Animals of the Sahara: unique desert

Animals of the Sahara: unique desert fauna

Many people mistakenly think of the Sahara Desert as a vast, lifeless expanse of sandy landscapes comparable in size to the United States. In fact, there are many species of animals that have perfectly adapted to life in the desert climate.

70 mammal species, 90 bird species, 100 reptile species, as well as numerous spider, scorpion, and other smaller animal species, can be found in the immense Sahara Desert. In addition to one-humped camels, there are yellow scorpion and poisonous sand viper, cheetahs and gazelles. Below are the main animals of the Sahara, which are unique representatives of the fauna of this huge desert.

Sahara Runner Ants

These unique insects of the Sahara are only active for 10 minutes a day. They have longer legs than other ants, which is why they are called “runners.

Nature has also rewarded them with a peculiar protective “coat” – silvery hairs on their bodies, which reflect the sun’s rays due to their unique location and shape. All this natural protection allows ants in the Sahara to survive even in extreme desert heat.

Yellow scorpion.

This representative of the Sahara Desert spider has many other names. The most eloquent among them is the deadly hunter. It emphasizes the fact that this is the most poisonous species of scorpion in the world.

Avicenna’s Viper

Also known as the sand snake, this deadly viper is one of the typical representatives of the Sahara fauna. Its body length reaches 20-35 cm. This snake has a wide triangular head and tiny eyes.

Also found in the Sahara Desert is another venomous snake, the horned viper, which can easily be distinguished from other congeners by the presence of a pair of over-eye “horns.

The Desert Crocodile

When it comes to what animals live in the Sahara, few people imagine crocodiles. But the West African crocodile lives exactly in the vastness of the desert, for which it received its second name, the desert crocodile.

During the dry season, these reptiles hide in caves and burrows, while during the rainy season they come out of their hiding places and gather in geltas (rocky reservoirs).


These carnivorous lizards are another unique Saharan animal that has adapted to life in the desert. They are cold-blooded creatures and hibernate from September to April.

Varanas grow to 1-2 meters in length and live on average up to 8 years in the wild. They feed mainly on rodents, fish and eggs. But they can also eat birds and small mammals.

Masked amaranth.

This bird of the finch weaver family is found in Africa. It can be found in a number of sub-Saharan African countries.

Now this species is not among the endangered species due to its extensive range of distribution. But still the population of these birds is decreasing.

Silver-billed Amadin

This is another African bird of the finch weaver family, which also inhabits arid landscapes. Its range of distribution is in the dry savannah areas of Africa bordering the Sahara Desert.

The silver-billed amadin is a gregarious bird. It is not uncommon to see huge flocks of these birds on single trees of desert expanses. The basis of their subsistence is the seeds of various plants, in particular grasses.

North African Ostrich

This largest bird in the world is another famous representative of the animal world of the Sahara. The North African ostrich grows up to 2.75 meters in length, has a pink-red neck and black-white plumage on males and gray on females.

Hunting these birds for food and for agricultural purposes has significantly reduced their population. Now the North African ostrich is found only in 6 of the 18 countries where it previously existed.


These small herbivorous mammals are found in the African expanses south of the Sahara. They usually hide in rock crevices and only come to the surface in search of food. They live in large colonies of 10 to 80 individuals.

Hyena dog

This Saharan animal is an endangered species. There are now only 39 subpopulations of the hyena dog with a total population of 6,600 adults. Hunting of these animals and destruction of their habitat has led to a significant decrease in the population.

Animals can do without water throughout their lives, but when there is an opportunity to go to a watering hole, they always drink water. They are active from dusk to dawn, feeding on leaves, fruits, twigs and flowers of desert flora.

Sand gazelles are a rare species, with fewer than 2,500 in the wild. They are also perfectly adapted to life in the desert. These gazelles have pale coat colors that reflect the sunlight and enlarged hooves that allow them to easily traverse the sandy expanse of the Sahara.

The gazelle-dama is one of the rarest gazelle species that live in the Sahara. Now these animals are found only in Niger, Chad and Mali, although previously they had a wider range of distribution. Dame gazelles feed on leaves, fruits, grasses, and shoots of desert plants.


This is the second largest species of camel after the Bactrian, from which it differs in having only one hump. These animals have been domesticated by the peoples of the Sahara and are used both for desert transportation and for breeding for food.

Dromedaries are perfectly adapted to survive in arid conditions, but they are usually active at night. In addition to domesticated animals, wild species are also found, but their population in the wild is currently very limited.

Fenek, African and Sand Foxes

The Fenek is the smallest fox with incredibly large ears that allow it to dissipate heat. The body of this animal is perfectly adapted to an arid environment.

The fenek is found as far away as Morocco to Egypt, as well as south of northern Niger and east of Kuwait, and on the Sinai Peninsula. The main prey of this desert fox is birds, insects, and rodents.

The African fox is found from Senegal to Sudan. Its sandy coloration allows it to camouflage itself with the color of the desert sand, making it one of the least studied species.

The sand fox is a small omnivorous animal with sandy body coloration that is also listed as an animal of the Sahara Desert.

Sahara cheetah.

This animal is the main predator of the Sahara Desert. There are only 250 adults of this species in the wild, which is among the endangered species. The Saharan cheetah is found mainly in the central and western regions of the Sahara desert.

These predators are characterized by a pale coat color and few visible spots compared to other African cheetah species. They feed on antelope, but sometimes they also hunt hares. As a rule, are characterized by a solitary semi-nomadic lifestyle. They hunt mainly at night.

Addax or Mendes antelope

It is the rarest animal of the Sahara, on the verge of extinction due to uncontrolled hunting. Its range of distribution includes Mauritania, Chad and Niger. The addax is characterized by its long, twisted horns and pale coloration, which is why it is sometimes called the white antelope.

These mammals have adapted well to the harsh conditions of the desert and can live for long periods without moisture. That is why they can be found in the extremely arid regions of the Sahara, where the annual rainfall is less than 100mm. These antelopes feed on grasses and leaves of desert plants, obtaining moisture from food and dew.

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