Animals & Wildlife in Nyerere National Park

By and large, the wildlife in Nyerere National Park is considered one of the finest collection of wild animals anywhere in the world. With some of the largest population of mammals and reptiles in Africa and over 440 bird species, Nyerere and the surrounding Selous eco system is home to a rich, diverse collection of wildlife which tourists from the world come to see during an African Safari.

We have categorized the wildlife into a general Mammal list to include the famous Big Five ( Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo ) and the Big Nine to additionally include the Cheetah, Giraffe, Hippo and Zebra. Notable Birds commonly found in Nyerere National Park are also listed below.
A Bird Check List can be emailed upon request. Photo credit - David Clode at

the big Five

Most tourists come to East Africa hoping to see the so called ''Big 5'', namely Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo. Well, Nyerere National Park is one of the few places in Africa where seeing all these five animal species is not just possible but also fairly likely during a 3 day safari.

Elephants in Nyerere

Elephant ( Loxodonta Africana )

Nyerere National Park is home to the largest concentration of elephants in Africa, with half of all Tanzanian elephants living here. The African Elephant is an intelligent, sociable and familial animal, and despite the threat it attracts due to its Ivory, the great news is that numbers are up in Nyerere over the last couple of years. African Elephants are the world's largest land animals, weighing up to (6.6 tons). Read more about the African Elephant here.

Black Rhinos in Nyerere

Rhino ( Rhinocerotidae )

Nyerere National Park is home to Black Rhino, the slightly smaller but more aggresive species compared to White Rhino. Rhinocerous is the proper name for the Rhino, and this animal is one of any five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae, as well as any of the numerous extinct species. Black rhinos use their horns during mating and fighting, as well as when defending themselves from predators. They also use their hooked lip to browse shrubs and prefer thick bush habitat.

lions in nyerere

Lion ( Panthera Leo)

It is estimated that there are close to 1,700 to 6,900 Lions in Nyerere National Park and surrounding Selous Game Reserve. The Selous eco system is generally considered one of the best places in Tanzania after the famous Serengeti and East Africa to see these magnificent animals in the wild on a Safari. Individual Lions (males) can hold huge territories ranging from 30 to 400 square kilometers. The lionesses (females) take the lead when it comes to hunting down the prey. From time to time the Males will assist with a hunt. Read more about Nyerere Lions in detail at this page.

African Buffalo in Nyerere

African Buffalo ( Syncerus caffer )

Also known as the Cape Buffalo, these large bovines are regarded as one of the more dangerous animals in East Africa not least due to their volatile and unpredictable nature, which is one of the reasons the African Buffalo has never been domesticated as is the case in Asia. Females protecting their young calves, and solitary rogue bulls, are the most aggressive, and having 800kg of angry animal is no joke. Both sexes have the distinctive curving horns which broaden and almost meet over the forehead, although those in females are fairly smaller. Buffalo are often found in herds of 100 or more and never stray too far from water, especially in dry season. These animals appears in great numbers in all major parks in Tanzania. They can also be found in large numbers in Nyerere National Park.

Leopards in Masai Mara

Leopard (Panthera pardus )

The Leopard (Panthera Pardus) is counted as one of the Big Cats and is one of the five species in the genus Panthera. Though Leopards can be found in Nyerere National Park in healthy numbers and in some other parks in Tanzania as well, these elusive animals are nonetheless listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are threatened by human encroachment and habitat loss. Leopards almost always hunt on their own and are by nature 'shy', preferring to hunt at night.

The Big Nine Animal List in Tanzania

The Big 9 are essentially the Big Five animals above with the addition of the Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra and Hippopotamus. Nyerere National Park is one of the few places in East Africa where all of the Big Nine wildlife can be spotted on single game drive of 2 to 3 hours.

Cheetah in Nyerere

Cheetah ( Acinonyx Jubantus )

Cheetah is one of the iconic animals in Nyerere National Park, known for hunting in the open and in groups of upto four or five, Cheetahs are universally known for their speed, being the fastest land animals, touching upto 110 km per hour on short bursts during hunts. Similar in appearance to the leopards, the Cheetah is longer and lighter in the body. It has a slightly bowed back and a much smaller and rounder face. It stands around 80cm at the shoulder, measures around 210cm in length (including the tail) and weighs anything from 40 to 60kg.

Giraffes in Nyerere

Giraffe ( Giraffa )

Giraffe ( Giraffa) are the tallest living terrestrial animals and actually quite a sight, extremely picturesque and known for their graceful movements even when running at their fastest speed of 50 to 60 km per hour. The most common giraffe species that is found in Nyerere National Park is the Maasai Giraffe. It is estimated that close to 32,500 Maasai giraffe are alive in the wild in Tanzania.

Hippos in Nyerere

Hippo ( Hippopotamus amphibius )

The Hippopotamus ( Hippopotamus amphibius), commonly referred to as Hippo are the third largest land mammal with the average adult males weighing in at close to 1500 kilos. Hippos typically inhabit swamps, rivers, and areas close to the lake shore, and remain cool by staying in the water during most of the day. It is estimated that there are close to 40,000 hippos in Nyerere National Park. These magnificent animals can also be found in greatest numbers in Serengeti, Ruaha, and Mikumi National Parks.

Zebra in Masai Mara

Zebra ( Equus quagga )

One of the wild animals that most people would always associate with East Africa, Zebras are present in Nyerere National Park and Tanzania generally in large numbers. There are 2 sub species, namely the Plains Zebra, Mountain Zebra and Grevys Zebra. Nyerere National Park is home to the plains Zebra.

Mammals List

Nyerere is also home to a large number of other animals apart from the Big Five or Big Nine. This is a list of some of the other diverse wildlife you will find in Nyerere National Park, starting with a list of Mammals below.

African wild dog in nyerere

African wild dogs ( Lycaon pictus )

Nyerere National Park is home to approximately 1,300 wild dog (the largest concentration in Africa and about one third of the entire world's population). The wild dog is one of the world’s most endangered mammals. They are social and gather in packs of around ten individuals, but some packs number more than 40. They are opportunistic predators that hunt medium-sized ruminants, such as gazelles. In a sprint, African wild dogs can reach speeds of more than 44 miles per hour. These long-legged canines have only four toes per foot, unlike other dogs, which have five toes on their forefeet.

bushbucks in nyerere

Bushbuck ( Tragelaphus scriptus )

Bushbucks are one of the most widespread kinds of African antelopes. They have a light brown coat, with up to seven white stripes and white splotches on the sides. The muzzle is also white and horns are found only on the males and they can reach over half a meter with only one twist. They mainly browse, but supplement their diet with any other plant matter that they can reach. Bushbucks are active around 24 hours a day, but tend to be nocturnal near human habitations. They can be found in healthy numbers in Nyerere National Park.

 Coke's Hartebeest in nyerere

Coke's Hartebeest ( Alcelaphus buselaphus cokii )

The Coke's Hartebeest is a medium-sized, fawn-colored antelope. It is easy to recognise as it has long, narrow face and distinctively angular short horns (on both sexes) which are heavily ridged. They are mainly found in medium and tall grasslands, including savannas. They can be easily spotted in Nyerere National Park. It is one of the fastest antelopes and most enduring runners. The hartebeest feeds almost entirely on grass, but is not very selective and quite tolerant of poor-quality food.

 Common Elands in nyerere

Common Eland ( Taurotragus oryx )

Also known as the southern eland or eland antelope, is a savannah and plains antelope found in East and Southern Africa. It is the second largest antelope in the world, being slightly smaller on average than the giant eland. Common eland are spiral-horned antelopes. They prefers savannah scrub to wide open spaces, but also avoids thick forest. It feeds on grass and tree foliage in the early morning and late afternoon, and is also active on moonlit nights. They are easily seen in Nyerere National Park and Selous Game Reserve.

Crocodiles in nyerere

Crocodiles ( subfamily Crocodylinae )

Crocodiles are the largest and the heaviest of present-day reptiles. There are 13 species of crocodiles, so there are many different sizes of crocodile. The smallest crocodile is the dwarf crocodile and the largest is the saltwater crocodile. All crocodiles have a relatively long snout, or muzzle, which varies considerably in shape and proportion. The scales that cover most of the body generally are arranged in a regular pattern, and thick, bony plates occur on the back. They have powerful jaws with many conical teeth and short legs with clawed webbed toes. They share a unique body form that allows the eyes, ears, and nostrils to be above the water surface while most of the animal is hidden below. The tail is long and massive, and the skin is thick and plated. Nile crocodile are the most common in Nyerere National Park along the mighty Rufiji River.

Hyenas in nyerere

Spotted Hyenas ( Crocuta Crocuta )

The hyena is Africa’s most common large carnivore. There are three hyena species — spotted, brown, and striped. Spotted hyenas are the largest of the three. They are fairly large in build and have relatively short torsos with lower hindquarters, and sloping backs. They have excellent night-time vision and hearing. Hyenas make a variety of vocalizations, including wailing calls, howling screams, and the well-known “laughter,” which can be heard up to five kilometers away (three miles) and is used to alert other clan members of a food source. Spotted hyenas are the most common in Nyerere National Park.

Vervet Monkeys in Nyerere

Vervet Monkey ( Cercopithecus aethiops )

Vervet Monkey is a small, black faced monkey with a greenish-olive or silvery-gray body, found in Nyerere National Park. Vervet society is built on complex but stable social groups (called troops) of 10 to 50 individuals—mainly adult females and their immature offspring. They eats a primarily herbivorous diet, living mostly on Leaves and young shoots- but bark, flowers, fruit, bulbs, roots and grass seeds are also consumed. The mainly vegetarian diet is supplemented with insects, grubs, eggs, baby birds and sometimes rodents and hares.

Waterbucks in Nyerere

Waterbuck ( Kobus ellipsiprymnus )

Waterbuck also known as defassa waterbuck is a fairly solid animal and is easily recognisable by its thick, shaggy, dark brown coat and white inner thighs. The horns are present in males only which they use to defend themselves if attacked, and these curve gradually outwards then grow straight up to a length of about 75cm.The female and young ones move in vicinity of a number of territorial males,or may stay with one male. They feed on grass,reeds,and some foliage. It is fairly common and easily seen in Nyerere National Park and Selous Game Reserve.

Wildebeest in Nyerere

Wildebeest ( Connochaetes )

Wildebeest (also called gnu) are a member of the antelope family. The front end of their body is heavily built, while the hindquarters are slender with spindly legs. They have a gray coat and a black mane as well as a beard that can be black or white. There are several races of wildebeest. The species forming the large herds of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania is known as the western white-bearded wildebeest, while the eastern white-bearded races inhabit Kenya and Tanzania east of the Gregory Rift. Their favourite habitats are open woodlands and open grassy plains. Wildbeest are found in healthy numbers in Nyerere National Park.