Zambia has all the animals you’d expect to find on an African safari—elephants lumbering across the plains, cheetahs stalking prey, hippos peeking their eyes above the water’s surface. The country, however, offers something more—a stunning amount of wildlife diversity. Go beyond the iconic, well-known species and discover the rare and unusual wildlife of this untouched, spellbinding place.

1. Thornicroft’s giraffe

© Roger Leguen/WWF-Canon

The Thornicroft’s giraffe has dark, large leaf-shaped spots that travel down its cream-colored leg. © Roger Leguen/WWF-Canon

This subspecies (also referred to as the Rhodesian giraffe) was named after Harry Scott Thornicroft, the then commissioner of North-Western Rhodesia. Distinguishable by its stunning skin pattern, this isolated population of giraffes is only found in South Luangwa Valley.

2. Roan

This large antelope is sometimes confused with the sable antelope but has a lighter coat. Travelers who witness two males fighting for dominance over the herd—a relatively common occurrence—will see them drop to their knees and then violently clash their horns together.

3. Puku

© Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

Only the male pukus have horns, which are short and curve slightly. © Martin Harvey/WWF-Canon

Zambia is one of the best places to see pukus, medium-sized antelopes with golden-reddish coats. Males are distinguishable by their beautiful short, spiraling horns. Large groups of puku can be seen in floodplains during the dry season.

4. Bushpig

The bushpig has short legs, a long snout, small eyes and a round body. Generally nocturnal, the bushpig is found in groups of a dozen or so members.

5. Crawshay’s zebra

© Natural Habitat Adventures

Crayshaw’s zebra have narrower stripes and lack the light-brown shadow stripe found on other zebras. © Natural Habitat Adventures

This distinct subspecies of the plains zebra can be found in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. Compared to other subspecies, Crawshay’s zebras have narrower black stripes and lack any kind of light-brown shadow stripe.

6. White-tailed mongoose

This carnivore is the largest of all mongooses. Its hind legs are longer than its front legs, and its back, consequently, appears rounded. Travelers are most likely to see the solitary, nocturnal animal during a nighttime safari. Even if you don’t see it, you may hear its high-pitched cry or smell its skunk-like odor, which is used to fend off predators.

7. Tree-climbing lion

© Mark Hickey/NHA

Though only a theory, some wildlife experts hypothesize lions climb trees to avoid the biting insects in the savanna grasses. © Mark Hickey/NHA

In Kafue National Park it’s possible to find lions lounging in the limbs of fig trees. Unusual behavior for the big cat and a dream come true for nature photographers.

8. Lichtenstein’s hartebeest

This large antelope has high shoulders and a yellowish-brown coat. It’s easily recognizable by its horns, which both the males and females possess, that curve inward and then out in an “S” pattern.

9. Pangolin

© John E. Newby/WWF-Canon

Its name is the derivative of the Malay word “pengguling”, which roughly translates to “something that rolls up.” © John E. Newby/WWF-Canon

Though the species’ shy nature and nocturnal habits makes it anything but certain, it is possible to see pangolins in Kafue National Park. This “scaly anteater,” as it’s often called, is covered in overlapping keratin scales and can roll itself into an impenetrable ball when being attacked by a predator.

10. Cookson’s wildebeest

Endemic to the Luangwa Valley, this subspecies is distinguishable from other wildebeest by its smaller stature and the light, reddish bands that run along its side.

Travel to Zambia with WWF and NatHab.


By Marsea Nelson, Guest Blogger