The Pilanesberg Game Reserve Wildlife Guide

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The unique habitat of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife, birdlife and plants with the Big 5 probably on top of most visitors must see list.

According to the official park guide there are 50 species of large mammals over and above the big five, Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhino.

From a birders perspective there are 354 different bird species to be found here.

There are also 65 reptile species, 18 different kinds of amphibians and thousands of other small animals.

So what wildlife can you expect to see in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve?

elephant,pilanesberg Mother and baby elephant
somewhere in
Pilanesberg Game Reserve

With 50 000 hectares to roam and many valleys between the hills that are inaccessible to visitors the chances are that one must be patient in trying find some of the more elusive species.

Even bigger animals are sometimes difficult to spot in the bushveld.

Elephants are sometimes a few meters from the road and you will drive right by without even realising they are there!

The animals are usually more active during early mornings and late afternoons.

Waterholes are always good places to look for wildlife.

Listed below are some of the more common animals that you are likely to find while on safari in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.


Brown Hyena - Although these shy animals are nocturnal they are sometimes spotted during early mornings or late afternoons.

  • Habitat - Dry open Bushveld and grassland. Sometimes found along roads.
  • Food - Mainly a scavenger but will also prey on small mammals, birds and reptiles

Caracal - Mainly nocturnal but sometimes found early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

  • Habitat - They prefer grassland or open spaces in wooded areas.
  • Food - Smaller mammals, birds and reptiles

Cheetah - Most active at sunrise and sunset. During the heat of the day they are often spotted resting in the shade of a tree. Quite often found on the open grassland next to the Mankwe Dam

  • Habitat - Open grassland
  • Food - Medium to small antelope, gazelles, warthogs, ostriches and guinea fowl

Genet - These small cats only come out at night, starting to move around well after sunset. The best chance to spot them would be on a night game drive.

  • Habitat - Bushveld, wooded areas, thickets along river areas.
  • Food - Small birds, rodents, insects, amphibians and small reptiles

jackal,pilanesberg Black Backed Jackal

Jackal - The Black Backed Jackal is commonly found in Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They can be found anytime during the day or night.

  • Habitat- They can be found in any type of habitat from open grassland to bushveld
  • Food - Mainly scavengers but will also prey on small mammals and birds.

Leopard - They are mainly active at night but are sometimes seen during the day, more usually early mornings and late afternoons.

  • Habitat - Rocky valleys, woodland, ravines and along rivers and streams
  • Food - Anything from Medium sized antelope to small mammals

Lion - Active at night but very often seen during the day as well.

  • Habitat - Can be found anywhere where food is abundant but most often spotted in open grassland
  • Food - The king of beasts is a carnivore mainly preying on hoofed mammals.

Hoofed Mammals:

blue wildebeest,pilanesberg Blue Wildebeest

Blue Wildebeest - They graze in herds and are seen throughout the day. During the heat of the day they like to rest in the shade of trees

  • Habitat - Open bushveld and grassland.
  • Food - They like grazing on very short grass

Buffalo - They usually graze during the cooler times of the day. They form herds that can be as many as several hundred animals.

  • Habitat - Shady bushveld close to water with plenty of grass
  • Food - Usually grass but sometimes leaves and sprouts. They drink a lot of water.

Bushbuck - These shy animals are found in thickets close to water. They normally keep their own company but ewes and young ones will sometimes form a small group. During the day they rest in thick bushes and only start moving around in the late afternoon to graze until late at night.

  • Habitat - They keep to thickets along streams and rivers.
  • Food - Mainly leaves but also grass, flowers and fruit.

grey duiker,pilanesberg Grey Duiker

Duiker - The Grey Duiker is found in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They usually graze in the early mornings, late afternoons and sometimes into the early evenings. They are normally loners. During the mating seasons they move about in pairs.

  • Habitat - Can be found in any sort of habitat as long as there are some thickets around for shade and shelter.
  • Food - Mainly leaves but also flowers, seeds, fruit and sprouts.

Eland - The biggest buck that is found in Southern Africa. Keep a lookout for them on the slopes of the many hills in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They graze in small groups throughout the day and into the evenings.

  • Habitat - Anywhere from open bushveld and woodland to grassy mountain slopes and valleys.
  • Food - Leaves but sometimes grass as well, especially during spring.

Gemsbok - These beautiful animals are found throughout the semi desert regions of Southern Africa. Keep a lookout for them along the slopes of the hills in the Pilanesberg. They form small groups of up to 12 animals.

  • Habitat - Open, dry bushveld and grassland.
  • Food - Grass, roots and fruit

giraffe,pilanesberg Giraffe

Giraffe - Usually found in herds grazing in woodland throughout the day, resting during the heat of the day. Big bulls will sometimes keep to themselves.

  • Habitat -Bushveld and woodland
  • Food - Leaves and sometimes young grass.

red hartebeest,pilanesberg Red Hartebeest

Hartebeest - The Red Hartebeest forms small herds and are found throughout the Pilanesberg Game Reserve on open veld.

  • Habitat - Open grassland and open areas in bushveld
  • Food - Grass

Impala - Found throughout the day in woodland and thickets along rivers and streams. They are normally found in herds of around 20 animals.

  • Habitat - Woodland and thickets along rivers and streams
  • Food - Grass and leaves

Klipspringer - Only found in rocky surroundings on hills and mountains. They normally graze early in the mornings and late in the afternoons, resting in the shade during the heat of the day

  • Habitat - Rocky hills and mountains
  • Food - Mainly leaves, sometime a bit of grass

kudu,pilanesberg Kudus

Kudu - These majestic buck form family groups of up to 12 animals. Be on the lookout early in mornings and late afternoons in thickets along streams and on hills and mountains. They are usually at rest during the heat of the day.

  • Habitat - They like overgrown thickets in bushveld along rivers and on hills.
  • Food - Leaves, young growth on shrubs and trees and sometimes grass

Reedbuck - Both the Common and Mountain Reedbuck occur in The Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They are mostly seen early mornings and late afternoons when they are most active.

  • Habitat - As its name indicates, the Mountain Reedbuck will be found on the the slopes of hills and mountainsides. The Common or Southern Reedbuck is always found close to water and wetlands.
  • Food - Grass. They do like to drink a lot of water.

Sable Antelope - These magnificent animals form herds of up to 40 and can be seen throughout the day. They are usually more active early in the mornings and late afternoons while resting in the shade of trees during the heat of the day.

  • Habitat - Open bushveld with tall grass close to water
  • Food - Grass and sometimes leaves. They drink a lot of water.

springbuck,pilanesberg Springbuck

Springbuck - Herd animals. Mostly grazing early mornings and late afternoons while resting during the heat of the day.

  • Habitat - Open grassland
  • Food - Grass, leaves and shoots of shrubs

steenbuck,pilanesberg Steenbuck

Steenbuck - You will usually find them singly and in pairs. They are very territorial and mark their areas with dungheaps. They usually rest in shade during the heat of day while grazing when it is cooler. They will graze into the evenings as well

  • Habitat - Open grassy areas with shrubs and trees.
  • Food - Leaves and grass. Sometimes roots. They drink very little water.

Tsessebe - They like grazing on medium to long grass in the veld close to trees and open bushveld close to water. They are sometimes found in the company of Wildebeest and zebras

  • Habitat - Grassland or open bushveld
  • Food - Grass but are quite choosy by looking for the tastiest grass around

warthogs,pumba,pilanesberg Warthogs

Warthog - Keep a lookout for them along roads in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve but they will also be found in grassland as well as woodland where you will see them on their knees using their tusks to dig around in the earth after some succulent roots

  • Habitat - Open Bushveld around waterholes, marshes and pans
  • Food - Grass, roots and fruit

waterbuck,pilanesberg Waterbuck

Waterbuck - As their name implies you will find them in and around permanent water

  • Habitat - Always close to water along riverbeds, floodplains and dams
  • Food - Grass, leaves and sometimes fruit as well. They drink a lot of water.

zebras,pilanesberg Zebras

Zebra - They are usually found in family herds up to 9 animals grazing on grassland and open bushveld in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. They are sometimes found in the company of Blue Wildebeest

  • Habitat - Open bushveld with lots of grass and close to water
  • Food - Grass and sometimes leaves

Huge Mammals:

elephant,pilanesberg Elephant

Elephant - Can be found anywhere in the Pilanesberg National park but the best chances are in woodland where they feed off the trees

  • Habitat - They prefer areas with enough trees, grass and clean drink water
  • Food - Bark, leaves and branches of trees, fruit and grass

hippos,pilanesberg Hippos

Hippopotamus - They can be found in all the dams in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. During the daytime they usually rest in the water or along the banks. At night they come out of the water to graze.

  • Habitat - Permanent water with sandbanks to rest on and plenty of food around
  • Food - Grass

rhinoceros,pilanesberg Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros - Both the White and Black Rhino is present in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The White Rhino is usually found on open grassland while the Black Rhino prefers woodland

  • Habitat - White Rhino like open bushveld with short grass to graze on, thickets to hide in and enough drinking water. The Black Rhino prefers woodland and thickets.
  • Food - White Rhino feeds on grass while the Black Rhino eats leaves, branches and thorns.

Small Mammals:

Baboon - Usually found in quite large herds in rocky areas along hillsides.

  • Habitat - Mountains, rocky hills and woodland
  • Food - Fruit, berries, insects, scorpions and meat

Vervet Monkey - Usually found in woodland throughout the day but keep an eye open for them in the Manyane and Bakgatla campsites where they will raid your tent or caravan if food is left unprotected outside

  • Habitat - Woodland, especially along rivers and streams
  • Food - Fruit, leaves, seeds, flowers, tree gum, insects, birds and eggs

Wildlife Resources Acknowledgements and Links:

The Official Map and Park Guide of the Pilanesberg which can be bought at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

The Mammal Guide of Southern Africa by Burger Cillie
This excellent book is just the guide to help you identify the animals that you will encounter on Safari in Southern Africa. It includes detailed descriptions, photographs, field signs suchs as droppings and spoor as well as information on the conservation status, size, food, life expectancy, enemies, habits, voice and breeding of more than 120 of the most common land mammals of southern Africa.

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