copyright © Tony Enticknap - all rights reserved

No copy permitted without prior agreement

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