ElandScientific Name Taurotragus oryx              

Conservation Status   Least Concern

Appearance

The common eland is the world’s second largest antelope species. Their coat is an orangey-brown but becomes more grey in males as they age. Apart from the rough black mane their coat is smooth. At the tip of the tail is a tuft of black fur. Down their sides are vertical white stripes. On top of a males head their fur is quite dense. Both species have a pair of tightly spiraled horns coming out of the head. The males horns reach 43-66c (17-26in) long while females come in between 51 and 69cm (20-27in). Under the throat is a dewlap (a fold of skin).

Males are larger than females measuring 240-345cm (59-72in) from the snout to the start of the tail. The tail adds 50-90cm (20-35in) to the length of both males and females. At the shoulder they stand 150-183cm (59-72in) tall). An average weight for a male eland would be somewhere between 400 and 492kg (882-2,077lb).

Females measure between 200 and 280cm (79-110in) from the snout to the start of the tail. At the shoulder they stand 125-153cm (49-60in) tall. Weights range from 300-600kg (660-1,320lb) for females.

Lifespan                                                                                  

Lifespan in the wild is between 15 and 20 years while in captivity they may reach 25 years of age.

Diet

Elands are herbivorous. The majority of their diet is made up of high protein succulent leaves from flowering plants. This is supplemented with forbs, trees, shrubs, grasses, tubers and seeds. For the most part they browse (eat leaves) but when it is dry in winter they mat graze (eat grasses).

Most of their water requirements are fulfilled by the food. If it available they will drink water though. If they need to conserve water they may increase their body temperature.

Habitat

Common eland are found throughout Southern Africa. Here they can be found in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and South Africa. 50% of the elands in Africa live in protected reserves.

They make their home in semi-arid areas with many shrub-like bushes mostly but can also be found in grasslands, woodlands, sub desert, bush and mountaintops. They will avoid forests, swamps and deserts. Their home range is between 200 and 400km2 (77.2-154.4mi2) for females and their young with males having smaller ranges of about 50km2 (19.3mi2).

Reproduction

Mating may occur anytime. It generally occurs when the elands all gather on the lush green plains where they can feed on the plentiful grasses. Males will test the females urine and chase them to see if they are in season. The females allow the dominant female to mate with them. It is normally 2-4 hours before the female allows him to mount. A male can mate with a number of females. On some occasions males will engage in fights using their horns.

Nine months after mating the female gives birth to a single calf. The mother leaves her herd to give birth. They may remain separated from the herd for 24 hours until they are ready to return to the herd.

ElandYoung will form their own small herd that stays close to the female herd. Most of the time they are concealed than moving around with their mothers.

Weaning occurs at six months old. They will still stay within their calf group for up to two years. After this they will go off and join a male or female herd. Sexually maturity is achieved between one and three years of age while males are not mature until four to five years of age.

Behavior

The common eland is crepuscular. In the morning and evening they eat. During the heat of the day they rest.

They roam in herds of up to 500. The larger herds are generally formed females and juveniles while males form small herds or wander on their own. Herds of eland will often associate with zebras, roan antelopes and oryxes.

Predators of the eland include lions, wild dogs, cheetahs and spotted hyenas. It is more common for juveniles to be preyed upon.

When a predator is spotted the bull in the group will bark and walk back and forth to alert other elands of the danger. They also communicate through the smells in their urine.

Elands are the world’s slowest antelope.

Quick facts

In recent years the eland has become popular as a source of meat and milk. They need less water than normal cows and the milk produced is richer in milkfat. It does not need to be stored in a fridge and can last for up to eight months when properly prepared instead of a few days.

The eland is featured on the coat of arms of Grootfontein in Namibia.

The scientific name taurotragus oryx comes from Greek. Tauros means a bull, tragos means a he-goat and oryx mean a gazelle or antelope.