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Swahili names are a guide only; specific species sometimes have specific names.
Not all these animals can be seen in the Masai Mara Reserve.

A brief taxonomy of living organisms

ENGLISH
SWAHILI
NOTES PHOTOGRAPHS
Aardvark
Muhanga
Also known as Ant Bears, these solitary nocturnal animals are well adapted to their environment but the result gives them a bizarre appearance.
Aardwolf Smaller but somewhat similar in appearance to the Hyena, these solitary carnivorous animals spend much time foraging for termites.
Agama Small lizards (males of some species have a pinkish orange head and bluish green body). Photos
Baboon
Nyani
Live in large troops with a strict social order, are playful but can be vicious if upset. Photos
Badger The Honey Badger is sometimes called the 'Ratel' (Nyegere).
Barbet (The photograph shows a red and yellow Barbet) Photos
Bat
Popo
The only true flying mammals. The Hammer-Headed Fruit Bat is one of Africa's largest bats with a wingspan of up to one metre.
Bataleur A distinctive variety of eagle with black and white underwing plumage and a wedge tail.
Boar
Nguruwe dume
Related to the Hog (Pig).
Bongo
Bongo
Rare striped antelopes often found in dense forest which they leave at night to graze.
Buffalo
Nyati
Reputed to be the most dangerous animals as far as humans are concerned. Photos
Bushbaby
Kombo
Very agile small nocturnal animals with large eyes/ears and a long tail.
Bushbuck
Pongo
Medium-sized timid antelopes with white spots and stripes.
Bustard The Kori Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world.
Caracal
Sibamangu
Solitary, nocturnal, lynx-like cats (having triangular ears tipped with black fur).
Chameleon
Kinyonga
Smallish lizards with gripping 'toes' and a long tongue, found in trees and bushes. They can move both eyes independently.
Cheetah
Duma
Fastest living mammals which can catch prey by chasing it at terrific speed. Photos
Civet
Fungo
Small spotted nocturnal animals with musk-producing glands.
Crocodile
Mamba
Can grow up to 7m long. Photos
Crowned Crane Distinctive appearance with black head cap and large straw-coloured tuft of feathers on/behind the head. Crane is Korongo. Photos
Dik-dik
Dik-dik
One of the smallest antelopes, named after the noise they make when alarmed. Photos
Dog
Mbwa
(see Wild dog)
Dugong
A rare marine mammal.
Duiker
Nysa
Rarely seen nocturnal antelopes.
Eagle
Tai
Large birds of prey. The Fish Eagle has a distinctive loud call. Photos
Eland
Pofu
Largest of the antelopes. Photos
Elephant
Tembo /
Ndovu
Largest and heaviest living land mammals, live in family groups and gather in herds for migration. Have powerful trunk and need much food so can be destructive to shrubs and trees. Photos
Flamingo
Heroe
Up to two million live in vast colonies on the Rift Valley soda lakes, getting their colour from the algae they eat. Photos
Fox
Mbweha
The bat-eared foxes (Mbweha masigio) use their large ears to pinpoint prey. Photos
Frog
Chura
Common Brown Tree Frogs are often heard in the still of night.
Gazelle
Swala
Grant's gazelles are similar size to Impala, but the Thomson's (Swala tomi or "Tommy" as they are affectionately called) gazelles are slightly smaller and have a distinctive coat with a black band separating their brown top from the white belly. Photos
Gecko Small nocturnal lizards with a translucent body and adhesive pads (not suckers) on their 'toes' which let them scurry up walls (and even along ceilings!) searching for insects and moths.
Genet
Kanu
Nocturnal animals of the mongoose family, similar to yet longer than the domestic cat, very agile at climbing trees.
Gerenuk
Swala twiga
A variety of antelope with very long neck, hence the swahili name meaning "gazelle giraffe".
Giraffe
Twiga
The tallest living animal. Often gather in non-hierarchical herds and use their height to reach leaves high on trees. Photos
Gnu
Nyumbu
(see Wildebeest)
Hare
Sungura
For example the Spring Hare (Kamandegere), nocturnal burrowing animals that move in leaps rather like a kangaroo.
Hartebeest
Kongoni
Have a distinctive long thin face with short angled horns.
Hippopotamus
Kiboko
Like to live and wallow in still or slow-moving water but come aground for grazing (usually in the cool of the night). Photos
Hog
Nguruwe
Giant Forest Hog are the largest of East Africa's pig species.
Hoopoe The Africa Hoopoe has a bright rufous plumage with black/white striped wings and tail, complemented by a crest of black-tipped feathers.
Hornbill Varieties include the Red- and Yellow-billed Hornbill, and the larger Ground Hornbill. Photos
Hyena
Fisi
Scavenging animals with very strong jaws, which often hunt at night and are famed for their whooping and laughter-like cries. Photos
Hyrax
Pimbi
Small vegetarian animals, often found in forest (Tree Hyrax) or rocky places (Rock Hyrax). They are the closest living relative to the elephant! Photos
Ibis Sacred Ibis have a distinctive white plumage with black head/neck and wings.
Impala
Swala pala
One of the most common antelopes and a very good jumper (10m in length or 3m in height for a single bound). Photos
Jackal
Mbweha
A type of dog, but more similar to a fox in size and appearance, tend to feed off carrion and hunt small animals. Photos
Klipspringer
Mbuzi mawe
Live in or near rocky terrain, with specially adapted hooves which make them appear to be walking on tip-toe. They are only about 50cm at shoulder-height and have an unusual greenish mottled coat.
Kudu
Tandala
A shy variety of antelope with white vertical stripes.
Leopard
Chui
Have become very rare and when found are often in trees where they like to carry and store their prey. Photos
Lion
Simba
Live in prides (a handful of males and up to a dozen females and young), are generally lazy and spend much of the time resting. Photos
Mongoose
Nguchiro /
Kicheche
Weasel-like creatures, typically with long tails and thick hair. Photos
Monitor
Kenge
Large lizards sometimes found along river banks.
Monkey
Nyani
These include the Black and White Colobus (Mbega) which are commonly found in tree tops, and the mischievous Vervet (Tumbili). Photos
Mouse Bird Have distinctive long tail feathers. Photos
Oribi
Taya
Small uncommon antelopes with a black-tipped tail and an unusual scent gland (area of bare black skin) just below their ears. Use a distinctive stiff-legged jump (stotting) when fleeing danger.
Oryx
Choroa
A type of antelope with particularly long, straight horns.
Ostrich
Mbuni
Largest living birds (up to 2.5m high and 150kg weight) with long powerful legs and able to run at over 50kph. Photos
Otter
Fisi maji
Semiaquatic members of the weasel family.
Pangolin An unusal nocturnal creature armoured with scales (like an Armadillo), which walks on its hind feet and will curl into a ball if attacked. A pangolin has an amazingly long tongue (as long as its head and body) which it uses to reach insects which are often found in decayed bark or termite mounds.
Pelican Have a large bill and pouch.
Porcupine
Nungunungu
Large (up to one metre long) nocturnal spine-bearing rodents. Photos
Rat
Panya
Giant Rats and Cane Rats are sometimes caught and eaten by humans.
Reedbuck
Tohe
Medium-sized antelopes with a short bushy tail, found in reed-beds or tall grass near water.
Rhinoceros
Kifaru
Have poor eye-sight but a good sense of smell and hearing plus great bulk and sharp horns. Have become particularly endangered by poaching. Photos
Roan Antelope
Korongo
Large and aggressive antelopes.
Sable Antelope
Pala hala
Antelopes with an unusual patterned mask-like face and long swept-back horns. Photos
Secretary Bird Birds of prey with unusual crest feathers. Photos
Serval
Mondo
Wild cats, generally nocturnal and found near water.
Shrew There are normal Shrews and Elephant Shrews (which have the shape of a shrew but the size of a very large rat).
Sitatunga
Nzohe
Very shy swamp antelopes with webbed hooves; a good swimmer and liable to hide almost totally under water if in danger.
Snake
Nyoka
Have hinged jaws which let them consume large prey (the Rocky Python can survive for months without eating after a big kill). Photos
Squirrel
Kidiri /
Kindi
There are ground (Kidiri) and bush (Kindi) varieties. Photos
Steinbok
Dondoo
Small reddish antelopes which often have a black triangle of fur sweeping up their muzzle.
Stork Marabou Storks are tall birds with a long bill and large pink throat pouch; they catch small animals and scavenge on carrion. Photos
Sunbird Sunbirds feed from the nectar of flowering plants. Most males are brightly coloured often with a metallic plumage, whereas females are dull-coloured and hard to distinguish.
Suni
Paa
These animals are slightly smaller than the Dik-dik and tend to dwell in forests.
Superb Starling Sociable birds with glossy plumage, often found near human habitation. Starling is Kwenzi. Photos
Tiger The tiger (Panthera tigris) is native to Asia and not Africa. Click here for more information about where different cats live. Photos
Toad
Chura
A group of toads is called a knot.
Topi
Nyamera
Almost-purplish antelopes with black patches on their face and around the top of the legs. Males can sometimes be seen guarding their territory from on top of small mounds. Photos
Tortoise /
Turtle
Kobe /
Kasa
Tortoises are terrestrial turtles. Giant Tortoise can live for up to 150 years.
Vulture Large scavenging birds (wingspan up to 3m) which use their excellent vision to locate carrion - or to see where other vultures have found food and are beginning to congregate! Photos
Wart hog
Ngiri
Have bristly hair, small curved tusks and carry four wart-like growths on their head (larger on the boar than the sow). Photos
Waterbuck
Kuru
Antelopes that live near water, are good swimmers and have a thick shaggy water-repellent coat. Photos
Weaver Bird
Mzingi
Weaves fine nests. Photos
Wild cat
Paka wa mwitu
.
Wild dog
Mbwa mwitu
Very rare. Tend to hunt in packs, working together to catch their prey. The have large ears, a white-tipped tail and their coats often have many different coloured patches of black, brown, yellow and white.
Wildebeest
Nyumbu
Famed for their mass migration between the Masai Mara and Serengeti plains. Photos
Zebra
Punda milia
Sociable animals which often gather in large herds. The Swahili name means "striped donkey". Photos

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