Top 10 most endangered animals in Africa – Species near extinction

Top 10 most endangered animals in Africa

Africa’s endangered animal species are under serious threat from poaching, hunting, and habitat destruction.

There may come a time when our children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren are unable to encounter these majestic animals in the wild. Imagine millions of years of evolution wiped out by a few generations of greedy homo sapiens.

It’s sad to think about Africa’s endangered species. Currently, the northern white rhino population sits at two. As both are females, there is little hope of saving the species.

In a more positive light, elephant populations have become stable, mountain gorilla numbers are rising, and conservation success is visible across the continent.

However, with more animals becoming endangered, you’d be fortunate to witness many of them in the wild.

Wondering what species this includes?

This article lists the top ten endangered animals in Africa. Let’s hope that their populations stabilize and they have a bright future on the lands they have always called home.

Top 10 Most Endangered African Animals

The population of many animal species in Africa is on a steady decline.

Here are the top 10 most endangered animals according to the IUCN’s Red List.

Northern white rhino

One of the last two Northern white rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya

Scientific Name: Ceratotherium simum cottoni.

Status: Critically endangered.

Threats: Uncontrolled hunting in the colonial era and poaching for their horns.

Population: 2 females remain.

Countries: Kenya.

Wondering “what is the most endangered animal in Africa”?

The answer has to be the northern white rhino. Found and protected in Kenya at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Najin and Fatu are the last two of their kind.

As of October 2021, Najin dropped from the breeding project aimed at saving the species from extinction. While it sounds like there is no hope left, scientists remain optimistic that they can save this endangered species. 

Addax

Addax antelope with impressive horns

Scientific Name: Addax nasomaculatus.

Status: Critically endangered.

Threats: Uncontrolled hunting and harassment. Also, drought and the extension of pastoralism.

Population: 30-90 animals remain in the wild.

Countries: Chad; Mauritania; Niger.

Also known as the white antelope and the screwhorn antelope, the addax lives in the Sahara desert. This rare African antelope has seen its lands devastated by drought and destruction. It’s one of the rarest sights on the continent.

Ethiopian wolf

Endangered Ethiopian wolf on the move

Scientific Name: Canis simensis.

Status: Endangered.

Threats: Loss of habitat (agriculture), disease epizootics, and hybridization with domestic dogs.

Population: around 197 mature individuals remaining.

Countries: Endemic to the Ethiopian highlands.

A canid native to the Ethiopian Highlands, the Ethiopian wolf, is among the endangered wildlife in Africa with a decreasing population.

It is similar to the coyote in size and build and is distinguishable by its long, narrow skull and red and white fur.

Mountain gorilla

Silverback mountain gorilla portrait, completely drenched

Scientific Name: Gorilla beringei.

Status: Endangered.

Threats: Habitat loss, poaching, pet trade, and illegal hunting (bushmeat).

Population: Closest estimate is 1000 wild mountain gorillas. However, the population has an increasing trend.

Countries: The Democratic Republic of Congo; Rwanda; Uganda.

The mountain gorilla is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. There are only two populations left on Earth, in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

Sometimes they cross the border into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Here they face threats of civil war and the interests of foreign oil companies – something that the movie Virunga portrays brilliantly.

Amazingly there are no captive mountain gorillas anywhere on the planet. Zoo owners pay poachers to kidnap baby mountain gorillas, killing their parents in the process.

However, the youngsters do not survive the journey. So the only place to see mountain gorillas is on a gorilla trek, venturing through their natural habitat.

Pygmy hippopotamus

Pygmy hippopotamus emerging from water covered with duckweed

Scientific Name: Choeropsis liberiensis.

Status: Endangered.

Threats: Deforestation for farming and logging + bushmeat hunting.

Population: As of 2015, the IUCN Red List reported a population size of around 2000 to 2499 mature pygmy hippos.

Countries: Endemic to West Africa; Sierra Leone; Guinea; Côte d’Ivoire; Liberia.

The pygmy hippo is among the most endangered animals in Africa. It is similar to a regular hippo or river horse, as some might call it.

However, the pygmy hippo is reclusive and nocturnal, and is semi-aquatic. It relies on its proximity to the water to keep its skin moisturized and its body temperature cool.

African wild dog

African wild dog in running motion, Moremi

Scientific Name: Lycaon pictus.

Status: Endangered.

Threats: Conflict with human activities and infectious disease (e.g. rabies).

Population: Less than 1500 remain.

Countries: Botswana; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Ethiopia; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; Senegal; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania; Zambia; Zimbabwe.

The African wild dog is also a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females.

Uniquely among social carnivores, it is the females rather than the males that scatter from the natal pack once sexually mature.

Also, the young are allowed to feed first on carcasses.

The African wild dog is endangered, and its population continues to fall. As such, witnessing these endangered animals in the wild is one of the great highlights of an African safari, especially if you see a pack out hunting.

Black rhinoceros

Black rhinoceros at a local waterhole in Etosha, Namibia

Scientific Name: Diceros bicornis.

Status: Critically endangered.

Threats: Mainly poaching for its horn and “medicinal” value (China).

Population: Has declined by over 90% over the last 60 odd years. The current estimation is at roughly 3142 black rhinos.

Countries: Kenya; Namibia; South Africa; Tanzania; Zimbabwe.

Although the rhinoceros is referred to as ‘black’, its colors vary from brown to gray.

Poachers kill black rhinos for their horns, which are considered an aphrodisiac in some countries.

Nevertheless, consuming rhino horn is the same as biting your own fingernails.

Colonialists started the population decline. Black rhinos ate crops planted by colonialists, so they were slaughtered in enormous numbers.

This is a somewhat forgotten story in the plight of many other endangered animals of Africa as well.

Cheetah

Male cheetah portrait in golden light, Kruger

Scientific Name: Acinonyx jubatus.

Status: Vulnerable.

Threats: Habitat loss, fragmentation, and human conflict.

Population: Estimates say that there are less than 7000 mature cheetahs left in the wild. Cheetahs have lost over 76% of their historic range on the continent.

Countries: Algeria; Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Central African Republic; Chad; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ethiopia; Islamic Republic of Iran; Kenya, Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; United Republic of Tanzania; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; and Zimbabwe.

Do you know the differences between cheetahs and leopards? Perhaps the greatest difference is that leopards have adapted to changing habitats.

Unfortunately, cheetahs have not. It would be a very sad day if we lose the world’s fastest land mammal from the wild.

African lion

Lion and lioness having a bit of an argument, Masai Mara, Kenya

Scientific Name: Panthera leo.

Status: Vulnerable.

Threats: Poisoning to protect local livestock (refer to the negative effects of Furadan), prey base depletion, habitat loss, and trophy hunting.

Population: Best estimate is 23 000-39 000. It’s such a pity, especially when you consider their number 50 years ago (450 000 lions).

Countries: Most of sub-Saharan Africa.

The lion is the king of the jungle and one of Africa’s top apex predators. To many safari-goers, this is perhaps the most majestic animal ever to live. Sadly, lions have experienced a population loss of 95%.

At this rate, there could come a time when these large cats are no longer a common sight on African safaris.

African penguin (jackass penguin)

Pair of African penguins showing some affection - penguin hug

Scientific Name: Spheniscus demersus.

Status: Endangered.

Threats: Commercial fisheries and oil spills.

Population: 25 000 breeding pairs.

Countries: Angola; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa.

The African penguin’s conservation status was recently updated from “vulnerable” to “endangered”. Over recent years, its population has witnessed a rapid decline.

For a chance to see this rare animal in Africa, visit Boulders Beach near Cape Town, South Africa.

Honorable mention – African elephant

Two African elephants drinking, with a lone giraffe in the background

Scientific Name: Loxodonta africana.

Status: Endangered.

Threats: Poaching for ivory, meat, and loss of habitat.

Population: As of 2016, the population of African savanna elephants and African forest elephants is around 416 000.

Countries: Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Liberia; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe.

While it is not included in our top 10 endangered animals, the African elephant deserves a mention.

Elephants are not the most endangered animals in Africa. That being said, they have experienced a rapid drop in numbers.

In just a decade, its population saw a continental decline of 111 000, taking its status from “vulnerable” to “endangered”.

Elephants are a symbol of Africa’s endangered animal species. So while their numbers seem high, you must remember that elephants were once widespread across the entire continent.

Other than some successes in Botswana and South Africa, African elephants are being lost due to human greed.

See the Most Endangered Species in Africa on a Safari

White rhino vs wild dogs encounter

With wildlife experiencing a steady decline, we may wind up with more extinct animals in Africa. And it’s no good simply shaking your head and feeling sorry for these animals.

One of the best ways you can help save these African endangered animals is by supporting conservation efforts.

You can do so by going on an African safari. Safaris support communities and provide a financial contribution to protect the African wild.

Safaris are also an affirmative vote that helps local communities become activists in the fight against habitat loss, poaching, and hunting.

And by going on safari, you’ll have a chance to encounter these stunning endangered animals before it is too late.

12 thoughts on “Top 10 most endangered animals in Africa – Species near extinction”

  1. Hi! I honestly think all these animals are amazing and I’d love to see more. 🙂 I’d like to see rare foxes or more wolves. They are amazing. Keep it up guys!

  2. Dear Mr. Theys,
    I am writing a childrens magazine article about the 10 most endangered african animals and this post really caught my attention! What advice would you give to young kids living in the UK who are learning about endangered animals?

    1. Hi there,

      These kids represent the future of our planet and should therefore act accordingly! It is up to us to preserve all living species for present AND future generations!

      Education, awareness and action should be number one on the agenda…

      The only way we can change the world is to start with ourselves… 😉

      All the best,

      Michael

  3. Thanks for the posting. I agree that many people will be surprised to see the lion on the top 10 list. Listing elephants is always contentious because their status depends on which country you look at. Several southern African countries have far too many elephants and their huge numbers are causing serious environmental problems. By the way – there is a great conservation group working in Zimbabwe on behalf of African Wild Dogs – the Painted Dog Conservation project – http://www.painteddog.org.

    1. Hi Alison,

      I totally agree with you, the elephant's case is somewhat controversial. In some countries, as you said, there are too many of them, and in others their numbers are being depleted at an alarming rate… 🙁

      I was actually thinking of not including them on the list…but then I thought their situation could just not be omitted!

      Take care,

      Michael

  4. Thank you for exposing the endangerment of animals in Africa. The more we educate travelers, the more they can do to participate and contribute to eco-tourism efforts and environment projects in Africa.

    I don't think people realize that some of the most world-renowned animals, such as the lion, cheetah, and elephant, are endangered.

    Wonderful and educational post!!

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