Discover 17 Animals You’ll Find in and Along the Nile River

Written by Rachael Monson
Published: November 18, 2023
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The rich and fertile land that surrounds the Nile River invites a myriad of animals to make their homes in and around its waters. Flowing from the massive Lake Victoria in Tanzania and Uganda, the Nile is the longest river in the world. The river water undertakes an incredible journey of more than 4,100 miles from the lake toward the Nile River Delta before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.

From massive mammals and reptiles to small birds and even sharp-toothed fish, many animals call the water and banks of the mighty Nile River home. Let’s discover some of them below!

Mammals

Mammals require water for survival. The Nile River supplies thousands of animals in and along its banks with fresh water. Let’s learn about some mammals that live along the Nile River!

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Humans: The Most Destructive Nile River Animals

The Nile River is an essential resource for both humans and animals.

The Nile River is an essential resource for both humans and animals.

©River Nile, Luxor, Egypt/Shutterstock.com

We couldn’t possibly exclude humans from this list when so many of them depend on the water of the Nile River. This essential resource provides water for drinking, irrigation of crops, and even industrial purposes. It’s also a major transportation route for people and supplies. Not only that, but the Nile River serves as a place for humans to gather animals for food via hunting and fishing. Unfortunately, the presence of humans and their waste products causes pollution, habitat loss, and human-animal conflict around the Nile River.

Hippopotamus: The Most Dangerous Nile River Animals

What Do Hippos Eat

Hippopotamuses are incredibly protective of their territory and their young.

©iStock.com/PB_Images

When most people think of large mammals living in Africa, elephants and giraffes frequently come to mind first. However, one mammal that is often forgotten is the hippopotamus (hippo). These massive creatures are true mammals, giving live birth and feeding their young milk. Though they spend most of their time in the water, they pose a significant threat to smaller creatures and humans. One hippo could easily kill a human or even a fully-grown male lion. They have done both in the past.

Spotted-Necked Otters: The Cutest Nile River Animals

Spotted Necked Otters are unique animals found around the Nile River.

Spotted-necked otters get their name from the speckled white fur around their throat.

©Derek Keats / CC BY 2.0 Deed / No Change – License

Spotted-necked otters, like all otters, are adorable water-loving creatures! Quick and agile, they’re also amazing hunters. One of four otter species on the African continent, these otters live in complex family groups. Their high intelligence allows them to form hunting parties, much like wolves, to increase the likelihood of catching prey.

Reptiles: Some Dangerous Animals of the Nile River

With its 137 species of dangerous reptiles, visiting the African continent can be a dangerous adventure. A further 1,500 or more reptile species call Africa home. We’ve picked some of the most terrifying (or interesting) reptilian animals to feature on our list of those that live along the Nile River. Of the seven we chose, four spots belong to dangerous snakes living on the banks of the Nile.

Nile Crocodile: The Most Famous Animals in the Nile River

Nile crocodiles reach up to 14 feet long!

©Dewet / Creative Commons

One of the most fearsome and deadly animals living in and around the Nile River is the Nile crocodile Infamous for its aggressive tendencies and massive size, these creatures are often called modern-day dinosaurs. Amazingly, Nile crocodiles bite down with an insane 5,000 psi (pound per square inch) of force. If that bite force wasn’t enough, these crocodiles have 64–68 teeth roughly 5 inches long each that rip and slice flesh with ease.

Nile Monitor

Nile monitor

Both stealthy predators and ruthless scavengers, Nile monitors will eat pretty much anything.

©MattiaATH/Shutterstock.com

Growing up to 5 feet long and possessing a venomous bite, the Nile monitor earns its spot on the list of most dangerous African animals along the Nile River. While they appear a bit clumsy on land, they swim with great agility and speed. These massive lizards are perfectly capable of hunting but will also happily feed on carrion (dead animal carcasses).

Black Mamba: The Most Venomous Animal Around the Nile River

Black Mamba interior of mouth Dendroaspis_polylepis_striking

Black mambas take their name from the color of the inside of their mouths.

©Tad Arensmeier, CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Hailed as one of the most venomous snakes in the world, the black mamba is well-known worldwide. These snakes pose a huge risk to both people and animals living along the Nile River as it only takes two drops of venom to kill the average human. They’re aggressive when threatened and their strike is lightning-quick.

Red Spitting Cobra

A red spitting cobra slithering across a rock

The color of red spitting cobras can vary depending on their geographic location.

©iStock.com/Tony_Bendele

Measuring up to 4 feet long, the red spitting cobra gets its name from a combination of its color and the ability to spit venom. The cobra rears up when threatened, splaying out its hood, and shoots venom toward its enemy’s eyes causing burning pain and blindness. Despite this, human deaths rarely occur. Interestingly, these cobras often break their fangs when they bite. That’s because the fangs are thin and hollow for injecting venom.

Saharan Sand Viper

Saharan sand viper in sand

The color of the sand viper helps it to blend in with its habitat where it hunts for prey.

©reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

Like all vipers, the Saharan sand viper is venomous. This species is endemic (found only in a certain place) to the deserts of North Africa. They employ the sit-and-wait method for hunting. This serves them well as they easily lie in wait for other animals to come and drink water from the Nile River. The distracted rodents and birds they feed on never see them coming!

Central African Rock Python: An Invasive Animal From the Nile River

African rock python curled up with head in air

Central African rock pythons are a highly aggressive species.

©Chris Graf/Shutterstock.com

Made famous by their invasion of Florida in recent years, the Central African rock python an extremely aggressive python species. People keeping them as pets in Florida have either released them or had them escape into the Everglades where they absolutely thrive. The vicious snakes grow up to 16 feet long and kill their prey by constriction (squeezing) before swallowing it whole.

Nile Softshell Turtle

Nile tortoise. African softshell turtle or Nile softshell turtle (Trionyx triunguis).

One of the largest softshell turtles in Africa, the Nile softshell turtle weighs up to 80 pounds!

©I’ve been a professional cameraman for 20 years./iStock via Getty Images

Though not a dangerous reptile, the Nile softshell turtle holds its own. This species is not the only living species of softshell turtle left in Africa, but it is one of the largest. They range from 33 to 37 inches long and weigh up to 80 pounds. Some reports claim specimens reaching up to 47 inches long!

Amphibians

The Nile River’s amphibian animals mainly consist of endemic toads. Because much of Africa is desert, toads tend to succeed more easily than other amphibians like frogs and salamanders.

African Common Toad

African Common Toad Sclerophrys regularis

African common toads are the most abundant toad species on the continent.

©Petra Karstedt / CC BY-SA 2.0 DE Deed – License

This creature goes by many names, but the African common toad ranges across Africa including around the Nile River. Occasionally poached from the wild for the pet trade, this species is of the least concern according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Other toads along the Nile River include the Nile Valley toad, the Degen’s toad, and the Damietta toad.

Birds: The Most Beautiful Animals of the Nile River

Hundreds of unique bird species have been sighted around the Nile River banks. From finches to falcons and warblers to ducks and swallows, the Nile supports a huge variety of birds! Some live in the trees along the banks, while others hunt and fish from the water or the sky. Let’s discover some fascinating bird species that live there!

African Sacred Ibis

An African sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) in flight with open wings, South Africa

Egyptians worshiped the African sacred ibis, hence the word sacred in their name.

©EcoPic/iStock via Getty Images

The African sacred ibis was worshiped by Egyptians in relation to one of their gods, Thoth. He is the god of writing, wisdom, and magic. He is generally depicted as a man with the head of a bird with a long, thin, and curved bill. The Egyptians thought so highly of these birds that many were buried along with pharaohs and other important people.

The religious importance of numerous animals found along the Nile River is still evident in Egyptian culture and artistic creations. Vendors in the country still sell items with the African sacred ibis on them, touting the trinkets as good luck charms.

African Green Bee-Eater

The African green bee eater

One of 26 species, the African green bee-eater was only recognized as a separate species in 2020.

©Robbie Ross/iStock via Getty Images

A very interesting species, their name says it all. The African green bee-eater flies quickly through the air, darting and swiftly changing direction to catch and eat bees. These tiny birds reach speeds up to 42 mph (miles per hour) while hunting! Of the many animals that call the Nile River home, this is one of the smallest.

Saddle-Billed Stork

The brightly-color saddle-billed stork uses its bill to stab into the water and catch fish. An amazing Nile River animal.

The brightly-color saddle-billed stork uses its bill to stab into the water and catch fish.

©Matrishva Vyas/Shutterstock.com

Another distinct animal living around the Nile River is the saddle-billed stork. These massive black and white birds weigh up to 14 pounds. They also sport a dark black bill with bright red and orange markings. They use their bills to stab into the water or mud to catch prey such as lungfish.

Fish: Animals Lurking in the Nile River

Often not the most exciting of animals, some fish in the Nile River are actually dangerous! Others were introduced by humans and thrived. Let’s explore some fish of the Nile!

Marbled Lungfish

Animals of the Nile River - Marbled lungfish

Some people enjoy eating marbled lungfish, while others hate the taste.

©Arunee Rodloy/Shutterstock.com

As their name suggests, these incredible Nile River animals are fish that have lungs. That means they can actually breathe air! This particular species, the marbled lungfish, features a beautiful pattern of black and white. Because they can breathe air, adult lungfish can survive long drought periods common in Africa. They are highly valued as a food fish, but many people dislike the taste.

Nile Perch

Animals of the Nile River - Close-up of a Nile perch's head.

An invasive species outside the Nile River, the Nile perch is a widely eaten fish in Africa.

©Cheng Wei/Shutterstock.com

The Nile perch is a species of freshwater fish that has become an invasive animal due to people moving them from the Nile River to other rivers in Africa. Actually, this species is illegal to own even as a pet in Queensland, Australia. That’s because they directly compete with local barramundi (or giant sea bass). Heavy fines meet anyone found with a live Nile perch in Queensland.

The Nile perch is an important food source for people and animals living along the Nile River.

Nile Tigerfish

Animals of the Nile River - Hydrocynus vittatus, or African tigerfish, at Bojnice Zoo, Slovakia, in July 2018

The Nile tigerfish is smaller than its gargantuan cousin, the Goliath tigerfish. Both live in Africa.

©Klaus Rudloff, CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

While attacks on humans are rare, those fishing for Nile tigerfish must be careful to avoid this fish’s razor-sharp teeth. Thankfully, the species that inhabits the Nile only grows to about 6 inches long. However, the Goliath tigerfish lives in other bodies of water in Africa. These massive fish reach anywhere from 4 to 5 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Phototreat

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About the Author

Rachael Monson is a writer at A-Z-Animals where her primary focus is cats, big and small. She also works as senior veterinary assistant and has been in that field since 2012. A resident of Mississippi, she enjoys spending her off time playing video games with her husband and hanging out with her pets (a Bengal cat named Citrine and Basset Hound/Pomeranian mix dog named Pepsi).

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