Africa is rich in animal life, but the number of large game animals has been rapidly decreasing for many years. In some parts of the continent, few such animals can be found outside game parks. These parks have been established mainly in eastern and southern Africa.
Many kinds of animals are native only to Africa. Among them are such mammals as gorillas, chimpanzees, zebras, giraffes, hippopotamuses, African elephants, aardvarks, and several species of antelopes. Among large native birds are crested cranes, secretary birds, guinea fowl, and numerous species of storks, ibises, herons, and eagles. Madagascar has several kinds of animals that are not found elsewhere, including ayeayes and indris. Lemurs are found only on Madagascar and the nearby Comoro Islands. Among animals of the continent that are not found on Madagascar are elephants, lions, giraffes, and poisonous snakes.
Some animals are adapted to life in more than one of Africa's climatic regions. Elephants, buffaloes, and various species of monkeys and antelopes are among mammals that are able to live in all regions but deserts. Birds that are represented by different species in two or more climatic regions include bulbuls, hornbills, francolins, and sunbirds. Some species —such as the fish eagle—are adapted to several regions.
Jackals and hyenas range throughout all regions except the tropical rain forests. Leopards live in forests and savannas. Lions and cheetahs live in various types of grasslands. The hippopotamus is found in lake and river areas in many parts of Africa. The Nile crocodile and the Nile monitor lizard also have a wide range. The rock python, Africa's largest snake, is found throughout much of Africa south of the Sahara.
Numerous kinds of fish are widely distributed off Africa's coasts and in its inland waters. Among commercially important marine life in coastal waters are barracuda, tuna, mackerel, tarpon, eel, marlin, octopus, shark, sole, sailfish, swordfish, sardines, shrimp, and clams. Edible fish found in most rivers and lakes include catfish, perch, barbel, and tilapia.
Among the hundreds of thousands of species of insects found in Africa, the mosquito is perhaps the most widely distributed. It is a major health hazard, especially in tropical Africa. The tsetse fly, which transmits disease to domestic animals and humans, is found in bush country and swamps everywhere except in very arid regions.
Mammals found only in forests include chimpanzees, gorillas, okapis, pygmy hippopotamuses, and some species of wild pigs and wild cats. The forests are especially rich in reptiles, amphibians, and insects, with a number of species not found in other climatic regions. Congo peacocks and the brilliantly colored trogons are forest birds. Several colorful species of turacos (or plantain-eaters) are found only in forests.
Savannas and other grasslands are the home of baboons, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, aardvarks, rhinoceroses, and such antelopes as the eland, gnu, kob, Grant's gazelle, and Thompson's gazelle. Among the many birds of the open country are kites, cattle egrets, and most of Africa's species of weaverbirds. The brackish lakes of the plains of eastern and central Africa are frequented by flamingoes.
Ostriches and sand grouse are among birds found in the drier grasslands and steppe regions. Deserts are inhabited by hares, jerboas, foxes, wild asses, and gazelles. Several species of insects and reptiles are found only in desert regions and steppes bordering on deserts.