The fauna is on the whole very rich. It has affinities in a few respects with the West African forest region, but differs slightly from the countries to the north and south by the absence of such animals as prefer drier climates, as for instance the oryx antelopes, gazelles and the ostrich. There is a complete blank in the distribution of this last between the districts to the south of the Zambezi and those of East Africa between Victoria Nyanza and the Indian Ocean. The giraffe is found in the Luanga valley; it is also met with in the extreme north-east of the country. The ordinary African rhinoceros is still occasionally, but very rarely, seen in the Shiré Highlands, The African elephant is fairly common throughout the whole territory. Lions and leopards are very abundant; the zebra is still found in great numbers, and belongs to the Central African variety of Burchell's zebra, which is completely striped down to the hoofs, and is intermediate in many particulars between the true zebra of the mountains and Burchell's zebra of the plains.
The principal antelopes found are the sable and the roan (Hippotragus), five species of Cobus or waterbuck (the puku, the Senga puku, the lechwe, Crawshay's waterbuck and the common waterbuck); the pallah, tsessébe (Damaliscus), hartebeest, brindled gnu (perhaps two species), several duykers (including the large Cephalophus sylvicultrix), klipspringer, oribi, steinbok and reedbuck. Among tragelaphs are two or more bushbucks, the inyala, the water tragelaph (Limnotragus selousi), the kudu and Livingstone's eland. The only buffalo is the common Cape species. The hyaena is the spotted kind. The hunting dog is present. There are some seven species of monkeys, including two baboons and one colobus. The hippopotamus is found in the lakes and rivers, and all these sheets of water are infested with crocodiles, apparently belonging to but one species, the common Nile crocodile.
The human race is represented by only one indigenous native type - the Negro. No trace is anywhere found of a Hamitic intermixture (unless perhaps at the north end of Lake Nyasa, where the physique of the native Awankonde recalls that of the Nilotic negro). Arabs from Zanzibar have settled in the country, but not, as far as is known, earlier than the beginning of the 19th century. As the present writer takes the general term "Negro" to include equally the Bantu, Hottentot, Bushman and Congo Pygmy, this designation will cover all the natives of British Central Africa. The Bantu races, however, exhibit in some parts signs of Hottentot or Bushman intermixture, and there are legends in some mountain districts, especially Mount Mlanje, of the former existence of unmixed Bushman tribes, while Bushman stone implements are found at the south end of Tanganyika. At the present day the population is, as a rule, of a black or chocolate-coloured Negro type, and belongs, linguistically, entirely and exclusively to the Bantu family.
The languages spoken offer several very interesting forms of Bantu speech, notably in the districts between the north end of Lake Nyasa, the south end of Lake Tanganyika, and the river Luapula. In the more or less plateau country included within these geographical limits, the Bantu dialects are of an archaic type, and to the present writer it has seemed as though one of them, Kibemba or Kiwemba, came near to the original form of the Bantu mother-language, though not nearer than the interesting Subiya of southern Barotseland. Through dialects spoken on the west and north of Tanganyika, these languages of North Eastern Rhodesia and northern Nyasaland and of the Kafukwe basin are connected with the Bantu languages of Uganda. They also offer a slight resemblance to Zulu-Kaffir, and it would seem as though the Zulu-Kaffir race must have come straight down from the countries to the north-east of Tanganyika, across the Zambezi, to their present home. Curiously enough, some hundreds of years after this southward migration, intestine wars and conflicts actually determined a north-eastward return migration of Zulus. From Matabeleland, Zulu tribes crossed the Zambezi at various periods (commencing from about 1820), and gradually extended their ravages and dominion over the plateaus to the west, north and north-east of Lake Nyasa. The Zulu language is still spoken by the dominating caste in West Nyasaland (see further Zululand: Ethnology; Rhodesia: Ethnology; and Yaos). As regards foreign settlers in this part of Africa, the Arabs may be mentioned first, though they are now met with only in very small numbers.
The Arabs undoubtedly first heard of this rich country - rich not alone in natural products such as ivory, but also in slaves of good quality - from their settlements near the delta of the river Zambezi, and these settlements may date back to an early period, and might be coeval with the suggested pre-Islamite Arab settlements in the gold-bearing regions of South East Africa. But the Arabs do not seem to have made much progress in their penetration of the country in the days before firearms; and when firearms came into use they were for a long time forestalled by the Portuguese, who ousted them from the Zambezi. But about the beginning of the 19th century the increasing power and commercial enterprise of the Arab sultanate of Zanzibar caused the Arabs of Maskat and Zanzibar to march inland from the east coast. They gradually founded strong slave-trading settlements on the east and west coasts of Lake Nyasa, and thence westwards to Tanganyika and the Luapula. They never came in great numbers, however, and, except here and there on the coast of Lake Nyasa, have left no mixed descendants in the population.
The total native population of all British Central Africa is about 2,000,000, that of the Nyasaland Protectorate being officially estimated in 1907 at 927,355. Of Europeans the protectorate possesses about 600 to 700 settlers, including some 100 officials. (For the European population of the other territories, see Rhodesia.) The Europeans of British Central Africa are chiefly natives of the United Kingdom or South Africa, but there are a few Germans, Dutchmen, French, Italians and Portuguese. The protectorate has also attracted a number of Indian traders (over 400), besides whom about 150 British Indian soldiers (Sikhs) are employed as the nucleus of an armed force.