African Bush Elephant: World’s Largest Living Land Mammal
The African bush elephant or African savannah elephant (Loxodonta africana) is an impressive sight; a large male can stand 13 feet tall and weigh 11.5 tons, while an average-sized male stands around 10.5 feet tall and weighs 6.6 tons. Females are notably smaller.
The African Elephant has two confirmed species the Bush elephant Loxodonta africana and the Forest elephant Loxodonta cyclotis, both of which exist in Uganda. The forest elephant is mainly found in Kibale National Park.
The elephant is the largest terrestrial mammal on earth. Elephants exhibit complex intelligence, social behaviour, and play a key role in the wild ecosystems. Despite their important roles in maintaining ecological balances and the flow of tourism income to the range states, the African elephant remains one of the top most species faced with high risk of extinction.
Big game hunters counted elephants among the “Big Five,” those animals that were most dangerous to hunt on foot.
Nowadays, seeing an elephant in the wild is on every traveler’s wish list of Uganda animals to see.
The African bush elephant is the largest land mammal in the world. Also known as the African savanna elephant, it is found in most African countries, living in varied habitats from the open savanna to the desert and high rainforest. It is the largest of the three elephant species and live up to 70 years—longer than any other mammal except humans. African bush elephants are herbivores and need to eat about 350 pounds of vegetation daily.
The African bush elephant is characterized by:
- two prominent tusks, which are present in both sexes
- two large ears
- pillar-like legs
- thickset body
- large head with a muscular, mobile trunk.
The trunk is a strong appendage, with more than 40,000 muscles and tendons. Its sensitive tip ends in two finger-like projections, which can manipulate small objects. The trunk can lift objects of more than 400 pounds. Water is sucked up through the trunk and then blown into the mouth for a drink or onto the back as a cooling mist.
Elephant herds consist of related females and their young and are managed by the eldest female, called the matriarch. The adult male elephant rarely joins a herd and leads a solitary life, only approaching herds during mating season. Females give birth to a single calf after 22 months of gestation, the longest gestation period among mammals. Globally, the elephant is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. As a result of the high levels of commercial poaching largely attributed to illegal trade in ivory and its products, the elephant population is facing substantial pressure. Elephants are vital to the web of life in Africa. As a keystone species in habitat modification, elephants play important roles in providing balanced conditions for all the other species to survive within their ecosystem, opening up forest habitats to create firebreaks and grasslands, creation of water pools for other wildlife, and leaving nutrients along their way required for the growth of flora and certain faunal species. Sometimes called the “gardeners”, elephants are essential for the dispersal of seeds that maintain tree diversity (Scriber, 2014) in the wild. Despite all this, the contributions of elephants on ecosystem enhancement remain only partially understood. (Ssali et al. 2012).
At the moment, the largest populations of elephants in Uganda are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park (2913), Murchison Falls National Park (1330), Kidepo Valley National Park (407) and Kibale National Park (487) with few individuals found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Katonga Wildlife Reserve, Budongo Forest Reserve outside Murchison Falls Protected Area,
Uganda Kob: Uganda’s National Antelope
Antelopes make up a goodly portion of the Uganda wildlife; there are 29 species, including the Uganda kob (Kobus kob thomasi), which is a subspecies of the kob. It is a medium-sized antelope that is depicted on Uganda’s coat of arms. Males can weigh around 200 pounds, while females are significantly smaller at 130 to 140 pounds.
Kobs are gregarious antelopes. They live in herds together with a Bushbuck and Bohor seed buck. Due to seasonal movements, larger Kob populations do not maintain permanent territories. Movements from one habit 2 another may be the result of seasonal environmental changes such as flooding, five and drought which affect suitable habitants, food and water sources. Females determine when and where to move and the males follow these lead b reading’ in seasonal and after a gestation period of a months, a single offspring is born.
They are found in Uganda almost everywhere, like at the Uganda wildlife Educational Center, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison fall a national Park, Kidepo Valley National Park and Karuma Wildlife Reserve.
They feed on cowpea leaves, cut grass, vegetables and greens, new shoots of grass.
The male Kob is fairly stocky antelope with a muscular neck. Only the males have horns that are twisted from the forehead. The horns reach a length of between 40-69cm. the coat coloration is anything from a yellowish orange color to reddish color with white under surfaces and throat and facial patches. They have black markings on their legs. Males are larger than females searching a head and body length of 180cm.
Uganda is home to an impressive 29 species of antelope, including the eland – the world’s largest antelope, which can measure up to 180cm at the shoulder!
Other large species include the greater kudu, which has long, elegant spiral horns and white side stripes; Jackson’s hartebeest – an unusual, flat-faced creature found only in Uganda, and the shaggy waterbuck – often found near rivers and lakes, as their name suggests.
Fascinating yet rarely seen is the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope, whose splayed hooves are adapted for life in the papyrus swamps. Much more common are Grant’s gazelle, which can live in herds of hundreds of individuals, and the pretty Uganda kob – Uganda’s national antelope.
Rock Python: Africa’s Biggest Snake
The rock python (Python sebae) can be over 5 meters (16 feet long). It is not venomous, so they can’t poison their prey and kills its prey by constriction. They are some of the biggest, baddest snakes in the animal kingdom. They live around 20 – 30 years. They are also subject to a lot of misinformation by people who fear or glorify them. They are unique in the sense that they can survive just about anywhere. Unlike other snakes that are limited to specific types of environments, African rock pythons can thrive in deserts, forests and swamps. They are good swimmers that can stay under the surface for a long time, and this helps them to ambush their prey as other animals come to drink. They are usually a combination of grey, brown and bronze.
They have irregular “spots” that can range from bright yellow to dark green, and there is always a spearhead shape on their snout in various colors. Like all snakes, they have triangular heads and a body covered in smooth scales.
One of the more distinctive features of the African rock python is the set of triangular markings under their eyes called sub-ocular marks, and they can be used to distinguish African rock pythons from other snakes of similar sizes and colorings. Here are the top five largest snake species by length and weight:
- Green anaconda
- Burmese python
- Reticulated python
- African rock python
- Indian python
As you can see, African rock pythons are the third-largest python and fourth-largest snake, but they are not quite as massive as their cousins are. However, they are the biggest snake species in Africa. The others on this list are all located in Asia and South America.
While not as aggressive as something like a king cobra, African rock pythons are not docile animals. They strike quickly and unexpectedly as ambush predators, and they get territorial when it comes to things like feeding, nesting and protecting their young. They don’t even like to live with others of their kind. They are solitary snakes. While it is common in the animal kingdom for males to be bigger than females, the opposite is true for African rock pythons. Their females are larger by anywhere from 1 – 10 feet. African rock pythons are carnivores that eat meat. In the wild, they will consume bats, lizards, monkeys, antelopes and warthogs. In populated areas, they will go after rats, rabbits, goats, dogs and cats. As general rule, they leave big predators alone. Things like lions and African leopards can kill them. In captivity, African rock pythons are fed things like crickets and rodents. African rock pythons can last quite a while without food if they consume something that is big enough to sustain them for an extended period closer to months rather than years and mothers also stop feeding when they’re nesting. However, they are quite hungry after these periods of fasting, so they can’t survive without food indefinitely and it is assumed that they go after humans when they are extremely hungry. Many of the recorded deaths are right after their dormant season.
Snake-lovers who want to see one ought to check out the bat cave in Queen Elizabeth National Park’s Maramagambo Forest.
For your safety: we recommend a good pair of binoculars and a good safari-grade camera with zoom lens. These will allow you to see and shoot African rock pythons without risking a face-to-face encounter. Stay safe and watch these from a distance.
African Lion: King of Beasts
The lion (Panthera leo) is another member of the Big Five and another animal many travelers have on their wish list of Uganda animals.
Lions are the most social of the big cats and live in family groups called prides that may include up to three males, a dozen or so females, and their young. The cubs are generally born around the same time, and the lionesses take turns babysitting them. All of a pride’s lionesses are related, and female cubs typically stay with the group as they age. Young males eventually leave and establish their own prides by taking over a group headed by another male.
The male’s job is protecting the pride from enemies.
Only male lions boast manes, the impressive fringe of long hair that encircles their heads. Males defend the pride’s territory, which may include some 100 square miles of grasslands, scrub, or open woodlands. These intimidating animals mark the area with urine, roar menacingly to warn intruders, and chase off animals that encroach on their turf.
Female lions are the pride’s primary hunters. They often work together to prey upon antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, and other large animals of the open grasslands. Many of these animals are faster than lions, so teamwork pays off.
Male lions possess an iconic mane that encircles their head; females do not. The color of the manes indicates both age and prowess. Fully mature males weigh between 330 and 550 lbs.; females weigh between 265 and 395 lbs.
Cape Buffalo: The Black Death
The Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), another member of the Big Five, owes the above nickname to the fact that it has killed more big game hunters than the other four animals put together.
Both males and females have horns, and the horns on a big male can be four feet across. A large male can weigh nearly a ton and stand six feet tall at the shoulder
Buffaloes are sometimes reported to kill more people in Africa than any other animal, although the same claim is also made of hippos and crocodiles. (Wikipedia)
The Cape buffalo is susceptible to many diseases, including bovine tuberculosis, corridor disease, and foot and mouth disease.
Its shoulder height can reach 1.7 m (5.6 ft.) and its head-and-body length 3.4 m (11 ft.). Compared with other large bovid, it has a long but stocky body (the body length can exceed the Wild water buffalo, which is rather heavier and taller) and short but thickset legs, resulting in a relatively short standing height. The tail can range from 70 to 110 cm (28 to 43 in) long. Savannah-type buffaloes weigh 500 to 900 kg (1,100 to 2,000 lb.), with males normally larger than females, reaching the upper weight range.
Black and White Rhinos
Both black and white rhinoceroses are native to Uganda and both were extinct in the wild by 1982. In 2005, the Uganda Wildlife Authority worked with some other groups to establish the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and reintroduce the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). They started off with six animals, and those numbers have tripled to 19.
Other Uganda wildlife have made their home in the sanctuary which is the only place in Uganda where visitors may see a rhinoceros in the wild. Rhinos are the final member of the Big Five.
Rhinos are social, similarly to elephants, and have small families called a ‘crash’.A dominant male plays the father and protector (although the calves will never really meet their dad).
Like elephants, they mourn the death of a family member. Their skin is three inches thick. They are short sighted but they have acute hearing and a heightened sense of smell to compensate. Their head is the heaviest part of their body, which is why they only eat short grass. They need to consume up to 150 kilos per day and drink 60 to 80 liters of water in order to sustain their three-tonne weight. A male rhino will mature at 10 years old while a female will take eight years. Their average life span is 45 years and they will continue to grow throughout the course of it. In her lifetime, a single female can produce up to 12 offspring, going through a gestation period of 16 months, which is the second longest period for any mammal; elephants have the longest at 22 months.
When a calf is born, the mother will separate it from the crash to raise it until it is strong enough. Unfortunately, no matter how strong it becomes, there is nothing stopping humans – the rhino’s biggest threat – from killing it for its horn.
Thought, but never proven, to have medicinal powers such as curing hangovers, cancer and impotency, the biggest market for rhino horns is in Vietnam where a kilo can go for as much as US$65,000. The horns are made from keratin, the same substance that makes our hair and nails, which means that, essentially, a rhino’s horn is just one massive dreadlock.
African Leopard: Master of Camouflage
The African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) is the most elusive member of the Big Five, for its spotted coat allows it to blend in with its surroundings. Many people consequently have it on their most-desired Uganda animal list. The leopard is also the most arboreal of the big cats, and it is strong enough to haul its prey up a tree, so it can leisurely eat it without being robbed by hyenas or lions. Leopards are also skilled swimmers, can jump up to ten feet in the air, and can run up to 35 miles per hour.
Portrayed as the most seldom seen, leopards are actually the most widely distributed African big cat. They can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from desert country to equatorial forests, high mountains to coasts.
Because of its adapted retinas, leopards can see seven times better in the dark than humans. Leopards use their incredible agility and strength to climb trees with ease. They are spectacular hunters! Not only are they quite fast and can run up to 58km/h, but also are also famous for their incredible agility and strength to climb trees while dragging a kill that is sometimes heavier than their own body weight.
Leopards survive on a variety of prey. They are known to favour bat-eared fox. Leopards also eat fish, insects, reptiles, birds, rodents, porcupines, mongoose, baboons, genets and monkeys.
How do you tell the difference between a leopard, cheetah and jaguar? Look at the spots! Leopards have rosette spots on the body and solid black spots on the legs, head and sides. There are also no black facial stripes, unlike cheetahs. Compared to jaguars, leopards do not have smaller spots inside the polygonal rosettes.
To recognise a male from a female take a look at the difference in size. Males are usually much larger and stockier, and have significantly bigger head and paws compared to females. Male bushveld leopards can weigh up to 90kgs, with female’s around 60kgs. The Cape leopard (not a separate species or sub-species) is much smaller with males around 35kg and females around 20kg.
Leopards can leap over six metres. This is where its curled tail comes in handy as it helps the leopard maintain balance and aids in steering the jump.
African leopards mate throughout the year, but a higher sexual activity is recorded during the wet season.
Female leopards protect their young cubs by hiding them in lairs. Lairs can be found in a variety of places, including outcrops of granite boulders; old aardvark holes made in the side of termite mounds; or in dense thickets at the bottom of deep galleys. These hiding places serve as a refuge for when the mother is away, as lions and hyenas pose a great threat to the cubs. The mother changes the lair every few days to eliminate the chances of discovery by other predators.
Leopards make a variety of sounds including a territorial hoarse, raspy cough, a contented purr, and a threatened hiss.
Even though most photographs show leopards in trees, research reveals that they spend most of their time on the ground. Leopards use trees as the perfect escape point from predators; to keep their kills out of the reach of scavengers; and to get the best vantage point.
Leopards may rest on the branches of trees, but during the heat of the day prefer to seek shade somewhere on the ground.
Nile Crocodile: Freshwater Hunter
The Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), is one of three crocodile species found in Africa. It is also the second largest crocodile in the world; a big male can weigh over half a ton and grow to be 20 feet long.
The Nile crocodile likes to stay near or in water, so it lives in swamps, estuaries, rivers and lakes. It feeds on both fish and large land animals.
The Nile crocodile has a somewhat deserved reputation as a vicious man-eater. They live throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Nile Basin, and Madagascar in rivers, freshwater marshes, and mangrove swamps.
The diet of the Nile crocodile is mainly fish, but it will attack almost anything unfortunate enough to cross its path, including zebras, small hippos, porcupines, birds, and other crocodiles. It will also scavenge carrion, and can eat up to half its body weight at a feeding.
One unusual characteristic of this fearsome predator is its caring nature as a parent. Where most reptiles lay their eggs and move on, mother and father Nile crocs ferociously guard their nests until the eggs hatch, and they will often roll the eggs gently in their mouths to help hatching babies emerge.
Sitatunga: Swamp Antelope
The sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii) is a semi-aquatic antelope that lives in swamps. Its splayed feet help it swim.
Males are larger than females and can weigh up to 275 pounds and be as much as 63 inches long. A frightened sitatunga will retreat into deep water so that only its nostrils are visible.
Hippopotamus: River Horse
The word “hippopotamus” comes from the Greek for “river horse,” and it is one of the animals native to Uganda. Ironically, the hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) is more closely related to whales and dolphins than it is to horses.
After the elephant and the rhinoceros, it is the third largest terrestrial mammal. Hippopotami have no sweat glands, so they spend a lot of time in the water to cool off. They can remain completely submerged for six minutes before needing to come up for air.
Rothschild’s giraffe: Tallest Giraffe
The Rothschild’s giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis rothschildi), also known as the Uganda giraffe, is the one giraffe subspecies found in Uganda. It is also the tallest of the giraffes and can reach a height of 19 feet! Even a newborn giraffe stands as tall as a man. Confusing to early explorers, who described it as a cross between a camel and a leopard, the giraffe is certainly an awkward-looking creature. its favourite food is the hideously spiky acacia, which it strips of leaves using its long, dark purple tongue.
Though they are the world’s tallest land mammal – even a newborn giraffe stands at six feet (2m) tall! – Their neck contains just seven vertebrae – the same as a human. Their tails alone were made into bracelets, fly swatters, threads for sewing and threading beads, and the species found in Uganda – Rothschild giraffe – is now one of the most endangered giraffe species, with fewer than 700 individuals remaining in the wild.
Unfortunately, the giraffe’s unique characteristics also led to them being heavily hunted. Sadly, the Rothschild’s giraffe is endangered; only a few hundred still live in the wild.
Uganda is home to many different primate species, with Kibale National Park containing the highest density in all of Africa. As well as the chimpanzee and gorilla, the black-and-white colobus, red-tailed monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, l’Hoest’s and blue monkeys, and olive baboons can be seen during game drives, launch trips or nature walks, along with smaller nocturnal species such as the bushbaby and potto. Mgahinga National Park also contains one of the last remaining habitats of the endangered golden monkey.
Black-and-white colobus monkeys are among the most frequently spotted species. The name “colobus” means “mutilated” in Greek, as, unlike other primates, they are lacking thumbs. The troops of 5-10 individuals are easily seen in the branches as a result of their striking coloring – black with long white hair running from the shoulders to rump, and white tufts at the ends of their long tails. Infants are born pure white.
Black & white colobus monkey
Locally known as ekiremu, enjeya, and engeye, this is one primate that lacks thumbs. The deformity makes it vulnerable to accidents, especially while making sky jumps. Babies are born white and they change colour at three months. These monkeys’ preference for young leaves, with a daily intake of 2-3 kilograms, makes them easy to find along the forest edges in Uganda.
Ugandan red colobus monkey
With males weighing up to 13 kilograms and females up to 9 kilograms, these monkeys will fight to defend their territory against intruders and predators, such as the African crown eagle, mountain buzzards and chimpanzees. It’s commonly found in Kibale Forest National Park and Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary.
Ugandan red-tailed monkey and blue monkey
Locally known as enkunga, these are one of the smallest monkeys with white hairy cheeks and a white heart-shaped nose. They can be found in Kibale, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Parks. The blue monkeys are not necessarily blue, but mostly black with a blue-grey or silver-grey back.
Did you know that golden monkeys are endemic to the Virunga massif? This is a large geographical area that contains a chain of eight volcanoes that span three countries, including Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Golden monkeys prefer to move and sleep high in the bamboo forests.
Commonly seen at Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale Forest, Semliki Wildlife Reserve and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, mangabeys have specialised cheek pouches enabling them to quickly fill up their mouths as they forage for food. Mangabeys communicate by slapping their lips together while shaking their heads.
Locally known as enkobe, these guys are probably Africa’s most destructive animals to human crops. Baboons and mangabeys have dog-like snouts, though baboons prefer to move on the ground while mangabeys stay up high in the tree branches.
Patas monkeys live in big troupes of between 30 to 50 individuals. The chances are high to see these monkeys in their hundreds on a game drive while in Murchison Falls National Park.
These shy, terrestrial monkeys are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN list. It is common to find group members bonding with the young and grooming each other along forest trails in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest Park.
These primates are the closest to humans, sharing 98.7% of our DNA. Uganda’s Kibale Forest National Park probably offers the highest concentration of chimpanzees in the region. Spend a day with the chimpanzees to see how they bang tree stems to communicate with each other.
Known as engagi, the number one highlight of a trip to Uganda is to see the mountain gorillas. Interestingly, humans share 97.% of their genes with these gentle giants.
Mountain Gorilla: Biggest Primate
The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. Over half of the world’s populations, around 750, live in Uganda’s forests. Mountain gorillas cannot survive in captivity, so it is vital to protect their habitat.
Mountain gorillas live in family groups led by a silverback or mature male. He does indeed have silvery hair forming a large saddle-like mark on his back, and he can weigh as much as 260 pounds. Part of the silverback’s job is defending the rest of the family from threats.
Mountain gorillas are intelligent and have been observed using tools. They are also among the more popular attractions for Uganda wildlife safaris.
Gorillas are large apes that are native to Africa. They are typically divided into two groups. The mountain gorilla lives in the mountainous regions of central Africa, while the lowland gorilla lives in the flat, dense forests of central and western Africa. Though the two types are very similar, they have a few differences. For example, mountain gorillas tend to have longer hair, whereas lowland gorillas have short, soft hair, according to the Smithsonian.
Mountain gorillas are about the same height, though they tend to weigh a bit more. They are 4 to 6 feet tall and weigh 300 to 485 lbs. (135 to 220 kg). According to the World Wildlife Federation& (WWF), gorillas are the world’s largest primate.
Gorillas are generally herbivores. They usually eat vegetation such as wild celery, shoots, roots, fruit, tree bark and tree pulp, but they have been known to eat small animals and insects. A male can eat up to 40 lbs. (18 kg) of vegetation each day.
Gorillas’ exact diet depends on where they live. According to Sea World, about 67 percent of a lowland gorilla’s diet is fruit; 17 percent comes from leaves, seeds and stems; and 3 percent comes from termites and caterpillars.
Gorillas live in groups called troops or bands. A band of gorillas can have as many as 50 members, though sometimes a band consists of as few as two members. Troops are led by a dominant male, called a silverback, which can often be identified by a gray strip of hair on his back.
Each time of day has its purpose for a troop of gorillas. Mornings and evenings are designated as feeding time. In the middle of the day, gorillas take a nap, play with other gorillas or groom one another. At night, the gorillas settle down in beds, made from leaves and twigs, to sleep.
Mountain gorillas only weigh four pounds when they are born.
Like humans, female gorillas are pregnant for nine months and usually give birth to only one infant at a time. Newborn gorillas weigh about 4 lbs. (1.8 kg). From the time they’re about 4 months to 2 or 3 years old, young gorillas ride on their mothers’ backs as a form of transportation.
At around 7 to 10 years, the young gorilla will become mature enough to have its own offspring. At this point, the gorilla will leave its mother’s group to find a mate. Gorillas can live around 35 years in the wild and more than 50 years in zoos, according to the WWF.