|Size:||Length: 5.6 to 7.3 feet (1.7 to 2.2 m) Height: 3 to 4 feet (91 to 122 cm) to shoulder|
|Weight:||242 to 600 lbs (110 to 272 kg)|
|Animal Predators:||Lions, hyenas, cheetahs and leopards|
|IUCN Status:||Lower risk, Conservation Dependent|
|Lifespan:||Up to 21 years|
· Wildebeest are large antelopes, also known as gnus.
· Their appearance and behaviour led South African Dutch settlers to name these animals the wildebeest (wild beast).
· The scientific name means “flowing beard” (Connochaetes) “like a bull” (taurinus).
Wildebeests are odd-looking animals, with their legs, mane and tail resembling that of a horse; a head which seems to be a combination of a cow and a horse; and the body of a cow with horns like a buffalo. Both males and females have curved horns.
Their range extends from the plains and grasslands of Kenya in eastern Africa to northern South Africa.
Wildebeests are water dependent and need to drink at least every other day during the dry season. During the rainy season, they do not need to drink as often because of the moisture they get on the plants and grasses they eat.
Males try to mate with as many females as possible within the breeding period. Females may mate with several dozen males in a single day. The majority of calves are born eight to eight-and-a-half months later, at the start of the rainy season. The mother licks the newborn right away, and within minutes, the calf will be able to stand and nurse. Once the calf is suckled by the mother, the imprintation process between mother and calf has begun. She will stay right by her calf for the next few days to make sure that imprinting occurs successfully. At eight months, young wildebeests leave their mothers and establish themselves within a group of peers.
Wildebeests live in migratory herds that can number into the thousands or resident herds of eight to 10, consisting mainly of females and their young. They graze on grass and brush on open plains. Fast runners, wildebeests will dash away when alarmed, then turn to see what it was that startled them, waving their tails and prancing around. Wildebeests are extremely sociable and gregarious, and spend a good portion of the day mingling and interacting with the rest of the herd. The rest of the day is spent eating and resting. Wildebeests are active both during the day and night, resting for several hours during the midday when the sun is hottest. They are often seen in the company of zebras. Wildebeests are famous for the massive migrations they undertake; however, not all wildebeests migrate every year if food is abundant.
As many as 400,000 calves may be born in one season, and this is one reason why the wildebeest has survived over the years while so many other animals have become endangered. A subspecies, the white-tailed wildebeest, is extinct in the wild, but exists in several national parks and reserves.
Wildebeest Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US