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Not all these animals can be seen in the Masai Mara Reserve.

A brief taxonomy of living organisms

Aardvark Aardvarks have short strong legs and clawed feet for digging, long pointed ears for enhanced hearing, a long flexible snout for snuffling and a long sticky tongue for reaching and eating insects. They tend to live down burrows (often self-excavated) in termite country (other underground animals often seek out abandoned Aardvark burrows).
Aardwolf Aardwolves have a yellowish brown coat with broken vertical bands and a shaggy mane along their back.
Agama Agama lizards can grow to about 40cm long, like to bask in the sun when not hiding in crevices.
Baboon Up to seven varieties including Olive (Anubis) Baboon and Yellow Baboon. Baboons live in troops up to 100 strong, often led by a dominant male, with hierarchical relationships and frequent mutual grooming. Olive Baboons have long facial hair (and males also have a mane around the head and shoulders). Yellow Baboons have a short coat, no mane and are more slender.
Badger Badgers tend to be agressive, solitary and rather stocky nocturnal animals. Honey Badgers have a pure black coat with broad silver and white band running along from the crown of their head and along their upper body.
Bongo Male Bongo have a dark mahogany coat, female Bongo have a lighter more reddish coat. Both have white vertical stripes and a white chevron across the muzzle. They can stand on their hind legs to browse for leaves, or search out roots with their horns.
Buffalo Full name is "Cape" or "African" Buffalo. They are usually found near water and can have non-hierarchical herds of up to 2,000 Buffalo. Are often seen bearing Oxpecker birds which remove blood-sucking insects from their hide. The most dangerous ones are old solitary bulls or females protecting their calves. Bulls (which have unusually broad large horns up to 1.5m across) measure up to 2.5m in length and weigh up to 800kg.
Bushbaby Bushbabies are also known as Galagos. The Lesser Bushbaby are greyish whereas the Greater Bushbaby are greyish/brownish. The Greater Bushbabies, about twice the size of the Lesser Bushbabies, are around 40cm long with an equally long tail. Bushbabies are arboreal.
Bushbuck These solitary shy animals are nocturnal browsers. Their coats vary from chestnut to dark brown, sometimes with spots/stripes under the neck or on the hindquarters, and on the upper thighs. Bushbuck carry a narrow dorsal mane from shoulder to tail.
Cheetah Cheetah have a tawny coat covered with many small black spots. They are found singly or in small groups (mother and offspring). Usually stalk their prey as close as possible then chase it at up to 110kph for short distances before tripping it with a deft knock of the paw; a cheetah may chase its prey for over 500m before it concedes defeat. Cheetah are often found scanning the horizon for prey, often from a small mound when the grass is longer. Females may have a large home range of over 1,000km2 and call their cubs (which leave home after 14-18 months having learned how to survive) with chirruping noises. Cheetah are sometimes confused with leopard, however cheetah are more sleek with smaller faces and have "tear marks" down their cheeks. Cheetah are unable to fully retract their claws (they have no sheath), which is very unusual for a member of the Cat family, but this improves their grip when running.
Civet Solitary animals with small round ears and a coarse grey coat covered by black spots and bands. They carry musk glands near their anal region for territorial marking; scent from these glands is used for Western perfumes.
Crocodile Lurk underwater (keeping submerged for up to an hour), catching and drowning prey as it comes to drink at rivers or lakes, sometimes storing the carcass and eating it only once putrefied. Will also eat fish and other carrion carried by the river, swallowing stones to give themselves extra weight in the water. Crocodile bury their eggs and only uncover them after about three months when they can hear the young crocodiles ready to hatch inside. Note that alligators are American.
Crowned Crane
Dik-dik Full name is Kirk's Dik-dik (another variety is Gunther's Dik-dik) - sometimes spelled Dikdik or Dik Dik. These tiny animals (35cm shoulder-height) have almost no tail and a small tuft of hair on the head. Kirk's Dik-dik are reddish-brown with paler flanks and a white belly. They mark their territory with dung (on the ground) and deposit a tarry secretion on to twigs from a preorbital gland (near their large eyes).
Duiker There are at least ten varieties of Duiker including the common Grey Duiker (which has a curved back, white underbelly and a dark band down forehead to nose) and the Red Duiker. Average size is around 60cm shoulder-height.
Eagle Varieties include the Tawny Eagle and Fish Eagle. The Tawny Eagle tends to be a scavenger and the Fish Eagle tends to catch its own fish. Fish Eagles have a bright white head, chest and tail set against a dark body and wings.
Eland Elands are browsers and grazers with a light grey-brown coat (may have vertical stripes). They can be up to 3m long, just under 2m shoulder-height and weigh up to 1000kg. Eland can have long (tightly spiralled) horns, a slight hump on the back and dewlap from below the neck (most apparent on older males).
Elephant African elephants have larger/flatter ears than Asian (Indian) elephants reaching almost 2m in height for an old bull; the ears serve several purposes including that of a cooling system. Bulls can be up to 4m shoulder-height, weigh up to 6000kg and have tusks up to 3m long (20-40kg). Life cycle includes 22-24 month gestation (newly born calves are almost 1m tall and weigh over 100kg), weaned at 2 years, adult at 10-12 years, live for 60-70 years and continuing growing in size for much of this time (maximum life-time depends on how long their sixth and final set of molar teeth, usually appearing after 30-35 years, take to wear away). Can be found in families under a "Matriarch" cow. Their weight, power and diet makes them very destructive to their habitat (consuming up to 200kg food and 200 litres of water daily).
Flamingo The lesser flamingo (which tends to eat a greater concentration of algae) tend to be much pinker than the greater flamingo which eat more crustaceans.
Fox Bat-eared foxes tend to be nocturnal and mate for life. They normally live in burrows and eat termites, dung-beetles and other insects (but will search out roots if necessary). Their incredible large ears help them pinpoint their prey (including insects just underground).
Frog There are types of bright yellow and bright green Tree Frogs.
Gazelle Varieties include Grant's Gazelle and Thomson's Gazelle. Grant's are sandy brown on top with abruptly lighter flanks, white belly and a white patch around their rump. Thomson's are somewhat smaller and have a distinctive black band separating their brown upper coat from their white belly.
Genet Varieties include the Small Spotted Genet. Have long rough pale greyish fawn fur with patches of black/brown and a noticeable ridge along the spine. Can often be found near game lodges where they hunt insects and small rodents.
Gerenuk Coat is dark fawn with lighter flanks and belly. Can stand on their hindlegs and use their forelegs to reach and pull higher branches when browsing.
Giraffe Varieties include the Masai Giraffe (light buff covered with brown jagged vine-leaf patterns), Reticulated Giraffe (coat covered with dark brown patches neatly outlined by thin pale lines) and Rothschild's Giraffe (coat similar to, but not so precise as, the Reticulated Giraffe; body more thickly set). Use their height of up to 5.5m (and prehensile lip plus very long tongue) to eat leaves high on trees causing a distinctive "browse line". Giraffe still only have 7 vertebrae (the same as humans) despite their long neck and are unusual because they move both legs on the same side at the same time (pacing). They must splay their long forelegs when lowering their head to drink, a position which makes them very vulnerable to predators. Have very short "horns". Males can weigh over 1000kg. Giraffes only ever enter deep sleep for a few minutes at a time.
Hartebeest Full name is Coke's Hartebeest. These animals have a fairly uniform pale brown coat, paling towards the rear and belly.
Hippopotamus These massive animals (over 3m in length and weighing up to 2500kg) gather together in schools of up to 30 Hippo, preferring still or slow-moving water (for example the "pools" where a river widens) with shallow borders so they can lumber aground for grazing (sometimes venturing 5-10km and eating up to 50kg food every night). Hippos normally remain submerged during the hotter hours to avoid sunburn and dehydration (which they easily suffer with their thin bald skin). Their nostrils, eyes and ears are positioned to easily remain above water but can be closed when they submerge for up to 5 minutes. May seem tranquil but have long vicious tusks which they use when fighting. Born in shallow water, weaned after 1-2 years (young can suckle underwater) and live for up to 30 years.
Hog Varieties include the dark Giant Forest Hog and the Red River Hog (sometimes called the Bush Pig).
Hyena Varieties include the Spotted Hyena and less-common Striped Hyena (sometimes spelled Hyaena). These animals live in family groups called "clans" (of up to seventy animals) although they can also be found hunting singly or in pairs. Hyena feed by scavenging or working together to catch their own prey. When scavenging they sometimes follow other predators, often forcing the original predators to leave the kill early. When catching their own prey they work co-operatively, often biting the legs and ankles of their victims. Their sloping back gives them a distinctive loping gait when running, and their strong jaws and teeth even let them consume large bones (crushing them to extract the marrow). The females rank higher in social order than the males, and have genitalia that gives them the appearance of being male.
Hyrax Varieties include Rock Hyrax (most common), Bush Hyrax, Tree Hyrax and Yellow-Spotted Hyrax. These animals (sometimes called Dassies) are very sociable, living in colonies of up to 60 animals. They look like Marmots, with hardly no tail, and have an amazing gestation period of up to 7 months. Rock Hyrax can often be found basking in the sun.
Impala These animals are both browsers (for example, acacia leaves) and grazers. Their coat is fawn or reddish-brown with paler flanks and underbelly. They have a black stripe on the rump and down the back thighs with a distinctive tuft of black hair near the hind ankles.
Jackal Varieties include the Black-backed Jackal (sometimes called Silver-backed), Side-striped Jackal and Golden Jackal (sometimes called the Common Jackal - although not as common as the Black-backed Jackal!). These omnivorous animals scavenge, prey on small animals such as rodents and insects, and eat fruit. They mate for life, each pair defending their small territory. The Black-backed Jackal has a black back flecked with silver. The Side-striped Jackal has a whitish line from shoulder to tail on an otherwise drab coat. The Golden Jackal tends to be a uniform yellowish grey on the flanks and upper side with a black-tipped tail.
Kudu Varieties include the Lesser Kudu and the Greater Kudu. Greater Kudu have a pale grey body with a "beard", white vertical stripes and white 'V' on their face. Lesser-kudu have no beard, sharper stripes and white patches on the underside of their neck.
Leopard These shy, solitary animals are partly nocturnal, found in woodland and are well-camouflaged so not easy to find. They have a buff or tawny coat covered with black "rosettes" (apart from the all-black 'melanistic' leopards sometimes called panthers). Leopard are sometimes confused with cheetah, but leopard are not so sleek and have larger faces.
Lion Very sociable animals living in prides of 1-3 males and perhaps 15-20 females and young (which may have a territory of 50-400km2). The females tend to kill food for the pride (sometimes helped by males driving the prey towards them) often by crouching low then pouncing on the backs of unsuspecting animals near water holes (killing prey by strangling or breaking its neck). They are not particlarly good hunders, and males insist on eating their share before the females. Hunting occurs at night or cooler times of day, the hotter hours are spent resting in the shade. Only males grow a mane, which can take up to 5 years to fully develop.
Mongoose Varieties include Banded Mongoose, Dwarf Mongoose, Slender (black-tipped) Mongoose and White-tailed Mongoose. Banded and Dwarf Mongoose can be found in colonies of up to 50 animals often occupying warrens (for example old termite mounds) or rock crevices. The Slender Mongoose is far more solitary. Diet includes insects, rodents, reptiles, snakes, birds and birds' eggs.
Monitor Nile Monitor grow up to 2m long and have a green body covered with yellow bands; their diet includes crocodile eggs.
Monkey Varieties include Vervet (Green) Monkey, Colobus (Guereza) Monkey, Sykes' (White-throated, Blue or Samango) Monkey, Patas Monkey, De Brazza's Monkey and Red-(Copper-)tailed Monkey. Vervet have a grey or yellowish olive coat with distinctive black face bordered by white hair (the male also sports a bright blue scrotum), are omnivorous but largely vegetarian. Live in bands of up to 40 monkeys, are both arboreal and terrestrial but usually not far from water. Colobus are black but with a white face, white "cape" and thick white tail (the young are pure white). They are arboreal and found in much smaller troops. Sykes' have a bluish black coat marked with areas of olive grey (including a distinctive greyish band jutting out above the eyebrows). Patas have a shaggy coat, rufous on the crown of their head and down their back with whitish yellow underparts. De Brazza's have a white goatee beard.
Mouse Bird
Oryx Varieties include the Beisa Oryx and Fringe-Eared Oryx. Beisa have long (over 1m) horns, a reddish-grey coat, distinctive black rings around the front legs, a black stripe down the spine and between the flanks and belly. Fringe-Eared Oryx have tufts of long black hair on their ear-tips.
Ostrich Hens are greyish brown, cocks are black with white "wings" (no longer used for flight). Their neck and legs are bare flesh; these areas become bright red in breeding males who perform elaborate courtship procedures which include holding their tail erect and rocking from side to side. The hens sit on eggs during the day, cocks sit on them at night. Ostrich eggs can weigh over 1kg.
Pelican Varieties include the Great White Pelican and Pink-backed Pelican. Some species hunt co-operatively, forming a line and feeding together whilst forcing fish towards shallow water.
Rat Varieties include the Giant Rat, Cane Rat and Long-furred Grass Rat.
Reedbuck Varieties include the Bohor Reedbuck and Chanler's Reedbuck. Only the male Bohor Reedbucks carry horns, which are distinctive because they curve forwards and inwards.
Rhinoceros The Black and White Rhinoceros are both really greyish in colour (the White Rhino being named from the Afrikaans word wijd describing its wide mouth). The relatively dangerous Black Rhino (often found browsing in bushland) have a smaller head and narrower mouth compared to the relatively placid White Rhino (often found grazing in grassland) which have a larger head and wider mouth. Rhinoceros have a gestation period of 15 months, with one calf per litter which is weaned after one year, mature after 5-7 years and can live for 40 years if not killed by their main predator (man). Rhinoceros can measure over 3m in length and weigh up to 1500kg, but despite their weight can reach speeds of 40kph when charging. They have two horns made of matted hair/gristle but these are sometimes removed to reduce the threat of poaching; the front horn can reach 1m in length.
Roan Antelope Has a black-tipped mane along the top of their neck and shaggy fur below the neck.
Sable Antelope
Secretary Bird These birds stalk their prey of small mammals, rodents and reptiles through long grass. They are named after their long crest feathers which look like the plumes scribes used to carry behind their ears many years ago.
Serval Have a yellowish-brown coat covered with black spots and bands. Will stalk close to their prey then use their large round upright ears to accurately locate their target rustling in long grass before using their long legs to quickly pounce (will also leap to catch birds taking flight).
Snake Varieties include the arboreal Mambas (Black, and Green), the Puff Adder and the Rock Python (Chatu) which can grow up to 7m long. Only two drops of deadly Black Mamba venom is required to kill a human.
Squirrel There are striped and non-striped varieties of Ground Squirrels, Giant Forest Squirrels with an amazing bushy tail, and nocturnal 'Flying' Squirrels which uses membranes on outstretched limbs to help glide after juming from trees.
Steinbok Sometimes spelled Steinbuck or Steenbok.
Superb Starling
Tortoise /
Vulture Varieties include Egyptian Vulture, Hooded Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Ruppel's Griffon, White-backed Vulture and White-headed Vulture (the different species have different feeding habits). These animals weigh up to 5kg and are poor fliers who rely on thermals, so once vultures have eaten they will usually retire a short distance and let their meal digest. Can gather in large groups up to 100 vultures, and whilst not very good fliers are excellent at devouring carrion.
Wart hog Often found in family groups (boar, sow and litter) living in old abandoned burrows or other diggings. Wart hogs feed on grass cropped by other herbivores (which they kneel down to graze) or will dig around for roots and bulbs. Their two cute features are how they enter their lair backwards (for extra security), and the way they raise their tail straight up in the air when running.
Waterbuck Varieties include the Defassa (Common) Waterbuck and Ringed Waterbuck. The Defassa Waterbuck has a white rump whereas the Ringed Waterbuck has a white ring around its rump. Mature waterbuck are seldom hunted because their meat is tough and foul-smelling.
Weaver Bird
Wild cat
Wild dog Well organised pack hunters which can bring down large animals by chasing them until they eventually tire and collapse. Have become rare after being killed by humans (because of harm they cause to livestock) and waves of canine distemper. Wild dogs can have a home range extending beyond 1,500 square kilometres.
Wildebeest Also known as the "White-bearded Gnu". Have a large grey coat, white beard, wild black mane and long tail. Are often remembered for their snorting and tossing of heads which is probably a result of burrowing larvae. Every year over a million Wildebeest migrate up from the Serengeti around July, seeking the lush grass of the Masai Mara, before returning south around October.
Zebra Varieties include Burchell's Zebra (and an argued subspecies Grant's Zebra) and Grevy's Zebra. Key differences are that Grevy's have broad round ears, a white underbelly and many narrower stripes. Burchell's are often found towards south and west Kenya whereas Grevy's are found towards the arid north. Herds consist of stable family groups (several mares and their foals, including a stallion if Burchell's).


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