Kruger National Park Animals

The Kruger National Park supports an unparalleled diversity of mammal species you could view on a safari in either the national park or one of the private game reserves that form part of Greater Kruger. Most of these animals also grace other safari areas in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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The Big Five

None of the large mammal species capture the imagination quite like the 'Big 5'. These most imposing animals are widespread throughout the Kruger National Park.

The lion is the largest cat on the continent and the most social cat in the world. Prides can range in size anywhere from three to thirty individuals. Within such a unit, the maneless females typically handle the bulk of the hunting and are prolific predators. The males are larger, with majestic manes of red, black, or fawn, and occasionally form coalitions outside prides.

Leopards are the most elusive member of the Big Five. These spotted cats are typically solitary, save for mating and when a mother is caring for her cub. Their spectacular camouflage abilities also make them difficult to 'spot.' Leopards are known for dragging their kills up trees to feast in peace without the threat of scavengers.

Despite not being the biggest or most ferocious member of the Big Five, many park rangers and safari guides will tell you that the Cape buffalo is the most dangerous remember. Do not be fooled by its bovine appearance – buffaloes are incredibly unpredictable, notoriously bad-tempered, and formidable with their horned weaponry.

The African elephant is the world's largest land mammal and one of the most captivating animals to encounter on safari. Elephants are typically gregarious and often observed in herds or solitary bulls. Cows average between 2800kg – 3500kg, while males weigh in at a hefty 5000kg – 6300kg. Kruger's elephant population is rather prolific.

The black or hook-lipped rhino is the original member of the Big Five. Its hooked lips are ideally suited for browsing. Despite being smaller than its white cousin, it is the more aggressive of the two subspecies. The black rhino is critically endangered due to rampant poaching, and every day in Kruger Park is now a fight to protect this remarkable species.

The white or square-lipped rhino is larger than the black rhino and typically boasts a longer front horn (The South African record is 1.58m). Unlike its hook-lipped cousin, the white rhino uses its square lips for grazing. This species is now on the IUCN's "threatened" list and, at the devastating rate that poachers are assaulting Kruger's population, will soon reach 'vulnerable.'

Safari & Tour Packages that include 'Big 5' game viewing

These Tours & Safaris offered by African Sky devote part of the itinerary to 'Big 5' game viewing. From private guided tours that focus on various highlights in South Africa to luxurious fly-in adventures to some of the finest private reserves and safari areas in southern Africa.

The most popular reserves and parks include the Sabi Sand in Greater Kruger and Phinda in Kwazulu-Natal. Favorites in Botswana are Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta. Namibia's best safari destination is Etosha National Park.

View Big Five Safaris


From the Cape eland, the largest antelope species in South Africa, to the tiny grysbok, Kruger hosts a greater diversity of antelope species than any other African conservation area.

The grey rhebok is an endemic antelope species found in mountain bushveld territories across South Africa. Their coats are grey, and they have slender features. The males have a pair of straight unringed vertical horns. These shy antelope are usually preyed upon by leopards, caracals, and large eagles.

This small petite antelope prefers open savanna areas where patches of low-lying wooded vegetation and tall grass provide significant cover from prowling predators. Their smooth red to golden brown coats allow them to use camouflage as a defensive mechanism. Males possess a pair of straight, slender horns, whereas both sexes sport a pair of enormous ears.

The bushbuck is a large non-territorial antelope widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa. These solitary antelope have a distinct coat coloration; a reddish-brown overcoat marked with white stripes and spots. A male bushbuck dons a pair of sharp, vertically spiraled horns. Both males and females of this species possess powerful hindquarters with a slightly arched back.  

This graceful dwarf antelope hides in tall grasslands and floodplains, grazing in small temporary herds. Along with their slender build, tall rounded hindquarters, and reddish brown coats, oribi have a pair of distinctive black pre-orbital glands beneath the inner corners of their large brown eyes, which is used for scent marking.

Sharpe's grysbok is a shy and solitary dwarf antelope found in hilly savanna country. Their most notable feature is a coat that is predominantly reddish brown streaked with silvery white hair. They are nocturnal grazers with a primary diet of fallen fruits, herbs, and grass. Interestingly, they occasionally hide in abandoned aardvark burrows.

The Common Duiker is a small antelope species widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa. They sport light brown, and grey dusted coats with large pointed ears and a distinct black stripe running from the central forehead to the black nose tip. Males and females both have a pair of sharp horns.

Klipspringer, or "rock leaper," is aptly named after its ability to negotiate movement in its preferred habitat of inaccessible rocky terrain. These small, robust antelope are agile climbers and feed on fruit, flowers, and grasses, depending mainly on succulent plants for their water intake. They are preyed upon by the likes of leopards, baboons, caracals, and spotted hyenas but to name a few.

As the name suggests, the waterbuck is a large shaggy-coated antelope found in savanna areas close to a water source. When threatened, they are known to elude an advancing predator by entering the water as means of escape. Both sexes sport a white ring on the rump, while only males have a pair of long, ridged spiral horns.

Tsessebe or topi is a plains antelope found in small territorial herds in open woodland and savanna grasslands. These unusual-looking grazers have a pair of crescent-shaped horns, a dark face, a reddish brown coat, and prominent purple coloration on the shoulders and upper hind limbs.  

Impala are a highly successful antelope species dwelling in lush grasslands bordering open savanna woodland. Sporting a smooth tan coat brushed with a red-brown mantle on the back, this antelope is particularly graceful with well-developed long limbs and a slender athletic build. An impressive pair of deeply ridged S-shaped horns are worn exclusively by the males of this species.

Mountain reedbuck prefer rugged hilly terrain peppered across territories of high grassland; they are social antelope usually spotted in small breeding herds. These primarily nocturnal grazers boast woolly gray-brown coats with a visible splash of white on the underparts. A short pair of forward-slanting ridged horns crown the heads of mountain reedbuck males.

This brown-coated antelope dwells primarily in well-watered grassland and marshland areas. They rely heavily on a daily water supply and depend on the cover offered by tall grass and bushes to hide from larger predators. Common reedbuck reside in loosely demarcated territories usually bonded in monogamous pairs with a calving season peaking in the rainy months.  

Roan antelope are one of the largest species. They are distinguished by their roan-colored coats, large tasseled ears, and black and white mask covering their face. Both males and females have strong builds and powerful necks topped with a dark erect mane. A pair of heavily ridged back curved horns provide a formidable defense against predators.

Sable antelope are known to be one of the most handsome antelope, second only to the greater kudu. Classified as a horse antelope, it has a large, robust build, a strong neck adorned with an erect mane, and a pair of incredibly ridged scimitar-shaped horns. Their coats are typically dark brown to black with splashes of white marking the face, muzzle, underparts, and rump.

These gregarious bearded herbivores are found in large herds on acacia savanna and short grass plains. Broad blunted muzzles and wide incisor rows allow them to bulk feed on green grass. Both sexes have short, curved cow-like horns centered on an enlarged boss. The blue wildebeest or "brindled gnu" sports a glossy black coat streaked with dark vertical stripes.

The eland is the largest bovid found in Southern Africa. Adult males are known to develop ox-like features in the form of a large hump, thick neck, and dewlap, reminiscent of a Brahma bull. Despite being labeled the slowest antelope, this spiral-horned ruminant possesses unmatched jumping prowess, effortlessly clearing heights of up to 10 feet (3 meters) from a standstill position.  

Found in dense woodland and thickets, the Nyala is an elusive antelope native to southern Africa. Bulls carry handsome spiral horns – typically one and a half twists – and have shaggy, slate grey coasts painted in spots and stripes. Ewes are more chestnut brown, with shorter fur and no horns. The shy nature of these attractive antelope makes them riveting to encounter.

The stately kudu is one of the continent's most revered antelope species. The bulls bear the most prolific sets of spiral horns, on rare occasions reaching up to three turns, and have attractive shaggy beards along their throats. Cows are hornless with shorter fur and typically have a warmer brown hue, while bulls are more grey-brown. Both sexes have satellite-like ears and stripes along their backs.

Kruger Park is the Top Safari Destination in South Africa

No other national park in South Africa captures the imagination of local and international wildlife enthusiasts like the Kruger National Park. Roughly the size of the Netherlands, this is the most important conservation area in the country. Kruger preserves our natural heritage of fauna and flora for generations to come.

The park and the private game reserves with which it shares an unfenced border offer a safari to suit every budget. It ensures access to this natural treasure for people from all walks of life, whether you are interested in savoring the experience based at a comfortable national park rest camp or seeking to enjoy some of the most luxurious lodge accommodations in the world.

Kruger Safaris

Predators and Insectivors

A fine selection of different predator species are endemic to Kruger. Except for the Cheetah and Wild Dog, most of these animals are active from dusk to dawn.

The African wild dog, or "painted dog," is the continent's largest canid and one of its most successful large predator species. This endangered animal still enjoys sanctuary in the Kruger National Park, with quite a few established packs primarily found in Kruger's southern and central parts. These hunting dogs are highly social and take down their quarry with awe-inspiring coordination.

The black-backed jackal is one of the continent's most widespread and successful scavengers. Much like the North American coyote in appearance, they adapt easily to most environments and should carrion or prey like rodents, hares, birds, and young antelope not be available; they are not above snacking on wild fruits and berries.

The side-striped jackal is significantly rarer than its black-backed cousin. They are even more omnivorous, however. Side-striped jackals prefer avoiding open grassland areas and stick to a well-watered woodland savanna. They are typically nocturnal and are far more likely to be encountered at night.

The aardwolf is on the smaller side of the canid range. Despite its rather hyena-like appearance, this nocturnal critter is entirely insectivorous. Aardwolves take refuge in underground dens and typically only emerge to snack on termite mounds after dark. The aardwolf is encountered as solitary, in pairs, or even in family groups.

It may be one of the continent's most well-known scavengers, but the spotted hyena is also a rather prolific hunter. These canids have powerful jaws that easily crunch up bones, hence the traces of white typically found in their feces. The hyena's whooping laughter is one of the unique sounds you'll hear amidst Kruger Park's evening soundtrack.

The serval is an exceptionally handsome species of wild cat, and significantly larger in size than most wild cat species. Its spotted coat makes it look somewhat like a miniature cheetah or leopard. These cats are rarely encountered as they tend to be solitary and are mainly nocturnal.

The cheetah is the world's fastest land mammal. This attractive, long-legged spotted cat can sprint at 120km/h when pursuing prey, though it can only sustain such a speed for a short period. The cheetah is the only cat species that do not have fully retractile claws. The species is classified as vulnerable, but a few hundred call Kruger home.

The caracal is a robustly built, medium-sized wild cat with large, tufted ears and a short tail, much like the North American bobcat. It is rich brick-red in color, which alludes to its Afrikaans name, 'rooikat' (literally 'red cat'). Sightings are rare, as these cats are typically solitary and nocturnal. They prey on small and medium-sized mammals, from mice to small antelope and birds.

The African wildcat is very similar in appearance to the domestic house cat, striped much like a tabby, but it tends to be longer in the leg and larger. They are widespread but shy, solitary, primarily nocturnal, and rarely encountered. Birds and rodents are their primary food sources but they occasionally take on larger prey like hares and hyrax.

The large-spotted genet, or Cape genet, is endemic to South Africa. Cat-like in appearance with a long, fluffy tail, these nocturnal critters are typically spotted in the crooks of trees during evening game drives. This genet is covered in large, black spots and usually rusty brown.

The African civet is the most prominent representative of the African Viverridae. Unlike its smaller cousin, the genet, the civet is strictly terrestrial. It is also significantly larger and bears a starkly mottled coat of black spots and stripes across a grey background. Keep an eye out on the ground during your nighttime safaris in Kruger Park.

Safari Lodges of the Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand, Timbavati, and Klaserie

These oases in the wilderness offer varying degrees of luxury accommodations from which to enjoy safaris in the surrounding area. A typical day consists of early morning coffee followed by an open 4X4 safari in pursuit of the many different mammal species of Kruger and a late breakfast. Some time for relaxation is followed by lunch and enjoying the luxury of your surroundings.

During the late afternoon, another open 4X4 safari extends into the early evening offering the opportunity to spot one of the park's predators readying for the hunt. The day's experience then concludes with dinner, often enjoyed around a fire under the star-studded African Sky.

Kruger Lodges

Other Mammals

Other mammals include the giraffe, the tallest of all the wolds animal species, the primates of Kruger, and the unique hippopotamus, considered by many to be the most dangerous of the African mammals.

The giraffe is the world's tallest land mammal and an endearing creature to behold. With its long legs, long neck, long lashes, and long, sticky tongue, the giraffe is both beautiful and bizarre. Almost exclusively browsers, giraffes love feasting on the leaves of thorn trees, maneuvering past the prickles with their tough tongues.

Do not be fooled by the hippopotamus's rather amusing appearance – this aquatic animal is responsible for the most human deaths by a mammal on the African continent. They will always be spotted near or inside water, bobbing in family pods or lounging on sandbanks in the sun. When night falls, they may cover up to 30km as they graze in darkness.

The vervet monkey is very common across the Kruger National Park, often becoming a nuisance at rest camps and picnic sites. They live in troops of up to 20 or more individuals and eat almost anything. Avoid feeding or approaching them, as regular human contact leads to aggression and unfortunate extermination.

The Chacma baboon is the fourth largest primate on the continent after the gorilla, chimpanzee, and bonobo. Like the vervet monkey, they are common across the park and even more of a nuisance around human settlements, as their extraordinary canines make them formidable foes. They are delightful to observe within their troops, however.

Large herds of Zebra occur throughout Kruger Park. Zebra commonly occur throughout southern Africa. They have a horse-like appearance with black and white striped coats, a defense mechanism that makes it difficult for predators to target a single individual when the herd takes flight. They typically graze with other animals, most notably blue wildebeest.

Discover More of Africa's Unique Safari Destinations

Kruger Park is one of Africa's largest and most sought-after safari destinations. However, the subcontinent has many other unique safari destinations scattered across Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

Some of these national parks and private reserves offer the opportunity to view unique species that do not occur in the Kruger National Park. These include the Damara Dik-Dik in Namibia, the Sitatunga that occurs in Botswana, and large numbers of Lechwe in Zambia.

We invite you to explore some of these remote wildlife conservation habitats.

African Safaris

Small Mammals

Though not as imposing, the antics of smaller mammals can often be amongst the highlights of the day's safari adventure. The Badger is especially noteworthy as it has been known to defeat even the mighty leopard when confronted.

Found in the southern savanna and southwestern arid zones, the dwarf mongoose is Africa's smallest carnivore. Resident packs would typically occupy large territories of woodland rich in termite mounds – their preferred den option. These small agile carnivores have reddish-brown coats and long sharp claws, which allow for the foraging of insects and fruit.

These long, slender, short-legged carnivores occur across sub-Saharan Africa's extensive wooded savanna areas. Their most striking features are an impressive black-tipped tail almost equaling their body length and a set of short curved claws, enabling them to scale the boughs of trees in search of unsuspecting prey.

Banded mongooses are highly sociable and form the largest territorial packs of any carnivore. Their name is aptly inspired by the characteristic dark brown bands that cover the length of their backs and tail tips. These small, wide-bodied carnivores are known to throw and smash their chosen prey of beetles, millipedes, and snails against rocks and tree trunks while hunting.

The water or marsh mongoose is a solitary dark-coated carnivore found in areas well-laced with waterways. They prey on crayfish, freshwater crabs, and small reptiles. Their long sturdy bodies and tiny feet enable efficient undulating movement when swimming. At the same time, their soft, exposed palms allow them to dispose of submerged prey while hunting in shallow waters effectively.

As the name suggests, this mongoose sports a large white tail reminiscent of a skunk. These nocturnal foragers occupy open grassland territories abundant in insects, mainly termites and dung beetles. When threatened, it will deter an enemy by using its evident black-and-white warning coloration and activating the stink glands with its white tail erected in defense.

The tree squirrel, also known as Smith's bush squirrel, is an arboreal, or tree-dwelling, rodent found in the savanna woodland areas of Southern and Central Africa. These small agile creatures favor holes in trees as their preferred dens. A nesting group will use mutual grooming to solidify their group bond and are known to engage in "mobbing" as a defensive stance against predators. 

The scrub hare is one of two common species of hare found in South Africa and Southern Namibia. Their preferred habitat includes scrub, tall grassland, and savanna woodland, the perfect environment for supporting their herbivorous diet of green grasses. Their most prominent feature is a pair of long grey ears, which are always upright and alert to pending danger.

Despite its misleading name, the spring hare is a large bipedal rodent indigenous to the arid regions of Southern and Central Africa. Contrasting to their otherwise cinnamon-brown overcoat, they possess a long black-tipped tail used for balance when standing on the hind legs. Their primary diet includes barley, oats, wheat, and occasionally insects.

The porcupine is the largest of the African rodents sporting an impressive prickly armory of black and white banded quills on its back, sides, and hindquarters. Porcupines are known to be relatively adaptable to any terrain, although they primarily choose to burrow in hilly rocky habitats. They forage for roots, bark, and fallen fruit under cover of dark, retreating to their hideaways just before dawn.

Also known as 'zorilla,' the striped polecat is a small carnivore resembling a skunk. Its thick, shaggy black coat is graced by four prominent white stripes extending from the face to a long bushy tail. While visible warning coloration provides the first defense against enemies, the polecat also possesses the ability to squirt pungent anal-sac fluid into the eyes of an advancing predator.

The rock dassie or hyrax is said to be the elephant's closest living relative despite its small robust stature. Aptly named, these herbivorous mammals can be found basking in colonies atop sun-kissed boulders and rocky outcrops during the early morning and late afternoon, making them particularly vulnerable to aerial predators like the Verreauxs and martial eagles.

Honey Badgers have powerful jaws, sharp claws, and thick loose-fitting skin enveloping a robust and broad body. The honey badger is a force to be reckoned with - these tenacious short-tempered hunters are known to attack predators much larger than themselves in self-defense, including deadly snakes. Interestingly, as the name suggests, they are avid honey and bee larvae, consumers.