Botswana Mammals - guide to the most common animals encountered in Botswana.



Baboon - Tshwene
Hyena - Piri
Hippo - Kubu
Leopard - Nkwe
Lion - Tau
Elephant - Tlou
Snake - Noga
Fish - Tlhapi
Frog - Segwagwa

Sable Antelope

| Buffalo | Lion | Wilddog | Elephant | Hippo | Rhino | Giraffe | Zebra
Tsessebe | Impala | Bushbuck | Red Lechwe | Waterbuck | Chacma Baboon | Bushbaby | Fruitbats | Crocodiles


The Leopard (Nkwe) can be distinguished from Africa's other large spotted cats (cheetah) through its 'rosette" spots. The leopard lacks tier marks indicating that it is primarily a nocturnal hunter.Usually solitary, the leopard protects its kills from other predators like lion and hyena by taking the kill high up into a tree.This allows the animal to feed at ease, as other predators notably hyenas, can't climb at all. Lions on the other hand may try as long as the branches can support the almost 180kg weight of a lioness.



Cape buffalo (Nare) are notoriously bad tempered and are often referred to as the "Okavango Tax men." Buffalo are mostly seen in small groups of 5 - 10 that consist only of males. Larger herds numbering 200 - 300 have been seen during boat trips up the Boro channel.A large Cape buffalo can weigh as much as 800kg and stands 1.4m to the shoulder. Mating usually takes place from March to May followed by +/- 330 days gestation period.



Lion (Tau) social groups are known as prides. The pride usually consists of a dominant male/males, some adult females and juveniles of various ages.

More than one dominant male is referred to as a coalition.
The purpose of the lions "mane", is to intimidate the competition; it also serves as a cushion, which absorbs blows and attacks, when males fight over territory.

Male Lion


Wild dog (Letlhalerwa), Cape hunting dog or Painted wolf, are all the names given to one of Africa's most endangered large predators. Living in packs these animals require large tracks of land to accommodate their hunting skill. It is for this reason that Northern Botswana is one of the last remaining refuges for these animals.The wild dog also comes under survival pressure throughout Africa due in a large part to the encroachment of livestock on its natural habitat.

African Wilddog
The close proximity of domestic dogs has also lead to the wild dogs being infected with disease.


Chobe National Park is often referred to as the home of the African Elephant (Tlou). The Elephant population was estimated at over 60 000 in 1989. With a calculated growth rate of 5% per year, this number would double to 120 000 by 2005. As the area is not fenced, this estimate may vary, as the elephants not only move between other areas within northern Botswana but cross borders to visit Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia.

Elephant Herd


Hippos (Kubu) are very common to the Khwai River (unlike hippos at Eagle Island) and are more often than not seen out of the water, which is considered unusual as hippos have very sensitive skins.

Hippos are very territorial and are treated with enormous respect. Although very heavy (Average 2500kg) they can attain speeds of up to 45 kilometres per hour both in and out of the water.

Hippopotamus and Baby

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Rhino do occur in Botswana, however up until October 2001 only in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary in south-eastern Botswana.

Records indicate that white rhino became extinct in what is now the Chobe National between 1880 and 1890. After numerous restocking exercises in 1988 the White Rhino population in the Chobe National Park was estimated at 100. Up until 1985 white rhino were still being seen at Savute. After a spate

White Rhinoceros

of severe poaching in the late 80's and early 90's all remaining rhino were moved to the sanctuary where the Botswana Defence Force was able to protect them. In order stop poaching within the country, any poacher was sentenced to death.

In October 2001 four white rhino were re-released into the Moremi Game Reserve on Chiefs Island. Should this release prove to be successful the government will consider releasing more rhino next year.

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The Giraffe (Thutlwa) is the tallest of the African mammals standing at around 5 meters. Giraffe use this height to great advantage, as there is no other real competition for their food source - leaves - apart from perhaps the elephant.

Even though the giraffe is the tallest of the African mammals it still only has seven neck vertebrae, the same as mankind.


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Zebra (Pitse yanaga) sightings are most spectacular in this region at this time of the migration. The great movement of thousands of zebra takes place twice a year.

The first happens in November and sees these animals move from the Northeast Chobe through Savuti to the Southeast Chobe. The second movement occurs in April/May when the zebras return to the northeast.

Zebra at waterhole
As no pattern on any one Zebra is the same (fingerprint), young zebra foals have to remember their mother's pattern shortly after birth, so it remembers who to follow.

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Tsessebe (Tshesebe) also know as Topi in east Africa are the fastest antelope in Africa.

They do not however only rely on their speed, they can also be seen standing on termite mounds to get a better view.

Tsessebe at Dusk

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Impala (Phala) are the most successfully adapted antelope in Africa. These animals alter their digestive systems to meet their Feeding requirements.

Impala also use their top teeth as a comb to their coats, the ability to do this keeps the Impala in tiptop shape.

Impala leaping through the grass

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Bushbuck (Ngurungu) are beautiful medium sized antelopes that resemble the animated character "Bambi". Usually solitary, these antelope stick close to thick vegetation as described by the animal's name. It has the ability to jump into this cover to evade predators such as leopard. Grouped within the Tragelaphus family (Kudu and Sitatunga), the bushbuck has characteristic spiral horns, only found with males.

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The Red lechwe (Letswee) are associated with water and are therefore not seen far from it. The animal's build and its very powerful hindquarters propel it through the shallow flood plains.

Red lechwe flee into the water to evade predators, very much like the waterbuck, a relative. Although relatively slow on land, the lechwe is very quick and powerful in water.



Sitatungas (Naakong) are even more specialised than red lechwe, feeding only on aquatic vegetation. The sitatunga have splayed hooves to enable them to walk in the water. These animals are very shy and can be seen especially well when the water is very low."Water Kudu" is the Afrikaans translation for the sitatunga. As with the bushbuck, sitatunga are also members of the Tragelaphus family (Kudu and Nyala are other members).


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The Chacma baboon (Tshwene) is a very common sight in this region as many of the large trees bear lovely fruit for these animals to eat. The social structures of these animals are well defined. A group of individuals or troop may comprise 30 to 70 members.

The baboon troop which lives at Eagle Island Camp have adopted a variety of learnt behaviours. These behaviours include

Chacma Baboon
consuming numerous medications they have discovered, like Larium (malaria prophylactic), which have ensured that we "baboon-proof" everything.

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The Bushbaby is very often seen amongst the branches of the Umbrella Thorn. As this tree exudes large quantities of superior gum, the Bushbaby regularly feasts on this and other acacia gum. The Bushbaby is nocturnal with its eyes fixed in the sockets, and is unable to close them. The Bushbaby is therefore only active when the sun is goes down. They have the uncanny ability of beingable to rotate their heads much in the same way as the owl.

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The very large fruit trees that are common to the Okavango Delta are also home to the Peter's Epauletted Fruit Bat. These bats favour the fruit off the Sycamore fig and feeding by night they add to the night sounds, their squeaks & whistles echoing through the dense canopy. During the day the fruit bats hang upside down from the canopy. Here they remain silent, waiting in anticipation for the nights feeding. The bats are often forced to fly as they are very often disturbed by both baboon & vervet monkey who like to eat them.

Fruit Bats


Maun is amongst others, home to a crocodile farm. This farm is one of three, found in Botswana.

The farm breeds about 4 000 young crocodiles. Crocodiles were extensively hunted in the Delta in earlier times and small portions of these young crocodiles are being released into the Delta to try and re-establish the population.Due to the rapid growth rate of

young crocodiles under optimum conditions (a temperature of 22*c), they require 120 tons of fresh meat a year at the crocodile farm.