Animals of the Kalahari Desert

By Ferdinand Bada on December 12 2018 in World Facts

Meerkats in the Kalahari Desert.
Meerkats in the Kalahari Desert.

The Kalahari Desert is located in the southern region of Africa in three countries, namely Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia. The Kalahari Desert was formed about sixty million years ago around the same period of the formation of the African continent. The desert spans an area of about 350,000 square miles and has a diverse range of animal and plant life since it is not completely arid. Looking at the animal life, the Kalahari Desert has enough resources to sustain several birds and animals.


Ostriches are flightless birds belonging to the family Struthionidae. Today, most of these birds live in Africa where two species exist: namely the common and the Somali ostrich. On average, most ostriches weigh between 139 and 320 pounds. The bird usually sleeps while standing upright with both eyes open. Sometimes, the bird goes into a deeper state of rest, which is characterized by putting the head down for around 15 minutes. The diet of ostriches is mainly herbivorous although invertebrates are also part of the diet.


There are three species of elephant in existence today: the African bush elephant, the Asian elephant, and the African forest elephant. The African variations can weigh anywhere between 2.7 and 11.5 tons with the bush elephant being bigger. The diet is primarily vegetation although it does not provide as much energy as other forms of food. Consequently, the animal has to spend around 18 hours a day feeding on around 600 pounds of vegetation daily in order to sustain its substantial size. In addition, the animal rarely sleeps since it has to feed constantly.


The giraffe is the tallest living animal in the world with an average height of anywhere between 14.1 and 18.7 feet with the males being taller. The average weight of an adult male is 2,628 pounds and 1,825 pounds for females. The animal prefers to live in open woodlands and savannahs. The diet of the giraffe is herbivorous mainly involving vegetation from the subfamily of Acacieae as well as shrubs, fruits, and grass. The giraffe may also start chewing on the bark of a plant, especially during periods of stress.


Currently, there are only five remaining species of the rhino with two of them being native to Africa. The herbivorous animals have huge physical sizes as well as a small brain that weighs between 14 and 21 ounces. The two species native to Africa are the white rhinoceros and the black rhinoceros. The former has an average weight of 4,000 pounds for females while the males have an average weight of 5,000 pounds. The latter species is smaller with an average weight of between 1,870 and 3,530 pounds.


Lions in East and South Africa belong to the subspecies of Panthera leo melanochaita. All the lion species are heavily protected in both of these regions due to their endangerment from poaching. A male lion has a weight of between 327 and 421 pounds and a body length of between 97 and 112 inches. Females are smaller and weigh less. In the Kalahari, lions exist in all three countries although they are endangered. For example, in Namibia, most of the lions were murdered by farmers since the early stages of the 1970s, which why there are no more than 1,500 individuals currently.


Also known as a suricate, the meerkat is a carnivorous animal in the same family as the mongoose. Existing in sections of the Kalahari Desert and a few other African countries, this animal has an average weight of between 1.1 and 5.5 pounds. The length of the body ranges between 14 and 20 inches with the tail adding an extra 9.8 inches. Primarily, they are insectivorous animals although they also eat small animals such as snakes and lizards. In some rare cases, they will also eat fungi and plants. The animal prefers to live in groups known as a gang or a mob, which can have up to 50 members.


The cheetah is a large cat belonging to the Felinae subfamily. With a top speed of up to 70 mph, no land animal is faster than the cheetah. During hunting, the average speed is around 40 mph. The shoulder height of the animal can be anywhere between 28 and 35 inches and weigh between 46 and 159 pounds. The coat is usually yellowish with a uniform coverage of about 2,000 black spots. The animal is carnivorous that mostly hunts prey weighing between 51 and 123 pounds. Animals hunted include impala, springbok, duiker, and Thomson’s gazelles.


The African leopard has an average weight of between 130 and 201 pounds for the males while the females average between 77 and 88 pounds. Leopards are carnivores that mostly hunt between sunset and sunrise. In some places, they are more active at night where they hunt animals such as reedbuck, Thomson’s gazelles, zebras, and dik-dik. The color of the coat varies depending on the habitat and the location. However, in most cases, the coat color ranges from a pale yellow hue to a deep gold one. Just like the cheetah above, the body is also spotted although some parts of the leopard such as the belly and lower limbs are solid black.

African wild dog

Also known as the African hunting dog, the African painted dog, the painted wolf, or the painted hunting dog, the African wild dog belongs to the genus Lycaon. The species is currently endangered since the numbers have been declining steadily due to things like human persecution, diseases, and habitat destruction. The highly social and carnivorous animal weighs between 44 and 55 pounds and has a shoulder height of between 24 and 30 inches. In southern Africa, the wild dog species can weigh as much as 66 pounds.


Also known as gnus, wildebeests are actually antelopes belonging to the genus called Connochaetes. Currently, two species of the animal are alive, namely the black and blue wildebeest. Of the two, the black one is endemic to southern Africa where males can weigh up to 346 pounds while females get up to 269 pounds. The tail, which also serves to distinguish the two species, is usually white and has a length of between 31 and 39 inches.

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