18 Unique Animals That Live in the Savanna (Pictures)

The savanna is home to various animals, from big cats and birds to herbivores and reptiles. All the animals that live in the savanna have their own ways of adapting to the hot and dry conditions. This habitat also mainly consists of open grasslands with some open tree canopies. While the savanna is typically associated with Africa, there are also savanna areas in other regions, including Asia, South America, Australia, and Madagascar.

This article will cover interesting facts about 18 animals that live in the savanna, including how they have evolved to adapt to the habitat’s conditions. Let’s learn more!

18 animals that live in the savanna

Here is a list of 18 animals surviving in the dry and hot climates of the savanna. Some are well-known, while others you may not have associated with this habitat

1. Cheetahs

Scientific name: Acinonyx jubatus

As the fastest mammal on land, the cheetah can reach 60 to 70 miles per hour over short distances. This speed and their excellent eyesight help them find and chase prey on the savanna. Their spotted coat also allows them to blend in with the dry, tall grasses of the plains when hunting

Cheetahs are typically 3.7 to 4.6 feet long with 2.7 feet tails. They are considered one of the “big cats” because of their strength, size, and predatory skills


2. African Lions

Scientific name: Panthera leo

Lions are one of the common animals we think about living in the African savanna. These apex predators have a tan coloring that helps them blend in with the surroundings, especially when hiding to catch prey. Their retractable claws and rough tongues help them get at the meat of their prey

These animals also can adjust the thickness of their manes to adapt to changing temperatures. They are typically 4.5 to 6.5 feet tall and weigh 265 to 420 pounds.


3. Caracal

caracal desert lynx cat

Scientific name: Caracal caracal

Caracals are medium-sized, nocturnal wild cats with distinctive long ears. These cats have developed numerous ways to survive in the savannah, including:

  • Being able to go long times without water
  • Low upper eyelids to shield their eyes from the sun’s glare
  • Ear tufts that help camouflage them in tall grasses and identify prey locations

4. African bush elephant

African bush elephants

Scientific name: Loxodonta africana

Also called the African savanna elephant, the African bush elephant is the largest mammal on land. They grow between 8.2 to 13 feet tall up to their shoulder and weigh 2.5 to 7 tons

These elephants have multiple ways to adapt to the savanna lifestyle, including large ears that help radiate heat and long trunks to suck up water they mist themselves with to keep cool.

They can also suck up to 2 gallons of water at a time and have strong trunk muscles that can lift over 400 pounds. Their strength lets them access water in places other animals can’t, such as the water stored in Baobab tree trunks.

What do elephants use their tusks for? 


5. Meller’s chameleon

Meller’s chameleon | image by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Chamaeleo melleri

The Meller’s chameleon lives in savanna trees and are typically green with random black spots and yellow stripes. Like all chameleons, they can change colors to communicate, respond to stress, or camouflage themselves. These reptiles also have super fast tongues extending up to 20 inches long that let them ambush their prey

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They are the largest species of chameleon that’s not native to Madagascar, growing around 21 inches and weighing 14.4 ounces. They have a unique small horn on the front of their snouts, giving them another known name of the giant one-horned chameleon


6. Lilac-breasted roller bird

lilac-breasted roller bird

Scientific name: Coracias caudatus

Kenya’s national bird, the lilac-breasted roller birds are multi-colored and beautiful with vibrant lilac coloring on their throats. They also have different shades of blue, green, and reddish-brown in their feathers

They prefer living in warm areas, like savannahs, building their nest around 16 feet from the ground in trees. This helps them stay safe from predators


7. White-backed vulture

white-backed vultures | image by Regina Hart via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Gyps africanus

The white-back vulture grows between 31 to 39 inches long and has wingspans of 6 to 7 feet. These birds can eat food other animals can’t – mainly dead carcasses and contribute to the savannah ecosystem by removing these remains

They adapt to the savannah by urinating on their feet and legs to cool off and kill harmful bacteria. They also use the hot air that pushes upward to soar in the sky while saving energy.


8. Common ostrich

image: Pixabay.com

Scientific name: Struthio camelus

Another bird species in the savanna is the common ostrich. These birds can’t fly, but they sure can run fast. They lay the largest eggs of any living animal, are one of the heaviest birds, and can run at speeds of 43.5 miles per hour

Their ability to run using their powerful legs and two-toed feet helps them escape predators. Their wings, while not made for flying, also helps provide balance during runs


9. Spotted hyena

Scientific name: Crocuta crocuta

Sometimes called laughing hyenas, the spotted hyena is a common carnivore found throughout Africa. They are both hunters and scavengers, making it easier for them to find food

Hyenas have a large heart compared to their body size, giving them great endurance when chasing prey. You can also often find them cooling off by watering holes.


10. Grant’s gazelle

Grant’s gazelle – savanna

Scientific name: Nanger granti

One of the common herbivores in the savanna that also end up being prey for most predators is the Grant’s gazelle. Both the male and females have large dark horns. They are lean, agile, and able to sprint with bursts of explosive speeds to run from predators

These animals survive in the dry savanna habitats by getting the water they need from their food. They also have large salivary glands that help them eat dry shrubs, herbs, and grass without needing a reliable water source


11. Black mamba

image credit: Bill Love | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific name: Dendroaspis polylepis

While black mambas are actually brown, their name comes from the bluish-black coloring inside their mouth that they display if threatened. This snake is commonly considered the world’s deadliest snake since they are lethally venomous, highly aggressive, and fast – slithering up to 12.5 miles per hour! They are also the second-longest venomous snakes, reaching lengths of up to 14 feet.


12. Nile crocodiles

Scientific name: Crocodylus niloticus

Nile crocodiles are another major savannah species, usually hiding in freshwater watering holes waiting for prey. These sneaky predators can eat almost any type of meat they find

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They are brownish-green and grow up to 15 feet long. Their only true threat is from humans. However, this species is also known to prey on humans as food


13. Plains zebra

Scientific name: Equus quagga

The most common zebra species is the plains zebra that live on open grassy woodlands and plains. Zebras are known for their black striped pattern against their white bodies – this pattern actually helps them survive. It can be harder for a predator to single in on one animal when they are running as a herd

Plains zebras can migrate up to 1,800 miles to find water and food during the dry seasons of the savannah. Their coat also acts as a natural sunscreen and disperses around 70 percent of heat.


14. White rhinoceros

Scientific name: Ceratotherium simum

Also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros, the white rhinoceros is the second-largest land animal growing to a height of 5 to 6 feet and weighing between 3,00 to 7,900 pounds. These animals adapt to the savannah by having thick skin and an excellent sense of smell. Their large horns also help them defend against predators.


15. African clawed frogs

African clawed frog | image by Ashley Wahlberg (Tubbs) via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Xenopus laevis

The unique-looking African clawed frogs are white, yellow, brown, or olive-gray and have large hind legs with three claws. Males typically grow around 2.5 inches, while females reach 4.5 inches in length. Unlike most frogs, these frogs have the ability to change the color of their skin to blend into their surroundings


16. Leopard tortoises

leopard tortoise

Scientific name: Stigmochelys pardalis

The leopard tortoises are well adapted to dry, grassy habitats. Their yellow shells are dome-like and high with black dashes, spots, stripes, and blotches. This leopard-like pattern helps them camouflage among the tall grasses of the savanna. They also have the ability to store water in large sacs in their body to help them adapt to the dry savanna conditions


17. African helmeted turtles

Scientific name: Pelomedusa subrufa

The African helmeted turtle is a common species living in the ponds in the savanna. They grow around 8 inches and have very long necks. They are typically black, brown, or grayish-brown with a yellowish underside. These turtles adapt to the dry conditions of their habitat by burying themselves in the mud when pond waters dry up, waiting for the next rains


18. Giraffe

Scientific name: Giraffa camelopardalis

This list wouldn’t feel complete without mentioning the giraffe. Giraffes have long necks and are the tallest mammals worldwide, reaching up to 14 or 19 feet tall. Their height helps them reach food in tall trees easily

They also have long 21-inch tongues that allow them to pluck leaves, fruits, buds, and seeds from high branches. These strong tongues are dark and covered in glue-like saliva that protects them from the sun and plant thorns