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[ger' uh noo k] Litocranius walleri (aka Waller's Gazelle)
The word "gerenuk" means "giraffe-necked" in Somali, which is appropriate since this antelope is distinguished by its long neck and long, thin legs. An adult gerenuk is about 4.5 to 5.5 feet long, stands 3 to 3.5 feet at the shoulders (with the neck adding another 1 to 1.5 feet), and weighs 66 to 110 pounds. Its head is small for its overall size, but the ears are relatively long. Both sexes are similar in size, but males are more muscular than females so therefore weigh more. Adult males bear scimitar-shaped horns that range from 10 to 18 inches in length. Overall body color is pale tawny brown ,with white along the breast, underbelly, and inner legs and dark patches of fur on the foreleg knees and end of the tail; each eye is surrounded by a dark patch that pales as it goes outward to form a white rim.
Distribution and Habitat
Gerenuk are found in the dry bushy region of East Africa from the Serengeti Plain of Tanzania north along the coast into southern Somalia. It is adaptable to a variety of habitats, provided there is an ample supply of food.
Gerenuk feed on a great variety of plants, with a particular preference for prickly bushes and trees. The can literally stand up to obtain tree leaves that cannot be reached by other antelope species. They do not need to drink free standing water, since the vegetation on which they feed contains sufficient moisture.
Adult males are solitary and territorial. Dominant males can usually enter each other's territory without aggressiveness or defensiveness, but young males without their own territory will be run off. Females and young form bands of up to about 10 individuals, and these bands are able to roam freely throughout all male territories. Young males often form bachelor herds that roam nomadically until they are able to establish their own territories.
Breeding occurs year-round. When a male encounters a potential mate, the female will raise her nose into the air and pull her ears close to her head as a sign of defensiveness, while the male displays his horns and neck in a sideways pose. If she is receptive, he scent marks her on the thigh and then follows her around until she is ready for mating. Males will mate with as many females as they can.
One offspring (rarely two) is born after a gestation of 6-7 months. It can walk within minutes of birth, and will be weaned at 12-18 months. Sexual maturity is reached at 1-2 years, and gerenuk can live up to 12 years in the wild.
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This page was last updated on June 14, 2017.