Animals of the Victoria Falls

Although not the world’s widest or highest waterfalls, the Victoria Falls are considered the most spectacular. When taking all the dimensions into account, they are the biggest curtain of falling water on planet Earth. Situated in the mighty Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe, this natural wonder and its surrounds are home to numerous species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians and insects.

Aquatic inhabitants

As water is the Vic Falls’ most important element, the water-dwelling creatures are of great interest. The Zambezi River is a large body of water and attracts many inhabitants. Some of these are the main source of food for land and flying creatures.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Falls’ aquatic life is that it differs considerably between the upper section (above the Falls) and the lower section (below the Falls). When it comes to fish species the river above the falls homes a much richer variety of fish fauna (over 130 different species) compared to below the Falls. The Falls literally form a physical barrier, preventing fish from the upper system to move to the lower Zambezi and vice versa (although some species have been recorded to ‘fall’ over the edge and migrate to the lower system). Larger animals such as crocodiles and hippos also occasionally go over the edge, but do not survive the fall.

Winged inhabitants

More than 400 species of birds are found in the Victoria Falls region as a whole. The river above the Falls is home to numerous waterfowl, and the ‘rainforest’ (so called because the plume of mist formed by the falling water has created a permanent rainforest above the falls) houses a number of forest birds such as the Knysna turaco. Above the Falls, species such as herons and egrets are common, while black storks, black eagles, peregrine falcons and taita falcons breed in the gorge below the Falls.

Land-dwelling inhabitants

An array of mammals live in the riverine habitat surrounding the Falls. Both sides of the river sustain herds or individuals and some, like elephants, regularly cross the river to get from one side to the other or to reach one of the lush islands in the river.

The full article appears in the April 2015 issue of AnimalTalk. 

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