Giant Eland

Giant Eland

Lord Derby eland

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Subfamily
Genus
SPECIES
Taurotragus derbianus
Population size
12-14 Thou
Life Span
20-25 yrs
TOP SPEED
70 km/h
WEIGHT
300-1,000 kg
HEIGHT
130-180 cm
LENGTH
220-290 cm

The Great eland is the largest species of antelope in the world. These animals have a smooth reddish-brown to chestnut coat with 8-12 well-defined vertical white stripes on the torso. Males are usually darker than females and the color of the male's coat darkens with age. Giant elands have a crest of short black hair that extends down their neck to the middle of their back. Their legs are slender and slightly lighter on the inner surfaces, with black and white markings just above the hooves. There are large black spots on the upper forelegs. The bridge of the nose is charcoal black, and there is a thin, indistinct tan-colored line, which is the chevron, between the eyes. Both sexes have tightly spiraled, 'V'-shaped horns, however, males' horns are thicker at the ends, longer, and more divergent. Males in this species are also larger than females.

Distribution

Great elands are found in Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and South Sudan. They live in the broad-leafed savanna, woodlands, and glades of central and western Africa. They are also found in forests as well as on the fringes of deserts. These animals inhabit places near hilly or rocky landscapes and those that have nearby water sources.

Giant Eland habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Great elands are nocturnal animals that have large home ranges and seasonal migration patterns. They are social and form separate groups of males and of females and juveniles. Adult males mainly remain alone and often spend time with females for an hour to a week. Giant eland herds usually consist of 15-25 animals (sometimes even more) and do not disband during the wet season. During the day, herds often rest in sheltered areas. As many other animals do, Giant elands scrape mineral lick sites with the help of horns to loosen the soil. These animals are alert and wary. If a male senses danger, he will give deep-throated barks while leaving the herd, repeating the process until the whole herd is aware of the danger. Giant elands can move quickly, and despite their size are good jumpers. They can jump up to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) high. Giant elands have many predators, however, they are not easily taken by any predator, especially heavy and large horned males which can be dangerous even for a lion pride.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Great elands are herbivorous (folivorous) animals that eat grasses, foliage and other parts of a plant. They can eat coarse, dry grass and weeds if nothing else is available. They also eat fruits, such as plums.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
year-round
PREGNANCY DURATION
9 months
BABY CARRYING
1 calf
INDEPENDENT AGE
6 months
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
calf

Great elands are polygynous and dominant males mate with multiple females. During the breeding season males fight for dominance. During these fights, they lock horns and try to twist the necks of their opponents. Males also rub their foreheads in fresh urine or mud and thresh and throw loose earth on themselves using their horns. Great elands breed throughout the year with the peak in the wet season. The gestation period lasts nine months after which a single calf is delivered, and it remains with its mother for 6 months. Lactation can last for 4 to 5 months. After the first 6 months, the young eland might join a group of other juveniles. Females usually reach reproductive maturity at about two years of age, and males at 4 to 5 years.

Population

Population threats

The main threats to Great elands are overhunting for their rich meat and habitat destruction caused by the expansion of human and livestock populations. They are also hunted for their meat, hides and for trophies as game animals.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Giant elands is around 12,000-14,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The scientific name of the Giant eland is Taurotragus derbianus. It's derived from three words: tauros, tragos, and derbianus. Tauros is Greek for a bull or bullock. Tragos is Greek for a male goat and refers to the tuft of hair that grows in the eland's ear which resembles a goat's beard.
  • The Giant eland is also called "Lord Derby's eland" in honor of Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby. Due to his efforts that the Giant eland was first introduced to England between 1835 and 1851.
  • Although the Giant eland is somewhat larger than the Common eland, the epithet 'giant' actually refers to its large horns.
  • The name 'eland' is Dutch for "elk" or "moose".
  • Giant elands can be domesticated, and many people prefer to tame and raise eland rather than cattle due to their numerous benefits. Elands can survive on little water, they can also eat coarse grasses, and can even ingest some poisonous plants that can be fatal for cattle. In addition, Giant elands give large quantities of tender meat, high-quality hide and their milk is richer in fat content and protein of a dairy cow's milk.

References

1. Giant Eland on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_eland
2. Giant Eland on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/44172/50197518

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