Southern eland, Eland antelope
The Common eland, along with the giant eland, is one of the biggest antelopes in existence. Despite this, it has enough endurance to trot for an indefinite period and is able to jump from a standstill over an 8-foot fence. Males and females both have horns that form a tight spiral, though females' horns are generally longer and thinner. Usually a fawn or tawny color, elands become gray or bluish-gray when they get older, and the oldest animals are almost black. Males have a tuft of black hair growing out of their prominent dewlap, the fold of loose skin hanging from their neck. Adult males also possess a mat of hair on their forehead that becomes longer and denser as they get older.
Common elands inhabit southern Africa and the foothills in the great southern African plateau, as well as Ethiopia and most of the arid zones in South Sudan, as well as western Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Due to human settlement and poaching, there are not many of them. They tend to live in woodlands and woodland savanna, from coastal plains to mountainous areas, from semi-desert to regions with relatively high rainfall.
Habits and lifestyle
Common elands are crepuscular and are most often found feeding at night, when vegetation has taken in moisture from the air, thus providing a higher water content. When it is hot during the day, they will often be found resting in areas of shade. Common elands are social animals, often found in herds of 25-60, occasionally gathering in groups of more than 1,000, especially during the rainy season. Typically, mature males form herds, and mature females do as well, with the young congregating in nursery herds. A hierarchy exists within these herds, which determines, for a male, access to breeding females, and to feeding sites for a female. Males are not territorial, though will become possessive with regard to breeding females. The home range of a female, which makes extensive movements in the wet season, is much bigger than that of a male. Male territories are mostly in wooded areas. If a predator is seen, the bull of a group will bark and start walking back and forth to warn other elands of danger. They also use the odors in their urine to communicate.
herd, cluster, tribe
Diet and nutrition
Common elands are herbivorous and they eat grasses, herbs, bushes, tree leaves, and succulent fruits.
Common elands are polygynous breeders and dominant males will mate with multiple females. Sometimes males fight with their horns. Mating may take place at any time, usually when the elands gather on the lush plains to eat the plentiful grass. Gestation is for 8.5-9 months and females give birth to a single calf, which they keep hidden in vegetation until it is two weeks old. Calves grow very quickly, feeding on the nutritious eland milk, soon joining a nursery herd that remains close to the herd of females. Most of the time calves are concealed or moving around along with their mothers. Weaning takes pace after 6 months and the calves stay for as long as two years within their calf group. After this they go off to join a female or male herd. Reproductive maturity is reached by females when they are one to three years old and by males when they are the age of four to five years.
any time of the year
Habitat loss as a result of expanding human settlements and being poached for its high quality meat have meant drastic reductions of range and numbers of the Common eland.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Common eland population size is around 136,000 individuals. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers today remain stable.
Fun facts for kids
- Common elands are the slowest antelopes in the world.
- This animal is adapted to conserve all its precious water by allowing its body temperature on hot days to rise up to 7° Celsius (13.5° Fahrenheit), thus reducing its need to sweat. When the sun sets, its body heat then is able to radiate out into the cooler air.
- Recently these animals have become popular for their meat and milk. Needing less water than dairy cows, their milk is richer in milkfat, does not have to be refrigerated and will last for as long as eight months if properly prepared, rather than a few days.
- The Common eland features on the Grootfontein coat of arms in Namibia.
- The Common eland's scientific name “taurotragus oryx” is from Greek. “Tauros” means “bull,” “tragos” is a he-goat and the word “oryx” means an antelope or gazelle.
- When walking, the tendons or joints of the eland's foreleg make a sharp click, the cause for which has not been fully investigated. This sound carries a long way and is a good sign of an approaching herd. Scientists believe it could be a means of communication - when a male walks through his territory, such clicking can be heard as far as a mile away and may alert another eland with regard to his territory.