Other Mammals of Africa

This page collects a few of the miscellaneous mammals I was able to photograph while in Africa. In addition to these, there were a great many that "got away" because they were too fast or too far away or the light was too low. Mammals I missed included the African wild cat (a dead ringer for a common house cat, though a bit larger), a bat eared fox, zorillas (very similar to skunks), honey badgers (so vicious that even lions leave them alone), golden jackals, side-striped jackals, various other mongooses, a spotted-necked otter, bushbabies and who knows how many monkeys.

One of my favorite animals that I was able to photograph is the warthog, so ugly that you can't help but fall in love with it. They are easily seen during the day either grazing when fresh grass is available or digging for roots and bulbs. While they eat, they bend down on their front knees. They will also inch forward on their knees while eating, which is always funny to watch. The adults are readily identified by their prominent tusks and the large "warts" near the eyes, from which the species takes its name. Adult males, such as the one pictured, also have dark stains under the eyes from special glands.

Warthogs live in burrows. The adults look very funny as they turn to back into the burrow (so they can come charging out tusks first in case of danger). Lions are clever enough to find occupied burrows and patient enough to wait through the night until the warthogs emerge the next morning. Some lions will also attempt to dig warthogs out if the earth is soft enough. When caught in the open, warthogs break into a fast trot and their tail goes straight up into the air, looking for all the world like a radio antenna. Some say that the tail is a "follow me" signal so the younger ones can keep track of their parents in tall grass. Several guides tested the gullibility of tourists by suggesting that a warthog's skin is so tight that when it closes its eyes while running through tall grass, the tail is pulled straight up.

The warthog's larger cousins, the giant forest hogs, are much more shy and come out to feed mainly at night. The two pictured here were seen early in the morning and made a hasty retreat into the bushes as the vehicle approached.

Perhaps the most surprising of the mammals in Africa is the unassuming looking rock hyrax, referred to as "dassies" in southern Africa. Often seen scampering among rocks and cliffs, usually too far away for a decent photo, hyraxes seem no more than another species of rodent. In fact they belong to their own biological order and are most closely (though distantly) related to elephants and rhinos.

Also pictured here is the banded mongoose, one of several species seen in Africa. Although mongooses are famous for their ability to kill snakes, most species feed on insects and other invertebrates. Banded mongooses travel in large packs (up to 35 members) and move along in undulating waves searching for food. They are constantly on the lookout for predators and frequently some members of the pack will stand vertically to get a better view.

One evening, after we had stayed a bit too long in the Mara and darkness had fallen, the headlights of our vehicle caught some movement. The driver slowed down just in time to see a serval take cover along the side of the road and then freeze in place long enough for some photographs. These small African cats feed primarily on rodents that they track down with their keen hearing.

There are several members of the dog family on the wild in Africa, including various foxes and the African hunting (or wild) dogs. There are also several species of jackals, including side-striped, golden and the black-backed (or silver-backed) jackal pictured here. Jackals will hunt for rodents, hares and small antelopes. In addition, if larger carnivores are not quick enough, they will sneak in and scavenge from the kills of others. Black-backed jackals mate for life and it is very common to see them in pairs.