Endemics are species of plants and animals that occur only within a certain area, habitat, biome, country (like Namibia) or region (like southern Africa). Species can be endemic to an area as specific as a mountain range, or over broader areas such as the Namib desert or the arid lands of southern Africa.
The proportion of endemic plants, insects, reptiles and frogs is fairly high in Namibia. Endemism in mammals, birds and fish is lower, as these species tend to be more mobile and are distributed over wider areas.
The majority of Namibia’s endemic species are distributed in a belt along the western edge of the escarpment (escarpment zone). This region is a transition zone between the desert, karoo and savanna biomes and represents a hotspot of endemism.
Namibia has a special responsibility to conserve endemic species as an essential part of its biodiversity, because these species occur nowhere else on earth. If we allow them to go extinct here, they are lost forever to the world. Endemic species are a unique biological heritage.
There are an incredible 708 endemic plant species in Namibia. A further 275 species are near-endemic (75 in the Namib extending into Angola, 200 in the succulent Karoo, extending into South Africa). Most of the endemic species are arid-adapted. The totally bizarre welwitschia is endemic to the Namib desert within Namibia and Angola and is thus considered a near-endemic of Namibia.
Furthermore, there are 71 endemic reptile species in Namibia – 28% of all species!. The majority are endemic to the escarpment zone, in particular the Brandberg and surrounding area as well as the succulent Karoo.
When it comes to mammals, there are 16 endemic species in Namibia, excluding marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals. 11 of the endemic species are rodents (e.g. mice) and small carnivores. Only one species of large mammal, the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, is endemic to Namibia.
Namibia actually only has one true endemic bird species, the diminutive Dune Lark. It occurs in western Namibia on the fringes of the Namib dune-sea between the Koichab River in the south and the Kuiseb River in the north. A further 15 species are considered near-endemics.
The only amphibians found in Namibia are frogs. There are 6 endemic frog species in Namibia. There are also 1541 endemic insect species in Namibia. It is predicted that less than 25% of all insect species have been recorded, with new species and endemics being described regularly.
For a chance to see some of these incredible endemics, come join us on one of our personalised Namibia tours. Go to www.naturetravelnamibia.com for more information on all the fantastic trips we offer, or get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set up the perfect endemic-high itinerary for you!