Zambia's large mammals are typical of the savanna areas of east and (especially) southern Africa. The large predators are here: lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyena, although cheetah and wild dog are relatively uncommon.
Elephant and buffalo occur in large herds in protected national parks, and in small, furtive family groups where poaching is a problem. Black rhino are probably, sadly, extinct in Zambia, though there are white rhino in the small, well-protected, Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park at Livingstone.
Antelope are well represented, with puku and impala numerically dominant in the drier areas. There are several interesting, endemic sub-species found in Zambia, including the Angolan and Thornicroft's giraffe, Cookson's wildebeest, Crawshay's zebra, and two unusual subspecies of lechwe – the black and the Kafue lechwe – occurring in very large numbers in some of the country's larger marshy areas.
Because Zambia is a wet country, with numerous marshy areas, its natural vegetation is lush and capable of supporting a high density of game. The country has a natural advantage over drier areas, and this accounts for the sheer volume of big game to be found in its better parks.
Much of Zambia is still covered by original, undisturbed natural vegetation, and hunting is not a significant factor for most of Zambia's birds. Thus, with a range of verdant and natural habitats, Zambia is a superb birding destination; 751 different species had been recorded by 2004.
Whilst the animal species differ only occasionally from the 'normal' species found in southern Africa, the birds are a much more varied mix of those species found in southern, eastern and even central Africa. The obvious celebrity is the ungainly shoebill stork – which breeds in the Bangweulu Swamps, and only one or two other places in central Africa. A lesser-known attraction is Chaplin's barbet, Zambia's only endemic bird species, found in southern Zambia around the south side of Kafue National Park. However, there are many other unusual, rare and beautifully coloured species that attract enthusiasts to Zambia.
In addition to its resident bird species, Zambia receives many migrants. In September and October the Palaearctic migrants appear (ie: those that come from the northern hemisphere – normally Europe), and they remain until around April or May. This is also the peak time to see the intra-African migrants, which come from further north in Africa.
The rains from December to around April see an explosion in the availability of most birds' food: seeds, fruits and insects. Hence this is the prime time for birds to nest, even if it is also the most difficult time to visit the more remote areas of the country.