Africa’s geographic diversity has provided sanctuary for the world’s most amazing animals, some of which have evolved in truly unique directions.
While the Big Five (the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo) continue to steal the spotlight, there are other elusive, funny-looking creatures also in Africa that you need to know about. Here’s a list of Africa’s most bizarre, out of this world animals and where to find them:
1. The Colobus Monkey
The name “colobus” is derived from the Greek word for “mutilated,” because unlike other monkeys, colobus monkeys do not have thumbs. Their beautiful black fur strongly contrasts with the long white mantle, whiskers, bushy tail, and beard around the face. The Eastern black-and-white is distinguishable by a U-shaped cape of white hair running from the shoulders to lower back, whereas the Angolan black-and-white has white hairs flaring out only at the shoulders.
Black-and-white Colobus monkeys are native to 15 African countries, and live in all types of closed forests – coastal forests, inland, high-country, mountain forests, gallery forests, and rarely come down from trees. If you’d like to see them up close and personal, some of the top countries that you’d be able to do so are Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
2. The Shoebill
Despite being called a stork, it is more related to pelicans and herons. The shoebill lives in tropical swamps, marshes, and wetlands in Eastern Africa, from southern Sudan to Zambia. No wonder it earned itself the nickname of Africa’s swamp king. Unfortunately, it is a vulnerable species, with only 8,000 left in the wild, and the best place to see it in action remains Zambia’s Bangweulu Wetlands.
The Shoebill hunts by standing, motionless as a statue, and waiting for some poor lungfish or baby crocodile to swim by. Then the bird will pounce forward, all five feet of it, with its massive bill wide open. Clamping down on its prey, the bird will start to swing its massive head back and forth, tipping out whatever stuff it doesn’t want to eat.
3. The Honey Badger
Don’t be fooled by its cuddly appearance. These creatures are actually violent, to say the least, a good example that size and looks do not matter. With a nasty temper, honey badgers are eager to pick a fight. They attack lions, buffaloes, even humans. Their bite is so powerful they can repel a lion attack, yet their key strength remains their endurance.
They are primarily carnivorous but, as the name suggests, they are suckers for honey. They find hives by following the tweets of a bird called the honeyguide, which is attracted to honey. They are pretty handy with tools too, as they have been observed to use sticks, stones, and logs to obtain honey. In fact, they are considered one of the most intelligent animals on the planet.
4. The Bush Viper
Nobody would want to come across this little fellow at night when it comes out to hunt. A carnivore predator lurking in the trees of Western and Central Africa’s tropical forests, the bush viper spends its days basking in the sun on top of flowering bush plants.
This bizarre snake comes in many bright colours, as it adapts to the surroundings to camouflage itself. With unusually big eyes, head that is larger than its neck and covered in scales, it seems straight from outer space. Bush vipers prefer regions far from human settlements. Quite venomous, their bite can prove fatal to humans as there is no antivenom.
5. The Aye-Aye
What are your first thoughts upon looking at these creatures? Miniature Yodas? They may not seem like it, but these are primates, related to chimps, apes and to us humans.
Native to the island of Madagascar, the bushy tail of an aye-aye is longer than its body. These nocturnal primates have large eyes and ears and live in rainforest trees, and avoid coming down at all costs.
Many people native to Madagascar consider the aye-aye an omen of ill luck. For this reason, they often have been killed on sight. Such hunting, coupled with habitat destruction, have put aye-aye populations at-risk. Today they are protected by law.
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