Endangered Animals in Africa & How to Help

Take a look at the hard facts about 11 endangered and critically endangered African wildlife species that you can still sight on safari in Africa. This is a quick overview of where in Africa you can see these rare wild animals and how many of each is left in the wilderness. Also, find out the status of each animal, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

What's the point of sharing the bad news? Before you become too despondent, we give you at least one idea of how you can help to ensure the survival of each of these threatened wildlife species in Africa! 

11 of The Most Endangered Animals in Africa

  1. Riverine Rabbit - Critically Endangered since 2003
  2. Ethiopian Wolf - Endangered since 2004
  3. Black Rhino - Critically Endangered since 1996
  4. Grevy's Zebra - Endangered since 1986
  5. Pickergill’s Reedfrog - Critically Endangered since 2010
  6. African Wild Dog - Endangered since 1990
  7. Mountain Gorilla - Critically Endangered since 1996
  8. Rothschild's Giraffe - Endangered since 2010
  9. Chimpanzee - Endangered since 1996
  10. African Penguin - Endangered since 2012
  11. Northern White Rhino - Critically Endangered since 1996

1. Riverine Rabbits - South Africa's most Endangered Animal

The Riverine Rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis) is one of the world's rarest and most endangered mammals and is South Africa's most endangered wildlife species. Critically Endangered since 2003, this rare rabbit is an important species for measuring ecosystem health.

From GivenGain Riverine rabbit - From GivenGain

Number of Riverine Rabbits left in the wild:

  • The current population is estimated at less than 250 breeding pairs and is declining.

Main Threats to Riverine Rabbits:

  • Habitat loss and degradation, hunting for sport and by farm workers, and accidental trapping are the main threats.

Places to see Riverine Rabbits:

  • This endemic species is only found along rivers in Nama and Succulent Karoo areas, in the Central and Small Karoo, of South Africa. Also known as Bushman Rabbits or Bushman Hares, they are present in the Anysberg Nature Reserve.

Help Save Riverine Rabbits:

Back to the top, or see the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Riverine Rabbit facts.

2. The Ethiopian Wolf - Africa's most endangered carnivore

The Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) is one of the rarest canid species in the world. Also known as the Simien Jackal or Simien Fox, in 1996 the Ethiopian Wolf was listed as Critically Endangered, but in 2004 it was reclassified as Endangered.

Number of Ethiopian Wolves in Africa: 

  • About 500 of these wolves remain in the wild.

Main Threats to Ethiopian Wolves: 

  • Loss of Afroalpine habitats due to agriculture, commercial farming and human development.
  • Contracting rabies from dogs herding livestock and other diseases.
  • Road killings, shooting and persecution by humans, and climate warming.

Laika acEthiopian wolf - Laika ac

Places to see Ethiopian Wolves in the wild: 

  • This species is endemic to the Ethiopian highlands.
  • There are populations in the Simien Mountains (Simien Mountains National Park), Mount Guna, Menz, and the North and South Wollo highlands, north of the Rift Valley. They can also be found in the Arsi Mountains and Bale Mountains (Bale Mountains National Park), south-east of the Rift Valley.
  • On our Ethiopia Cultural & Wildlife Safari visiting Bale National Park.

Help Save the Ethiopian Wolf:

Back to the top, or to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ethiopian Wolf facts.

2.Black Rhinos - the highest profile endangered animals of Southern Africa

Three subspecies of Black Rhino remain, with the fourth (West African black rhino) declared extinct in 2011, in the savanna habitats of central-west Africa where it once existed. 

Number of Black Rhinos (Diceros bicornis) left in the wild: 

  • About 4880 in December 2010 according to IUCN data

Main Threats to Black Rhinos: 

  • Poaching for the illegal, international trade in rhino horn.
  • Habitat loss and hunting by European settlers in the 20th century.
  • Civil unrest and war, increase in weapons and improved communications 

Julian MasonBlack Rhinos in Masai Mara - Julian Mason

Places to see Black Rhinos (also known as the Hook-lipped Rhinoceros): 

Help Save Black Rhinos:

Back to the top, or see the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Black Rhinoceros facts.

4. Grevy's Zebras - the largest and most endangered zebra species

Despite its ability to stand six minutes after birth and run within an hour, Grevy's Zebra has been endangered since 1986 and was still classified as such in 2013.

Number of endangered Grevy's Zebra left in the wild: 

  • Total population in the wild, estimated at about 1966 to 2447 (2008).
  • Estimated 750 mature individuals, with the largest sub-population at about 255 mature individuals.

Main Threats to Grevy's Zebra: 

  • Reduced water sources, habitat degradation and loss from overgrazing, competition for natural resources.
  • Hunting and disease.

Dan LundbergGrevy's Zebra - Dan Lundberg

Best places to see Grevy's Zebra in Africa: 

  • The Horn of Africa, specifically southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.
  • In Kenya - southern Samburu Park, the Laikipia Plateau and Tsavo East National Park.
  • Kenya Tours to Samburu and/or Tsavo National Park, and our Samburu and Kenya Game Parks Safari.

Help Save Grevy's Zebra (Equus grevyi):

Back to the top, or see the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Grevy's Zebra facts.

5. Pickergill’s Reed Frog - endemic to critically endangered coastal wetland habitat

Listed as Critically Endangered since re-assessment in 2010, Hyperolius pickersgilli (Pickergill’s Reed Frog) was first classified as endangered in 2004.

This critically endangered reed frog is a habitat specialist, found only on 9km² of the earth's surface in total. This elusive, shy amphibian is found in highly fragmented and declining wetland habitats within a narrow 16km stretch along the KwaZulu-Natal Province coastline in South Africa.

Number of Pickergill’s Reed Frogs left in the wild:

  • A population estimate has yet to be recorded for this critically endangered species!! This quick and elusive frog is found in 17 sites, only two of which are in protected areas - iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the Umlalazi Nature Reserve.

Main Threats to Pickergill’s Reed Frog: 

  • The primary threat driving this species to extinction is habitat loss and fragmentation, due to mining, agriculture and urban development.
  • Much of the small and shrinking habitat of the Pickergill’s Reed Frog is located on sought-after private or commercial coastal land, increasing the problem of habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • Habitat degradation is also a major threat due to human development and wetland drainange.

Places to see Pickergill’s Reed Frog: 

  • This little frog is extremely rare and difficult to spot in the scattered patches of coastal reedbeds from St Lucia in the north to Warner Beach in the south. 
  • iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Umlalazi Nature Reserve and Twinstreams-Mtunzini Natural Heritage Site.

Help Save Pickergill’s Reed Frog:

Back to the top, or view the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Pickergill’s Reedfrog listing.

6. African Wild Dogs - one of the most endangered carnivores in the world

Also known as the Painted Hunting Dog and Cape Hunting Dog, this canid is Africa's second most endangered carnivore.

Number of African Wild Dogs left in the wild:

  • Currently estimated at approximately 3000 to 5500 individuals.

Main Threats to Lycaon pictus

  • Ongoing habitat fragmentation, conflict with humans, and infectious diseases.

Derek KeatsAfrican wild dogs - Derek Keats

Places to see African Wild Dogs: 

  • The largest populations are found in southern Africa, especially in Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia
  • Also in southern parts of East Africa (particularly Tanzania and northern Mozambique)
  • On Safaris to Hwange Park in Zimbabwe, Tanzania Safaris, Safaris to the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
  • Safaris to Kruger Park and other parks in South Africa, especially Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

Help Save African Wild Dogs:

Back to the top, or see the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species African Wild Dog facts.

7. African Mountain Gorillas -  the largest and one of the rarest primates alive

A subspecies of endangered Eastern Gorillas, the critically endangered Mountain Gorilla is one of the rarest great apes in the world. The Cross River Gorilla, a subspecies of Western Gorillas, is the world’s most endangered gorilla, with only about 250-300 individuals found in the highlands of Cameroon and Nigeria.

Number of endangered Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei ssp. beringei) left in the wild:

  • In the region of 880 of these great apes survive in the wild.

Main Threats to Mountain Gorillas:

  • Hunting by humans for bushmeat and human conflict.
  • Habitat loss and human diseases.

Joachim HuberMountain Gorilla - Joachim Huber

Best places to see African Mountain Gorillas: 

Help Save Mountain Gorillas:

Back to the top, or see the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species African Mountain Gorilla facts.

8. Rothschild's Giraffes - the world's tallest land animals and one of the most threatened giraffe subspecies

Rothschild's giraffes have been listed as endangered since 2010, along with the Nigerian Giraffe subspecies, but the classification of subspecies is unclear and other subspecies may well be endangered too.

Number of Rothschild's Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis ssp. rothschildi) left in the wild: 

  • Fewer than 670 Rothschild's Giraffes remain in the wild (2010).

Main Threats to Rothschild's giraffes:

  • Habitat loss, population segregation, poaching and human-wildlife conflict.
  • Natural predation.

Diana RobinsonRothschild Giraffes in Kenya - Diana Robinson

Places to see the Rothschild's Giraffe (also known as the Baringo or Ugandan Giraffe): 

  • About 40% in national parks and private reserves in Kenya and 60% in Uganda.
  • Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya.
  • Murchison Falls National Park in northern Uganda.
  • On some of our Kenya Safaris and Safaris to Uganda.

Help Save Rothschild's Giraffes:

Back to the top, or view the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Rothschild's Giraffe facts.

9. Chimpanzees - our closest living relatives, sharing over 98% of our DNA

The Common Chimpanzee (also called the Robust Chimpanzee) has been endangered for about two decades now, since 1996, with numbers still declining.

Number of endangered chimpanzees left in the wild:

  • Only found in Africa, some 150 000 chimpanzees survive in the wild. Chimpanzees are regionally extinct in Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo. 

Main Threats to wild chimpanzee populations: 

  • Poaching is the major threat.
  • Destruction and degradation of natural habitats due to logging, agriculture and mining.
  • Hunting for bushmeat, the illegal pet trade, snaring and use in traditional medicines.
  • Infectious diseases also pose a threat to chimpanzee populations.

Rod WaddingtonChimpanzee in Kibale, Uganda - Rod Waddington

Best places to see wild chimpanzees in Africa: 

  • Most of remaining wild chimpanzees are found in Central Africa, in Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Cameroon, with scattered populations in Angola, Tanzania and Uganda. 
  • On our Uganda Safaris to Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kibale national parks.

Help Save Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes):

Back to the top, or to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Chimpanzee facts.

10. African Penguins - Africa's only penguin species

Also called the Black-footed Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) was added to the Red List of Threatened Species in 2010, given a population decline of about 60% over 28 years (across three generations).

Number of African Penguins (aka Jackass Penguins) remaining in the wild:

  • About 52,000 mature individuals remain with populations declining rapidly.

Main Threats to African Penguins: 

  • Commercial fisheries and environmental changes leading to food shortages.
  • Deaths as the result of oil spills, especially near harbours - with two individual oil spills killing 30,000 penguins in 1994 and 2000.
  • Shifts in sardine and anchovy populations, competition with cape fur seals for food and habitats, and predation also pose threats.
  • Human disturbances including egg and guano collection, as well as the negative impacts of tourism. 

Paul MannixAfrican penguins in South Africa - Paul Mannix

Places to see endangered African Penguins: 

  • The Western Cape of South Africa is home to about 39% of the world's breeding African penguin pairs and about 43% are found in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province. The remaining 18% of breeding penguins are found along the coast of Namibia.
  • Tours to Cape Town and coastal South Africa.

Help Save African Penguins:

Back to the top, or see the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species African Penguin facts.

11. Northern White Rhinos - the most endangered rhino subspecies in the world

Teetering on the brink of extinction, the reality is that this subspecies of white rhino will die out by the end of the next decade, or so.

Some scientists claim that the Northern White Rhino is in fact a separate species of rhino, but consensus is unlikely to be reached before this type of rhino goes extinct. The only hope left is that we may be able to bring the sub-species back from extinction by using artificial methods of reproduction in the future!

Number of Northern White Rhinos left in the wild: 

  • ONE male left in the world.
  • A total of ONLY FIVE Northern White Rhinos are left alive worldwide!
  • The last three wild Northern White Rhinos (including the last male) are found in a private sanctuary in Kenya, where they are under 24-hour armed protection.

White Rhino -

"Unless other Northern White Rhino are found in the wild, the best that can currently be hoped for is to conserve as many adaptive Northern White Rhino genes as possible for eventual reintroduction back to the wild, but this will require inter-crossing with Southern White Rhino" - IUCN.

The other subspecies - the Southern White Rhino is listed as Near Threatened and an estimated 20 000 of these rhinos remain in the wild (2010). The Southern White Rhinos are mostly found in South Africa, with smaller populations in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, as well as populations in Zambia, Uganda and Kenya.

Main Threats to Northern White Rhinos: 

  • Poaching for the international trade in rhino horn.
  • Civil wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan. 

Places to see Northern White Rhinos in the wild: 

Help Save Northern White Rhinos:

Back to the top, or view the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Northern White Rhinoceros facts.

Other Endangered, Vulnerable and Near Threatened Wildlife Species in East and Southern Africa

  • Addax - Critically Endangered since 2000
  • African Elephant - from Endangered in 1996 to Vulnerable in 2004, with its status currently being uncertain.
  • Lion - Vulnerable since 1996
  • Cheetah - listed as Vulnerable since 1986, but the Saharan Cheetah found in parts of northwest Africa is Critically Endangered.
  • Cuvier's Gazelle - Endangered since 1986
  • Pangolin - Four species in Africa, all listed as Vulnerable
  • Cape Vulture (or Cape Griffon) - listed as Vulnerable since 1994
  • Southern White Rhino - listed as Near Threatened since 1994
  • Pygmy Hippopotamus - Endangered since 2006
  • Blue Crane - South Africa's national bird, listed as Vulnerable since 1994
  • Dugong - Vulnerable since 1982
  • Leatherback Turtle - found along the coast of East Africa, Critically Endangered since 2000

Jeroen LooyLeatherback Turtle - Jeroen Looy

As you can see, many of the population figures are relatively old and data that is available on the endangered animals is often uncertain, so these are just estimates. The lack of up-to-date and comprehensive information supports a precautionary approach, if we want to avoid more Northern White Rhino scenarios.

The main threats to these endangered African wildlife species are: habitat loss and degradation; and poaching and hunting. Almost all of the causes pushing these species towards extinction are human related; from disease to human-wildlife conflict and trapping...

Find out more about Endangered Species on IUCN - the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

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