Eland - Taurotragus oryx

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Afrikaans  Eland Zulu Mpofu 
Shangaan
Mhofu Shona Phofu 
Tswana
Phofu
R.W. Min 35" Max 44¼"
S.C.I Min 79" Max 115" Measurement Method 5

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Tracks
F 11cm
H 10cm

Distribution Dung
2cm
Tapered, rounded at one end, blunt at the other.
Sometimes in cylindrical clusters

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

The largest of the African antelope.

Visible Male/Female Differences

Both sexes have a dewlap with a tuft of dark hair on its lower edge, much larger in males. Both sexes bear horns, rising from the top of the head in the plane of the face, nearly straight, with a spiral ridge. They are  longer, much thicker and much more prominently ridged in males than in females. Females have two pairs of nipples between their hind legs. Shoulder height males 1,7 m, females 1,5 m; weight males 700 kg (up to 840 kg and probably even heavier) and females 460 kg.

Habitat and Distribution

Arid scrub and grassland, savanna woodland and grassland. Independent of water. Make local seasonal movements or migrate long distances to reach food. Widely translocated, thrives on cattle farms.

Diet

Predominantly a browser. Grazes on green grass, which is the bulk of the diet in summer. Prefers grass burned within the past year. Eats both leaves, twigs, fruit and berries, also dry fallen leaves. Very difficult to fence out because of its jumping prowess and can be a problem in crops.

Reproduction

Single calves weighing 32-36 kg are born after a gestation of nine months. Male calves are heavier than females. They are weaned at 6-8 months. Females first calve at 2-4 years. Males mature at 18 months but do not mate until they have reached a dominant rank. Lifespan 12-20 years. Females are infertile after 15 years. Calves can stand soon after birth, and can follow the mother after 3-4 hours, but lie hidden for up to 2 weeks. Calves will follow any adult, and try to suckle from any female. Females aggressively repel suckling attempts by calves other than their own. Calves are more closely bonded to other calves than to their mothers, and form crèche groups within the herd. Adults are too large for medium-sized predators. Lions and spotted hyenas to tackle; leopards and spotted hyenas take calves.

Behavior and Habits

Feeds at night when vegetation contains more water. Pulls leaves into the mouth with the lips. Breaks down branches by twisting them between the horns, or hooking the horns over them. Does not sweat during the day but allows body temperature to rise during the day, then unloads excess heat at night. Ranges over huge areas: 8 000-14 000 sq. km. leading to dramatic fluctuations in numbers in some areas.

Eland are not territorial. they form small mixed herds of 4-10 in winter, large mixed herds of up to a few hundred in summer. Herd members groom one another.  Males and females have separate dominance hierarchies. Larger and older animals are higher ranking and bulls dominate cows. Dominant animals deliver blows with the sides of the horns against subordinates that do not move away quickly enough. Bulls fight by clashing and locking horns and pushing and twisting.

Bulls horn the soil and bushes. The tuft of hair on the forehead is rubbed in soil where they or an oestrous female have just urinated, caking it with mud. When threatened by predators, herds bunch with calves in the center and counterattack with horns and hooves. Eland are slow runners, and trot rather than galloping. Adult bulls can jump 2 m fences, younger animals 3 m.

Sounds

Cows bark when disturbed, moo, click or grunt to call their calves. Calves bleat to attract their mothers. Dominant bulls bellow and grunt when dealing with subordinates. As they walk, eland, especially large bulls, make a clicking noise. The origin has not finally been settled but it is suspected that the two halves of the hooves may snap together or that the ankles make a noise, much like a man cracking his fingers

Dung and Field sign

Broken down branches, horned mud patches. Droppings are 2-3 cm long and  tapered. Rounded at one end, blunt at the other. Sometimes in cylindrical clusters.

 



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