A Guide to Botswana’s Game Animals


With its land covered in nutrient-rich dry or tree savanna, Botswana is well known for its eclectic mix of wildlife species. In this blog, we take a closer look at the carnivorous game mammals found in its reserves. There are 260 different species in the wild, but we whittled it down into the groups of mammals we’ve all heard of before. You may be surprised by the number of African species you haven’t heard of.

Elephants

The most iconic mammal of Southern Africa, the elephant, is usually well-protected in Botswanan reserves. Elephants can usually be found in the Chobe National Park, though some roam in the sub-Saharan wilderness or are kept safe from hunters in fenced-off game reserves. There are two main species – the African Savanna elephant and its smaller cousin the African Forest elephant.

Rhinos and Zebras

Rhinos are one of few ‘odd-toed’ ungulates in Botswana, along with two species of Zebra named after British explorers who spotted them in south-western Africa hundreds of years ago. They migrate from the Chobe river in Namibia to Nxai National Park in Botswana, the longest migration of any African animal.

Pigs, Antelope and Giraffe

Even-toed land mammals spread their weight across more than one toe, so they keep their balance at high speeds. Although shorter, fatter even-toed game animals such as warthogs, bushpigs and hippos are not known to be particularly speedy. Buffalo can scamper quickly, however.

There are an incredible 22 species of antelope in Botswana, most commonly the Roan antelope. For indigenous observations, the light-footed Springbok antelope and large, hairy Wildebeest antelope are specific to south-western Africa. Botswana does not have its own species of giraffe, but the South-African Giraffe and Angolan giraffe reside in its safari land.

Wild Cats

Botswana’s cats can be huge. Cheetahs, leopards and lions make up the ‘felidae’ cat family, but there is also the caracal, a robust wild cat just a little smaller than a leopard. Three sub-species have been recognised as recent as 2017, proving we are still discovering new wildlife in Botswana today.

Botswana and south-western African countries are the only places you are likely to spot a black-footed cat. This is a small cat with a beautiful black and white hooped coat. You might have seen mongoose and meerkats before – but you will be stunned by the African civet, a large black cat with fur running down its spine and a brown and black-dotted coat. No cat like it exists in the western world. In terms of foxes, Botswana’s native foxes are the silver-backed Cape fox and big-eared Bat-Eared fox.

Wild dogs, Hyenas and Foxes

If you travel to Botswana, look out for spotted- or ‘laughing’- hyenas. It’s one of the most unique game animals you can observe, and Botswana is their home turf. The likelihood of spotting the near-threatened brown hyena is low. The African wild dog is even less common. Botswanan game reserves look after its animals as they rely on their native game for tourism trade, but the African wild dog is a scoured-for animal listed as the only endangered carnivorous mammal in Botswana.

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