Gerenuk

Gerenuk

Giraffe gazelle, Waller’s gazelle

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Subfamily
Tribe
Genus
SPECIES
Litocranius walleri
Population size
95,000
Life Span
8-13 yrs
TOP SPEED
56 km/h
WEIGHT
28-52 kg
HEIGHT
80-105 cm
LENGTH
140-160 cm

The gerenuk is a notably tall, slender antelope that resembles gazelles. It is characterized by its long, slender neck and limbs, the flat, wedge-like head, and the large, round eyes. It can often be seen standing on its hind legs while stretching its neck to reach to high branches of trees, abundant with soft leaves. Victor Brooke, an Anglo-Irish naturalist, was first to describe this species in 1878. Females of this species are identified by a dark-colored area on their crown. Males, on the other hand, display short and robust horns, covered with a lot of rings. The magnificent horns of these animals curve backward, having the characteristic "S" shape.

Di

Diurnal

He

Herbivore

Fo

Folivore

Te

Terrestrial

Cu

Cursorial

Pr

Precocial

Br

Browsing

No

Nomadic

Te

Territorial

Vi

Viviparous

Po

Polygyny

So

Social

He

Herding

No

Not a migrant

G

starts with

Cu

Cute Animals
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

Continents
Subcontinents
Biogeographical realms

The natural range of gerenuk covers the Horn of Africa, stretching from southern Djibouti, Somalia, and Ethiopia to as far south as Kenya and the north-eastern portions of Tanzania. Within this territory, these antelope inhabit thickets, thornbush and tend to avoid dense woodlands and very open, grassy areas.

Gerenuk habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Gerenuk are highly social creatures, forming small, single-sex herds of 2-6 individuals, although all-female herds may sometimes contain juveniles. Meanwhile, males occasionally prefer living solitarily. Gerenuk are generally peaceful and rarely fight. They are sedentary and don't tend to travel, apparently in order to conserve enough energy for foraging. They become even less mobile as they age. Each herd has its own territory, typically 3-6 square km (1.2-2.3 square miles) in size. Home ranges of various herds often overlap. Males defend their territories by scent marking with special secretions, produced by their preorbital glands. Gerenuk lead a diurnal lifestyle, which means that they are active by day. However, they spend the midday hours standing or resting in shelters. The greater part of their active time is spent looking for food and eating. Meanwhile, female gerenuks appear to spend more time in these activities than males. In order to cool off, they often expose themselves to rain.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Gerenuk are browsers. Their usual diet is herbivorous (folivorous) and is composed of various trees, shoots, herbs, flowers, fruits, and foliage of bushes.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
Year-round
PREGNANCY DURATION
165 days
BABY CARRYING
1 calf
INDEPENDENT AGE
1-1.5 years
FEMALE NAME
cow
MALE NAME
bull
BABY NAME
calf, fawn

Gerenuk have a polygynous mating system, where each male mates with a number of females. They may breed at any time of year, although each female breeds once every 1-2 years. Intervals between breeding are related to the gender of the previous year's young. The gestation period lasts for 165 days, yielding 1-2 calves, which are born fully developed. During the first few minutes after birth, they are able to walk. The young are cared for and fed by their mother until weaning, which occurs at 1 year old in females and at least 1.5 years old in males. The latter don't leave their mother until 2 years old. The age of reproductive maturity is 1-2 years old in females and 1.5 years old in males. Males in the wild typically start mating only at 3.5 years old, when they are dominant enough to occupy a maintain of their own.

Population

Population threats

Gerenuk are primarily threatened by loss and fragmentation of their natural habitat, associated with growth of local human populations, leading to the development of settlements, roads and agriculture. As a result, some isolated populations cannot find suitable food and shelter. Some are unable to find mates as well as escape predators. Further, this species has served as a game animal in Africa for a long period of more than 200 years. In spite of having limited supply and very small natural range, gerenuks heavily suffer from hunting as trophies and for consumption.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of gerenuks is around 95,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) and its numbers are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Despite the small overall population, gerenuk play an important role in the local ecosystems. Thus, due to foraging, gerenuks enhance nutrient cycling. Then, they are key prey species for numerous predators of their range (leopards, lions, hyenas, and others).

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The word "gerenuk" derives from the Somali language and is translated as “giraffe-necked”.
  • Gerenuk are capable of walking on their hind legs, though only short distances.
  • Gerenuk scent mark their home ranges with special tar-like substance, produced by pre-orbital glands, found in front of their eyes. Additionally, they have similar scent glands on their knees, between their split hooves, hidden under tufts of hair.
  • When feeding, gerenuk use their bodies to reach the best food items. They usually stand straight on their hind legs, stretching their neck to feed upon higher branches and twigs, situated about 2 meters (6.6 ft) off the ground.
  • Gerenuk are able to live without directly drinking water and instead get all required moisture from the plants they consume, due to which they can sustain life in extremely dry habitats such as deserts and scrublands.
  • Females of this species are very attentive and protective to their young. After feeding, mothers always clean their calves as well as eat up the rest of the food, since any remaining food may be perceived by predators of the area. They communicate with their calves through gentle sounds, typically using soft bleating calls.

References

1. Gerenuk Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerenuk
2. Gerenuk on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12142/0

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