About half of the land area is classified as forest or woodland, but some of this includes grassland, thicket, and scrub. There are indigenous softwoods in the better-watered areas, with bamboo and cedars on Mt. Sapitwa; evergreen conifers also grow in the highlands. Mopane, baobab, acacia, and mahogany trees are among those found at lower elevations.
There are many varieties of animal life. The elephant, giraffe, and buffalo are found in certain areas; hippopotamuses dwell on the shores of Lake Niassa. The kudu, duiker, bushbuck, tsessebe, wildebeest, and hartebeest are among the antelopes to be found. Other mammals in Malawi are the baboon, monkey, hyena, wolf, zebra, lion, nocturnal cat, badger, warthog, and porcupine.
There are at least 520 species of birds. Reptiles are plentiful and include freshwater turtle, crocodile, tortoise, marsh terrapin, chameleon, lizard, and many varieties of snakes; the Egyptian cobra has been found in the Shire Valley. Fish abound in the lakes and rivers; species include bream, bass, catfish, mudfish, perch, carp, and trout. Malawi is rich in insect life and has species in common with tropical West Africa and Tanzania.