Black wildebeest

Connochaetes gnou

TAXONOMY

Antilope gnou (Zimmerman, 1780), Cape Province, South Africa. Monotypic.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: White-tailed gnu; French: Gnou a queue blanche; German: Weifischwanzgnu; Spanish: Nu negro.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Body length 5.6-7.3 ft (170-220 cm); shoulder height 3-4 ft (90-120 cm); tail 2.6-3.3 ft (80-100 cm); 242-396 lb (110-180 kg), female smaller than male. Horns 18-31 in (45-78 cm). Dark brown to black, males darker than females. Both have lighter coats in summer and heavier coats in winter. Bristly mane stands up on neck and is cream to white, with black tips. Beard is black.

DISTRIBUTION

East-central South Africa, mainly eastern northern Cape and Free State: formerly central Cape Province to Natal and southern Transvaal.

HABITAT

Open plains, formerly in Karoo (arid shrublands) and grassland.

BEHAVIOR

Females and young form closely knit herds with a distinct hierarchy; males form bachelor groups. Territorial conflicts involve ritualized posturing and horn wrestling, accompanied by a blaring "ge-nu" call. Possibly originally had extensive movements or migrations, now restricted by fencing.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Primarily a grazer, preferring short grasses; in winter, also browses on karroid bushes.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygynous. The primary mating season is February-April. Gestation period 8-8.5 months; calves are born in November-January. Young weaned after four months. Females sexually mature at 1.5-2.5 years, males at three years. Lifespan up to 20 years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent. No truly wild animals remain, all being descended from captive individuals.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

These animals were almost exterminated by white settlers, who viewed them as pests, and also valued their tails, which they used as fly swats. ♦

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