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Look who made it to the top of Kilimanjaro this week!
You have to be very lucky to see much in the way of fauna on Kilimanjaro. The more exotic fauna of East Africa does occasionally venture onto the mountain. It just doesn’t happen very often, with most animals preferring to be somewhere where there aren’t 35,000 people marching around every year. So in all probability you will see virtually nothing during your time on the mountain beyond the occasional monkey or mouse. Nevertheless, keep your mouth shut and your eyes open and you never know...
Animals are more numerous down in the forest zone than anywhere else on the mountain;
unfortunately, so is the cover provided by trees and bushes, so sightings remain
rare. As with the four-
Then there’s the honey badger. Don’t be fooled by the rather cute name. As well as
being blessed with a face only its mother could love, these are the most powerful
and fearless carnivores for their size in Africa. Even lions give them a wide berth.
You should too: not only can they cause a lot of damage to your person, but the thought
of having to tell your friends that, of all the bloodthirsty creatures that roam
the African plains, you got savaged by a badger, is too shaming to contemplate. Of
a similar size, the aardvark has enormous claws but unlike the honey badger this
Further down, near or just above the cultivated zone, bushbabies are more easily
heard than seen as they come out at night and jump on the roofs of the huts. Here,
too, is the small-
One creature you definitely won’t see at any altitude is the rhinoceros. Although
a black rhinoceros was seen a few years ago on the north side of the mountain, it
is now believed that over-
Just as plant-
Above the treeline you’ll be lucky to see much. The one obvious exception to this
rule is the four-
Indeed, if you’re staying in the Horombo Huts on the Marangu Route, one is probably
running under your table while you read this, and if you stand outside for more than
a few seconds at any campsite you should see them scurrying from rock to rock. Other
rodents present at this level include the harsh-
For anything bigger than a mouse, your best chance above 2800m is either on the Shira
Plateau, where lions are said to roam occasionally, or on the northern side of the
mountain on the Rongai Route. Kenya’s Amboseli National Park lies at the foot of
the mountain on this side and many animals, particularly elephants, amble up the
slopes from time to time. Grey and red duikers, elands and bushbucks are perhaps
the most commonly seen animals at this altitude, though sightings are still extremely
rare. None of these larger creatures live above the tree-
Kilimanjaro is great for birdlife. The cultivated fields on the lower slopes provide plenty of food, the forest zone provides shelter and plenty of nesting sites, while the barren upper slopes are ideal hunting grounds for raptors.
In the forest, look out for the noisy dark green Hartlaub’s turaco (there was one
nesting near the first-
Further up the slopes, the noisy, scavenging, garrulous white-
The prize for the most beautiful bird on the mountain, however, goes to the dazzling
Metallic green save for a small scarlet patch on either side of its chest, this delightful bird can often be seen hovering above the grass, hooking its long beak in to reach the nectar from the giant lobelias or feeding on the lobelias.
Climbing further and we come to raptor territory. You’ll rarely see these birds up close as they spend most of the day gliding on the currents looking for prey. The mountain and augur buzzards (right) are regularly spotted hovering above the Saddle (a specimen of the former also hangs about the School Huts when it’s quiet).
These are impressive birds in themselves – especially if you’re lucky enough to see one up close – though neither is as large as the enormous crowned eagle and the rare lammergeyer, a giant vulture with long wings and a wedge tail.
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