Weird and Wonderful Creatures of Africa
The elephant shrew is a charming little creature found all over Africa and named as such for its long nose. Despite the name they are not shrews, or even rodents at all! Though they cannot be found in any great numbers in any single place, they survive across a wide range of environments from thick forest to the Namib desert. The one adaptation which helps it in all environments is that it is one of the fastest of all small mammals. What a cutie!
Another animal named for another animal is the Gereuk or the Giraffe Gazelle. It can be found at the Horn of Africa and East Africa. Whilst it only grows up to just over 1 meter tall maximum, its long neck and limbs turn it into one of the most elegant creatures. The creature is diurnal (active largely during the day) but in the afternoon can be found relaxing in the shade under trees. You will catch glimpses of it foraging in the shade as they don’t like to spend too much time in open grassland. If you don’t see the Gerenuk, you may still hear it; they use several vocalizations, including a buzzing sound when alarmed, a whistle when annoyed, a loud bleat when in extreme danger, and a soft bleat when females communicate with their young.
The gorgeous little pangolin looks like something straight out of the prehistoric era, head to toe in armour. Startled, the pangolin will roll up so only its scales are accessible. Four species live in Africa: Black-bellied pangolin, White-bellied pangolin, Giant Ground pangolin, and Temminck’s Ground pangolin. Sadly, they are also thought likely to be the most trafficked mammal in the world, highly in demand for both their meat and scales.
Lowland Streaked Tenrec
If we’re talking weird-looking animals, the Lowland Streaked Tenrec has got to be on the list. This weird little mammal is found on the island of Madagascar. It has a spiny coat with yellow and black stripes. It is active at night and eats mainly earthworms. Perhaps most amazingly is that its hard quills in the mid-dorsal region act as sounding devices and are thought to be used for communication between mother and young.
Glaucus Atlanticus – The Sea Dragon
These stunning creatures have to be seen to be believed. They are silvery blue-grey sea creatures with intricately tentacled bodies. They feed on creatures such as the venomous siphonophore and the Portugese man o’ war jellyfish. They grow up to about three centimetres and are found throughout the world’s oceans in temperate and tropical water. They have been recorded off the south and eastern coasts of South Africa. Although largely they are open ocean creatures, they do sometimes wash up on beaches.
The Okapi is also known as the Forest Giraffe, or the Zebra Giraffe. Alongside the giraffe, they are the only living members of the biological family Giraffidae. They grow to about 1.5 m tall and are striking due to their dark fur and white-striped legs. They forage for leaves, buds, grasses, ferns, fruit, and fungi in canopy forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Before they were known to the Western World, Europeans in Africa heard tell of the creatures that they came to call the ‘African Unicorn’.