National Animals are often the face of a nation. These animals present their country to the rest of the world and are nonverbal symbols of all that is significant within its boundaries. The vast majority of nations choose animals that somehow represent their internal cultural values. Through this image, countries can reflect their national pride and identity. Each animal choice holds historical, ecological and cultural significance.
Animals and Their Significance
In a list of 10 African nations and their representative animals, Rwanda and Somalia share the leopard. The fact that they share the same national animal is no coincidence. By choosing the majestic predator, these two countries are showing the world that they are fierce, powerful, and courageous. Leopards are a vulnerable or near threatened species and live in rocky areas with dense bush, exactly like that which can be found in Rwanda and Somalia. Interestingly, South Africa lists three national animals: Springbok, Blue Crane, and Gajoen. Springboks are a type of gazelle that live in herds and roam wide expanses of open grassland. South Africans chose this animal prior to Apartheid and used its name as a nickname for the national rugby team. It appears on South African Airways, the Air Force, the Ranger car, and the prior Coat of Arms. The Springbok represents speed and perseverance. The Blue Crane is Africa’s national bird and is an interesting choice because this species is indigenous to the country. Cranes represent grace. The third animal is the national fish, the Galjoen. The fish is another species that is native only to the South African coastline and is well known for its aggressive fighting qualities. Due to overfishing, the Galjoen is now a threatened species. One country even has an extinct animal as its national symbol! Mauritius proudly demonstrates the Dodo bird as a symbol of its cultural pride. This bird was endemic to the country and helped to put Mauritius, a small island nation, on the map by sailors who stopped there for provisions. Unfortunately, the Dodo bird became a popular meal and an easy catch since it didn’t have natural prey and therefore didn’t fear humans. Its habitat was also destroyed by people and other non-indigenous animals. The Dodo has become famous as the "poster-animal" of extinction, and its story is kept alive in the museums, business names, and stamps of Mauritius. Tanzania has chosen the Masai giraffe as its national animal. While on safari in Tanzania, it may seem that the giraffe is abundant but that is not the case. Unfortunately, this extremely tall mammal is becoming endangered as deforestation threatens its habitat. Due to its height, the giraffe represents the ability to view life from all angles, and it reminds Tanzanians to live life accordingly. It is a friendly creature, full of grace and strength, and the pride of Tanzania.
As this article has shown, national animals range from stealthy hunters to fast runners and from aggressive fish to extinct birds. They are symbols of pride for countries and topics of conversation for many people. Each animal has an interesting story and unique traits that make them important enough to be chosen as national symbols.