Animals in the Masai Mara: The Masai Mara boasts an unparalleled array of wildlife, with an abundance of nearly 90 mammal species and countless birds, making it a highly sought-after destination for African safaris. The surrounding Great Mara ecosystem supports a diverse and thriving collection of creatures, attracting visitors from around the globe.
To aid in identification, we have compiled a comprehensive list of mammals, which includes the renowned Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard, and buffalo) as well as the Big Nine, which adds cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus, and zebra to the roster.
Animals in the Masai Mara
The African elephant, a highly intelligent, social, and familial creature, is one of the most abundant species in the Mara. Although it is a target for ivory poaching, there is a silver lining as their population has increased in the Masai Mara region in recent years. These remarkable animals are the largest terrestrial mammals in the world, weighing up to 6.6 tons.
The Masai Mara National Reserve and adjacent conservancies are believed to host a lion population of approximately 850 to 900 individuals. Widely regarded as a prime location in Kenya and East Africa for observing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat during a safari, the Masai Mara, or simply ‘Mara’, does not disappoint.
Male lions can claim expansive territories spanning from 30 to 400 square kilometers, while the lionesses assume the role of primary hunters. However, male lions may occasionally participate in a hunt.
The Masai Mara is home to the black rhinoceros, a slightly smaller but more aggressive species than its white rhino counterpart, which is more commonly found in Lake Nakuru. Properly known as rhinoceros, this animal belongs to the family Rhinocerotidae and is one of five extant species of odd-toed ungulates, as well as numerous extinct species. While black rhinos are smaller than white rhinos, there is no color difference between them.
Black rhinos utilize their horns for mating, fighting, and self-defense against predators. They also rely on their hooked lip for browsing shrubs and tend to favor thick bush habitats.
The Cape buffalo, also known as the African buffalo, is considered one of the more dangerous animals in East Africa due to its unpredictable and volatile nature. This characteristic is also why the African buffalo has never been domesticated, unlike in Asia. The females, particularly those protecting their young calves, and solitary rogue bulls are the most aggressive, and an angry 800 kg animal is no laughing matter. Both sexes have distinctively curved horns that broaden and almost meet over the forehead, although those in females are relatively smaller.
Buffalo typically travel in herds of 100 or more and remain close to water sources, especially during dry spells. These animals can be found in significant numbers in all major parks except Nairobi National Park, including the Masai Mara National Game Reserve.
The leopard (Panthera pardus), a member of the Big Cats group and one of the five species in the Panthera genus, can be found in significant numbers in the Masai Mara, as well as other Kenyan parks. However, these elusive creatures are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to the threat of human encroachment and habitat loss.
Leopards are primarily solitary hunters and are naturally “shy,” favoring nocturnal hunting.
The cheetah is an iconic animal in the Masai Mara, renowned for its open-field hunting techniques and group hunting, which can involve up to four or five individuals. As the fastest land animal, cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 110 km/h in short bursts during hunts. While similar in appearance to leopards, cheetahs have a longer and lighter body, slightly bowed back, and smaller, rounder face. They stand at around 80cm at the shoulder, measure approximately 210cm in length (including the tail), and weigh between 40 to 60kg. The cheetah can be found in small numbers in all of Kenya’s major game reserves.
The zebra is a well-known wild animal often associated with East Africa and can be found in large numbers in Masai Mara and throughout Kenya. There are three sub-species of zebras, namely the Plains Zebra, the Mountain Zebra, and the Grevy’s Zebra. In Masai Mara, the plains zebra can be seen, while the Grevy’s Zebra, distinguished by their thinner stripes, can be found in the Samburu Reserve in northern Kenya.
Giraffes, belonging to the genus Giraffa, are recognized as the tallest living land animals, and their appearance is truly magnificent. Even at their fastest running speed of 50 to 60 km per hour, they move gracefully and elegantly. In Kenya, two main subspecies of giraffes are found, namely the Reticulated or Somali Giraffe in Northern Kenya, and the Maasai Giraffe in Southern Kenya, including the Masai Mara. According to estimates, approximately 33,000 Maasai giraffes are currently living in the wild in Kenya.
The Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), also known as Hippo, is the third largest land mammal, with adult males averaging close to 1500 kilograms in weight. They usually live in swamps, rivers, and areas near the lakeshore, spending most of the day in the water to stay cool. While they are most abundant in Masai Mara National Game Reserve, they can also be observed in Amboseli, Nairobi, and Tsavo National Parks, as well as Lake Baringo.
List of Animals in Masai Mara
Here is a list of some of the animals you can find in Masai Mara:
- African Elephant
- Black Rhino
- Cape Buffalo
- Zebra (Plains Zebra)
- Thompson’s Gazelle
- Grant’s Gazelle
- Bat-eared Fox
- Serval Cat
- Vervet Monkey
Note that this is not an exhaustive list and there may be other species present in the park as well.