This lists the logos of programs or partners of NG Education which have provided or contributed the content on this page. Partner Nat Geo WILD

  • Large animals like elephants, lions, and giraffes live in the harsh, arid Namib Desert. How do these animals survive? The secret is the desert’s geography. 
    Watch this video from the Nat Geo WILD program “Destination Wild.” Then consult the tabs for some critical thinking questions, a list of fast facts to enhance viewing comprehension, links to related materials, and a short glossary of vocabulary used in the video.
    Instructional Ideas
    You can use National Geography Standard 7.1 to better understand how Earth’s physical systems contribute to the “Secret of Survival” in the Namib Desert.
    4th Grade: There are four components of Earth's physical systems (the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere). Therefore, the student is able to identify attributes of Earth's different physical systems, as exemplified by being able to identify different attributes of physical systems in photographs (e.g., sky, clouds, plants, soil, oceans, lakes, mountains).
    • Questions 1-2 explore attributes of physical systems in the Namib Desert.
    8th Grade: The four components of Earth’s physical systems (the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere) are interdependent. Therefore, the student is able to identify and describe patterns in the environment that result from the interaction of Earth’s physical processes, as exemplified by being able to identify and describe the patterns that result from the connections between climate and vegetation (e.g., examples of patterns of ecosystems and biomes).
    • Question 3 explores how climate impacts life in the Namib Desert.
    12th Grade: The interactions of Earth's physical systems (the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere) vary across space and time. Therefore, the student is able to explain how the effects of physical processes vary across regions of the world and over time, as exemplified by being able to analyze and explain the relationships between physical processes and the location of land features (e.g., river valleys, canyons, deltas, glaciated lakes and moraines, limestone deposits, caves, alluvial fans, canyons). 
    • Question 4 explores how Earth’s physical systems have changed the landscape of the Namib Desert over time.
    1. There are four components to Earth’s physical systems: atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. What are some attributes, or natural features, associated with each component in the video?

      Atmosphere: clouds, mist

      Biosphere: animals, plants

      Hydrosphere: rivers, clouds, the ocean

      Lithosphere: sandy soil, rock formations, mountains, sand dunes

    2. What are some attributes associated with Earth’s physical systems that are NOT found in the Namib Desert?

      Atmosphere: Auroras, better known as the Northern and Southern Lights, cannot be seen in the atmosphere above the Namib Desert.

      Biosphere: Animals, plants, and other living things not adapted to survival in an arid climate—such as fish and mangrove trees—are not found in the Namib Desert.

      Hydrosphere: One of the most common attributes associated with the hydrosphere, rain, is absent from the Namib Desert.

      Lithosphere: The Namib Desert is not home to any active volcanoes.

    3. The Namib Desert is one of the driest, hottest places on Earth. How does climate impact life in the Namib Desert?

      Plant and animal species have avoided or adapted to life without rain in the Namib Desert. Very few species survive in the sand dunes themselves. (Those that do, not shown in the video, include beetles and snakes.)

      Animals such as desert elephants, birds, and lions usually limit their range to areas near rivers that bracket the desert. Many, however, migrate through regions with ephemeral streams, which run seasonally.

    4. How have physical systems such as the hydrosphere and atmosphere changed the physical landscape of the Namib Desert?

      Hydrosphere: According to the video, the Namib Desert is created by water. Throughout millions of years, rivers have eroded (and continue to erode) the desert’s hard rock to carve steep canyons and gorges in the landscape. The eroded rock becomes sand, and is carried to the Atlantic Ocean as sediment. Tons of this sandy sediment are transported north by the powerful Benguela Current. Tides and storms deposit it along the desert coast.

      Atmosphere: Storms and southeasterly trade winds carry the sand inland, forming the Namib’s “vast, beautiful, and hostile dunes.”

  • Here are a few animals shown living in and around the Namib Desert:
    • giraffes
    • elephants
    • owls
    • antelope
    • caracals (big cats with tufted ears similar to a lynx)
    • baboons
    • lions
    • swifts
    • rock hyraxes
    Here are some plants shown living in and around the Namib Desert:
    • grasses
    • trees
    • shrubs
    • bushes
    • mosses
    • algae (not technically a plant!)
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    algae Plural Noun

    (singular: alga) diverse group of aquatic organisms, the largest of which are seaweeds.

    arid Adjective


    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    attribute Noun

    something belonging or characteristic of a person, thing, or group.

    biosphere Noun

    part of the Earth where life exists.

    Encyclopedic Entry: biosphere
    canyon Noun

    deep, narrow valley with steep sides.

    Encyclopedic Entry: canyon
    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    cloud Noun

    visible mass of tiny water droplets or ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: cloud
    component Noun


    current Noun

    steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

    Encyclopedic Entry: current
    desert Noun

    area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

    Encyclopedic Entry: desert
    ephemeral stream Noun

    body of water that flows only after a fall of precipitation.

    erode Verb

    to wear away.

    geography Noun

    study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    Encyclopedic Entry: geography
    gorge Noun

    deep, narrow valley with steep sides, usually smaller than a canyon.

    Encyclopedic Entry: gorge
    harsh Adjective


    hostile Adjective

    confrontational or unfriendly.

    hydrosphere Noun

    all the Earth's water in the ground, on the surface, and in the air.

    Encyclopedic Entry: hydrosphere
    indigenous Adjective

    characteristic to or of a specific place.

    Encyclopedic Entry: indigenous
    landscape Noun

    the geographic features of a region.

    Encyclopedic Entry: landscape
    lithosphere Noun

    outer, solid portion of the Earth. Also called the geosphere.

    Encyclopedic Entry: lithosphere
    migrate Verb

    to move from one place or activity to another.

    mist Noun

    clouds at ground-level, but with greater visibility than fog.

    Encyclopedic Entry: mist
    mountain Noun

    landmass that forms as tectonic plates interact with each other.

    natural feature Noun

    characteristic of a geographic region that was not created by humans.

    ocean Noun

    large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ocean
    physical system Noun

    part of an environment or community chosen for study or analysis.

    rain Noun

    liquid precipitation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: rain
    river Noun

    large stream of flowing fresh water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: river
    rock Noun

    natural substance composed of solid mineral matter.

    sand Noun

    small, loose grains of disintegrated rocks.

    sand dune Noun

    mound of sand created by the wind.

    sediment Noun

    solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.

    Encyclopedic Entry: sediment
    soil Noun

    top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

    species range Noun

    native, geographic area in which an organism can be found. Range also refers to the geographic distribution of a particular species.

    Encyclopedic Entry: species range
    storm Noun

    severe weather indicating a disturbed state of the atmosphere resulting from uplifted air.

    survive Verb

    to live.

    tide Noun

    rise and fall of the ocean's waters, caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun.

    Encyclopedic Entry: tide
    trade wind Noun

    winds that blow toward the Equator, from northeast to southwest in the Northern Hemisphere and from southeast to northwest in the Southern Hemisphere.

    transport Verb

    to move material from one place to another.

    vast Adjective

    huge and spread out.