10 of the shiest mammals in Africa

Consider yourself very lucky if you get a glimpse of these animals in the wild. They make it their business not to be seen.

1. Porcupine

A porcupine is a huge rodent who feasts on roots, bark, fruit and other plant material. Although he is nocturnal, he can sometime be seen in daylight. Should you come across a porcupine in the wild, he will most probably run for his burrow, but when he is cornered, he will turn around and attack you with his quills. These quills can be up to 30cm long.

2. Mole

It is unlikely that you will see a mole, as he lives underground. Most mole species are blind and can only distinguish between day and night. These little critters have no reason to be seen above ground, as they mainly feast on earthworms, which also live underground.

3. Pangolin

Not only is the pangolin nocturnal, his scales camouflage him perfectly with his surroundings, especially when he curls up into a ball. But the biggest reason for not seeing this animal is because he is endangered. Zimbabwean folklore has it that seeing a pangolin is a sign of good luck, where killing one is inviting bad luck.

4. Black-backed jackal

Black-backed jackals are known to be sly, and it may also be due to their high levels of energy that you might only get glimpses of them. They don’t know the meaning of standing still, except when they’re asleep. They even eat in a rush. But they mainly hide in burrows during the day and shy away from people.

5. Bat-eared fox

True to their name, bat-eared foxes have huge ears, which they use to find food, or to warn them about possible threats. They’re also nocturnal and will hide in bushes and long grass when stumbled upon. Their main diet consists of termites, dung beetles and their larvae.

6. Leopard

The leopard might not be the shiest, but she definitely wants to be left alone. She is a solitary animal who camouflages herself to be out of the spotlight. Look for her in high tree branches, as this is where she prefers to hide from other predators or to ambush prey from above.


7. Aardwolf

Another nocturnal animal is the aardwolf, which means ‘earth wolf’ in Afrikaans and Dutch. Although a carnivore, the aardwolf mainly feasts on termites. He’s not so shy when it comes to feasting, as he can consume as many as 250,000 termites in one night. No wonder he needs to sleep during the day – and probably why we don’t see him in daytime.

8. African wildcat

You’ll be forgiven when mistaking an African wildcat with a domestic cat, seeing that she is the ancestor of the domestic cat. The true African wildcat populations are diminishing due to crossbreeding with domestic cats. You’ll recognise an African wildcat by the tufts on her ears and her long legs. Her hindlegs, belly and the back of her ears are a reddish colour and she has feint vertical stripes on her body.

9. Bushbuck

The bushbuck is naturally a shy antelope who prefers dense bush. You might find him early morning or late afternoon, but he is mainly a nocturnal animal who prefers to be alone. When you are so lucky to come across one of them, don’t be surprised if he quickly lies down, or slowly walks to the nearest bush.

10. Aardvark

This peculiar-looking animal’s name means ‘earth pig’ in Afrikaans. Although he might look like a pig, his ears look like a rabbit’s and his tail like a kangaroo’s. The aardvark mainly feasts on termites late in the afternoon and during the night. Should you be so lucky to see him eat, you’ll notice how he captures the termites with his sticky tongue.


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