gerenukScientific Name– Litocranius walleri walleri

Conservation Status– Near threatened

Appearance

The gerenuk is easily noticeable by its long neck and legs. They have a light brown or tawny coloured fur. On the underbelly the gerenuk is white. Around the eyes is a white rim. The end of the tail has a black tuft at the end. On their head are scimitar shaped horns which are black in colour.

The gerenuk female stands 80-100cm (31.5-39.4in) tall. The male is taller standing 89-105cm (35-41in) tall. They will measure about 1.5m (5ft). The male gerenuk weighs about 45kg (99lb) while the female weighs 30kg (66lb).

Lifespan                                                                                  

The gerenuk will live for about 8 years in the wild. In captivity they will manage to reach 13 years of age.

Diet

The gerenuk is a herbivore. They browse on a range of leaves with one individual shown to have eaten 80 different types of leaves. Their long legs give them an advantage over most antelope as they can eat different plant species. The gerenuk feeds on acacias and other thorny plants mostly. They will also consume flowers, fruits and buds.

The gerenuk does not need to drink in the traditional sense. Instead their moisture requirements are met by the water content in their food.

Habitat

The gerenuk comes from Africa. They are present in Tanzania, Kenya, Southern Somalia, Ethiopia and Eretria. In the past populations of this species could be found in Egypt and Northern Sudan.

Reproduction

Due to their adaptive eating patterns the gerenuk will generally mate when the food is most abundant. When the male encounters a female she will lift her nose and place her ears against her head. This is a defensive gesture. The male then displays himself sideways showing off the neck and horns. If the female shows she is receptive he will mark her with his scent. He then begins following her and tastes her urine at each opportunity. Once she is ready to mate he will taster the difference. The male will repeat the process with as many females as possible.

After 7 months gestation the female is ready to give birth and she will leave the herd. She finds an isolated spot and gives birth. The calf stays here for the first few weeks of its life. The female will visit 2 or 3 times a day so she can provide milk and eat the calf’s waster so no smell is present.

When it is big enough the calf will go off with its mother. She will care for a female calf till 1 year of age while a male calf requires 1 ½ years of care to become sexually mature. At this time they will leave to establish a new territory which generally takes them till they are 3 ½ years old.

If the mother has a female she will breed the next year. If it is a male she will normally not breed in the next year.

Behaviour

Male gerenuks live a solitary lifestyle. The females will create a band of 10 females which is generally made up of related females. Young males have been seen in bachelor herds roaming together till they find their own territories.

The males territory is marked using their scent. If another dominant male is found in this space by the male he will generally leave it alone. A young male looking for a territory is normally scared off though.

Predators of the gerenuk include cheetahs, leopards, lions, hunting dogs, hyenas, serval, caracal, ratel and eagles.

Gerenuks emit vocalisations including buzzing, whistles and a loud bleat. The buzzing is used if they are alarmed, the whistle when annoyed and when in extreme danger they bleat.

Quick facts

‘Wallers gazelle’ is another name for the gerenuk.

In Somali language gerenuk means ‘giraffe necked antelope.’

The gerenuk has been described as very humble due to the way they always help each other. Many tribal tales crown them the ‘queen of humbleness.’

Photo Credits:

By By Aaron Logan (from http://www.lightmatter.net/gallery/albums.php) [CC-BY-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons