and beautiful part of Namibia’s story is the extraordinary variety of wildlife
found here - a story best told in Namibia’s many national parks, reserves and
conservancies. For a predominately arid
country which is predominately arid, Namibia boasts one of the greatest
wildlife populations in the world, some species are truly unique, many are
rare, and a few whose lineage goes back long before the first ancestors of
mankind evolved. Hundreds of mammal species roam freely here, and thanks to the
variety of habitats across Namibia, it’s quite easy to customize your wildlife
In the Etosha
National Park, huge herds of springbok, gemsbok, zebra, and blue wildebeest, as
well as smaller numbers of red hartebeest, Bruchell’s zebra, lion, cheetah and
the elusive leopard gather at waterholes and are spotted easily against the
stark white background immense salt pans. Waterberg Plateau was proclaimed to
nurture small numbers of endangered animals – different species of antelope,
buffalo, white rhino and many more.
on the Skeleton Coast represents one of the largest seal reserves in the world.
These three parks represent the most popular wildlife attractions in Namibia,
but others dot the entire country – all experiencing a renaissance of sorts
thanks to a massive internationally recognized conservation effort.
Five’ has become a popular term of reference for visitors planning an African
safari. Trophy hunters coined the term, and thus the ‘Big Five’ were originally
elephant, black rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. With most visitors today
choosing to shoot with their cameras, the hippopotamus is usually considered
one of the ‘Big Five’, and many include the zebra, giraffe and cheetah to form
the ‘Big Nine’. But whether it’s the ‘Big Five’ or the ‘Big Nine’, these are
the animals most visitors to Africa come to see, and in Namibia you have an
excellent chance of seeing them all.
below provides information on the habitats and characteristics of some of
Namibia’s most popular animals, but is by no means a comprehensive survey of
wildlife in the country.
Elephant (Loxodonta Africana): Elephants in
Namibia occur in three distinct populations: the desert elephant of Kunene, the
Etosha elephants and those in the Khaudum and Caprivi region. The desert-dwelling elephant can be found in
only two countries in the world, Namibia and Mali, and can travel up to seventy
kilometers a day in search of food and water. Elephants in sub-Saharan Africa
have historically suffered from war and ivory poachers. However, thanks to conservation efforts, Namibia’s
elephant population more than doubled between 1995 and 2008 from 7,500 to over
species of rhino exist in Namibia, the white rhino (Diceros simus) and the black rhino (Diceros bicomis); however the two are not distinguished by color.
The white rhinoceros derives its name from the Afrikaans word weit, meaning wide-mouthed, while the
black rhinoceros have a hook-lipped mouth. White rhino are grazers rather than
browsers and are more docile and sociable than black rhino. After decades of
strong conservation efforts between local communities, NGOs and the Namibian
Government, the endangered black rhino in Namibia is now being translocated out
of national parks into communal conservancies and Namibia now has the largest
free-roaming population of black rhinos in the world.
Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus): The cheetah is the
fastest animal on earth, able to reach speeds up to 90 kph over short
distances, as well as one of the most stunningly graceful of the big cats. Most
cheetahs occur in the central and northwestern areas of Namibia, living in a
range of habitats from thick woodland to mountains and deserts. Namibia boasts
the largest population for free-roaming cheetahs in the world, and the
country’s pristine countryside plus the tolerance of local people to live
alongside these predators is the animal’s greatest hope for survival.
Lion (Panthera leo): Most lions are
concentrated in three separate populations: the central Kunene Region and the Etosha
National Park, eastern Otjozondjupa and Kavango, and eastern Caprivi. However,
lions roam over large areas and some individuals may move from one population
to another. The Etosha National Park hosts the largest population of lions in
Leopard (Panthera pardus): Leopards are widely
distributed and fairly abundant in Namibia, especially in the northwestern area
of the country and in eastern Otjozondjupa and Caprivi. Its capacity to adapt
to changes enables the leopard to survive in developing Africa with more success
than any other large wild animal. Leopards are extremely elusive, nocturnal and
generally solitary. However, leopards can be seen up close in several wildlife
rehabilitation centers in Namibia.
Buffalo (Syncerus caffer): , with males weighing up to 800 kilos (1,764 lbs).
Buffalo often form large herds ranging between 500 and 2,000 individuals and
are very dependent on water. Old males frequently live alone or in small
groups, and can the preyed upon by lions. Buffalo are formidable animals,
however, and it is not uncommon for a lion to be killed in such an attack.
Namibia’s buffalo population occur in small numbers at the Waterburg Plateau
Park and in much greater concentrations near the rivers of the Caprivi region.
(Hippopotamus amphibious): Hippos
dwell in Namibia’s three perennial rivers, the Kunene, Okavango and Orange,
along the smaller river systems and wetlands of the Caprivi Strip. Hippos can
weigh up to four tonnes and spend most of their time sleeping and resting in
the water, where they can stay submerged for up to six minutes. These animals
are extremely sensitive to sunlight and will cover themselves in mud to protect
their skin when outside the water. In spite of their passive appearance, hippos
can be extremely aggressive and deadly.
Zebra: Namibia is home to two species of zebra, the
mountain zebra (Equus zebra) and the
Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli).
As the name suggests, mountain zebra are found in the hilly landscape of the
western and central regions. The majority of mountain zebra live outside
proclaimed nature reserves, although the Naukluft Mountains and adjacent areas
of the Namib-Naukulft Park and the Daan Viljoen Game Park do support significant
numbers. Most of the Burchell’s zebra in Namibia are found in the Etosha
National Park, particularly along the edges of the pan.
camelopardalis): Giraffe are widely and thinly spread across a broad zone in the
northern half of Namibia, including the desert landscapes of Damaraland and the
Kunene region. The greatest concentration of giraffe can be found along the
eastern edge of the Etosha Pan. The Caprivi region is also home to small and
relatively isolated giraffe populations.
Seals (Arctocephalus pusillus): The
Namibian coast is home to 23 colonies of Cape Fur Seals. The biggest colony at
Cape Cross on the shores of the National West Coast Tourism Recreation Area has
a population near 100,000, making it one of the largest seal colonies in the
The story of Namibia is from start to finish one about wildlife. And it’s best told in Namibia’s many National Parks, reserves and conservancies. Hundreds of mammal species roam freely here, and thanks to the variety of habitats across Namibia, it’s quite easy to customize your wildlife experience accordingly.
In Etosha National Park, huge herds of Springbok, Gemsbok, Zebra, and Blue Wildebeest, as well as smaller numbers of Red Hartebeest, Mountain Zebra, lion, cheetah and the elusive leopard gather at waterholes spotted easily against the stark white background immense salt pans. Waterberg Plateau was proclaimed to nurture the small numbers of endangered animals – different species of antelope, buffalo, white rhino and many more. Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast represent one of the largest seal reserves in the world. These three parks represent the most popular wildlife attractions in Namibia, but others dot the entire country – all experiencing a renaissance of sorts thanks a massive internationally recognized conservation effort.