Animals & Wildlife in Masai Mara

Simply put, the wildlife in Masai Mara is considered one of the finest collection of wild animals anywhere in the world. With literally close to 90 species of Mammals and many more Birds, Masai Mara and the surrounding Great Mara eco system is home to a rich, diverse collection of wildlife.

We have categorized the wildlife into a general Mammal list to include the famous Big Five ( Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo ) and the Big Nine to additionally include the Cheetah, Giraffe, Hippo and Zebra. Notable Birds commonly found in Masai Mara are also listed below.
A Bird Check List can be emailed upon request. Photo credit - David Clode at

the big 5

Most tourists come to East Africa hoping to see the so called ''Big Five'', namely Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo. Well, the Mara is one of the few places in Africa where seeing all these five animal species is not just possible but also fairly likely during a 3 day safari.


It is estimated that there are close to 900 Lions in the Masai Mara National Reserve and surrounding conservancies. The Mara is also generally considered one of the best places in Kenya and East Africa to see these magnificent animals in the wild on a Safari. Individual Lions (males) can hold huge territories ranging from 30 to 400 square kilometers. Read more about Lions here


One of the most prolific animals in the Mara, the African Elephant is an intelligent, sociable and familial animal, and despite the threat it attracts due to its Ivory, the great news is that numbers are up in Masai Mara over the last couple of years. Read more about the African Elephant here.


Masai Mara is home to Black Rhino, the slightly smaller but more aggresive species compared to White Rhino which is more commonly found at Lake Nakuru. Rhinocerous is the proper name for the Rhino, and this animal is one of any five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae, as well as any of the numerous extinct species.


The Leopard (Panthera Pardus) is counted as one of the Big Cats and is one of the five species in the genus Panthera. Though Leopards can be found in Masai Mara in healthy numbers and in some other parks in Kenya as well. these eleusive animals are nonetheless listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because leopard populations are threatened by humna encroachment and habitat loss. Leopards almost always hunt on their own and are by nature 'shy', preferring to hunt at night.

African Buffalo

Also known as the Cape Buffalo, these large bovines are regarded as one of the more dangerous animals in East Africa not least due to their volatile and unpredictable nature, which is one of the reasons the African Buffalo has never been domesticated as is the case in Asia. These animals are to be found in large numbers in Masai Mara.

The Big Nine Animal List in Kenya

The Big 9 are essentially the Big Five plus the Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra and Hippopotamus. Masai Mara is one of the few places in Kenya and indeed East Africa where you can actually see all of the Big Nine in one single game drive of 2 to 3 hours.


The Cheetah (Acinonyx Jubatus) are one of the iconic animals in Masai Mara, known for hunting in the open and in groups of upto four or five, Cheetahs are universally known for their speed, being the fastest land animals, touching upto 110 km per hour on short bursts during hunts.


Giraffe ( Giraffa) are the tallest living terrestrial animals and actually quite a sight, extremely picturesque and known for their graceful movements even when running at fairly high speeds. There are two main sub species of Giraffe found in Kenya, the Reticulated or Somali Giraffe in Northern Kenya, and the Maasai Giraffe in southern Kenya including Masai Mara. It is estimated that close to 33,000 Maasai giraffe are alive in the wild.


The Hippopotamus ( Hippopotamus amphibius), commonly referred to as Hippo are the third largest land mammal with the average adult males weighing in at close to 1500 kilos. Hippos typically inhabit swamps, rivers, and areas close to the lake shore, and remain cool by staying in the water during most of the day.


One of the wild animals that most people would always associate with East Africa, Zebras are present in Masai Mara and Kenya generally in large numbers. There are 2 sub species, namely the Plains Zebra, Mountain Zebra and Grevys Zebra. Masai Mara is home to the plains Zebra while the Grevy's Zebra with their unique thinner stripes are found in Samburu Reserve, Northern Kenya.

Mammal List

With close to 70 mammal species and hundreds of Bird species to be found in the greater Masai Mara region, it is no wonder that this wildlife area is referred to as a literal Animal Kingdom of sorts, a true preservation of animals in the modern day era. Below is a brief check list of wild animals and mammals in Masai Mara.


The Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is a small to medium sized burrowing mammal with a long snout and powerful claws, native to Africa. Aardvaks are nocturnal animals and feed on insects, mainly ants and termites. They have a hairless body with a pronounced arched back and short legs. The thick claws on the forefeet are well adapted for burrowing and digging.


With an incredible 91 sub species, most of which are native to the African continent, Antelopes are ever present in the shape of some species in almost all national parks or reserves in Kenya and Masai Mara is no exception.

Bird List

Although not the obvious choise of destination for Birding in Kenya, which after all is home to some of the best birding hotspots in the world, Masai Mara is still a very good place for Ornithological tours, with over 500 species recorded, with many of these being raptor species.


The Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) is a medium-sized , short tailed and colorful species of Eagle. Its closest relatives are the snake eagles. Bateleurs are endemic to Africa and can be spotted in parts of Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya.


Almost a guarenteed sight in Masai Mara, Ostrich are large strapping birds, classified in the ratite group of birds, all extant species of which are flightless, including the kiwis, emus, and rheas.