ELAND - Taurotragus oryx
SIZE: Shoulder height (m) 1,7 m, (f) 1,5 m; mass
(m) 700 kg, (f) 460 kg. Both sexes have horns.
COLOUR: Pale reddish-fawn, tending to a blue-grey
in older animals as the skin shows through thinning
hair. Males also have a tuft of dark hair on the forehead.
POTENTIAL LONGEVITY: 12 years
RECORD LENGTH OF HORNS: 110 cm
MOST LIKE: Unlike any other animal.
HABITAT: Open grass plains, scrubland, woodlands.
Eland are gregarious, and, while they usually occur in
small herds, they can aggregate into great herds, numbering
up to a thousand animals, and are known to migrate over
long distances in the drier areas of the subcontinent. They
are usually found in bush country, where they use their
prominent, spiralled horns to break off branches beyond
the reach of their jaws, and their front hooves to dig up
roots, melons and tubers. A single calf is born, usually
in early summer, and, within a few hours, it is able to
run with its mother. Mothers and calves recognise one another's
particular clicks or grunts, and a mother will suckle only
her own calf, chasing other calves away by buffeting them
with her horns. Calves are born at regular intervals of
9 months. After the calf is weaned (at about 4 months),
the female will leave it for increasingly long periods of
time in a nursery herd. Within these nursery herds the young
tend to form bonds with other calves which are stronger
and more lasting than the mother-calf bond. The bulls often
associate together at this time.
The Eland is the largest of the African
antelope. Its name comes from the Dutch 'eland', which means
'elk'. They are usually dun-coloured, with short body hair,
and a longer tuft of brown hair on the forehead, which is
often matted, and has a strong smell due to a glandular secretion.
An instant giveaway for an eland trying to remain inconspicuous
is the curious, loud clicking sound its knees make when it
walks or trots.
This huge, oxlike animal is shy and timid, but becomes very
tame in captivity. Nature has given the eland a unique way
of coping with extremes of hot and cold: not only does it
rarely drink, but it conserves moisture by not sweating, thereby
allowing its body temperature to rise slightly during the
day. In spite of its great size, this gentle giant can walk
faster than a man, gallop at great speed for short distances,
and leap gracefully over fences up to two metres high. They
are well adapted to arid environments, but cannot live where
there is no succulent forage available. Due to their mobility
and their high protein requirements they adapt their diet
and feeding habits to suit their circumstances, and will graze
in summer and browse in winter.
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