The ox-like common eland is the largest of Southern Africa's antelope and the second largest on the continent.
The Common Eland is the 2nd largest antelope in Africa and the world, falling just behind its more northern family member the Giant Eland. Common Elands are very bulky, strongly built creatures, with small, twisted horns on their heads. A common Eland’s coat fades from a camel color on its back to a grayer and tanner color down to its torso, with slight white stripes vertically down its sides. Females of the species are smaller than males, averaging between 300 – 600kg (660 – 1320lb) while males weigh between 400 – 950kg (880 – 2100lb), sometimes reaching weights of over 1 ton. Both males and females have horns meaning they are usually distinguished by their size etc.
Common Elands can be found throughout Kenya and Zambia, and in scattered areas in Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. In South Africa they can only naturally be found in the Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, with larger populations in Parks like the Etosha National Park in Namibia or the Serengeti in Tanzania. The more north you travel in within these parameters, from South Africa to Tanzania, the greater the distribution of the species generally becomes until you reach their great populations found on the plains of the Serengeti.
The name of this species does justice to its current conservation status in the sense that they are commonly found, and by no means vulnerable to endangerment. Their population consists of roughly 136 000 individuals, and populations in countries like Namibia, South Africa and Zambia are steadily growing , with 30% of their overall population found on private lands like game farms and another 50% found within protected areas. The overall population of this species is decreasing slightly due to loss and destruction of habitat in their more Northern distribution areas, but due to the many conservation programs and monitoring put in place, this species is in no apparent danger just yet.
Elands, like most antelope, call grassland, savanna and woodland areas within Africa home. They do however generally prefer drier or more arid savanna or grassland areas, and where more flowering flora species can be found. Ideally they live in semi-desert areas with lots of shrubs and bushes to feed on, and a water source nearby, a habitat that ticks all their preference boxes. They avoid dense forest areas and can usually be found in Woodland areas just south and just north of the central grassland areas of the park, where the landscape slowly becomes denser and richer in woody plants and thicker vegetation.
Elands are non-territorial and very mobile antelope, with home ranges 100’s of square kilometers in size. In Kenya their home ranges were at least 174 square kilometers in size, reaching areas of over 400 square kilometers. Herds are usually much bigger than other antelope consisting of over 100 individuals on average, compared to about 20 members in other antelope herds. In the Serengeti in Tanzania herds of 500 strong, live, on the big open plains. Many different types of Eland herds are found, some only juveniles, some only adults, all living in the same home range, showing the open, free nature of a typical Eland society.
Eland calves play an important role in the whole herd’s social activities. Calves are seen licking and playing with any other members of the herd, brightening up their moods. Mothers and calves regularly communicate and males battling for dominance make a bleating sound, but otherwise elands are not very vocal socially. They do however make a clicking sound that has shown to increase social activity within the heard. The rest of their time is spent on survival; eating, drinking, running and sleeping most frequently, or determining their rank within the herd, for example brawling males. They are very athletic antelope and can run quite fast for their large size.
Elands mate year round and conversely give birth year round, but there are birth peaks in the late dry season and early wet season when the Elands’ food source also peaks in its availability. They mate in a 3 day period when the female Elands are in heat, any time after both sexes have reached sexual maturity and are able to fertilize and conceive. Females usually reach sexual maturity at 2, 5 years of age and from there they have a 9 month gestation period before their young are born. The mating rituals of Elands involve lots of touching, whether it be rubbing against each other or resting their heads on one another.
When attacked or threatened by predators, Females will protect their young, either alone, or all females together, never fleeing. Male Elands also never flee from predators but instead also go on the offensive and attack back. This is however a rare occurrence, these large animals being threatened, even by lions. It is more common that the herd of Elands will merely ignore the predators, except when they feel their calves are put in danger. The only predators Elands fear are humans. Their very long flight distance, or the distance sprinted when threatened by a predator, is thought to be due to humans and the firearms they usually carry.
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