Species Survival Plan
Lion, wild dog, hyena, cheetah, crocodile and jackal
Originally Native To
48 inches at shoulders
Both sexes have sharp curved horns, beards, long manes and humped shoulders
8 - 8.5 months
Mid-November to late December
Captivity 20 years
Herds of 16 to more than 100; extremely gregarious; territorial males, female herds and bachelor groups
ABOUT Common Wildebeest
Because these silvery-gray antelopes with cow-like horns can sometimes - in the right light - look blue, they are referred to as the blue wildebeest. This animal, which is the largest subspecies of wildebeest, is a keystone species in plains and acacia savanna ecosystems from southeastern Africa to central Kenya. It is highly gregarious and superbly adapted for a migratory existence.
Large herds of wildebeest migrate across the plains of Africa during the dry season seeking water, shade, and grazing sites. The herds are active day and night, grazing constantly.
During the rainy season, the herds head back to their home ranges again, making an annual trip of about 1,800 miles. Ostriches, zebras, and gazelles migrate with the wildebeest for varying distances to create an impressive scene. It is considered one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth, involving up to 1.5 million wildebeests, as well as hundreds of thousands of other animals.
Originally called gnu, this animal earned the Afrikaans name wildebeest for the menacing appearance presented by its large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard, and sharp, curved horns. However, these herds are followed by - and become a reliable food source for - many African predators including lions, wild dogs, hyenas, and cheetah.
One of the techniques used by the vulnerable wildebeest to survive as a species is to have all the calves born together within a three-week period. Although females will only nurse their own calf, the sheer numbers of calves and females help the survivability of the young. This takes place during the rainy season when the conditions are optimal.
One tan calf is born to each female and is almost immediately up walking; it can keep up with the herd in only a few days. All other antelope species, except the blesbok, hide their calves for days or weeks after birth. In fact, the wildebeest is thought to be the earliest developing of all hoofed mammals.
After giving birth, the female rejoins the calving herd with hundreds of other females and calves. However, predators still take large numbers of young wildebeest each year. Male calves are expelled from the herds at about two years of age, joining bachelor herds which tend to live on the periphery of the breeding area.
The blue wildebeest is a member of the antelope family, although its heavy build and disproportionately large forequarters make it look more bovine. The hindquarters are slender with spindly legs.
Both males and females grow horns. They have a wide array of loud vocalizations, from moans to explosive snorts.
Common wildebeest, with their blunt muzzle and wide row of incisor teeth, are able to feed efficiently and in dense aggregations on the short grasses that carpet plains in the semi-arid zone during the rainy season. Being water-dependent and ever in search of green grass, they migrate when the rains end and spend the dry season roaming the acacia savanna, where there is water, taller grass that stays green longer, and flushes of new grass that come up after fires or local thunderstorms.
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