The African Pokemon Safari

When Pokemon Go launched a little more than a year ago, players quickly discovered that some Pokemon were regional exclusives–that in order to catch ’em all, you’d have to travel the world.

And by the world, Pokemon Go meant North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

But fear not, global majorities! Gen II made this distribution more equal.

But alas, not quite equal enough.

While Central and South America gained a regional exclusive, and certain latitudes gained one as well, one continent was surprisingly excluded: Africa.

It’s been my opinion for the last two generations that Africa would make an amazing inspiration for a new Pokemon game, given its abundantly diverse range of climates, natural formations, flora, and fauna, but the Pokemon Company has yet to turn its eye upon the continent…an oversight that I hope will be changed in times to come.

In the mean time, I’m forced to wonder why Africa has been ignored (and the cynic in me hopes the glaringly obvious answer of racism isn’t really the answer). So to quell the cynicism, I think a good starting place is to look at the current list of regional exclusives and then to predict what Pokemon might soon call Africa their only home.

The first generation of Pokemon has among the most obvious regional exclusives: Tauros, the bull, belongs to North America, where bulls are native and its hard-headedness is inbred in our culture. Mr. Mime belongs to Europe, most likely because mimes are notoriously French. And Kangaskhan is found only in Australia and the surrounding areas because kangaroos are native to Australia.

The only unusual regional exclusive is Farfetch’d, a feisty duck that carries around a leak. Nothing specifically Asian comes to mind when thinking of ducks, so what gives? According to Bulbapedia, Farfetch’d’s Japanese name is derived from a saying that literally translates into English as “a duck comes bearing green onions” but is used colloquially to mean “something surprising but convenient.” Due to this inspiration, making Farfetch’d exclusive to Asia makes a lot more sense.

In Generation II, two more Pokemon became regional exclusives. The first is Heracross, a large fighting beetle that’s exclusive to South and Central America. While Heracross is inspired by the Japanese rhino beetle, in Gen V, when Mega Evolution was introduced, Heracross was given a second form inspired by the Hercules beetle–which happens to be native to the rainforests of Central and South America.

The second regional exclusive is Corsola, the coral Pokemon, which according to Serebii can only be caught between the latitudes 26 degrees south and 31 degrees north of the equator–that is, the most tropical latitudes on Earth where coral is most common.

(When Gen II was first released, there was speculation that Corsola was the African exclusive, since Africa falls almost entirely within its range, but since Corsola can also be caught in parts of Asia and the Americas, it’s not truly exclusive to Africa.)

All of these Pokemon share an important characteristic: they don’t evolve. Otherwise, they differ in type, origin, and their significance within the games.

I suspect that the release of Gen III in Pokemon Go (which I predict will happen early next year, following a series of other Pokemon game releases) will finally give Africa its own Pokemon, but why might this be? Generation III introduced players to Hoenn, an incredibly tropical region, and as we just made the point that most of Africa falls within the tropics, it makes sense that Gen III will deliver us the African exclusive.

So if this suspicion is true, which Pokemon will it be?

The continent was colonized for many reasons but chief among them was Africa’s abundance of natural resources, and this fact will play a hand in helping us decide what some likely possibilities might be. The first Pokemon that comes to mind is the Aron line, a breed of dinosaur-like Pokemon that live underground and are believed to feast on iron ore and other metals in the earth. Unfortunately, Aron evolves twice, so it fails to keep the trend of regional exclusives having only a single stage. One other Pokemon native to Hoenn is also said to feast upon the products of the earth–but rather than eating ore, Sableye eats jewels. What makes this Pokemon even more likely to call Africa its home is that this imp’s eyes are literally diamonds. And Africa has many diamonds.

Another possibility is Torkoal, a turtle whose shell is a smokestack perpetually burning internal reserves of fossil fuels. However, for all the places that have coal in the world, Africa isn’t on top, and only South Africa has an overabundance of coal anyways. I could just as easily see Torkoal exclusive to Appalachia as to Africa.

Most Pokemon are inspired more so by living animals than deposit of ore and jewels, though, so if we consider the fauna native to the continent, the first Pokemon that jumps out at us is Poochyena–a pup-like Pokemon inspired by hyenas (native to Africa)–but like Aron, Poochyena evolves, so it’s unlikely to be a top contender.

But do you know what else is native to Africa? The mongoose, the inspiration behind Zangoose, a Pokemon perpetually at war with Seviper, a serpent. These two Pokemon share an intimate relationship, often found in the same areas vying for dominance. If Zangoose were exclusive to Africa, I feel Seviper would likewise be exclusive to the same region, but unless Gen III adds additional regional exclusives to all areas of Earth, it seems unlikely that two Pokemon would be found in only a single place.

Thankfully, we’re not out of options. Another Pokemon, Kecleon, is the color-changing lizard inspired by the chameleon–also native to many parts of Africa, and like both Seviper and Zangoose, Kecleon doesn’t evolve, so it meets all the criteria.

So far we’ve discussed options inspired by natural resources and fauna, but what about options inspired by African flora? There is, in fact, one Pokemon in this category too: Tropius, the sauropod who grows bananas on its chin and can fly using the giant leaves on its back. Unfortunately, bananas aren’t only grown in Africa since they’re native to many tropical regions, even in the Americas, so Tropius is another unlikely contender.

We’ve discussed six Pokemon that would each be a good fit for a Pokemon only found in Africa, but of these, I feel Sableye and Kecleon are the most likely (and Sableye is one of my favorite Pokemon, so if that’s the case, I might be buying a ticket to Africa).

What do you think? Do these predictions make sense? Are there other Pokemon you think are more likely to make Africa their home in Pokemon Go?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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