A critical 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 experience accordingly.
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.
Cape Cross 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.
The "Big 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 , 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.
The list 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.
Elephants in Namibia
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 16,000 individuals.
Rhino: Two 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.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 in Namibia
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 Namibia.
Leopard in Namibia
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 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.
Hippos in Namibia
Hippopotamus (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.
Zebras in Namibia
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.
Giraffes in Namibia
Giraffe (Giraffa 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 in Namibia
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 world.
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 at 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 at all experiencing a renaissance of sorts thanks a massive internationally recognized conservation effort.