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Forest Buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat

Forest Buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus)


  • Bovids (including antelopes, cattle, goats, sheep, and their relatives) are native to Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America (Nowak, 1991)
  • Historical range of the African buffalo comprised nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa, except the more arid eastern and southwestern areas
    • Buffalo do not occur more than about 20 km from water; thus, populations are often dispersed and localized
  • Distribution of the African buffalo has been reduced and fragmented by diseases (notably rinderpest), hunting, and habitat loss (particularly agricultural development and competition from domestic cattle)
    • The species has largely disappeared from South Africa and no longer occurs in much of western and central Africa
  • Reintroduced to Bontebok and Golden Gate Highlands national parks in South Africa


  • Require abundant grass, shade, and water
    • Prefer a mosaic of savannas interspersed with patches of forest, reeds, or scrub
    • Occasionally use open grassland during their seasonal movements
    • Found on mountain slopes up to 4,800 m above sea level
  • Home ranges vary:
    • 2-4 sq km for old bulls
    • 1,075 sq km for a large herd
    • Seasonally, herds may slightly overlap and vary in size to maintain access to food and water, but strong attachments to traditional areas are kept throughout the year, even during poor range conditions.

Distribution Map

Forest Buffalo distribution map

Forest buffalo live in African forests near the equator.

Other African buffalo subspecies range more widely.

Adapted from according to Wilson and Mittermeier (2011).

Page Citations

East (1998)
Grimsdell (1973)
Haltenorth & Diller (1980)
Happold (1987)
Kingdon (1997)
Meester & Setzer (1971)
Mloszewski (1983)
Prins (1996)
Sinclair (1977)
Smithers (1983)
Taylor (1989)

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