What Kind of Animals Live in Rwanda?

A baby gorilla in Rwanda.
A baby gorilla in Rwanda.

Known as “the land of a thousand hills,” Rwanda is a small, landlocked country in Central Africa, bordering Tanzania, Uganda, DRC, and Burundi. The county has rich geography and geology comprising of many lakes, savannah, and mountains. Rwanda has a great diversity of large mammals in the three national parks which are designated as protected areas. The volcanoes of Rwanda are home to about one-third of the world’s mountain gorillas. Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country, with tourists particularly attracted to the country because they can safely visit the endangered mountain gorillas. Below are some of the animals that live in Rwanda.

10. Gorilla

Gorillas are one of the most important wildlife species in Rwanda. The country accounts for a significant number of eastern gorilla species. The species is divided into Grauer’s gorillas and mountain gorillas. Rwanda accounts for almost one-third of mountain gorillas in the world they are mainly confined in the Volcano National Park where tourists can visit them safely. The gorillas are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List because of their low population. The eastern gorillas are apes with large heads, long arms, and broad chests. Their bodies are covered in black fur. A male gorilla weighs up to 450 pounds and stands at 5.6 feet while the female weighs up to 220 pounds and stands at 4.9 feet.

9. Elephant

The Akagera National Park is home to a variety of animals including the elephants. There are approximately 100 elephants in Rwanda, with their population increasing in recent years. The species of elephants found in Rwanda are mainly the savanna elephants, although a few African elephants are also said to cross the neighboring DRC into the country. The African savanna elephant is the largest terrestrial animal, with the male reaching a height of 13 feet and weighing 10.4 tons. They have prehensile trunks that are highly sensitive and strong which allows the elephants to uplift about 3% of their body weight. The major threat to the elephants in Rwanda is poaching.

8. Lion

Lions were abundant in Rwanda before the 1994 conflict. During the conflict, a large number of lions were either killed or chased away by the soldiers who wanted to establish camps in the park. Today, there are approximately 25 lions in Rwanda, with the majority confined to the Akagera National Park. It is suggested that the lions in the country may have entered the parks from neighboring Tanzania. However, no evidence has been found to support such a movement. The government of Rwanda had previously tried to restock the lions which included a failed importation of lions from South Africa.

7. Antelope

Antelopes are native to Africa, with most of the species occurring over much of East Africa, including Rwanda. There are several species of antelopes in the country, including the popular roan antelopes which inhabit the savannah grassland and woodland. The various antelope species including klipspringer, impalas, and duikers are mainly found in the Akagera National Park located on the eastern part of the country. Antelopes in Rwanda have been listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List because of their population. However, poaching remains their greatest threat, especially for their horns.

6. Giraffe

The Akagera National Park, especially the northern plain, is home to over 100 giraffes. There is only one species of giraffe and nine subspecies recognized by the IUCN. There are two subspecies in Rwanda; Angolan and Masai giraffes. The giraffes in Rwanda are considered Endangered considering their low population. However, they have been the least affected by human activities such as poaching since their introduction

5. Topis

The topis is a subspecies of the African antelope, commonly found in floodplains of sub-Saharan Africa, semi-deserts, and savannas. It is distributed in several countries including Rwanda, the DRC, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Burundi. In Rwanda, topis mainly inhabit the grassland of the Akagera National Park, although a few can be found outside the park. In the park, the male topis have established territories which have been clustered together. The dominant male occupies the center of the territory or lek cluster while the least dominant occupies the peripheries. Topis are generally classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

4. Guereza

The guereza is a black and white monkey native to west central and eastern Africa. It can be found in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Rwanda. Guereza species consists of several subspecies that can be distinguished by their appearance. However, they all have the popular white and black appearance. Known as the mantle guereza, this species is mostly black with white fringes of silky hair known as a mantle. It prefers forest near rivers or swamps due to the large variety of food trees. Their main threat in Rwanda is the loss of habitat through the various human activities such as clearing of land.

3. Aardvark

The aardvark is a nocturnal burrowing mammal native to Africa and the only living species in the order Tubulidentata. The animal is pig-like and has a long snout used for sniffing out food. The aardvark roams most of southern Africa, including Rwanda where its population is not yet established. Its suitable habitat includes grasslands, Savannah, and bushland. During the day, the species hides in underground burrows to avoid the heat from the sun. Its main predators include leopards, lions, wild dogs, and hyenas.

2. African Wild Dog

The African wild dog is a large canid native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is classified as Endangered by the IUCN since it has disappeared from much of its range. African wild dogs occur in small numbers in East Africa and are almost extinct in Rwanda. Its population in Rwanda has been affected by the outbreak of diseases and increased human population which has forced them to move elsewhere. The remaining few species are found in the Akagera National Park.

1. Hippo

Hippos are commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa including Rwanda’s Akagera National Park. They are commonly found in rivers and swamps in the park where they spend a significant amount of time. The species requires plenty of water to submerge in, especially during the day. Hippos are classified as vulnerable species worldwide because of the decline in their numbers. They are semiaquatic mammals and can be found in forest and savannah.


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