The Northern Five — Kenya’s Alternative Wildlife Bucket List

Posted on by in Point-to-Point

Safari companies often tout seeing the Big Five – Cape Buffalo, lion, African elephant, leopard, and rhinoceros.  Did you know there is also a “Northern Five” of iconic creatures that are primarily found in the national parks and conservancies north of Nairobi?

While traveling with Cheli & Peacock and staying at various Elewana Collection  the north — like Elsa’s Kopje, Lewa Safari Camp, Loisaba Tented Camp, Kitich Camp in Mathews Forest or Sasaab Lodge — be sure to have your guides keep a sharp eye out for these creatures:

Somali Ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes):

Somali Ostrich at Lewa. Photo by Shannon Yogerst

Somali Ostrich at Lewa. Photo by Shannon Yogerst

It was only in 2014 that researchers determined this large flightless bird is actually a distinct species from the common ostrich. The major visible different is bluish-gray neck and thighs skin rather than pink.

Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri):

Gerenuk at Meru NP. Photo courtesy Kenya Wildlife Service

Gerenuk at Meru NP. Photo courtesy Kenya Wildlife Service

One of Africa’s most distinctive antelope, the gerenuk is renowned for its elongated neck and habit of standing on its hind legs to munch leaves off trees. No surprise that it’s also called the giraffe gazelle.

Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi):

Grevy's Zebra at Lewa. Photo by Shannon Yogerst

Grevy’s Zebra at Lewa. Photo by Shannon Yogerst

Largest and most endangered of the three zebra species, the Grevy is distinguished by its large head and ears, as well as the fact that its stripes don’t extend across the belly. Only about 3,000 remain in the wild.

Beisa Oryx (Oryx beisa):

Beisa Oryx. Photo by Sankara Subramanian, Creative Commons

Beisa Oryx. Photo by Sankara Subramanian, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

A large chestnut-colored antelope with magnificent horns, the beisa is related to the gemsbok of the Kalahari desert and the white Arabian oryx found in Oman and the Emirates.

Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa reticulata):

Reticulated Giraffe at Lewa. Photo by Shannon Yogerst

Reticulated Giraffe at Lewa. Photo by Shannon Yogerst

Although this is the most common giraffe found in zoos, the animals are more rarely seen in the wild because their native habitat is the remote, arid lands of northern Kenya and nearby Somalia and Ethiopia.

To give credit where it’s due, our Northern Five list is courtesy of Tom Njogu, a talented and veteran guide at Lewa Tented Camp.

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