Rare (adjective) (of a thing) not found in large numbers and consequently of interest or value. When you think of rare animals, most people think Rhino, Panda Bears and that’s where it generally ends. But sometimes a closer look and you’ll find a whole lot of rare right here in your backyard.

Creatures many times more rare than a White Rhino for example live around us, right here in Durban. Here are five incredibly special, incredibly rare and wonderful animals you may not know about, but should appreciate and look out for. (As a side note, before anyone even asks, rare is a difficult thing to define in absolute terms, we are in no way implying that rare and the related threat of extinction is a competition, we are simply implying that you should just take the time to look a bit closer at the wonderful, special wildlife we have right here in Durban too)

Spotted Ground Thrush 

This obscure, easily overlooked bird has a global population of around just 2500 individuals, consider for a second that there are around 20 000 White Rhinos left in Africa. This is a pretty special little bird and Durban has some great spots for seeing them, especially places such as Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve where they overwinter and can be quite easy to find. Spotted Ground Thrush are forest birds and enjoy scratching around in thick leaf litter. Listen carefully, walk slowly and you may just be lucky. These birds visit Durban in winter months only and return south to their Transkei breeding grounds in summer. Find out more about birding trips to Pigeon Valley here or one of Durban Green Corridor's Guided Birding Walks 

Black Headed Chameleon 

This crazy little chameleon, not much bigger than your thumb is endemic to KwaZulu-Natal and only known from a handful of nature reserves. Although the actual population is unknown, one can assume from the existing records and very limited habitat available for these chameleons that the Black-headed Chameleon is pretty darn rare but lives right here on our doorstep.

Getting a little larger than Dwarf Chameleons are Southern Right Whales with a global population of around just 10 000, and whole lot less than that here in South Africa.


In winter months, these whales migrate northward past KZN, away from the cold Antarctic waters. Humpbacked Whales also migrate northward along our coast and can be easily distinguished from the rarer Southern Right Whale by its blow spout. The Humpbacked Whale blows a big round mushroom shaped water spout when it surfaces, the Southern Right Whale on the other hand blows a distinctive “V” shaped spout. Get yourself comfy somewhere with a good vantage point over the sea during June/July and you’re sure to spot these special, rare animals. Find out more about Whale Watching in KZN here

Mangrove Kingfisher

Although quite common in it’s range northwards past Mozambique, Mangrove Kingfishers in South Africa probably number less than a couple of hundred birds, if that. It’s pretty special and relies heavily on our coastal mangrove habitats. Like the Spotted Ground Thrush, Mangrove Kingfishers only visit KZN in winter months. These birds are best found in May / June and again later in the year as they move south around August at the Beachwood Mangroves.

Ruby-Footed Giant Black Millipede

The name alone puts this millipede leagues ahead of other “shongalolos” and makes you want to get out there and see one. The endangered Ruby-footed or Ruby-legged Giant Black Millipede is only found in the Hillcrest and Kloof areas where it lives in forests. Much of its habitat has been destroyed by development and alien invasive plants but can still be found in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve.

So nest time you think "rare and endanagerd" is limited to far and exotic, think again, we hope this inspires you to get out there, look a little closer, appreciate and get in touch with nature.

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