Eland (taurotragus oryx)
The eland male measures about 1.7 m at the shoulder with a mass of up to 900 kg. Females are much smaller with a weight of about 450 kg. Despite its size and heavy physique the eland is an agile animal, and large bulls can jump over fences easily. Both sexes carry heavy horns slanting backwards. Horn lengths of as long as 1 metre have been recorded. The eland has a prominent dewlap and a slight hump at the shoulders. They are light brown in colour with thin white stripes running vertically down their flanks. Males have a dark patch on their foreheads which cover glandular skin.
Being a browser, the eland feeds on a variety of plants. It can go long periods without water, but then needs tsama fruits and gemsbok cucumbers for its water requirements.
After a gestation period of about nine months a single calf is born, and is able to run along with the herd within its first few hours. It has been noted that in South Africa, the eland has a peak birthing period despite it being thought that they have no specific breeding season.
Interestingly, when an eland herd is threatened by predators, the males form a front to protect the calves and pregnant females. Elands also have a nursery in their herds for their calves. They migrate widely in search of grazing, and therefore the dominant bulls are not territorial or defensive of their areas of land. During the females’ oestrus cycles, however, bulls become possessive and territorial.
The eland prefers semi-deserts, grasslands and light savanna north of the Orange River as its habitat, as well as light woodlands in KwaZulu-Natal. Living in regions with little surface water the eland, being a nocturnal animal, feeds on vegetation that absorb moisture from the atmosphere at night. This provides the eland with sufficient fluid sustenance.
Where they are found
The eland can be seen in most South African game reserves. They have been successfully reintroduced in areas where they became extinct.
The only predator to the large eland is the lion and spotted hyena, but their young fall prey to most larger carnivores such as cheetahs, wild dogs and leopards.