Wildebeest

In spite of its name, the blue wildebeest’s colour is variable, and can even be brownish-grey. It is also known as the brindled gnu.

Migrating gnus travelling in immense herds that number in the thousands are one of the wonders of the natural world.

Life for a blue wildebeest is hazardous and potentially short, as they face many predators on the open plains. The young are therefore born in an advanced state of development — up on their feet and walking within just 15 minutes of birth. Adults can sprint at about 80 kph (50 mph) over short distances. They can also jump well. Some herds migrate long distances, in groups of up to 1000 individuals.

Gnus are named after the calls made by competing males - "genu". There are two species; this one is blue-grey, while the other is dark brown and black.

Breeding herds usually consist of up to 150 females and young, with 1 to 3 males. The bulls patrol the outside of their herd, keeping it closely grouped and defending a zone around it, even when migrating. Blue Wildebeest feed almost exclusively on grass and need to drink often. They are frequently seen in association with zebra and ostrich; perhaps the wariness of the former offers them some protection against their common predators: lion, cheetah, hunting dog and hyena.

The female looks like the male but is smaller. After a gestation period of 8 1/2 months, she produces 1 calf. The males leave their herds when they are over a year old, forming groups of young bachelors.

Distribution: Found in grassland and savanna regions in various parts of East Africa, from Kenya down to northern South Africa, and eastwards to Angola and eastern Namibia.

Habitat: Open grassland, bush savanna.

Weight: 140 - 290 kg (309 - 638 lb).

Length: 230 - 340 cm (91 - 134 in), including tail.

Maturity: Females 1.5 - 2.5 years; males 3-4 years.

Gestation Period: 248 - 262 days.

Breeding: A single youngster, typically weaned by 4 months.

Food: Herbivorous, grazing on grass.

Lifespan: 15 - 20 years maximum.

Status: Abundant, but continuing survival is dependent on conservation efforts.

Horns

Horns are longer in males, measuring up to 83 cm (in).

Banding

These barred markings can be mistaken for wrinkles in the skin from a distance.

Tail

The hair in the tail is black and very long, similar to that of a horse.

A CALF

All young blue wildebeests are tawny-brown at first; their colour changes from around two months.

MASS BIRTHING

Young are born all together about two weeks before the rains arrive. This helps many elude predators and means there is fresh grass to graze on.

Gallery of Wildebeest