In April of 2020, Mamadou Ndiaye was stuck on Covid lockdown in New York, doing his environmental management job remotely. With nothing better to do, he downloaded TikTok on the 15th. A day later, he was laid off and, without a source of income, he turned to TikTok and began making videos full time.
Two years later, Ndiaye has 14.9 million followers and 819.2 million likes, thanks to his engaging and entertaining videos focused on weird, often violent and sometimes disturbing facts about the animal kingdom. He’s also parlayed his TikTok fame into a new book:
100 Animals That Can F*cking End You, which is currently number one on Amazon’s Cat, Dog and Animal Humor category, as well as its Science and Scientist Humor category.
Looking back, Ndiaye, 25, is a little overwhelmed at how successful he’s been. “So far it’s been a lot more explosive than I thought it would be,” he says.
In his first few weeks on TikTok, Ndiaye didn’t see much success with videos focused on gym banter and online dating jokes. But on June 13, 2020, he was inspired by his childhood infatuation with National Geographic and created a video titled “Animals That Are BIGGER Than You Think,” where he talked about the sheer size of hippos, elephants and saltwater crocodiles. The response was overwhelming, so he decided to turn it into a regular series that easily began outperforming all of Ndiaye’s other videos, reeling in several million views apiece.
Following the success of his first series, the self-proclaimed “internet zoologist” decided to focus on animal-based content, highlighting obscure and often brutal facts about nature delivered with deadpan humor and occasional profanity. Hippos became “obese waterpigs” built like “a refrigerator with a personality disorder.” Crocodiles were “overgrown murder gekos” that could “freestyle like Phelps,” only faster. He described black bears as “600-pound ’roid squirrels” and suggested that anyone chased up a tree should go ahead and “log out of life at that point, because your subscription’s over.” And if some of the facts he talks about sound made-up, they’re not: He leans on National Geographic, Animal Planet and Discovery Channel as sources for his research.
By July 2020 Ndiaye hit the one million followers mark. Shortly after, he received his verified check mark, signaling he was a top creator on the app.
“I literally went from making videos just like everybody else, and then suddenly I’m verified,” he said. “It happened too fast for me to even really process”
There are several reasons why the TikToker believes he gained so much traction. He joined TikTok at the height of the pandemic when everyone was at home and had their noses in their phones. In 2020, the app saw upwards of a 75 percent growth of users. Plus, he was unemployed and had the time to post several videos a day.
Another reason why Ndiaye thinks his videos resonate is because he combines educational facts with humor to get his audience to consistently return and engage with his posts.
“I try to be comedic about it,” he says. “I try to avoid just lecturing people because nobody really likes that, especially on TikTok where everyone’s attention span is really short.”
According to Trevar Little, a doctor of veterinary medicine candidate specializing in wild and exotic animals at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Ndiaye’s insight into the animal kingdom works so well because it’s laced with humor.
“Much of the information he has shared about exotic animals was mentioned while I shadowed at the Dallas Zoo,” Little said. “His work grabs your attention because he’s a pretty funny guy, but the information he shares is also a mixture of jarring yet insightful material.”
In the future, Ndiaye hopes to move away from the confines of his home and get out in the wild to do his reporting Steve Irwin-style.
“The end game is being able to do what I do, but being out in nature because there’s only so much you can explain from behind the green screen,” Ndiaye explained. “That’s what really resonates with your audience, when you’re actually out there watching things happen and explaining them.”